A Peek At Some Courting Behavior

The courting behavior of these coyotes usually entails the fellow following and keeping tabs on his gal. She is more aloof than he is, but she seems to like his attention — as long as it’s a “hands-off” affair. Not until her cycle is ready for him will she permit very close contact. This sequence of photos, taken during an extended observation period in January, illustrates this behavior.

So many photos: I find individual photos much more revealing than a video — they stop the action and let me reflect on what is going on. I tend to click continuously as I observe, which allows me to record the whole story, and allows me to review what happened in a short amount of time which wouldn’t be true for a video recording. I then simply pick out whichever photos tell the story. My trouble is in eliminating some of the photos for my story! So, there are a lot of photos here — hope you aren’t overwhelmed!

The male of this pair was up before dawn overseeing his domain — performing sentry duty. The female soon appeared and greeted him with a quick acknowledgement  in the form of grooming. But when he then approached her a little too intimately with his head over her back, she flung around and faced him standoffishly. He backed off and she then wandered away, and he followed at a non-confining distance. (See below)

They kept stopping and staring at each other for long periods of time at about 100 feet apart: her need was to keep her distance from him; his was to keep tabs on her. (Photos below)

After interminable staring, she walked on, turning around repeatedly to watch what he was doing, maybe to see if he was following, and, indeed, he followed her. (Below)

Then he suddenly swerved off of her trail — he had found something: a gopher. She noticed this from a rock in the distance and yawned in pretend-disinterest. He settled down to eat his gopher. She tried to look disinterested, but I noticed that she peeked at him before lying down on the rock with her back towards him. Below

He finished his meal, urinated (marked) on the spot, and trotted over to be closer to her. She looked away uninterested. So he settled down not too close, and not too far away — about fifteen feet away and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. I think her need was for him to respect a certain distance. Once she was happy with him showing this respect, she felt free to move around. She finally got up and stretched, ho-hum, ever so casually, like he didn’t matter, shook off the rain and walked over to where he had eaten his gopher. He watched her go, and soon got up and followed.

She walked on and this time he approached her — too closely this time. He attempted making contact by again putting his head over her back. She would have none of it. She flinched, brushed him off, and sat down, with her ears back: “NO”. He had no choice but to walk on and she watched him go. (See below)

He then walked to the rock on which she had been lying. It’s as though they were each checking out every detail about the other — coyotes can pick up a lot of information with their nostrils. He again looked over at her and she at him. See below.

This is when a couple of walkers with their dogs chanced by. The dogs were leashed and the group walked on, but the coyotes had been interrupted. They now ceased their standoffish behavior toward each other and followed the walkers at a distance, sniffing out everywhere that the dog had stopped. See below

The coyote pair stopped following as the walkers distanced themselves — the people and their dog were not interested in the coyotes, and this is all the coyotes wanted to know. The male urinated his displeasure when a runner went by, and the female just settled down to watch the male coyote who took off into the distance. She watched him go and then got up, nonchalantly stretched in her ho-hum manner, and disappeared into the bushes at about the same time that her mate disappeared from view.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. krish
    Feb 26, 2016 @ 21:47:23

    Where did you observe this? I’ve seen a coyote in Daly City, but never in SF, and I’d love to be able to watch their natural behavior from afar as you did here.


    • yipps
      Feb 26, 2016 @ 21:56:44

      Hi Krish — Coyotes are notoriously difficult to watch because they shy away from humans. It takes a lot of patience and dedication and luck. Janet

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