More Nicks and Dents

More wounds

More wounds

Oh, no!! More gashes and lesions are appearing on the wounded yearling male I posted about earlier. He’s looking totally pockmarked. What is going on? Is he being attacked? These are the kinds of wounds which are inflicted by another coyote. Is another family member, or several family members, attempting to drive this fellow out of the family pack? And is he refusing to go? Or is something else going on?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charles Wood
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 03:51:44

    I wonder too and can only speculate. My guess is that he goes out and encroaches on another coyote family’s territory. If his own family were inflicting the ‘warning’ wounds, you probably wouldn’t see him around his own family and I assume he recuperates in his own family’s territory? So if I’m right, if he repeatedly encroaches on other coyotes, then there must be something attracting him to their area. It is either food or reproduction driving him there as I see it.


    • yipps
      Mar 31, 2014 @ 18:07:32

      I myself have never seen 12-month-old male interested in reproduction. I would think that one battle with an outsider in his territory would dissuade a child coyote from returning to that “foreign” territory. A possibility I’ve thought about, without knowing for sure, is that this coyote is being picked on from within its family, and that the “picking on” is something which is intermittent, and possibly only related to a very specific behavior. These lesions, to me, look a lot like coyote-nips. However, we shouldn’t rule out ticks: I’m seeing coyotes grooming each other now — they appear to be removing ticks from themselves and from each other. Could they could be removing a bunch of fur when going after ticks?

  2. cathycareyblog
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 16:56:00

    Thats sad. I know its part of how they keep population under control but I feel sorry for he poor guy.


  3. Alex Grossman
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 19:22:08

    Could these lesions be symptom of another illness? Bacterial or viral?


  4. Charles Wood
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 19:38:49

    I mean reproduction in a very broad sense. I don’t know when a coyote’s urge to form a pair bond begins, though it could be early since we have seen the example of the year old female conflict with its mother and then become socially attached to her father. That attachment wouldn’t be an example of reproduction in the strictest sense, rather, I would argue it as an instinct toward pair bonding more generally. In an older ‘pack leader’ paradigm, we might have viewed that father/daughter bonding as food/competition/hierarchical. In the ‘soul mate’ paradigm I’m exploring lately, that bond would instead be viewed as following from an instinct present a priori, an archetype in the coyote to form a pair bond for broad social goals including reproduction.

    There are some puzzling elements in this post when contrasted to other recent posts, all creating a sense of an unfolding drama whose meanings we aren’t privy to. For example, from an earlier post, there was a male former child-family member/resident being in family territory and being beaten up by its family. That child was knocked around, not bitten and being knocked around was enough to cause it to flee the territory. So I speculate that a child receiving repeated bites from its family would even more so want to flee the territory??? A wounding bite is a severe form of discipline. I would argue that young coyotes wouldn’t disperse at all if they 1) weren’t attracted by pheromones from opposite-sex coyotes and 2) weren’t repelled by bites and threats of bites from other coyotes. Likewise, the mother coyote apparently fled the territory because of continual conflict with its daughter, conflict whose documentation anyway didn’t show wounding bites. (I think coyotes do a lot to message without actually having to bite, avoid biting and fights if they can.) So it seems to me that if the family was biting this young male, we wouldn’t see him around, though it is true that he could not be getting the message. Unlike with the bold daughter, this young male, if in fights with his family, is not winning anything and it’s hard to understand why he would stick around if that is the case. A wounding bite is about as bad as it can get short of being killed, I would think: HOWEVER: Many are the times that coyotes have proved to me that I don’t know them very well and that what I had thought was embarrassingly irrelevant.

    Coyote families show us their two sides. One side we see in their reunions reassurances from family members that all is well. The other side is conflict that leads to distancing behaviors, fleeing territory, becoming dispersed. It certainly is possible, perhaps even likely, that the young male in this post is refusing to disperse just as did the daughter who ‘won’ the conflict and appears to have paired up with her father. However with the young male in this post, I ask, what bond is he to win with the sister apparently paired up and the mother gone? I would argue that for a coyote, for a wolf, and for our dogs, the desire to pair up is instinctive, following the age old food, territory, and social/reproductive serving benefits that accrue to those coyotes who do pair up. (Our dogs pair up with us for similar benefits). I propose that for coyotes/wolves-dogs the desire to bond isn’t sexual in the strict sense, just as is our human desire to bond across genders isn’t strictly sexual, is broadly social, and is very plastic and formable. Coyotes aren’t able to know in advance all the social benefits that will eventually come from those first foolish and awkward steps toward forming a bond. Nor as a species are we, having to induce our young to pair bond by entreaty and large material gifts given at big dress up parties.

    Coyotes, as they wander around foraging and pushing up against the territorial boundaries of other coyote families, know that they are at risk of running into conflict. Either they stray at times and are somewhere they don’t belong, or someone else has temporarily strayed and are where they don’t belong. The other night on a walk I heard a coyote far off in the brush barking its warning to another coyote, me being too far to away for it to have been barking at my dogs. A resident coyote can’t be all places at all times and that creates opportunities. For example, Rufous, a male interloper coyote, was for months encroaching on my Mom and Dad’s territory before he finally won the territory from them and stole their daughter to form a pair bond. At certain times there were places in their territory that Mom and Dad were not and Rufous would be in those places acting like he owned them. If a young coyote didn’t stray temporarily from its territory, for curiosity, for boldness, for food, or for feeling friendly toward a competing coyote: why would it ever leave the Eden of its parents home range? A coyote neighbor’s bark may sometimes be worse than its bite and when that is the case, territory is won by a younger, more fit coyote now with or ready for a pair bond. This guy, if not being bitten by his family, may slowly be learning to be smarter about when and where he goes that he doesn’t belong.


    • yipps
      Apr 02, 2014 @ 03:30:46

      Hi Charles — This is an amazing and well thought-out comment — thank you!

      I’d like to add a little more food for thought. For instance, I believe that youngsters stick around if they aren’t ready to leave — they may do so if they are docile: by doing so they receive protection and a continuing family social life which is safer for them than if they were out facing the world alone as loners. I have a posting coming up on this. Also, I think the dad didn’t just wallop the other young male — there were bites in that encounter because there were squeals of pain, as there were from daughter when Mom went after her: and we saw the “nicks and dents” on the daughter afterwards.

      We’ve heard of the beta females remaining behaviorally sterile if there is a reproducing alpha in the family. Female youngsters must actually move away for their reproductive systems to kick in. Or, the alpha must have been killed or removed. OR, my thought, the alpha female may become too old and no longer produce the hormones and pheromones which make her the viable alpha female of the family. Then, the youngster’s reproductive system can kick in. So, if Mom’s reproductive life were over — she was over 9 years old — then the younger female’s system might have kicked in. However, young females don’t normally reproduce in their first year, as far as I have seen. So, I believe the mom was killed. There is no way the daughter had any advantage, physical, developmental or mental over that mother who was an “alpha of alphas.” The mother could easily have ousted that youngster. Janet

  5. Charles Wood
    Apr 02, 2014 @ 05:15:37

    Thanks Janet for the additional information. I’m afraid that from me there is a lot more data than I can understand! Some more thoughts though.

    From the few studies I’ve read I generally conclude that to science, the mechanisms of coyote dispersal and of territory acquisition aren’t known. So you and I and other layman observers trudge through our observations and try to fill in enormous blanks, the dark time and space where something has changed without our seeing how! For me, one day a young Mister is being tutored by Mom and Dad coyote. After a few weeks or months it becomes clear that Mister is no longer with Mom, Dad, and other siblings. Where did young Mister go and why did he go? Of all the young Mom and Dad had that I observed, none were around by the second anniversary of their birth. As Mary’s second year birthday loomed in the not so distant future, Mary hooked up with Rufous and they seemed to have kicked Mom and Dad out of the territory. I do understand that my observations aren’t generalizable, are mere data points among many other data points. I have heard that besides dispersal, suppressed breeding of their young is also said to be a mechanism that promotes genetic diversity in coyotes while also limiting population growth. However it seems that in your particular coyote family, neither dispersal nor suppressed breeding worked to prevent the unthinkable.

    Likewise, it is unthinkable that coyote social structures would encourage a daughter to hang around until, by the mother’s decline, the daughter’s father became available. For the sake of genetic diversity, the young must at some point go. If incest were anything but rare, coyotes would have already lost their genetic diversity, lost their health, and declined as would have any species. Instead coyotes are genetically diverse and thriving. That doesn’t mean that the normal mechanisms can’t fail at times, just that for the most part, those mechanisms don’t fail.

    At one time it wasn’t known that wolves/coyote ‘packs’ were really nuclear families. The idea that wolves and coyotes lived in packs was wrong, as is wrong the idea of there being alpha leaders, the alpha leader concept implying that betas waited in the wings to take over: that idea may have made some evolutionary sense if it was the case that there ever was such a thing as a wolf or coyote ‘pack’ comprised of unrelated, competing individuals. But there is and has never been any such thing as a wolf or coyote pack with alpha leaders and betas.

    We now know that wolves and coyotes live in nuclear families, not packs of unrelated individuals. It’s just parents and children with nuclear family dynamics, not pack dynamics. We have to forget that we ever knew the word ‘pack’, forget that we ever knew the words alpha or beta. It is simply the case that the words pack, alpha, beta don’t have the meaning they once did back when we didn’t know better, didn’t know that all we have in wolf and coyote society are nuclear families where parents lead their children because that is what parents do. Given that related individuals aren’t intended by nature to reproduce with each other, the real mystery is how nature has conspired to prevent inbreeding in wolves and coyotes. It sure looks to me from your observations that coyotes don’t know any better than to inbreed and that nature has to have a master plan for them, a plan that regularly and predictably prevents inbreeding.

    Consequently there is no evolutionary purpose served by a wolf or coyote son or daughter remaining with its parents very much past breeding age of 2 or so. Look what can happen if they do! So if a mother gets too old to breed it doesn’t serve nature’s purpose for her daughter’s reproductive system to then kick in to save the day for the ‘pack’ and coyotes as a species. Instead, that would ruin the pack and coyotes. If inbreeding were the case generally for coyotes, we wouldn’t have a coyote population, they would just be in the fossil record provided that they had even lasted long enough as a species to contribute to the fossil record at all.


    • yipps
      Apr 04, 2014 @ 17:13:17

      Hi Charles —

      Yes, it is known that coyote groups are just families — they do not form “packs” of unrelated individuals — and Mom and Dad are the usual leaders.

      I’m using the term “alpha” to mean a strong individual. Coyotes are individualistic with varying strengths and intelligences, so some have more power — physical and mental — than others and they wield it, just like us humans. If you have siblings or children, you know this. The Mom in this group was definitely the strongman. But the young female is also an alpha. She is not a parent, yet she’s taken on many leadership roles and I would call her an alpha.

      In my observations, I’ve seen that youngsters disperse between the ages of one and two years of age. The young male in question is not quite one year old yet. So his sticking around for the time being is not at all unusual.

      No society that I know of, animal or human, encourages inbreeding. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

      San Francisco has an unusual geographical situation, and coyotes came here in an unusual manner. San Francisco is a peninsula, almost an island, with water on three sides: north, east, west. Dr. Ben Sachs of UC Davis did a study of the DNA of coyotes in San Francisco and found their gene pool belongs to coyotes of Northern California, not to coyotes of the South, where there is a land route to the area. Because of this, a theory arose that coyotes came from the north over the Golden Gate Bridge. A coyote was spotted on a section of the bridge once, but there is no evidence that it actually crossed the two-mile span. I have learned that 6-8 coyotes were brought into the Presidio by a disgruntled USDA trapper in 2002 — and these constitute our coyote gene pool. Please see my post about how coyotes came to SF:

      Anyway, the point is that in an island situation, with few or no migration routes into the city for new coyote blood, there is going to be some inbreeding.

      There are other incidents that occurred shortly before the mother coyote disappeared, including odd human activity, and the mom’s mate was lacerated and limping a few days before she disappeared for good. I don’t know what to make of this information, but I keep it in mind. Janet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: