Keeping Pups Fed Can Be Demanding

Coyote pups were born during the first week of April here throughout San Francisco, and now they are three months old — the pupping season is progressing! As of the latter part of June, pups became completely weaned from their mother’s milk. They continue to be fed pablum which is being supplemented with small prey brought to them by the parents. Parents are working extra hard to keep up with the growing nutritional needs of their broods, sneaking in and out of their mostly hidden denning sites: it takes both parents to keep them nourished. While parents go off to hunt, youngsters are left alone for many hours at a time.

Lactating mom

Moms, of course, right from the start, need extra nourishment to insure the development of their pups before birth, and then for the six weeks afterwards to produce enough milk for them. But this is hardly the end of it.

Even before the youngsters are completely weaned in June, both parents introduce “pablum” to the youngsters’ diets: this consists of prey and other food that they’ve chewed up and ingested — and partly digested. They carry this food home in their bellies and regurgitate it for the youngsters. The following is a time-lapse video giving a glimpse into the time-consuming and often hectic task.

In the video you’ll see Mom hurries into the area — hurries so as not to be seen but also maybe to keep herself from digesting the food she carries in her belly — and quickly summons the youngsters who, of course, hurry after her until she expels the food onto the ground. The youngsters then lap this up voraciously. When she’s satisfied that they’ve cleaned most of it up, she’s off again for more, again hurrying through the gateway between her hidden den and the outer world. This process goes on multiple times a day.

Now, in July, whole foods are being introduced. The ending scene of this clip was captured only a week after the first clip, Mom is bringing in a small whole food — in this case a gopher. Both pablum and small whole food will be brought to coyote pups for the next little while as they learn to hunt for themselves, and as their digestive systems learn to handle the harder-to-digest foods.

It should be noted that every coyote parent is different. What you see here are two dedicated parents whose pups are foremost on their minds. But I have seen some parents who are not quite like this, specifically some mothers who were much more laid back, and whose mates seemed to take on the lion’s share of the feeding after the pups were weaned.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lou Speak Owl
    Jul 20, 2020 @ 17:47:59

    I’m often in awe of our local coyote this time of year. Some of them have yearlings that stay-this helps tremendously during pupping season. Others live among very inhospitable settings. Many wild predators (cougar, golden eagle, wolves, bear) will gladly take a pup. And Livestock Guard Dogs as well. However, most coyote parents are truly capable and exemplary. I’ve seen them take pups to food rich areas (rodent filled fields or fruit groves) which eases pressure.

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Jul 20, 2020 @ 19:22:33

      Yes. It amazes me, too, as you put it, “how truly capable and exemplary” they are. Here in San Francisco, the city, the “danger” would come from pet dogs and people — dogs are everywhere and the majority run wild and off-leash. They love chasing coyotes. Yet the coyotes know where to hide the pups, and they remain vigilant and savvy about what is going on around them, so that if necessary, and maybe even if not totally necessary, they move the pups, to thwart any potential impending danger, no matter how small that potential might be. I don’t know what kind of cues they follow, but they indeed can “sense” things: motives and awarenesses of dogs and people. It’s kind of an uncanny suspiciousness. Truly awesome.

      And I have seen a mother bury a dead vole in an area where her youngsters could find it as they learned to hunt. Her teaching method involved this kind of “facilitating”. Again, pretty remarkable!

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