Intruder, Without Apparent Incident

In the morning a few days ago I watched an intruder — a 2½ year old male — wander through another coyote family’s long-time established territory without apparent incident. In the past, whenever I’ve seen an intruder in an established territory, the intruder has been confronted and driven out, almost always immediately, but more rarely within two weeks. Coyotes are territorial for a reason: resident coyotes drive outsider coyotes out to protect the limited resources on that territory just for themselves, and to maintain a safe-haven for raising vulnerable pups. This limit of one family per territory also then limits the population in any given area to that one family. And this was the case in the territory where this “visitor” found himself. A mated pair of coyotes has lived there for a dozen years and this year they had a litter of valuable pups.

I was astonished to actually recognize the intruder — he was a fellow I’ve known since birth: Hey, it’s a small world out there! I have been able to keep track of this fellow through several areas within the city, where he has remained 2, 4, and 8 months respectively, after leaving his birthplace at 1½ years of age due to having been driven out by his siblings. He has even had a female companion — not a mate — in a couple of those places. Was he now actually moving again, or was this a short investigative/scouting expedition from which he’d return to his last claimed area?  I don’t yet know the circumstances of his sudden appearance at this new place. In fact, upon seeing him I began harboring the hope that he might be on his way to reconnect with a coyote he befriended 8 months earlier. He was only a year-and-a-half of age at that time and maybe not ready for her yet, and she was going through territorial turmoil of her own. When she left the place where their friendship bloomed, he also left, but in the opposite direction. In San Francisco, the age I’ve seen male coyotes settle down to family life is four years of age — that seems to be when they are ready, though I suppose it’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

Anyway, as I entered the park, all I initially saw was a walker carrying her dog and walking away, so I knew one of the coyotes was out prompting this walker’s behavior. Then, when I walked around some bushes, I saw who it was. My eyes popped a little when I saw him, as I thought to myself, “Is that really you?” Yes, it was. “What are you doing here?” I actually said out loud.

The dog walker disappeared down the path, and the coyote went about fixedly sniffing with his nose glued close to the ground as he zigzagged through the area with intent and direction to his movements. He spent time where the resident youngsters liked hanging out. It occurred to me that, with his amazing olfactory ability — coyotes can smell pheromones, which are body chemicals, and more, telling them all sorts of things that we aren’t even aware of — he would be able to tell everything about the health and age and possibly social position of each of the coyotes living there. He was absorbing the entire situation through his nose. None of the resident coyotes was out and about when the intruder was there.

For the previous several days I had noticed much less activity from this family. Whenever coyote behavior or activity changes, you can be sure SOMETHING is going on, even though you might not be able to figure out exactly what that something is. Might this have been the SOMETHING that was going on: the intruder? I don’t really know, it’s only a guess at this point. Intruders can be dangerous for families, so youngsters would have been taken to a more protected/hidden location. A lone interloper coyote could be on the lookout for weakness within the family — that’s how things operate — which might allow him/her to take over a prime territorial situation: one of the “weaknesses” I could think of was that the parents were getting along in years. Then again, his showing up there may just have been a benign and quick passing through, and the lack of family activity there may have been due to something else. I was surprised that not one of the resident coyotes was on his case, but a quick pass-through would have explained this — before the family got whiff of him. They would, of course, eventually find out that he had been there through scent.

After about ½ hour of observing him, I saw him walk across and then out of that park territory, always briskly moving along — and that was the end of that. I haven’t seen him again — just that one time, within that territory claimed by others, far, far away from his own most recent claimed area. Only time will answer my questions, if at all. Why was he there? Why did he leave his previous home — and has he done so permanently? (I’ll be able to check on this). Will he be back, or was this just a stopover on his way elsewhere? Note that if he came back, there could be a territorial battle. The resident Dad has been through several of these over the years, defending his family’s turf,  which have left him limping and torn apart at each incident for weeks at a time. Or maybe, as I am hoping, the intruder is on a mission to find his old girlfriend. If that’s not a romantic fantasy, nothing is! What made me think of this is that from his last home, the park where he showed up is on the way to hers, and not so far away.  So let’s see what happens!

Addendum 11/9: This coyote has not been seen at his last “home” for at least six weeks. And two to three weeks ago a pair of adult coyotes was seen playing nearby that old home: might these two be new claimants of that territory?

Leaving the park

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jo Thompson
    Nov 06, 2019 @ 13:52:14

    Fascinating. Thank you.

    Reply

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