New Resident Coyotes, by Charles Wood

On New Year’s Day I saw two coyotes just outside my Mom and Dad coyote’s den area. They were the same two I saw there on November 22, 2012. My November 23 and November 26, 2012 posts speculated that the two were either passing through or living there. With respect to my dogs, the new coyotes have on two occasions messaged them that the area is theirs. It is likely that these two new coyotes have made themselves at home and don’t want my dogs to even think of doing the same.

NewMale

NewMale

Pictured is a coyote male known formerly as “New Gal” in my two November posts. In November his left eye showed an injury and the more recent picture reveals his eye to possibly be blind. I am still unable to tell the sex of his companion.

The video clip begins with a view of his companion. It’s watching my dogs and me while the male is watching off camera. A view of the male heading back to his companion concludes the clip.

The new coyotes could well be mates. Pupping season is just around the corner and coyote couples do need to make preparations. Mom and Dad’s den area no doubt has several ready-made dens, is brushy, isolated, has its own water supply, and has surrounds replete with rabbits, frogs, lizards, snakes, rats, mice, and birds available for the repasts of a coyote family. The property is improved, having deserted dirt roads for comfortable transit and landscaped embankments from which to take a look at things. Although humans do pass by they rarely tarry, mostly going quickly to and fro on comfortably distant and raised, highly visible paths. It’s an area well suited to a coyote couple’s needs where the only real worry comes from the envy of other coyotes. If the new coyotes are mates, the female seems ineffectual. However, the male is superb. He seems to be all the coyote that she is ever going to need.

The new coyotes could be siblings, or could be father and child. Time may tell just as time may tell us what happened to Mom and Dad, holders of the property for at least the last four years.

I last saw Mom and Dad in late October as they reconnoitered the den area. Since then they appear to have lost ground. Mom and Dad may never return to the den area, perhaps having lost it in a fight. Yet perhaps they allowed newcomers in without a fight. At this time of year they may need that space less. In fact, in past falls and winters I saw little of Mom and Dad there. Also, Mom and Dad’s family seems to include only one puppy and no yearlings, where the den area’s food may not be necessary. It may not now be an area important enough to defend; and perhaps not important later because there must be other areas in their home range that could well serve them in pupping. Considering the entirety of Mom and Dad’s home range, with the newcomers there are still only five coyotes in an area that in the past supported as many as seven. At this point I can’t say if Mom and Dad made a losing stand on some principle of ownership or if instead they just walked away from a fight for lack of anything to fight about.

There is another intriguing possibility. The new male’s companion might be one of Mom and Dad’s female yearlings. It could be that an intergenerational transfer of land-tenure explains the presence of the new tenants, a mixing of old and new blood with benefits for all. Although typically coyote young disperse, some coyote apples may not fall far from the tree.

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.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. yipps
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 14:28:04

    I wonder if NewMale might be a member of either Mom’s or Dad’s extended family? One thing I have heard, but never seen, is that lone coyotes are frequently taken into established coyote packs/families. However, from your description, it appears that these new guys might have displaced Mom and Dad. Can’t wait to hear the developing story!

    Reply

  2. Gail
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 19:06:40

    Hope “Mom and Dad” are okay! Kind of getting used to them :) Future entries should be interesting.

    Reply

  3. Charles Wood
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 21:30:58

    I hope Mom and Dad are OK too! Even if there weren’t newcomers, I wouldn’t be seeing Mom or Dad much at all in that area at this time of year. My guess is that they are still around, and of course, they could come well before or after my visits.

    Over the years I’ve wondered and worried about how Mom and Dad were able to hold on to that particular area when they weren’t constantly there to defend it from other coyotes. I’ve seen stranger coyotes pass through unopposed a few times, sometimes lingering, so the possibility of adverse possession is always present and fear of encroachment is certainly the motivator behind Mom and Dad’s interactions with my intruding dogs. I’ve never felt that Mom and Dad entirely abandoned that area, felt it wouldn’t be wise for them to neglect it entirely. They haven’t neglected it entirely in the past.

    A few times in winters I’ve entered the seemingly abandoned field with my leashed dog and then unexpectedly run into one or two of Mom and Dad’s yearlings. In the friendly season, I imagine that a female yearling home alone would be irresistible to a roaming stranger male. He would instantly appreciate an ingénue with an inheritance for the taking. The new male’s companion definitely is not one of the 2011 yearlings, the ears are too short, but I don’t have a good identification shot of the second yearling and I don’t know either of their sexes. I’m open to the possibility that a mom and dad coyote may acquiesce and just by inaction grant territory to a child of theirs; I’m open to the possibility that everything in nature does not have to be a fight and that it might be better to have a coyote relative as a neighbor than a completely foreign couple. Coyote dispersal and territory acquisition isn’t completely understood, from the little I’ve read on that topic. The answers may come from understanding the particulars of territory, from how territory forms a gradient around which all coyote behaviors arrange.

    The den area and its surrounds contain a daily rendezvous site for Mom, Dad, and family. In Hope Ryden’s book, God’s Dog, rendezvous are suggested as an important source of regurgitated food for young coyotes who don’t lose their milk teeth until about the fifth month. The reunion videos and photographs I’ve taken show one puppy obviously asking for a regurgitation and the groveling of the young suggests asking for food well past the age where they truly need it. Mom and Dad may not come much to the rendezvous area after their kids’ teeth are in and as they mature, I have noticed that the kids seem more and more to be on their own. The 2012 puppy would still be dependent and cared for, but as to yearlings, too bad. At this time of year Mom and Dad are renewing their vows and are absorbed with each other. That a yearling would wander off for good wouldn’t be unexpected or unwelcome. It also may be that picking up a son-in-law is just part of that dispersal/maturation process, perhaps more likely where territory is in excess of a current family sizes’ needs. The genetic studies in Chicago do show that an urban coyote pack consists of related individuals and that the exceptions are where a remarried widow has children around from both the dead and current husband. The rule seems to be that a coyote pack consists of two parents and their children of various ages. I don’t know what the Chicago study tells us about the family relationships among neighbors.

    Related or not, the new coyotes may have acquired that area without much of a fight. With a smaller family at home, Mom and Dad just don’t need as much area and unrelated, hungry coyotes are always around to accomplish a redistribution of territory, a poorly protected field falling to a coyote’s hunger just as to us a constantly fallow field begs for a tilling. Most of the territorial messaging I’ve seen consisted of varying degrees of bluff and bluster, suggesting that coyotes have evolved land management social systems that reduce the chances of actual combat. Still, there may have been a fight, and that conflict may have cost the new male his eye.

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  4. Barbara Knupp
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 00:43:09

    Oh, this is interesting. The new ones are a pair, I would think. Particularly as its mating season. I wonder how the one will do if that eye is badly injured. I once lost the sight in one eye for a a week or so. Amazing how the other eye immediately tries to compensate. Still, I would think a good hunter relies on all its senses. It will be interesting if it is successful with such a handicap.

    Now I am thinking (maybe wrong) that Mom and Dad are still in their prime and able to defend their turf. Could there have been a confrontation which Mom and Dad lost? Maybe Mom and Dad decided to find another home after detecting the presence of another. Could it be possible that the others are really just passing through on occasion? Are coyotes so social that they would take in another besides their immediate family?? Should be quite interesting how this unfolds..

    That leads me to a question. How many coyotes might there be in a pack? I hear stories (always 3rd hand) of coyote packs. However, I have only seen (or my camera picked up) 1 and occasionally 2 coyotes. Once, I saw 3 coyotes but they certainly seemed to be parents and a half grown youngster. Of course, my observations have been quite limited.

    Thanks for the continued story of how Mom, Dad, and the others live. Look forward to hearing more.

    Reply

  5. Charles Wood
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 03:34:54

    Hi Barbara, and thank you. An east/west road bisects Mom and Dad’s territory, with the den area to the south. A nature preserve area is to the north and I know they go there. They may just be staying there all the time now. It will take several more observations of the new coyotes to be sure they are resident. Solitary coyotes lurk at the edges of paired coyotes’ territory. The new one’s aren’t solitary and don’t lurk. Most solitary coyotes that I’ve seen pass through just keep going until they are far out of sight. I feel sorry for them. Not these new ones! I believe the average pack/family size is six. Mom and Dad have had more than that some years, fewer in other years.

    The new guy: it has been a month with that eye injury so it probably isn’t much of a problem.

    Reply

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