Papas Have Work To Do!

Pop&Rat20130331If you see a male coyote trekking along with a rodent in its mouth, it’s probably because a new family has arrived, or is about to arrive! The new papa, along with other members of the pack/family have a big job!! They will bring home the bacon while Mom holds up in her den nursing the newly born pups and keeping them warm. That’s the biggest job! The important point is that the family works together from day one to raise the pups!  It’s altruistic and very exciting!

For six weeks, Moms will keep their pups in the dens. Papa and any remaining pups — now adults — from previous litters will bring food to supplement her hunting, which will be more limited during this time because of the pups.  After six weeks, food will continue to be brought back to the pups, but it will have been eaten and partly digested — then regurgitated for the young ones. This will be their first solid food — pablum, or baby food! As time moves along, entire rodents — dead ones — will be brought for the youngsters to feast on, then live ones, and eventually they’ll be taken out to do their own hunting.

I have often seen dads and yearlings bringing in prey like this well before any pups were born. Could they be helping a female who is having trouble hunting? Or could they be practicing for when this activity becomes mandatory? Possibly some of these rodents are buried by the den area, creating a cache of readily available food in case of hard times? Growing youngsters need daily nutrients to develop properly — good parents will prepare for hard times.

I have seen a coyote yearling transporting a rat, like this, to its home base, even though there happened to be no pups in its pack that year. I’ve wondered if, in this case, no pups were even born, or if no pups survived, or if they all died.  I have only seen this “transportation of food” during the breeding season, which is why I wonder about what was going on in the case where there were no pups. Maybe food was too plentiful and too readily available. If you are full, you may want to take it to a special place to bury it — saving it for a rainy day?

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