Death Affects

A couple of weeks ago, ACC informed me that a pup in one of the families I follow, an 8-month-old male, had been picked up DOA, hit by a car. Deaths affect coyote families enormously and cause behavior changes. Below is what I saw in this one family within the several days following that youngster’s death: searching calls, mourning howls, and shuffling around in the territory.

The day after the death, everything seemed normal in the family: no one in the family acted as though anything was amiss. A couple of the pups came out at dusk, interacted a little, and waited for the family activities to begin. I waited until dark when I could see no more and then left. This was their normal pattern of behavior — nothing had changed at this point. A youngster or adult who doesn’t show up for a day is usually of no concern to the rest of the family — these short absences occur regularly. The following day is when their concern began.

This is Lug, who has been missing ever since ACC picked up a young male DOA who had been killed by a car. 1/9 UPDATE: This fella showed up again, finally, so it was his brother who was killed by the car, not Lug.

By the second night, two days after the youngster’s absence, no one in the family came out into the open field — they were all being careful. They indeed were there, as revealed by the howling I heard, but they all remained hidden in the dense shrubbery close by rather than out in the open. After sirens sounded, they erupted into family howling, which began as a normal howling session — I don’t think the pups understood or even would have been aware of a sibling’s absence on the same level as their parents — but as the howling continued through six long minutes, it changed. Those happy, squealy youngster yips segued into just the adults calling out. Abruptly the adults each emit short and sharp double barks. I’ve heard this *signal* before: it’s a signal that they all must be quiet. Mom then continued to call out for 3 minutes. I’m absolutely certain she was seeking a reply from the missing pup. A response never came.

  • Sirens
  • 0:03 & 0:06 two adults initiate a family response to sirens
  • 0:07 – 0:40 family howling
  • 0:40 – 2:55 back and forth between the adults
  • 2:55 & 3:05 adults each emit short & sharp double “hushing” barks
  • 3:08 to 6:01 then Mom calls repeatedly, apparently for missing pup, no response

The next night there again was family howling, but its tone had changed drastically from the enthusiastic family yipping and then calling, to long howls sounding intermittently lugubrious and mournful. Did they know the missing pup would never come back — that he was no longer alive? I think so. This is the audio:

I think Mom sensed there was a danger in the immediate area that had taken this pup. I don’t think she knew he was killed by a car, but she would have decided that the danger lurked in the area where they had been hanging out. After that second howling session, which appeared sad to me, she moved the family to another location within her territory, I believe, to keep them away from the danger that had taken that one pup, not knowing that the roadway surrounding her park is where the danger lay. I did not see or hear them for the next two weeks. Exactly two weeks later, Mom reappeared for the first time again, and one of the pups again in this location: maybe that’s as long as it takes most dangers to pass.

I have heard what I know to be mournful or disturbed howling several times, and there is a story, posted many years ago on this blog with the same observation: https://coyoteyipps.com/2009/10/04/coyote-story/.

Aside: Several years ago, I came to know a homeless person with a German Shepherd who lived out of her Jeep. She would park outside one of the parks at night, and she got to know one of the coyotes who would trek past her car almost every night and they would acknowledge each other. Even her dog seemed to have a respectful relationship with that coyote. You can be sure there was feeding, but she would not admit to this. This went on for several years, and then the dog died in the car. That night, the coyote stopped right outside her car, sat down, and belted out long howls before walking on: the homeless person was sure he was saying his goodbyes to the dog, and I tend to believe she was right. The deceased dog was in the car, so the coyote must have sensed it in some way other than visually. Within a year, the dog’s owner also died. A few of us got together to grant her last wish: to spread her ashes in *her* park. We left her dog’s collar (which she had saved) there. The next day the collar was gone, and there were coyote tracks in the ashes. Two days later, that same coyote mounted the hill overlooking the park, and again gave a long distressed howl — the kind he might have given if a dog had chased him, but there had been no dog chase. People who heard it ALL wondered why he was so sad. The next day he left the park for good. I can’t but believe his howls were a *goodbye* to that homeless woman.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rupa Bose
    Dec 20, 2021 @ 21:21:19

    What a touching series of stories!

    Reply

  2. Barbara Likens
    Dec 20, 2021 @ 21:57:03

    Truly a moving story
    About the. Amazing

    Intelligence in the animal kinddom

    Reply

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