Injured Coyote and Altruistic Behavior by His Mate

Leg or paw injuries are very common in urban coyotes — I see them all the time. Most that I’ve seen are the result of dogs chasing them: legs get twisted, pulled, or even dislocated and broken as they try to get away in an urban environment.  I’ve also seen several instances of this resulting from coyote/coyote interactions.

Before I even knew that this coyote was injured, I watched his caring mate investigate the severity of the leg injury. Coyotes apparently investigate through their noses more than their eyes: she sniffed the leg intently. We’ve all seen our canine companions sniff each other to find out about each other, and I’ve read about dogs who can actually sniff a two-degree temperature change in humans (which happens just before an epileptic episode), so this kind of investigative sniffing is very understandable. Their eye-to-eye gaze afterwards, in the photo below, appears to show that each understood what was going on.

Then the female did her best to get the injured male coyote to follow her to a safer area. She tried her darnedest: she poked and prodded and pushed with her paw, her head, and her whole body. He complained and rebelled with a gaping show of teeth, but eventually he gave in a little and went with her, even if only for a short distance. I posted a similar instance of this type of prodding to get a mate to do something, see Coyote Communication: An Example.

Shortly thereafter, always looking out for him, the female noticed active dogs nearby. She immediately hurried over towards the dogs to divert any potential pursuers (that’s her rushing off at the beginning of the video). None came his way. “Altruism, in the biological sense, refers to a behavior performed by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the one performing the behavior.”[Wikipedia] She was clearly placing herself at a greater risk for being pursued while reducing his risk.

Later on there was more intimate contact between the two coyotes, as seen below, but I couldn’t tell if she was still trying to move him away from the area, or simply nuzzling him: this contact lasted only a few seconds, so I think it was simply a nuzzling.

Affectionate Grooming and a Paw-Lick “Thank You!”

Grooming is a major social activity for coyotes. It is part and parcel of companionships, friendships and pair-bonding, as well as family-ties. Grooming also has health benefits: for example, it reduces ticks which often act as vectors for spreading disease and infection. It also, apparently, is a calming factor in many animals.

Here, only one of the pair engages in the grooming. Judging by this pair’s everyday behavior, the grooming is almost certainly an extension of her affection and caring for him. And, as though that weren’t profound enough on its own, notice how the groomed one actually ‘thanks’ the groomer with an affectionate lick to her paw: “I like you a whole lot, too!”

Wow!

Coyote Watchdogs, By Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet,
I’ve shared with you how one ranch I visit has had a no hunting coyote policy for many years. This recently developed into a discovery on the ranch’s property.

The owner and patriarch of this ranch was born here. He knows literally every inch, tree, range and spot of this vast property. He knows the sounds and smells. Only very old age limits his patrols and work.

He has children and grandchildren who also help, as well as hired hands. So it’s well cared for.

I went for my monthly visit and patrol of some distant fencelines when he mentioned he hasn’t heard the coyotes for 2 weeks and felt something was wrong or going on along one area and border. He knows nature. He said this is “especially the noisy time of year for the pack, and if they aren’t hollerin, somethin’s up”.

He asked for me to be especially watchful in one area, and I’m glad he did. I approached the spot, and my dogs alerted in every way. They casted and scented, circled, growled, and looked all over.

Eventually, I found the cause. It was a poachers camp, with illegally killed deer, elk and bear meat and parts being processed. They camped literally just inside his ranch, hidden in gully that joins BLM land and forests.

There also was a “dump” where scraps were tossed. I discreetly took pics and hurried back to inform rancher and make calls to authorities. I must admit I was pretty enraged. And we had to almost hold the old rancher from literally saddling up with his favorite horse and guns.

What we determined was a group of poachers were there and by their actions disrupted the coyotes. They were moving and hunting at night, not moving like ranchers and workers. Also, the coyotes were scavenging the poachers dump but were silent due to being cautious of new humans, and or being stuffed unusually every day. And who knows, perhaps poachers tried to hunt them too. Either way, the suspicions of the rancher were raised because his normally vocal coyote neighbors suddenly went silent for a long time.

That is really tied to the land. He says he won’t feel better until he hears ‘his’ coyotes again.

(The camp was destroyed, game and snares confiscated and cameras utilized in tracking down poachers. They will soon be apprehended and charged.)

Another reason to let coyotes remain. They can tell us alot…if we listen.

Lou

Camaraderie and “Checking-In”

Although coyotes have nabbed raccoons and often work as a team to do so, our coyotes here in San Francisco usually forage individually because of the nature of their prey: small rodents, squirrels, voles, even birds, berries, etc. Even so, they often head out to hunt in pairs. They are social animals, so being together is as much fun for them as it is for us. They often become separated as they follow their noses to areas quite distant from the other, but eventually, they come together to “check-in”. When this happens, there is a little greeting and acknowledgement which consists of eye contact, nose touches, and sometimes some play.

These photos today are of a recently bonded pair of coyotes. Their relationship as a pair is new. Their regular “checking-in” involves more overt displays of joy than most: you can just hear them thinking: “I’m so happy to see you, I’m so happy that you are here with me!” Their interactions at this time are much more similar to what happens at an evening rendezvous, when coyotes come together after having been sleeping apart most of the daylight hours. The rendezvous is a very intense time of socialization between coyotes: there are wiggles and squiggles and joyous jumping over each other, chasing, lots of body contact, body hugs and love bites. Well, this pair greet each other in this manner after they’ve been apart for only 5-10 minutes! It appears that this new match was made in heaven!

A joyous game of chase and catch-me-if-you-can

Playful jumping all over each other

Hugs and togetherness in midair

Body contact even as they run off together

A provokingly affectionate teasing nip to the leg

Contact again, with a paw on his back

Background on these two coyotes: This pair of coyotes came together only several months ago. In her birth family, the three-and-a-half years old female had been an “only child” where her parents left her by herself hours on end, so she was used to being all alone. She dispersed early and became the resident coyote in her new claimed territory which had been left vacant by a coyote hit by a car several years earlier. Here, she remained a loner, and over time, began focusing on cars, humans and dogs for entertainment: coyotes are social animals, and with no other coyotes around, she made do with what there was in sort-of the form of virtual interactions. I worked with the community to discourage interactions in order to preserve her wary and wily wildness as much as possible. Education of this sort worked because most people wanted to do what was best for her. It appears that this coyote didn’t know what she had been missing in the form of “real” interactions until the male showed up. Suddenly, she was overjoyed to finally have a real companion! She is the one who displays the most exuberance and joy when they “check-in”.

The younger newcomer male arrived after having been dispersed — driven out — from his birth family in August by his own siblings who had formed an alliance or bond between themselves: there was no room for him there as an adult. Once youngsters disperse, I usually don’t see them again, but I have been privileged to reconnect with three of them after they dispersed. Once I get to know coyotes, they become easily identifiable through their very distinct appearances and behaviors. Of interest to many people might be that there happen to be “family resemblances” in some coyote families, no different from family resemblances in human families. This male came from a family of four siblings who used to play endlessly together through a year-and-a-half of age.

The play gets more rough and tumble, but is always affectionate

Jumping all over each other with hugs

“Ha ha, gotcha!” Teasing is how they display their connectiveness

Pulling him by his fur has got to be high on the list of tolerances between bonded coyotes

Only a good friend would allow you to grab him by the scruff of the neck with your teeth!