A Rendezvous (with changing sibling dynamics)

One of the most exciting parts of a coyote’s day is the nightly rendezvous. Here, family members who have been resting and sleeping during the daylight hours in spread-out parts of their park, come together to socialize and reconfirm their bonds and statuses before going off on their hunting treks. Each rendezvous can be quite different, some involving the whole family, some involving just parts of the family, some all wiggly and happy with play and games, and some not so. As the pups and yearlings grow, their relationships to each other develop in a gamut of directions. Here is one such rendezvous. Unless you know the individuals and can tell them apart, and know what is going on, these interactions and their nuances can be easily missed. They often occur within a split second, so a camera helps firm up what’s happening. The portion of the rendezvous that I saw and wrote about here lasted a little over an hour. I use a lot of photos to explain the abundance of interactions and activity.

The picture galleries can be clicked on to scroll through them at a higher resolution.

It was hot when I arrived at the park about half an hour before sunset. Mom was napping only about 50 feet from the path — unusually close to the path for her — while one of her yearling sons had begun some early exploring and hunting before the family rendezvous. The few humans, some with dogs, who passed by were a quiet bunch. Many did not even notice the coyotes. The sleeping coyote raised her head off and on to watch some of the passers-by, especially if their unleashed, active dogs caught her attention, and the yearling wandered over to a secluded spot in the field where he sprawled out in the growing shade to cool off. It appeared that not much was going to happen with the coyotes socially until the evening wore on a little more — everyone was waiting.

Yearling brother #1 wandering around aimlessly waiting

But then a second male sibling appeared. He looked around, assessed that nothing was going on and found a spot where he, too could bide his time until the evening meetup.

Brother #2

And that’s when both brothers set eyes on each other, and things were not calm from then on. These two brothers used to be best buddies, but over time this devolved to where now Brother #1 can’t stand the presence of Brother #2. So, Brother #1 came charging towards brother #2 who knew exactly what to expect because the behavior had become routine by now. In response, Brother #2 crouched, drew into himself, and fell to the ground on his back while Brother #1 stood over him with hackles up and snarling menacingly. When Brother #2 found an opportunity, he made a dash to get away as Brother #1 watched him almost disdainfully (see photos immediately below).

Brother #2 continued heading away from his tormentor towards Mom who was still lying on her side in the grasses not far away. Brother #1 followed him. As they approached her, they hugged the ground and crouched, respectfully acknowledging her alpha status. When this ranking is no longer respected, if it comes to that, the youngster will be pushed out of the territory.

Approaching Mom requires a show of submission

But the two brothers were dealing also with their own interpersonal dynamic. In the first row of three photos below, Brother #1 makes an effort to divert Brother #2 away from Mom by getting between them. This is a coyote tactic I’ve seen before for keeping a rival away from another coyote. But Brother #2 still had his eyes on Mom, and was not giving up on reaching her as seen in photo #4. By photo #5 Mom snarls at what she knows is going on. She doesn’t normally care if they fight, but she doesn’t want it happening right next to her, so she squelches the activity by grooming the yearling closest to her. Grooming is often used to keep an underling coyote still and force submission — the youngster has to put up with it.

But the very minute Mom stopped grooming her yearling son in order to scratch herself, Brother #1 took the opportunity to attack his sibling again.

Above are a VIDEO and a few photos of the short but telling fight. When the fight subsided, Brother #2 walked away, but both brothers obviously retained stress from the event: Brother #1 started pulling up dry grasses and chewing on them nervously, whereas Brother #2 lay down closer to Mom and did the same thing. I wonder how much of Brother #1’s behavior is built in: this antagonism with siblings seems to be one of the factors that leads to dispersal. These siblings are 18 months old — the right age for dispersal.

Shortly after this, and as they were calming down, Dad sauntered into view.

Dad

Brother #1 seemed to have moved out of the area by this time — I did not see him again before I left. Brother #2 (below) greeted his approaching Dad appropriately by crouching low and reaching up to lick his muzzle, and then Dad hurried off to greet Mom, with Brother #2 at his side.

Mom and Dad with yearling between them.

When they caught up with Mom they exchanged nose touches, with youngster Brother #2 in-between, remaining in a crouched, close-to-the-ground position. The youngster appeared anxious to make contact with Mom — maybe this is what drove Dad again to make sure the youngster knew his place in the family scheme. The youngster obliged by flopping to the ground on his back.

And here is another VIDEO showing more of the above. The video actually consists of three clips from this rendezvous. 1) Mom, Dad, and Brother #2, showing how reactive Mom got when her son touched her — yikes! Family life is not all warm and cuddly as many people might think. 2) As it gets later and darker, a third brother arrives and is greeted by brother #2 and Dad; 3) People are still out walking at this time, and Dad diverts them away from the rest of the family.

Everything then calmed down and three of them — Dad, Brother #1 and Brother #3 — spaced themselves at comfortable non-interacting distances, yet together, ready to go when the cue would be given by Dad for the evening hunting trek.

There’s plenty of space between them now

My camera caught a few more interactions, such as the teasing and playing below, and then it was too dark, so I left.

Calm bantering continues on and off until I can no longer see in the dark.
Last shot of Brother #2 as I leave. The camera, amazingly, captured this and adjusted the light.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MelindaH
    Oct 27, 2022 @ 14:36:04

    It’s fascinating to see how busy they all are, how they keep interacting with each other, re-affirming their relationships. Superb documentation, Janet—thank you.

    Reply

  2. Gina
    Oct 27, 2022 @ 17:27:19

    Wow, very interesting! What a complex family dynamic!

    Reply

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