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.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. environmentalhealthpolicy
    Dec 17, 2018 @ 05:50:50

    I have been worrying about the male coyote, and haven’t seen him around much lately. How is he doing? I hope he is able to recover from this injury! I keep seeing the female around alone, and I feel that she’s looking lonely, although maybe I’m just projecting.

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Dec 17, 2018 @ 06:10:56

      He’s been there — was there today — putting weight on the injured leg when he walks, so everything is looking better and better. They often wander around hunting separately. I’ve noticed that SHE tends to be a bit anxious about HIM at times — it’s actually very charming. Don’t worry!! Janet

  2. Cindie White
    Dec 17, 2018 @ 05:51:13

    Oh my gosh. My body. My heart. I feel these animals so much through your beautiful, deep, intimate stories and photographs Janet. It’s overwhelming, sometimes, to have this kind of connection to the coyotes through you because I FEEL what they feel. It’s overwhelming yes but it almost makes me feel alive because all of my sense are heightened. Ah. The love, the feelings between them. The reality of urban life and more… Thank you.

    Reply

  3. chris1055
    Dec 17, 2018 @ 15:43:52

    Thanks for your posts and site. They are amazing.

    Reply

  4. Jeff Garner
    Jan 01, 2019 @ 00:23:35

    I have heard several people asking why the injured mail coyote isn’t trapped and taken to a vet. This is not the policy of animal care and control and for very good reason. Coyotes are wild animals and as such taking one out of the wild would completely disorient it. In addition being handled by humans and being cared for by a vet would change the smell of the male coyote and consequently other wild coyotes would no longer except him. I have actually seen an example of this personally with my domestic cats. More than 20 years ago I adopted a pair of kittens one male and one female. The male had already been neutered at the time of the adoption but the female had to wait a few months before she was old enough to be spayed. When the time came to spray the female and she returned to my home still shaky and groggy from the anesthesia and with her smell substantially altered by her stay in the pet hospital and the fact that she was no longer fertile the male cat immediately attacked her. These two cats had been and remained the very best of friends until the male died a little over a year ago but I had to separate them for a day because the altered smell of the female plus her groggy behavior made the male believe that she was somehow a liability to their little pack and made him act aggressively towards her. You can just imagine how much more the reaction would be magnified and wild animals as opposed to domestic cats .

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Jan 01, 2019 @ 02:27:10

      Thanks, Jeff! Also, imagine if the void left by the coyote’s removal were filled by yet another male. It’s too complicated and convoluted, isn’t it?! Leaving them alone solves all of these issues! Great comment! :)) Janet

  5. Bobbie Pyron
    Jan 10, 2019 @ 14:59:09

    That male coyote reminds me an awful lot of my husband when I try to get him to go to the doctor when he’s sick. Coyote or human, the females always know best ;)

    Reply

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