Photo Essay: Unwelcome Greetings

Mom was napping in the brown grasses in the late afternoon which is something she routinely does before the evening rendezvous: it was peaceful and calm as the day wore down. “Ahhh, this is life” could have been a thought coming from her head just then. She held her head up every few minutes and looked around and then let it fall back down and closed her eyes. As it got darker, she slowly began to move more and more, and finally she got up and stretched and ambled ever so slowly to I don’t think it mattered where, and then she stopped short.

My camera was focused on her, so at first I didn’t see what was going on outside the area of focus, but her stopping and staring told me that something had grabbed her attention.

Two of her seven-month-old youngsters — I would not call them pups anymore since they are close to full-sized coyotes — appeared. She watched as they greeted each other according to the ranking they had established between themselves. Suddenly my expectation turned to the wiggles and squiggles and ever- so-happy greetings I’ve seen so often at these greetings.

But no. She apparently wanted at that moment to have nothing to do with them, and possibly to continue in the calm space she was in. Communication between coyotes is very definite and precise — much more so than human words which, as we all know, can be very imprecise: facial expressions and body language leave no room for misinterpretation. She was facing away from me, but I knew exactly what was going on with the little I could see: she opened her snout threateningly, wrinkled her nose, pulled back her lips and displayed her teeth: “Hey kids, leave me alone!”

And the youngsters, of course, knew exactly what she meant. They had been approaching her in low crouched positions, carefully and gingerly, showing their respect and subservience — they had obviously encountered her unwelcoming side before. Mom apparently was not in a mood to deal with them. She stood there, keeping them at bay through her snarls and body language.

They move away from her

The youngsters were nervous and turned to interacting calmly with each other: grabbing the other’s snout, falling to the ground, hugging against each other as if for self-protection, etc. They then slowly approached Mom — they felt compelled to greet her — it’s their innate etiquette to do so — even if just to allow her to grab their snouts in a show of solidarity with their respective relationships. After that, and with the continued snarling, they moved on slowly and Mom lay down again in the grasses — the rendezvous and interactions would have to wait until SHE was ready.

These stills are of that interaction, taken in bursts, and at late dusk when there was little light, which is why they are blurry. I could have taken a video, but you would have missed the nuances of what was going on, which requires stopping the action, to see, interpret, and reflect on the behaviors.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah Asleep
    Nov 24, 2021 @ 20:06:38

    Love the depth of detail concerning this Mother and her older pups. Every one of your articles are rich and deep with copus amounts information concerning the amazing life of urban coyotes and their families. Really I can think of no other place on the web that has such a depth and richness to coyotes. You truly do give them a voice here. Thank you so much for all you do. <3


  2. Nushka
    Aug 07, 2022 @ 01:03:35

    Hi Janet, I am curious. What makes you believe that the youngsters “just wanted to greet and pay their respect”? that there wasn’t something else going on that drove the mom to set boundaries? and jeez, they’re so beautiful!


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Aug 08, 2022 @ 16:18:43

      Hi Nushka — Thanks for your interest. The point of this posting is that Mom wanted to be left alone at this particular “meeting”. I watched the family regularly. I’ve seen her in this mood at regular intervals, and more during the time when I wrote that post. At other times she was happy to have the youngsters crawl all over her. The youngsters may have been coming towards her for food: they can be very insistent and “bothersome” when they do so. She did not want this kind of interaction. She communicated her needs to them (with her teeth and gape) and they got her message and stayed away. I’m not sure this answers your question, if it doesn’t possibly you could clarify a bit more? Janet

    • Nushka
      Aug 08, 2022 @ 21:14:04

      Thank you Janet,! This clarifies it.

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