Vying For Her

This family unit consists of a male and a female litter-mates, and a male who appears to be an older sibling. The two littermates are yearlings born in 2018, and the older sibling was probably born the year before. This older guy now is clearly dominant over the younger male, though I remember when there was more equality between them.

Both males have always catered to the female who seems to have a special position in the family apparently just because she’s a female. I’ve seen this special status given to other lone females in families. These three spend most of their time together.

Above is a video of one of their recent evening rendezvous. It begins with the younger male watching from the distance and very interested in the interactions of the other two. He clearly is apprehensive about joining them. However, even for coyotes, the heart is often stronger than the mind.

He suddenly decides to join them, running towards them. Upon reaching them, he immediately throws himself into a lower “small” submissive stance towards the other male — they appear to have worked out their ranks — but his aim appears to be to get past that male to the female in order to exchange warm greetings with her. Each male, then, makes an effort to continuously wedge himself between the other male and the female. This wedging behavior has been going on for months, as seen below in its incipient stage, when the two males were more on an equal footing: this equal footing has now changed. Now it is more obvious that there is a triangle involving jealousy, control, and ownership. You can probably guess how this will end up.


Several months ago, the play sessions between the three of them were intense: they’d romp, hop over, nuzzle, fall to the ground in a heap, lick, play chase. There was a whole lot of carefree fun. You can see that the snout-clasping was pretty evenly divided between them — there was no definite hierarchy yet between the males.

But even back then, each of the males was very tuned-into the interactions of the other with the female, and each worked on creating a wedge between his brother and sister. The female interacted less, preferring to look on, and sometimes snarled or grabbed the snouts of the others — she appeared to know what was going on. Even in humans, “friendly” play often has a competitive component (sports, board games): it can “measure” where you stand in relation to another individual. In coyotes, this play was a sort of litmus-test for for their eventual ranks in the real world.

Interestingly, I’ve seen this exact same behavior within a family consisting of a male and female sibling and their father after the alpha-mother’s disappearance left a vacancy for that family position. In this case, the father used himself as a wedge to keep brother away from sister, and it was for very selfish reasons: HE obviously wanted to possess her: Adroit At Keeping Two Mutually Attracted Coyotes Apart.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Toni
    Sep 03, 2019 @ 01:42:20

    how articulate their tails are. and we (or i, at least) only understand part of it. it occurs to me how much body language leaves less room for deception or sarcasm than spoken language does. and still leaves room for poetry.

    Reply

  2. MelindaH.
    Sep 03, 2019 @ 14:30:17

    Love all these interaction , while the Queen presides over it all. Beautiful video with so much being communicated. I agree with Toni—it’s like poetry.

    Reply

  3. creekcat1
    Sep 03, 2019 @ 15:17:25

    Once again, beautiful pictures of these wonderful coyotes.

    Reply

  4. Suz
    Sep 04, 2019 @ 20:20:47

    So fascinating! Thank you!

    Reply

  5. Hilary Cole
    Sep 06, 2019 @ 08:43:38

    Hi Janet… Amazing article, really interesting to read about the interaction of these 3… thanks so much for sharing this..

    Hilary 😊

    Reply

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