Paws and Footprints

2012-12-20 (1)This is the best photo I’ve ever taken of four coyote paw pads! Here’s a post on them.

coyote paw prints

coyote paw prints

dog paw prints

dog paw prints

These are schematics showing the difference between coyote and dog paw prints. In theory these are correct. I have seen coyote tracks which look elongated as in the drawing. The photo of the coyote pouncing reveals a compact and oblong pad structure with claws pointing somewhat inwards, as in the drawing. And I have seen dog tracks which look roundish, with the claws splayed outwardly. But real footprints left on the ground are not always so clearly distinguished. The reason is that coyote pads and dog pads spread out on various surfaces.

Today I watched a coyote make these footprints on a wooden stair in the photograph below, so I know they are coyote paw prints.  Yet look at them: they look more like the drawing of the dog’s print.

coyote paw prints

coyote paw prints

Fist Punches

These fist punches are not as forceful as the fist and nose punches which are supposed to deliver enough blow to incapacitate or stun. Here, the back legs never leave the ground. Instead, these milder punches appear to be “exploratory” in nature, possibly to get a critter to scurry through the underground tunnel so it can be heard, or to even collapse underground tunnels.

If the coyote hears movement below the surface, or feels that it is onto something, digging may follow, as in the video at the bottom. However, as seen by the first two videos, sometimes no digging at all follows the punch, because nothing was heard. In all three cases here, these coyotes came up with nothing for their efforts: either the gopher or mole got away, or maybe wasn’t even there to begin with.

Punch, then looking for movement and listening for possible activity below ground

Another punch, and then listening and looking for possible signs of life below

Here the punch is followed by digging.

Poisons In Parks – Owls

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl mother

Since this story has repercussions for our coyotes, I’m including it here.

A Great Horned owl pair has raised their owlets every year for the past 13 years in the same crook of a Eucalyptus tree. A couple of years ago I spent every day documenting the growth of that year’s clutch:  Owl Family With Triplets Grows Up.

Sadly, a month ago an owl carcass was found close to the Eucalyptus tree. It would have been a member of the same family we’ve all been observing and that I had documented: owls are territorial — this territory belongs to those owls.

Since we were all so fond of the owls, park goers contributed to have a necropsy performed. There was the possibility that the death could have resulted from old age, or avian flu. We were more concerned that it might have been the result of the large amounts of pesticides/herbicides used to eliminate non-native plants in the park — a park which calls itself a “natural area” but is not so at all. We’ve been trying to stop the use of these toxins for a long time, but without success. We received the results of the necropsy this week: the owl had died of rat poisoning. There may have been other toxins in the bird, but the carcass was only analyzed for rat poisoning.

Ours was Great Horned Owl Patient #1709, accepted at WildCare on November 8, to determine the cause of death. They found that this owl had been exposed to rat poisons — as have 74% of animals admitted to the facility this year. It was found to be well nourished, but it was internally toxic, discolored and hemorrhaged throughout: it had died of “presumptive AR intoxication”,  anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning. So it had eaten poisoned rodents. Great Horned owls consume about five medium sized rodents a day, which amounts to about 10% of their body weight a day. When they are raising their young, they eat substantially more than this.

Rodenticides kill by causing an animal to bleed to death internally. It is a slow and painful death. The animal’s activity is slowed down, and it becomes easy prey for one of our animals higher up the food chain: owls, hawks, raccoons, or coyotes. And so, the poisons get passed along.

Please, let’s protect our remaining owls, and the other wildlife in our parks, including coyotes. Please don’t use rat poisons in your households.

Interpersonal Behavior: Messaging and Safespace

These two members of a coyote family headed into a forested area to avoid encountering a dog.  The forest serves as a protective passageway because it is dense enough for coyotes not to be detected. It looked as though they were out on a morning trek together. I’ve seen them stick together during several hours of trekking. But the trekking plan this time was cut short when they happened upon two juvenile squirrels quarreling in the middle of the path rather than paying attention to their surroundings. One of the coyotes dashed after them and caught one.

The 2nd coyote watched the capture, but stayed behind: trekking activity is shared, but food is not. The coyote with the squirrel eyed the 2nd coyote and squinted — there was a message in that gaze. He scurried off to a hidden location. The 2nd coyote watched him disappear from sight and then turned around, lay down, and waited.

She waited and waited. She put her head down sometimes, she watched some walkers through the dense trees, she sprinted to a close-by tree to avoid detection by a dog and lay down there, and she kept looking towards the spot where the other coyote had disappeared. After a while I left to see if the 1st coyote might still be close by. He was a mere 50 feet away — just far enough away to be out of sight from the 2nd coyote, where he consumed the entire squirrel over a period of about 8 minutes. He then walked away, leaving the area and the other coyote behind.

I returned to watch the 2nd coyote — she was still waiting. She waited another 30 minutes, moving about 75 feet once to a spot where she continued to wait. Finally, she got up and slowly walked to the spot where the first coyote had eaten. She sniffed and stared at the ground there for four minutes. She must have known this was the eating spot — I wondered what kind of scents she was gathering. Finally she walked on, seeming to follow the scent of the first. I lost her in some dense brush.

The initial “togetherness” of the pair was broken when food became involved.  More than likely the second coyote eventually caught up with the first one, but it’s possible that there might have been no further trekking together on this morning.

Coming Up For Air

Swimmers have to come up for air, or they’ll get water in their lungs. Coyotes, too, have to come up for air, or they’ll get dirt in their lungs — or maybe not enough air into their lungs. Watch the coyote stuff his snout deep into the hole, and then lift it out just enough to get fresh air, and then stuff it back in, and repeat this sequence several times.This video clip shows three instances of coming up for air, and also some intense digging.

Expressing “Dislike”

A man sat down sat down with his arms around the dog to keep her activity in check — he had just become aware of a coyote but he had no leash or collar.  This was his first visit to this particular park. The coyote, about 150 feet away, sat down to watch this newcomer dog. The dog showed absolutely no interest in the coyote, even though he clearly saw it. After a few minutes, the man decided to release the dog and the dog began playing with a stick. The coyote watched. The dog then moved on to a pine cone which he pounced on and then, rump up, front down, invited the coyote to play. The dog never made any attempt to get any closer to the coyote. The owner, fearing that this might lead to no good, decided to move on, with the dog staying right at his side. Soon they were far down the path and out of sight.

The coyote then hurried over to sniff the spot where the dog hand been playing. He sniffed thoroughly for all clues the dog might have left. I guess there was no interesting information, because he walked on, and began hunting and wandering about. However, about 35 minutes later — it seemed like enough time for the coyote to have forgotten the dog — the coyote returned to that spot either in passing, or on purpose. He definitely remembered the dog. He sniffed the stick again and then left a pile of poop on it — a message left for the dog in case he should return, or just venting his own feelings?!

The Wayward Puppy, by Charles Wood

Pup Goes Forward

Pup Goes Forward

These pictures are of Dad escorting his puppies in June 2010. He saw me, perceived me as a threat, and stopped. Although not all are pictured, he had at least three puppies with him.

One of the puppies didn’t stop when Dad stopped. Instead it got ahead of him and paused briefly. “One Pup Gets Forward” has the wayward puppy partially concealed in the lower left. Then the wayward puppy went forward, kept going, and got well out of Dad’s reach many yards away.

Dad did not follow the wayward puppy. “Dad Can’t Follow It” pictures Dad angry because one of his puppies got away. A different puppy clings to Dad.

Dad retreated with the rest of the puppies. Way too late for my comfort, the wayward puppy galloped back and caught up with Dad. I’ve never since seen a cute little coyote puppy run that fast. It was galloping as fast as a rocket, so earnestly wanting to be with Dad. I was ecstatic. I had again been able to take pictures of a coyote father with his puppies.

Dad Stops

Dad Stops

When I returned home I studied the photographs and also studied photographs taken on previous days. My study led me to some conclusions.

Generally Dad is cautious and expects danger when walking around. When Dad perceives a threat he makes an assessment and then takes action. With puppies in tow, Dad has fewer choices of action. Puppies are rambunctious and take effort to control. With puppies and perceiving a threat, there isn’t much Dad can effectively do other than to collect them and retreat.

Usually when they all came across me, the puppies noticed when Dad stopped and became cautious too. Cautious, the puppies held still, went to Dad, to each other, hid, or went back in the direction they all came from. The puppies were also curious and looked in my direction to see what Dad’s fuss was all about. When all were somewhat settled, Dad led a retreat. Note that with puppies, when Dad perceives a threat he expects good behavior from his children and usually gets it.

Dad Leaves To Protect Other

Dad Leaves To Protect Other

Unfortunately, this time one of the puppies didn’t get the “caution” message. One puppy kept going forward alone, getting somewhat far away. Initially it stopped, but it wanted to keep going and it did! This time Dad’s circumstances weren’t usual because he had a very poorly behaving puppy!

Yet Dad has situational intelligence and so do I. As I studied the photographs, I thought Dad had to understand that he couldn’t be in two places at the same time. Indeed, he looked toward the wayward puppy and appeared to be stymied, exasperated, resigned, composed, in charge, and as if saying: “I told you to stop.” Then Dad, still looking in charge, lifted his head toward me, the cause of his dilemma.

Dad Can't Follow It

Dad Can’t Follow It

After studying the pictures, I realized just how angry Dad was. Why? It hit me and I was stunned by the thought. Dad was angry with me for separating out a puppy and he was angry because he couldn’t protect them all. In his mind, I had intended to cull one of his young. In my mind, I was but only watching a show. In Dad’s mind, I had won and he had lost a lot. He carried that look of frustrated hatred, a look that comes with a defeat.

In Dad’s mind, one puppy was beyond his protection, liable to be taken by a predator. I think he knew the situation required him to sacrifice one puppy for the safety of the others. Dad couldn’t protect the rest of his flock if he went to help one vulnerable puppy. He loves all his puppies and that day Dad knew he had to let one go. I caused it and Dad was livid. Yet he accepted the situation and acted prudently. Dad offered one of his children up so he could protect the rest. Until I arrived home to excitedly review my pictures, I thought I had been watching a show complete with cute puppies. At home with the photographs, I felt remorse. It wasn’t a show. To Dad, it was as real as life gets, life for which he strives to prepare his young.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

American Museum of Natural History in NYC

The American Museum of Natural History in NYC publishes monthly Science Bulletins which include their Bio Diversity News. This is their monthly video program exploring the diversity of life on earth and our human footprint on the biosphere. This month’s story is about a study on behavioral adaptions in coyotes inhabiting urban environments. Coyote Yipps is included — what an honor!  To see more of their videos check out this link:

Here is the video, “Urban Coyotes Mate For Life”.

Request for Grooming & Tick Removal Denied

He stands in front of her waiting for the routine grooming and tick removal which has become an everyday occurrence between these two. But she is busy grooming herself this time. He stands patiently, but she does not respond — she continues grooming herself. Finally, he lets her know more forcefully by engaging her muzzle — “can’t you see what I want?” Whether she sees it or not, she does not respond. He then plops himself right in front of her — maybe this might get a response? But no, she concentrates on her own grooming. Finally she heads off. He watches, a bit defeated, and then follows her.

I’ve seen this “request” a number of times now in several coyote pairs. More often than not, one ends up grooming the next one. Maybe it involves a request to relieve a particularly bad skin itch or pain. I always wonder why the service is not a mutual one.

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