Father/Son Greetings

You might think that when a coyote father comes upon his one year old son out in the field alone, he might exude joy and recognition. But the answer is a firm, nope! There is protocol which must be followed. Parents must be in charge, and youngsters must at all times accept their lower status in a family pack which resides on a territory which is exclusively theirs.

This series of photos shows a typical greeting between an almost one-year-old son and his father.

Upon first seeing each other, Dad stares hard and coldly at his son, almost challengingly: he obviously is communicating to his son what is required of him. Coyotes communicate mostly silently and visually, through eye contact, facial expressions, and body language. They can communicate and read subtleties way beyond what we humans are able to. Here, Son reads the message instantaneously and hits the ground submissively the minute he sees Dad approaching and Dad’s “look”. Dad then approaches son slowly and carefully, and with a continuing glaringly hard look. The greeting is serious business in the coyote world, where rank matters above all else. Affection and fun can only come after the stage is set or confirmed for who is boss. Notice Dad’s hackles are up most of the time during this interaction.

When Dad stops approaching, son gets up part way and crawls towards Dad, submissively, keeping as low as possible. When he reaches Dad, he circles down, with head bowed down, and Dad comes over to sniff him and stand over him. They hold their positions for a moment (six photos above).

When Dad’s focus is diverted and broken by some distraction in the distance, son takes the opportunity to slither out from under Dad, but wait a minute! Dad doesn’t appear to be ready yet to let go of his psychological hold. Keeping himself low, Son  extends his snout for approval but decides it’s best to hit the ground again. This seems to satisfy Dad, because then son hops back up, and the two go trotting off together. Son will end up enticing Dad to play, which I’ll post coming up.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MelindaH
    Mar 06, 2021 @ 02:17:18

    What a fascinating exchange you’ve captured. Thank you!


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Mar 06, 2021 @ 18:19:13

      Hi Melinda!

      There is always *something* going on with them socially — they’re not just hanging around do nothing. Zeroing in on what that *something* is always adds a little more to the picture of WHO they are! :)) Janet

  2. Lisa Febre
    Mar 07, 2021 @ 19:56:22

    Wow! Utterly fascinating! My question is do they still live together in the same pack, or is this meeting after the son has dispersed? I’m still learning, so this is completely riveting material!!


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Mar 07, 2021 @ 20:02:02

      Hi Lisa — They still live together in the same family unit. The youngster is almost a year old. They usually disperse sometime during their 2nd year. :))

    • Lisa Febre
      Mar 07, 2021 @ 22:42:17

      Then that is even more fascinating how they have to be so official in their meetings out in the world. Incredible beings.

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