New Face On The Block!

New female!

New female!

Today, a new, never-before-seen coyote ventured into the territory of one of the coyote families I observe. It was a young female. I don’t know if she had attempted sneaking past the young male, or if she passed him on purpose, hoping that he would notice her, risking that she might be driven out viciously. True to form, the unattached young male resident coyote eyed her and then pursued her for some time over a long distance.

Back and forth they went at a feisty, excited and fast clip. Somehow, I don’t think this was about a resident coyote trying to drive away an intruder. When the young female lost track of the male, she appeared to look around for him, and he for her.

Is this young female — an outsider and an intruder — exploring this and other territories in search of a mate? If so, will she be competition for the unattached young resident female who grew up in the territory and has been the sole female in the territory for over a year? It’s that time of year when new pair-bonds are formed. New territories which have not been claimed, and territories which have been vacated, will be staked out and claimed by the new coyote pairs.

Later on, I catch Dad walloping the young male

Later on, I catch Dad walloping the young male

Not too long after watching this chase, I caught Dad walloping this very same young male in the distance. Hmmm. We have to keep in mind that this territory belongs to Dad and that, as far as I know, there will be only one breeding pair in the area, and that breeding pair will most likely include Dad.


Intimations of Courting Behavior Have Begun Between Unattached Coyotes

I saw the first intimations of coyote courting behavior at the end of November. It was between unattached coyotes. These two have always been happy to see each other, engaging in joyous playing and hunting together until now. But this time, when these two saw each other, they hesitated and incorporated some antagonistic displays towards each other — the female with a snarl, the male with his hackles up, stiff, erect and somewhat dominating.

They approached each other and greeted each other as usual by touching their noses, but they did so hesitantly and warily. Then the female passed in front of the male and he sniffed her. She sat down to prevent further investigation. He then approached her from the back and attempted putting a paw on her back. He was testing her. She snarled and snapped at him with her hackles up, showing she would have nothing of it, that she was unavailable or unready for him, at least for now. They stayed like this for a moment, and then she finally reached up and gave him a friendly nip on the chin. Each then went in separate directions.

From what I’ve seen before, the male will become much more solicitous and learn to approach her in the way she wants him to. I know that the female will bide her time in making any choices among her various solicitors. She wants control. It is the female, in the end, who makes a choice as to who will become her lifelong mate.

The other trend I’m seeing right now is that females, for the most part, are staying much more apart and pretty distant from the males of their families. The males — bachelors — are hanging out together more than they did in the past, while the females spend a greater portion of their time alone and away from the fellas.

Not Happy About Being So Wet

This little coyote has just stepped out from the bushes in a downpour of rain. His ears are pulled all the way down and plastered all the way back against his head to protect them from the heavy rain. Ears pulled back and down like this are also a submissive gesture: the rain has him beat and he’ll just have to put up with it — this is something he doesn’t look too happy about. He’s already soaked through and through after several days of heavy rain here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The rain was fun for him at first, but it’s getting kind of old now. It’s not often that you see coyotes without their ears up!


2014-12-16 (2)

2014-12-16 (1)




Wet Day Activities and Saving Something For A Rainy Day??

wet coyote

wet coyote

We’re being pummeled by rain — our fiercest storm in five years!  California has a desert climate, with normal yearly rain averaging only about 21 inches. Last year, in 2013, we received less than 4 inches of rain during the entire year. That is the same amount we are expecting just within these next few days. Streets are flooding, electricity is out, and there is water everywhere.

I waterproofed my camera and myself and headed out into the torrent. Very few folks were out visiting the parks where gophers were being pushed to the surface of their tunnels by all the water: coyotes were aware of these things. I watched this fella, in the driving rain, head straight for a gopher hole and go to work. The mound of fresh dirt around the gopher tunnel opening must have been a dead giveaway to a gopher’s location. He cocked his head back and forth only a few times before he zeroed in on the gopher’s exact location. Notice the coyote’s beautiful diving technique, then his furious digging which sent the wet mud flying in all directions.

He caught his gopher — looks like a huge two pounder — and gulped it down. He then marked the location — claiming, and advertising, his triumph.

He then meandered across the field and within seconds found a second very large gopher. No triangulation, no pouncing, no digging was involved this time — the gopher was just there for the taking, right at the opening to its tunnel. The coyote picked it up, looked around carefully surveying the area, and then trotted across the field to a clump of bushes, eyeing me to make sure I wouldn’t come after his catch. He emerged from those bushes seconds later without the gopher, so he obviously left it there.

He spent the next little while criss-crossing the field searching for more gophers, shaking water out of his coat at various times, noticing and being noticed by a lone dog walker who had bravely ventured out, spooking at noises, warning an unleashed dog away, messaging displeasure at that dog and then lying down and then waiting for the dog to leave when the dog’s owner appeared, and just plain looking around.

the gopher had been left in a little hollow

the gopher had been left in a little hollow

He then headed out of the field for about 30 seconds, during which time I hurried to the clump of bushes and found the dead, soaking gopher where it had been carefully deposited in a little depression on the ground.

Maybe the coyote had headed out of the field to see if the coast was clear, because he came back, eyed me suspiciously since I was closer to the clump of bushes with the gopher, retrieved the dead gopher and then retraced his steps in the same direction out of the field.

I watched him carry it a substantial distance, stop and look around a couple of times. He was looking for a place to hide it, apparently, because he then trotted further, to a distant grassy area, looked around to make sure he wasn’t being watched, and buried it. Possibly he would retrieve it and eat it when gophers were harder to catch. We like saving things for a rainy day. Might he possibly be saving it for a dryer day?!

A Fit of Fun With the Rain

It was finally pouring rain — rain that has been desperately needed in California. I water-proofed my camera and water-proofed myself and set out for a wet walk, hopefully to find some wet critters. I love being engulfed by downpours and I guess the same is true for coyotes. In fact, coyotes hunt during strong rainstorms because it is at that time that gophers and voles are more likely to emerge from their tunnels to avoid drowning.

During the downpour, I saw some everyday coyote activities: toying with prey, eating, a show of dominance, and then, just standing there in the rain with eyes closed.

And then, a coyote had a fit of fun with the rain! He began by looking up at the rain — maybe defiantly? — and then dashed this way and that, as if he were trying to outsmart the rain and get away from it! The little bout of activity was short, but it was a definite “interaction” with the rain and lots of fun to watch!

a back and forth fit of interacting with the rain

Running In The Direction Of Some Dogs

I’m seeing new behavior in a young 19 month old male coyote youngster. He — I would call him a “teenager” in coyote years — lately has been running in the direction of particular dogs to get a closer look as they walk through his park. Unbound curiosity seems to be what is driving the behavior, but it occurred to me that there might be a longing for more companionship.

The coyote never gets closer than about 75 feet or so before he stops, looks more closely, and sniffs intently with his nose high in the air, gathering all the information he can — olfactory, visual, auditory, and maybe more that we humans can’t sense, such as pheromonal cues — about the dog which is passing by. The behavior does not seem to involve any protective territorial behavior. There is never any sign of hostility or antagonism of any sort. The coyote just seems to be very interested in these non-family, non-coyote canines.

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