Punishment Again

This is the second time in the same day that I observed this behavior between this particular seven-month old female pup and her mother. Please see the previous posting.

I had two thoughts that might be related to this:  the first about Great Horned Owl dispersal, and the second about canine intuition regarding the alpha quality in another canine.

I’ve seen Great Horned Owls lovingly raise their owlets for almost a full year, from the time they are born in late March, through the fledging stage when they leave their birth nest, and through months of teaching hunting and other survival skills. Then one day, towards the end of the Fall season, both parents — these are parents who have mated for life and have raised their owlets together for the last 15 years — turn viciously against their offspring forcing them to leave the area. There is room for only one mated Great Horned Owl pair in any territory due to limited resources. As time approaches for the new reproductive cycle to begin, at the end of the calendar year, any offspring born that year are driven away by their parents. I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to be so totally loved and cared for, and then have those who loved you suddenly attack you. This is what goes on. The young owls fly off to areas as close as the next park over, if there is room there, or as far away as across the US.

My second thought stems from how my 2-year-old female dog reacted when we brought home a new 4-month-old puppy — a male. We found the puppy — abandoned — and we couldn’t just leave him. She must have intuitively known that he would be growing much bigger than her, and that, based on his behavior and activity level and disregard for her, that he would assume the dominant status eventually. It’s only with hindsight that we came to know that this was going on right from the start. Over an extended period of time we noticed that the alpha status had segued to him, and she just accepted the inevitable. An alpha coyote in the wild, it seems, would do its best to prevent this from ever happening, especially from one of its own pups who began showing signs of any kind of dominance.

So, we’ll soon see how this situation pans out: if it settles down, or if it leads to something.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. J
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 05:10:54

    This story is absolutely heartbreaking follow up. I heard a lone coyote in the yard tonight after reading your initial post about “the punishment” — it somehow reminded me of our early correspondence last year, Janet, when you wondered if what I’d been hearing was a dog you called “the female interloper.”

    I can’t help but wonder now if ‘interlopers’ are dogs who are forced away from their pack.

    I know that Nature has it’s ways, and that those ways are always serving a higher purpose. Still my heart breaks for that young pup. She is going to require a lot of moxie in life. A fitting name for her actually, Moxie.

    I love your insights about the Horned Owl, and comfort my sad feelings by accepting them as true. It would be a brilliant and positive explanation: the girl pup is strong enough to leave the pack and to perpetuate our urban coyote population. To help rejuvenate its presence.

    However it all happens, the little one is welcome to start a new life in my part of the city any time. I will keep good thoughts for her.


    • yipps
      Nov 10, 2013 @ 13:32:41

      Hi J — Your comment that “the girl pup is strong enough to leave the pack and to perpetuate our urban coyote population, to help rejuvenate its presence,” is a high possibility. This particular pup developed more quickly that the others and used to venture out exploring way before the others did. She has been the “leader” among her siblings, one of whom never enters any rough play but rather sits and watches, and the other who plays roughly with her, but often keeps its ears down (submission) and most often ends up under the female. Both other siblings in this pack, as far as I’ve been able to tell so far, are males.

  2. Charles Wood
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 07:25:25

    Hi Janet, Here’s a link to a photo I took of a young Cooper’s Hawk http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=13722933 . It is having a fit. So were its siblings. The next year, I saw the same scene play out again. Three or four young Cooper’s Hawks had fits each day that I visited them around dusk. Both years, no parents were around. I surmised that the parents had quit feeding them. For about a week the young were very mad about that, but to no avail. Also with Red-tailed Hawks: at some point when I visit a mated pair, their one or two young children would be around and crying constantly. I assume that they were crying because their parents had stopped feeding them. That crying goes on for a couple weeks.

    I think that that’s one very good reason to never feed a coyote. For example, just tonight I went to see my new coyote that I hear barking and singing in the park. It stands under a tree just barking away, sometimes for as long as an hour. I can only figure that it has a squirrel in sight and is frustrated, wanting the squirrel to come down. The coyote is very demanding with the squirrel on that point. So if we make the mistake of feeding coyotes, then like a young bird whose parents are withholding food, it can start demanding that food. When coyotes get demanding with humans it can end badly for the coyote.

    I remember now that my Mom and Dad coyote had a female prodigy coyote child I named Bold. http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=12950794 She always seemed more mature and independent than her siblings. She exuded self-confidence and also was bigger than her siblings. I didn’t see any conflict between Bold and her parents. But neither did I see her around helping with the next year’s litter.


  3. Jack
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 17:55:14

    Your posting here is excellent. It’s a very rough topic, though, for any reader to read and understand.

    Nature needs this type of behavior — we all know this — but human society devotes a great deal of effort to moderating & avoiding & condemning it, among humans, not that we always succeed.

    So seeing the natural fact of such necessary brutality — punishment, discipline, whatever — Foucault actually called it “discipline & punish”, in his book about how human society does it — comes as a shock. A reader’s first reaction will be that this brutality is “not right”, because her/his initial instinct will be to relate it to her/his own human society, where it is forbidden. The posting is a shock, particularly to people who love coyotes, and even tho when they think about it they’ll understand its necessity.


  4. Charles Wood
    Nov 13, 2013 @ 21:22:54

    Interesting comments, Jack. I do think that discipline is necessary. My sense of how it goes with coyotes is that they are plugged into roles. Those roles have worked for them over eons.

    I remember my Dad coyote when he once looked flustered over my refusal to leave his area. He looked like he didn’t know what to do next, he looked like he had done all that was required of him to make me leave yet over time I just wouldn’t. He had played out his role once again, performing territorial defense displays. Any canine would have either run away or pursued. I did neither. Perplexed, Dad didn’t know what to do next and to me that showed in his expression: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=16421295. Does Dad have agency, the ability to act individually despite his roles? Could he choose to not play a role?

    I feel Dad had agency, but I wouldn’t know how to prove it to myself or anyone else. Over time, over a long time, Dad began to not care as much that I was too close to his territory. That’s him in the back rolling in the dirt. http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=14056776; and that’s Mom staring at me with her unwavering opposition to my presence. Their coyote rules say that I shouldn’t be in their area. Dad over time seemed to relax his enforcement of that rule with me. At times it seemed that his relaxed attitude was unacceptable to Mom. She seemed to insist that he ‘do’ something. He would obey her, knowing the rules. Dad never forgot the rules, couldn’t ever altogether dismiss them.

    Compared to our first encounters, Dad’s later enforcement of the rules seemed lackluster and entirely for show. I didn’t act like a coyote. When challenged I didn’t run away nor did I pursue. Free to act, for example, my dog would have either run or pursued on the cue provided by Dad in their role playing. It perplexed Dad as I see it, and in the end he showed agency by relenting, by not acting towards me strictly in accordance with the coyote way. I think he was able to evaluate me as an individual in a unique situation, me being one on whom his act just didn’t work one way or the other. In his mind, it was I who didn’t know how to behave. As I see it, he would have thought that odd, that I didn’t act like a normal animal, that I wouldn’t react. No reaction from an animal to another animal is not the norm. To not react immediately to another animal is aberrant. We see that when birds scatter and when rodents call their warnings, eventually hiding, spider scurry away, all either avoid or pursue. No animal simply gawks the way humans do at a zoo.

    It is very personal how we interpret coyote behavior. Janet’s mom coyote: I see her behavior toward her daughter from my own unique subjectivity. I toy with the idea that Mom knows the coyote rules, one of which seems to be that children submit to parental authority without question. When I say Mom knows the rules I mean it in an instinctive knowing sort of sense; and, to some extent, by Mom having learned proper coyote rules and roles when she was young. Although my coyote Dad seemed to have agency, seemed to be able to bend because he possessed the ability to give consideration to a unique problem: those considerations took him forever when compared to human ability to adapt conceptually. Perhaps, given the considerable time that passed during which we had encounters, Dad just got too old and tired to always be the ‘fixer’.

    Given the role of rules in coyote culture, Mom has no choice except to be in conflict with a child that refuses to offer Mom total submission. We humans could give consideration to the problem and relent, or change our approach. I don’t believe that a coyote has that ability. We can recognize something human in the family interactions, yet those elements are in the coyote unexamined, are primal forms that have contributed to the success of coyotes as a species.


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