A Little Fun With Some Alarmist Ravens

Sauntering down a street, minding his own business, until the ravens focused on him

Ravens serve as general sentinels not only for their own conspiracies, but their cries of alarm are listened to by all wild critters within hearing distance. That sentence might not make sense to a lot of people until they learn that a group of ravens can be referred to as a “conspiracy”, “an unkindness”, “a congress”, or “a constable”. A group of crows, by the way, is often referred to as a “murder” of crows. Ravens croak-up a storm when they see coyotes and often dive-bomb them to harass them out of the area. It’s a territorial thing: both of these creatures scavenge for the same type of foods, so they are competitive in this respect, but also, coyotes have the potential to grab one of the corvids itself and eat it.

So today the ravens were directing a tempest of alarmist croaks at this fella coyote as he sauntered along the sidewalk minding his own business. Most of the time coyotes flee from ravens’ harassment while dodging their sky-diving onslaughts. In this instance, this two-year old coyote decided to play along with them. The two — raven conspiracy and coyote — know each other well from many such previous engagements at this same location: you might call the two “frenemies”.  The ravens had given up their skydiving of this particular coyote long ago, they just emitted loud vocalizations and threatening territorial displays without leaving the comfort of their perches — it was a sort of pro-forma performance. And the coyote’s engagement was simply a diversion: a one-upmanship game: he engaged visually with the ravens, jumping up on his hind legs without any expectation of reaching them — they were way above a six-foot hedge.  Notice the coyote smiling and having a bit of fun. After a full six minutes, coyote walked on and ravens became quiet.

After about six minutes of diversion, he continued on his way.

You can be sure that if the ravens had kept quiet and not focused all that noise and animosity (even if it was faux animosity) on the coyote, the coyote would have walked on and hardly noticed them, but coyotes are keenly aware when they’ve become an “an object of interest” to some other creature. And, by the way, I have seen the same thing happen with some dogs. Dogs that bark at, lunge at, or even blink an evil-eye at a coyote, leashed or not, have communicated their interest — their negative interest — to the coyote. Some coyotes — each coyote behaves differently — might react to this, if not immediately, perhaps on another day, even when the dog is behaving a little more congenially. Coyotes appear to remember previous antagonisms, and one day down the line, the coyote could sneak up from behind to attempt a little retaliatory nip to the haunches of the dog. The nip is a “message”: the coyote isn’t out to “maul” the dog. He/she is simply out to “message” the dog to not mess with him/her, to move on and away. It’s another instance of oneupmanship. The humans around will read this as purely aggressive behavior, but in fact it’s more complicated and is based on previous behaviors.

It’s best to keep the peace by always keeping your distance and by preventing your dog’s barking at a coyote right from the word go: tighten your leash and drag your dog away, making it difficult for him/her to continue barking or looking at the coyote. Walking away sends a clear message to the coyote that you don’t want to engage — that the coyote is not an object of interest to you or your dog. Small dogs should be picked up as you move away from a coyote. Once a coyote gets to within just a few feet of you, you’ll have to add screams and belligerence as you move away: it’s best to move away WAY BEFORE you have to do this.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elena Giacoman
    Jun 08, 2019 @ 06:37:08

    Hi. Is there a better way to reach you for a young coyote seen in Nob Hill? ACC didn’t seem too concerned when we called and just said they knew about it.

    Reply

  2. Bobbie Pyron
    Jun 11, 2019 @ 18:20:40

    Ha! This reminds me of the relationship between Trouble and Mischief in my novel, A PUP CALLED TROUBLE!

    Reply

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