Moods: Good Days and Bad Days

I don’t think most of us think about wild animals out in their habitats in nature as having ups and downs, good days and bad days similar to our own. We tend to see an animal and possibly what it is doing and move on, and are thrilled at the sighting.

For us humans, things often go smoothly and well, and we have feelings and reactions to these, and sometimes things go badly and we have other reactions and feelings to these. A particular experience or set of experiences might affect us for much longer than the immediate moment of that experience, and these color our behavior and reactions for a while moving forward. Wildlife, too, has good days and bad days and even mood swings — and that includes coyotes!

I’ve seen coyotes in their element: successfully pouncing for gophers, basking comfortably in the sunshine, enjoying the help of rain causing gophers to emerge from their tunnels, being groomed affectionately by a mate, playing ecstatically with siblings. They are obviously feeling good and having a good day. And I’ve seen them out of their element because of an infestation of fleas, a broken ankle caused by a chasing dog, dealing with a constantly bullying sibling, or evading hostile territorial coyotes during dispersal or even dogs during pupping season. I’ve seen a coyote down in the dumps and anxious after being driven viciously from her own territory by an intruder. Coyotes aren’t reacting to things unfeelingly — their emotional states are intense and very obvious when you are watching them.

Here is a video I captured in a field camera that shows the same pair of coyotes on a bad day and then on a good day. On their bad day — it seems to actually be HER bad day — she lunges at him with teeth bared, letting him know exactly how she feels and letting him know to bug off. Then the video flips and you see this same pair, three weeks later, on a good day: here she is overjoyed and jumping ecstatically all over him and even rubbing affectionately against him, while he smiles (yes, smiles — they smile when they’re having fun playing) and seems to enjoy her behavior towards him. Listen also to the two very different vocalizations with each behavior: one upset and angry, and the other contented purrs.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MelindaH
    Apr 17, 2022 @ 23:57:24

    You have captured wonderful interactions—-thanks for the share!


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