Nine Years Old: Happy Birthday Silver!

He just had his birthday a week ago. I see him less now that he’s older: oldsters appear to become a little bit more guarded about their physical selves than when they were younger. I actually had to go look for him to find him — I wanted to post what a nine-year old coyote male looked like. He’s past his prime and very wise. He knows the ins-and-outs of being an urban coyote: he avoids people and dogs as much as possible, and I know I’ve helped by advising everyone to leash and walk away whenever they see him (or any other coyotes).

I first met this guy, sort of, before he was born, by knowing his mom, by seeing her swell in size and then slim down after his and his brother’s birth. I have the exact date. However, I didn’t meet him physically until he was 4 or 5 months old. This is one of several coyotes I’ve known since birth — and for him it’s been 9 years now! His entire personality has matured over time, as is true of most of the older coyotes I know. They are stellar and stable neighbors!

I watched his puppyhood, and then how his camaraderie with his brother — they were the best of friends — changed into intense sibling rivalry as they vied for a mate. He had his first litter when he was four years old. His mate disappeared after that so he paired up again, and has been having small litters (one pup each) for the last 3 years. He’s a dad again this year, but I won’t know anything about his pups for 4-5 months. He’s a protective mate and a protective dad. It’s important to abide by his wishes and keep away.

Today, I saw him before dawn as he was headed in for the daylight hours — into his daytime resting spot — but he decided to take a short roundabout trek before doing so, the way he always has. He knows me well and allows my presence. He sniffed along the pathway as he walked, assessing *who* (in terms of dogs) had been on the path he was on, and he looked around. I’m sure he knows all of the regular dogs in the park, and their behaviors. He stopped when he reached one of his favorite lookouts, and there he looked around his entire domain. He was on top of the world and he could see everything.

This coyote and his family have *owned* the land since I first met his parents 10 years ago. No other coyotes have been allowed into this territory. There have been several intruders over the years, but they were immediately and unconditionally driven out. His dense and long fur — still thick from the winter — conceals the tell-tale scars of age on his face and body which can be seen in June and July when the fur has all been shed.

At his lookout, he immediately went into alert-mode, I could tell, indicating that there were dogs, even though in the distance, which he did not feel comfortable seeing. He has been chased often by dogs, and sometimes he has stood up for himself. Here, he stood up, and warily and tensely watched some dog/human duos, but when they passed he lay down, and there was a period of relaxation. He must have been tired: he lay his head down, but I’m sure he kept his eyes on things — I couldn’t really tell because I was in back of him.

After this period of surveying his territory, for about half an hour, he decided it was time to head in before more people and dogs appeared in the park. So he got up, stretched, and then sauntered along the same path but in the opposite direction, with me some distance behind. He suddenly stopped: dead still. Two dogs saw him and ran in his direction. They were excited, alert and ready. The coyote’s mood changed quickly from a relaxed, elongated walk, to a compact run, with ears turned back so as to be able to hear everything. He retraced his steps back to his lookout, but to a higher altitude than before: he was anxious.  I asked the owner to please call his dogs, which the owner did. Silver remained standing and watching until the dogs were well out of sight, and then he again retraced his steps “home” again, but this time off the path and along a fenceline.  He was still worked up: he ate some grass and then heaved, with his stomach pumping in-and-out forcefully, until he was able to regurgitate the contents of his anxious/acid tummy.

His pace was now slow again, keeping to the fenceline until he was forced to take the path because of where he was going. He looked around as he now followed the path, stopping repeatedly as he did so. When a runner turned on a path ahead he again became alert; he stopped and waited. He was not seen. When all was clear, he went a little further on the path and then veered off into the tall grasses and then the bushes. So, this was an hour in the life of a nine-year old male, father, mate and territory claimant. Coyotes in captivity can live as long as 14 to 16 years, but in the wild their lives have been estimated to be closer to five years. We’re still learning what their lifespan is in urban settings. Nine-years shows that he’s just as viable, if not more careful, as ever!

Altruism: Helping A Sibling With Ticks On Her Ear

Just as in human families, some coyote siblings squabble, and some are truly altruistic, providing loving and unselfish help where and when needed. Here is a coyote youngster who has spotted a tick on his sibling’s ear. He spent several minutes, ever so carefully removing the tick and then bathing the area with the saliva from his tongue. Saliva has mild antibiotic qualities, so everything he did was helpful!

Grass

Tall, fresh, green grass. Lots of it. Delicious. After the rain:

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An Eye-Opening Revelation

It’s true that coyotes have chased dogs, but almost always this occurs after the coyote was chased first. To most people, a dog chasing a coyote looks much like a dog chasing another dog, or a dog chasing a squirrel. It looks like a game.

Focused-in closer, it looks like a terrorized coyote running away from danger more often than a game. Wild-animals instinctively know that any injury could compromise their ability to hunt and fend for themselves, and therefore their survival: fleeing from possible harm for them could be a matter of life or death.

Fortunately, coyotes are smart, and they are quick: most can get away. Nevertheless, energy expenditure during an attempted escape is enormous, and not something any animal wants to put up with.

In the case I’m depicting here, the owner had been playing tennis, with his dog sitting there calmly on the court with him. When the owner noticed a coyote beyond the court on a hill, he went over to take a photo, which attracted the dog’s attention to the coyote. In a flash, the dog was after that coyote.

They ran zig-zag all over the steep incline, through uneven piles of brush and wood-piles. It was not an easy chase for either of them. One false move — a misplaced step in a hole or on a sharp stick — and the threatening dog could tear into the wild animal, whereas the dog probably didn’t comprehend the chase as anything more than a game. The dog could stop whenever he wanted. Coyotes being very light-boned, sinewy, stream-lined and lithe can handle steep inclines and debris better than dogs who are more muscle-bound and heavier, and lead a more indoor life. The heavier dog wore out first, and it is at that point that the owner was able to finally grab his evasive and excited dog.

Notice that the coyote’s tail is tucked deep under and his hackles are up, his ears are back and he’s carrying himself low: he’s running scared.

I spoke to the owner after the event. He told me he had feared for the life of his dog as he tried to recall his dog, a 70 pound solid-looking dog. I told him that, in fact, his dog could have killed that little 25 pound coyote. The surprised owner opened his eyes wide: “Oh!” He hadn’t thought of that: it made immense sense to him and he wanted to know more. It was not the answer he was expecting — in fact, it was indeed an eye-opening revelation to him.

He had heard only that coyotes attack dogs. I gave the owner the link to the video, Coyotes As Neighbors, and when I next saw him he told me that his view of coyotes had changed. Now we have someone else onboard to help us spread information about coexistence: Yes, you must keep your pets away from coyotes for TWO reasons: to protect your pet, and to protect the coyote. Leashing the dog when coyotes are around is the best way to accomplish this.

Belly Sliding

Hind legs are extended out in back and left limp, while the forelegs pull her down the hill! Whee! It’s fun, whether or not an itchy tummy is involved. I’ve caught stills and a video from separate occasions. The video at the end is the tail-end of another such belly sliding session — I missed capturing the fun part but her happy-go-lucky and bouncy mood is captured in her gait as she hurries off.

 

Coyote Speaks Her Mind, An Update

I want to update the continuing story of the loner coyote I wrote about in: Coyote Speaks Her Mind to the Dog Who Chased Her Three Weeks Ago! The story through that posting evolved from a dog who repeatedly chased the coyote, to the coyote finally vocalizing her distress at being chased while remaining hidden in the bushes.

Soon thereafter, this coyote would follow that dog, which is now kept leashed, screaming out her anguish, now in plain view — no longer hidden in the bushes. For months this behavior continued, daily, and then the vocalizations stopped, but the following behavior still continued, always at a safe and great distance. 

One might ask, “Why would a little coyote follow a dog — even a large 100 pound dog — if she were fearful of the dog?  The answer appears to be that ‘following’ is used by coyotes both to escort out and to assure themselves that a threatening (or perceived as threatening) animal is leaving an area. It is a territorial behavior. Coyotes’ survival depends on their territoriality: they claim, and exclude other coyotes, from the land which will supply them with, and ensure them a supply of,  food and protection from competitors. The screaming, which incorporates deep raspy sounds, is a brave warning, more bluff than anything else, but also a release of the coyote’s distressed feelings. The coyote appears totally aware that the dog is tethered: she has fled like a bullet when the dog got loose and turned towards her.

The little coyote’s behavior towards that dog is continuing to evolve. Yesterday, after seeing the dog in the far distance, she simply ran the other way and disappeared from view over the crest of the hill before the dog had a chance to see her!

A few days ago, having seen the dog from a great distance, she ran off and hid rather than take a chance at being seen.

Crouching low the minute she saw the dog, in hopes of not being seen

And today, the little coyote didn’t notice the dog — the dog is walked daily in the park — until the dog already was close by. Her evasive strategy this time involved crouching down into the grasses and ducking so as not to be seen. She was not seen by the dog, but she was seen by the owner.  She remained in her crouched-down spot as the dog didn’t seem to notice her (the dog was leashed and couldn’t have moved towards the coyote even if she had wanted to). 

The coyote got up and watched them walk away and disappear over the horizon and then took after them, but remaining out of sight.  She spotted them at the crest of a hill where she sat and kept an eye on them from the distance until they left. This owner is doing as much as he can to avoid conflict by walking his dog on the leash and always walking away from the coyote. Fortunately, he is fascinated and amused by her behavior!

By the way, I have seen this same behavior in a number of females, and one male coyote — it’s not so unusual, so folks with dogs should be aware of it so they don’t freak out if it happens towards their dog. What to do? Simply shorten your leash and keep walking away from the coyote. Also, try to minimize visual communication between your dog and a coyote — the communication is most likely to be negative, so why even go there? Again, simply shorten your leash and walk on and away.

PHOTO: Summersaulting!

There’s lots of joy in watching a carefree urban coyote having lots of fun! This one found a ball to play with which had been left by a dog. Among her antics with the ball were jumps, sprints, tossing the ball up in the air and catching it, and repeated roly-poly tumbles and summersaults!

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