Two Youngsters Take A Tentative Step Towards Dispersal

These two siblings — a brother and a sister — left home together in May when they were 13 months old. I assumed they were leaving for good — dispersing. About a month into their absence, I was thrilled to recognize the male when he showed up in another park about two miles away: I’m always exhilarated when I find dispersing youngsters who I’ve watched grow up because most, of course, I never see again after they leave. This male comes from an exceptionally large litter, most of whom had dispersed, so now I had to figure out which one was accompanying him, or was it someone he had met from a different family?

That second one remained too distant and seldom appeared in daylight; it was always at the darker end of twilight when I saw them, and this one always seemed to be moving away from me, so it took me a while longer to figure out which individual it was: I have to see their faces to know who each one is. To help me (though it didn’t help) I put out a trap camera on a narrow path close to one of the entrances to the park where I had seen them, not really expecting anything to show up on it.

Apparently I placed the camera well, because I caught these few seconds which, although they didn’t help me identify the second coyote, they did tell me how much fun these guys were having in their newfound freedom! In the video below you’ll see the two youngster coyotes who have been running along a narrow, sandy path. They’ve just jumped over a bush where the camera is hidden. They stop to communicate their joy through eye contacting, touching and joyful jumping before continuing on. It’s only a few seconds long, but long enough to tell this part of their story.

People noticed them and told me about them: not only were they spotted in the fragmented parks of the area and on the streets in-between, but they were also seen in several backyards, where they were seen successfully hunting with prey — a white cat — in their mouths.  They seem to have learned to navigate this new area well. Finally I was able to see her — the second coyote’s –face: these photos below have been substantially lightened to make the individuals visible —  they were essentially taken in the dark. Even so, the coyotes are very identifiable.

Far and away from home (above)

I pondered if these two would move on or become entrenched in this newfound location. The area has served as a sort of temporary “stopping off place” for several coyotes I’ve kept track of as they traversed the city, so would it be the same for these, or would it become a more permanent home — even though highly fragmented — since available territories within the city have been dwindling. I checked up on them only a few times as I continued to hear reports of them, and then they no longer were being spotted. Where had they gone?

WELL, as of mid-July, both youngsters, at 16-months of age, were back at their birthplace, after more than two months of absence! I guess they weren’t quite ready to disperse lock-stock-and-barrel yet, even though they sure seemed to have a lot of fun and excitement during their AWOL adventure. And certainly they faced less family aggravation during that time “abroad” than they are now facing at home, where coming-of-age relationships are beginning to show strain with another brother.

Rivalry between siblings escalates over time, especially between brothers, and that is now what is going on at home, although the relationship between the two adventurering siblings — this brother and sister — is thriving as evidenced by their continued exuberant play together and apparent preference for each other’s company. The “other” brother is the “outsider”, but he’s the dominant one and he’s displaying a lot of bullying these days. “Favorite” brother kowtows towards him: he has the most to lose if he is kicked out and not allowed to return to his best-friend sister.

Back to family politics: another brother gets between the two who returned.

© All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share, with permission and with properly displayed credit: ©janetkessler/

PostSript: The information in this article was gained by simple recognition of individual coyotes and from a vast knowledge about them gained through first-hand direct observation — without the use of radio-collars or identifying tags which are intrusive and harmful. My direct observations engender a much deeper and more expansive knowledge and understanding of coyotes than can be provided by simply mechanically tracking their movements.  “Look, Ma, no hands”. Try it! My “hard” facts include both photos and DNA from scat.

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