Rufous Runs To Mary, by Charles Wood

For several years I have been visiting a nearby field to watch two coyote parents whom I named Mom and Dad. In November 2012 I found that a new coyote couple had replaced Mom and Dad as the field’s resident coyotes. I named them Rufous and Mary.

Mary being a timid coyote, it has taken me a couple of months to get a close up photograph of her. Rufous isn’t timid and the video begins with him.

After having repeatedly scraped dirt to territorially message my leashed dogs, the video begins with Rufous assessing his effect on us. At this point, Rufous expected us to have either run from him or chased him. Yet we hadn’t moved at all. He wants us to show him we got the message, to show him so by moving. To Rufous we seem really slow in delivering a reply via our feet.

So what’s Rufous to do? Send the message again? Wait? The pause comes from my having constrained my dogs’ ability to communicate, restricted their ability to move. Motion is communication for canines and by now my dogs would have run away except for my influence. I resolved the uncertainty and tension by lobbing a golf ball toward Rufous.

Rufous trots away. Note that a chain link fence separated us and that he was closer to us than a coyote should be allowed to approach, too close for me to just turn and walk away. I needed distance from Rufous in order to leave and he gave it to me when I asked him for it with a softly tossed golf ball.



The next two scenes show Rufous approaching his den area. Mary is waiting there in the brush near the center and if you observe carefully you will see her move slightly. The last scene shows Rufous waiting for us to leave. Mary is off camera and Rufous looks back in her direction

The video shows that to my dogs, Rufous ritualistically messaged his claim to both Mary and the den, communicated those claims in a way that any canine would understand. Deviation from canine expected motion, communication, came from my desire to spectate instead of move.

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.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Knupp
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 03:31:14

    Thanks for the update. I still wonder about Mom and Dad and whether they might return to reclaim their territory. Mary’s eyes seem to look good in the photo. Rufous seems most uncomfortable in having to defend his territory. Interesting Mary stayed well-back. Could she be pregnant? If so, I would think she isn’t very far along. How interesting to be able to follow a coyote pair as they go about their lives.


    • yipps
      Feb 05, 2013 @ 03:46:00

      Charles — I love the way you “get it” about their communication. Your posts are fascinating, informative, and lots of fun to read!

  2. Charles Wood
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 11:44:34

    Thank you Janet and you’re welcome Barbara.

    I too wonder if I’ll see Mom and Dad back in their, er, Rufous’ field, perhaps by the end of February as was the case last year.

    If Mary isn’t expecting now, she should be soon.

    Rufous may seem uncomfortable, but generally he isn’t. In the video he was likely a little flommoxed. The golf ball gave got him back on his game where he became certain that the next thing to do was to retreat. Much like Dad would have after a retreat, Rufous stayed in view. The fact that he was still out there meant that he was serious about what he had told us. Staying in view means he wanted more distance and he wasn’t the one who was going to leave. He’s saying that if anyone is going to leave it is m y dogs and me. All the while Mary watched. By watching, Mary was learning the rituals involved in territory defense. At some point her confidence will increase and like Mom before her, I expect she could well become less timid over time. She has some moxie as you can see from her picture. She was looking at my dogs and me from not that far away and yet, though timid, she didn’t run off. Her look is not welcoming at all!


    • Barbara Knupp
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 00:23:05

      Well Mom and Dad aren’t the only coyotes missing. While husband spotted 4 coyotes crossing into the overgrown field adjacent to the farm,for the most part they seem to have disappeared for the winter. The game camera that photographed coyotes trekking on the old tractor path Spring, Summer, and Fall now only produces rabbit photos – no scat nor howls in the last few weeks. On snowy days, we get a few tracks on the other side of the farm. My theory is that now that the crops are gone and the fields fairly bare, coyotes have lost interest. There is no cover and less prey in the fields. Weather has been pretty cold, wet, and often a little snowy. I suspect, that the coyotes may have already bred and are hunkered down in fields with better cover until the natural world seems to come alive in Spring. Maybe Mom and Dad will show up at their old haunt as well. should be interesting to see how it all works out. Isn’t nature endlessly fascinating?

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