Surviving Pup is Excluded

This was an eye-opening, unexpected observation. I arrived at dawn on October 30th to fog so dense that I could barely make out the outline of anything ahead of me. I was at a dog play pen and noticed what I thought were three German Shepherds meandering around. I climbed up the trail parallel to the enclosure looking for the owner of the three dogs. That’s when I encountered Ana, with her dog barking ferociously as she approached me on the trail and I wondered why. I asked her if she had seen the coyotes this morning, and she pointed to within the enclosure. The dogs in the fog had sure fooled me — they were the resident coyotes!

Most of my observations lately have involved single individuals, so I was happy to see several coyotes together for a change and hoped to record some interactions. Coyotes are highly social, so that was bound to happen. The fog and bad lighting were a problem — the “auto” focus was giving me a lot of blurr, but I managed to capture some telling activity.

I began taking still photos. The ones here show Dad, Step-mom and the single remaining pup. The pup’s sister had been killed by a car only a few weeks before. If you know coyote youngsters, you’ll know that they play with each other incessantly: they are always on top of each other, chasing, tackling, poking, teasing — life for them is one of perpetual motion. There were two pups that survived in this family until a couple of weeks ago when Sister was hit by a car and killed. So this remaining pup must feel exceptionally lonely. You would think that Mom and Dad might fill in the void, but that is not what happened as I watched. In fact, the youngster was excluded from the mated pairs fun and games.

Above you see Mom and Dad together, horsing around and teasing each other. Six-month old pup is off to the side.

Here above is the pup, reaching in their direction but not part of the play.

And here, above, he is looking on as his parents play.

The youngster attempted several times to join the fun, but they never invited him in. Instead, the parents were into their own courting play: pair-bonds are being formed and/or strengthened at this time of the year, so that’s where the focus and energy were going. In the last series of photos above, the adults end up turning on the pup angrily, snarling at him and grabbing his snout. In the last photo he snarled back at his step-mom. Below is a video of the group’s interactions immediately after the above stills were taken.

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.

Scout Fall Update

Scout’s story continues, but without the obvious adventures she had in her early life, or maybe they are continuing in a more subtle way, below most human’s radars. I see her only periodically where she had her pups this year, and just as periodically in her old hangouts where I used to see her almost single day. Instead, she’s become a stealthy shadow which my field camera occasionally picks up on, and who I see in person only a couple of times a month, if that. But I know from other people who know her that she has been moving deeper into her new territory which has/does belong to another coyote family. Will this be a territorial takeover? We’ll see. Remember that she had a baptism by fire in territorial battles and takeovers when she was younger, so she’s well seasoned if this is the direction she’s taking.

Over the last month she has appeared a couple of times during daylight hours at her old, original territory. During one of those appearances, she spewed her anger and displeasure to the one dog on her nemesis list. I wasn’t there to see or hear it, but I was told about it and sent a video. I guess she’ll never give that battle up. Interestingly, her two-year-old son who serves as the mainstay of the old fort, has taken on doing the exact same thing to the exact same dog, most likely in imitation of his mother. Coyotes do pass things along to their offspring in an almost “cultural” sort of way.

On her second daylight appearance, I found her and this same two-year-old son curled up in balls where they used to hangout regularly over a year ago on their old territory. She slept — with one eye open — right through my arrival there, not budging at all, but HE slipped off warily into the bushes where he remained hidden from view.

Two-year-old slithers into a quieter space, while Mom keep her eyes closed.

Meanwhile she went back to sleep. It was before most dog walkers were out and about — she knew she had nothing to worry about until they started arriving.

BUT, soon the dogs arrived. These three photos above shows her lifting her head, and then slowly spiraling her way to a standing position and finally “messaging” an approaching dog to leave her alone. She really didn’t want to move, but with the dog slowly approaching, and her son on the other side of her, she put in the effort to look scary. The dog walker got the message if the dog didn’t and complied by going the other way, and Scout went back to snoozing for about 20 more minutes. That’s when sirens sounded.

Interestingly, these coyotes have never vocalized a whole lot during daytime here in a response to sirens — these have more often kept their vocalizations to night and twilight hours. I wonder if daytime vocalizing is reserved for strongly established territories that the coyotes are able to defend? For many years, Scout was a loner here and she rarely howled during the day, even to sirens, unless she was chased by dogs, particularly her nemesis I mentioned above.

Left: stretching in all directions; Middle: looking over at her son and subtly communicating with him; Right, she begins to howl.

Anyway, a siren sounded when I was there, and Scout got up, taking her time about it. She stretched backwards and forwards and upwards. She stood there a moment as though debating whether or not to howl, and then looked over to where she knew her son was hiding, possibly signaling him to join her, and she began howling in response to that siren.

After she began howling, he then joined her from the distance: you can hear him in the video. After a minute, she walked in the direction of his howls and met up with him. By that time the howling from both of them had ended, and they both walker off together.

Scout walks with her son to keep him company as he leaves. Her son is the bigger coyote to the left.

She then returned alone, and, as seen below, stretched again in all directions and again looked over her shoulder to where her son was, assuring herself that he was happy and safe, and then she fell asleep again — with one eye again partially open. I waited a little while for something to happen, but nothing did, so I left..

A couple of days later I found her and her mate at their new territory at dusk, or maybe it’s their territory’s extension. I saw them as silhouettes, but the camera sometimes does better than my eyes and captured the images below. She’s with her mate in the first photo. They’ve always worked together intuitively and in tandem, almost as one. I love watching them work together, communicate, and even look at each other. He looks so much bigger than her when they are next to each other.

And below she’s doing what mothers do: grooming the one yearling youngster that went with her to the new territory (or extension of her old one). I see her two pups very seldom which is a good thing. Pups throughout the city this year are running the gamut from casual acceptance of their surroundings which include people, to continued careful wariness of them. I don’t know where Scout’s pups this year fit into the continuum, but I think it’s a good thing that I haven’t seen them.

“Running Away From Home”

I put this collage together to reflect the thought

Well, “running away from home” isn’t exactly what happened (which is why I have the title in quotes), but watching a tiny kitten-size pup the other morning trekking decidedly away from his home inspired the idea. For a fun twist, I put together the above collage, and have written this posting sprinkled with that thought.

The morning began with a coyote dad bringing in a mouthful of animal-prey to his denning area. It was too far off and I wasn’t quick enough to see what they prey was, but it was the size of a large duck. He disappeared into the brush, and I hoped I would see him again. Within a very short time, I heard a coyote calling to another — I wasn’t given enough lead time to record it, it was not a sound I hear often: a short, warbled sound.

a pup follows his parents, but is told *no*

I looked up to where the sound came from and saw him standing and apparently waiting close to where I had seen him disappear earlier. He had been calling to his mate, because within a minute, she joined him. As they headed off, one and then two of their pups attempted tagging along. They either were told *no* or knew they wouldn’t be able to keep up because they immediately turned back. Youngsters desperately want to be with their parents, but no means no, and they were left in the safety of their den area. That was all I saw of the parents that morning.

One pup of this litter is a runt. I’ve observed runts before. They often don’t play with litter mates because their size makes it not fun for them: who likes to be beat up all the time? So they frequently play by themselves. And they go off by themselves. I’ve also seen runts given special attention by their parents: the extra nurturing probably helps their survival. Mom was there today most likely to nurse them, and I saw Dad bring in solid food as I stated above. I wondered if the runt might have been unable to get his share of milk or of what was brought in by Dad? I thought of these things immediately after what I saw next.

Leaving the den took several tries, each ending with his return to the den. On the fourth try, he made it across 100 yards of ‘treacherous terrain’, including flower beds, trees, lawn, and paved paths.

Within the next ten minutes, I saw the runt heading off and away from his denning area. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw him because it was broad daylight and he was so tiny — so much smaller than other pups at this stage of their development — he was alone and completely vulnerable out in the open in a high foot-traffic and dog area, and in the daylight. I seldom see pups, much less traveling alone over vast expanses of open areas where they are totally visible. Of course, I kept my eye on him to see what he was up to. He moved with purpose, the same way you see the adults do: they always seem to know where they are going and what they are doing. Thrice he turned back after about 100 feet, as though he were trying to make up his mind whether to proceed. But the fourth time he reached the point where he had turned around before, and he made a sudden dash forward, across a network of paved paths and a large open lawn. I was able to watch him for about 100 yards before I lost track of him in the ivy. Ivy is a wonderful coverup for them. If a dog had been there, that might have been his end, and I prepared myself to grab any unleashed exploring dogs, but none happened by at the time.

My next post will be about dens, but here I need to state that immediate denning areas are larger than the size of football fields — they don’t simply encompass the temporary dugout birthing den — they are much larger areas than that. Parents will defend this football field size area and more than 1/4 mile beyond it. This youngster was well within his football field area, but because of his direct trajectory, the idea of his running away from home popped into my mind and made me smile. I wondered about the issues faced by a runt: his likely inability to compete for a fair share of the milk or food brought in. I wondered if there might be more going on than simply being a runt: such as illness? He was wobbly in his steps and rickety in his appearance, with bug bites over his back and watery eyes. That’s all I saw of him in the morning and those were my thoughts. No parent was present to lead him back or protect him had he needed it.

Dad waits outside den area for mom to finish nursing and then tires of waiting and leaves.

In the evening his parents returned and everything looked normal. It is customary for parents to leave their pups all day long. They tend to stop by very sporadically, including at dusk for nursing or feeding before heading out again. They are not at the densite often, though Dad in particular, will hang out within several hundred feet, snoozing away the daylight hours and performing his sentry duty. This evening when she came, Mom disappeared into the brush and Dad waited for her on the periphery. He waited and waited, and finally trotted on by himself because Mom was not appearing. I saw her later playing with two of her pups. I could see that Runt was not among them. I despaired for him.

very kitten-looking

The next morning I was there to observe any changes, and to docent, asking folks to please keep their dogs leashed. I saw Dad looking around, but he didn’t seem particularly concerned. Another thought popped into my head: Being the runt, this one looks somewhat like a kitten with its exceptionally short baby snout. What if some human were to *save* him by either adopting him or taking him into the SPCA or ACC. It is illegal to keep wildlife as pets here. In addition, separating a youngster from its family drastically diminishes the youngster’s chances of survival. Few animals taken to wildlife rehab centers survive in the long-run: they simply have not been given the skills to survive: only parents can do this. Please leave all found pups alone — you can only hurt their situation.

Runt is back and safe

I was back in the evening and heaved a sigh of relief when I glimpsed Runt. He’s there! For him, it was just another day, as if nothing special had happened over the last 24 hours — and it hadn’t — but for me, I wrote a whole post about him running away from home and ruminating about a runt’s welfare. But these little guys are hardy and resilient and much smarter than we think. However, it’s important to remember that pup survival rate can be as low as 20 to 30%.

Runt back home

PS: Although I distinguish coyotes by their faces, I have real trouble distinguishing pups. However, Runt stands apart and is very identifiable by his underdeveloped size and ragged/rickety appearance. He’ll probably emerge as King of the Forest some day!! :)

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.

Six-Month-Olds and an Old Pair of Shoes

Of interest is the size of these youngsters: although they were only six months old, they were pretty close to full-size at this age — some filling-in has taken place since then, but not much. I’m not going to say a lot because the video speaks for itself. Just notice the perpetual motion and the perpetual engagement with each other. These critters are absolutely social and they love interacting. There’s lots of good-willed teasing going on, competition, and vying with each other. There’s constant visual engagement and communication through body language. Emotions, desires, moods are all on display. Through play they hone physical and social skills which they’ll use throughout their lives. Enjoy!

The cast: Lil’Girl, Pepper, Pinocchio, and Captain. Cyrano wasn’t there in this play session taken on October 12th, two months ago. Since that time, Captain was found dead of rat poisoning. And an older sibling from last year’s was killed by a car.

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.

Scout’s Continuing Story: Domestic Life and a Recent Scare

Scout reappears after an absence of eleven days after ACC reported they picked up a coyote killed by a car in the area.

A recent scare:

I was given a report that a coyote was picked up, DOA, from 101 at Cesar Chavez on September 27th. That’s Scout’s territory. For eleven days after that I did not see her, nor did most of the folks who know her, and we were coming to the conclusion that we might have lost her: the scare has always been that she would be hit by a car. She often is gone for several days, but not for almost two weeks, except the one time she was driven away by a territorial challenger. As I stated in a previous posting, Deb Campbell, spokesperson for ACC, said that 20 coyotes have been picked up this year hit by cars — more than ever before — and the year isn’t even over yet — and there are probably others that have not been reported to ACC. But Scout finally re-appeared on October 8th, so all is well. . . . for now. . . maybe. The coyote who was killed turns out to have been one of her yearlings who we have not seen since that time. Life can be brutally short for some coyotes, be it in urban setting with cars, or in the wild-wild where they are subject to guns. I’ve seen coyotes live to be 12 years old here in the city, but I’ve also seen lives cut short by cars at 4, 5 and 6 years of age. In captivity, a coyote’s natural lifespan is 14 to 16 years.

I say “maybe” about all being well for Scout, because she was absent for a reason. There is always a reason for any change in behavior. When I finally did see her, she moved slower than usual, with her weight heavy on her bones rather than tightly strung. She looked on the worn, stiff, and older side of things. She walked a little, then lay down in the sun and closed her eyes. Hopefully, whatever is affecting her will pass quickly. Her mate and another yearling son stayed with her as I watched her. This isn’t to say that she didn’t engage in some energetic protective behavior when it was needed that day. She in fact tried repelling a dog who has chased her in the past: she started by approaching and sitting on a path nearby to where the dog and owner were. The owner was exercising. This didn’t produce any results so she began slowly pacing towards the dog, who then chased her, as has happened before. She fled and howled in distress afterwards — so some things never change in spite of other adversities. This is pupping season and coyotes are very protective of their turf and their pups. And in this instance, she was being proactively protective. It’s always best to walk away from them to keep the peace, especially if you have a dog.

So, why might she have been absent for eleven days? I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what happened, but we do know that something happened or is still going on: maybe she had a mild scrape with a car or other physical trauma; maybe she became ill due to parasites or something else. Maybe her infamous feeder has lured her to another spot? Or maybe she’s just not feeling up to par. I’ve noted that coyotes keep themselves hidden when they feel unwell or unfit and vulnerable.

So that is her very latest news. But how has she been doing previous to this, since she met her new companion in early 2020 when I last wrote about her? I’ve put together an update from that point to the present below, and will soon write a short synopsis of her earlier life for those who haven’t followed her story on my blog here.

Update since she met her new companion:

Scout’s six month exile during the first half of 2019 involved her evading the territorial challenger who pursued her relentlessly throughout the city as she, Scout, attempted over and over again to return to HER hill. That territorial challenger eventually found greener pastures elsewhere and that’s when Scout was finally able to return and re-occupy her territory in June of 2019. But the companion who had produced so much joy for her, Hunter, did not return: during her tumultuous exile, he had moved on to a life without her which can be read about here. Scout remained a loner for months, picking up where she had left off six months earlier, except that her short-lived male companion was no longer around.

Then, in the late fall, I could sense from her sudden renewed energy that something new was brewing. A change in behavior is always caused by *something*: she was more alert and aware than she had been for a while, more ready to *jump-to*. Towards the end of the year I fleetingly glimpsed another coyote several times. Oh, no! Might this be another challenger? She didn’t deserve another such ordeal. OR, might it be a newcomer male who was working his way into this territorial situation and possibly into Scout’s trust? Whoever it was, that coyote was being very secretive.

In February of 2020, I saw Scout run off excitedly and enthusiastically to something that was attracting her again. I thought, here we go again, someone is feeding her: people feeding her has been one of the biggest problems that has impacted her behavior. But, no. She returned in only a few minutes, and a minute after that there appeared a new guy coyote in her wake! She obviously was smitten with him and seemed to be showing him off. As we watched, she went up and groomed him warmly and affectionately, as if introducing him: “this is my new fella”, while he warily took in the situation surrounding himself and then fled the scene quickly. Scooter became her mate. Scout never displayed the same intense camaraderie towards Scooter as she had shown for her first *love*, Hunter, but, hey, she was older and been through the wringer which caused her to grow up substantially from the carefree, happy-go-lucky spirit she had been earlier.

Scout and Scooter

Scooter stuck around for Scout, and they had their first litter that Spring — that was last year, in 2020.

I stayed away from the pupping area, but did capture the following time-lapse video showing a feeding situation; and here, at 11 weeks, the pups are preparing to move out of their birthing den area: Out of the Playpen.

Initially I counted four pups. The den was hidden in a highway right-of-way behind a fence — my camera was placed on that fence-line. It was an extremely noisy — at times deafening with the roaring sound of the traffic — location, but it was not an area visited by dogs or people, and that’s what coyotes want. Soon, only three pups appeared in the field camera: coyote pup survival rate is notoriously low. So three survived to become full sized coyotes. The youngsters have fortunately been more wary and elusive than Scout, as has their dad, her mate. Two of the male youngsters remained in the family, but as of the end of September one had been killed by a car so now only one remains as part of the family.

I became less concerned with Scout once she had a family because suddenly she had something to occupy her time. She began minding her own business rather than engaging people for food, chasing cars, or seeking human attention with her play. Over time, she reverted to some of these previous behaviors, but generally she found her niche in her family.

Issues from the past continued with dogs constantly chasing her and her family, and people feeding her which drew her into the street. To these behaviors, we can add her new protectiveness towards her pups, which increased issues with dogs. Please leash your dog and walk away from the coyotes which works superbly for preventing negative encounters.

This year in April, Scout gave birth again, and again it was behind a fence where dogs could not go, this time at a reservoir. Within weeks though, the Water Department went around blocking most of the under-fence openings that the coyotes used — this is because of the school nearby — so at six weeks of age, on June 1st, the pups were moved to another location only a few blocks away where they have remained ever since.

At this point in time, the pups are six months old, and size-wise could be mistaken for adults, but their behaviors are still very juvenile. Each pup is unique, with her/her own personality. Some are shy, some bolder, some are more solitary while the others are gregarious and competitive, some are more exploratory, whereas others are more careful. All the youngsters like picking on Sister. They are all curious. The two yearling brothers born last year spent a lot of time feeding, babysitting, disciplining and playing with the younger ones: raising youngsters is a family effort. As I said, one of those yearlings was killed by the car on September 27th.

Since a photo is worth a thousand words, here is a gallery of them, showing snippets of what’s been going on with Scout and her family over the last two years. You can click on any of the square photos to enlarge them and then scroll through them all. There have been lots of changes in Scout’s life, but there also have been some defining constants, and these include her steadfast determination and her intense psychological involvement which she now directs towards her family, as depicted in this first photo showing her adoration for one of her pups. Another constant, an unfortunate one imposed by her human neighbors as seen in the photo at the bottom of the page, is people feeding the coyotes, especially along the streets, which causes the coyotes to hang around and beg for more, chase cars, approach people, approach pets.

Mother Scout adoring one of her pups
Older brother and two siblings gang up on Sister — and she’s loving the attention!

Please know that these youngsters living on this almost two-square mile territory will eventually disperse if they survive the car traffic and other hazards of city life, including rat poison, and the territory will remain in the hands of the two alpha-parents until they either die or are no longer able to defend it from a younger pair of challenger coyotes. Before Scout arrived in 2016, the land had been owned by a family whose last member was killed by a car. In 2019 a dispersing female almost took over the territory. We’ll have to wait and write Scout’s continuing history as it happens.

The story of coyotes is incomplete without saying something about the humans and our unique psychologies who interface with them. People have very strong feelings about them: some are fearful of them and want them gone, whereas others have a need to love and “help” them without realizing the harm they are actually causing. We really need to leave them alone. People can be educated to help them cope with their fears, be they real or imagined, and they can be educated to know about the detriments of feeding, which cause coyotes to hang around, including in the streets where the food is often tossed, chase cars, stop cars, and approach people. their hanging around also creates more potential for conflict with dogs. We humans are behind what the coyotes become.

The saddest development is to see Pepper, a six-month old pup of Scout’s now hanging around the street and slurping up food behind a guardrail where it was left for him and his family. These coyotes would be better off hunting than hanging around or searching for food on the shoulder of roadways:

The saddest development is the following: This 6-month-old, Pepper, one of Scout’s pups, has been lured into the streets by folks putting out food for him and his family. This youngster was so focused on the food left for him behind the railing that he was hardly aware of me: I had driven up to the edge of the sidewalk and took this image from my car window, less than 8 feet away..

I’ll soon write a synopsis of Scout’s life for those who haven’t been following her story here.

Kinky Tail, by Walkaboutlou

This is the continuing saga of a ranch family Lou is following. Lou, as I, zeroes in on an individual family, their relationships, and ordeals — all of which will help you get to know coyotes, not as statistics, but as very individual beings with very full lives and challenges of their own. Use the blog’s search box for Walkaboutlou’s earlier stories, and the last update of this family which is here.

Hi Janet,

Well..it’s October. Fires are nearly out. Mornings are foggy. Rains are starting. Better times. 

I’m able to go out more with my patrolling dog pack. You’ll remember Coyote Slim Jim, his daughter Janet, Big Brother, and the 3 surviving pups of 11 pup combined litter. Dominant female his mate Chica and all other pups fell to local wolves. 

Well…the pack moves on in flux as do territorial changes. [Here are] pics of us in Kinky Tails lands. 

Kinky Tail, the large bold female pup, has literally taken over with her Grandpa Slim Jim. Or is he her elderly Father? We don’t know.

What we do know by their constant ranch family watchers is…

Kinky is extremely close to Slim Jim and shadowed him all summer. As he recovered from injuries likely received from wolves..Slim Jim taught Kinky all about staying close to ranch bison herds and hunting rodents. He also fed off abundant wild plums, turkey, jackrabbit and scavenged deer that were hit by cars on country road but hobble off to die. The road caused deer mortalities were MAJOR feasts and boons to Kinky, Slim Jim, Janet, Brother, and Kinky’s 2 siblings..Batman and Robin. 

Also..they showed big shifts in relationships. Kinky..despite her puppy youth…was a real “bitch” to her sibling brothers at deer carcasses. Such antagonistic behaviors at food sources meant they ate and left fast with Big Brother. Mom..or older stepsister Janet was even less welcome.

Janet wasn’t one for conflict. By August..she found a great big strapping admirer (we thought they only found “partners” in winter.) Janet shifted ranges with her new male pal…and has not returned at all it seems. Big Brother returned to old ranges and his little brothers Batman and Robin followed him. Together they are a young bachelor band Brother of 2 and half years and 2 male pups. 

Kinky and Slim Jim have opted Bison herd areas.

Kinky is marking and calling and patrolling with Slim Jim way ahead of her puppy stage age. She has matured way more rapidly. We feel the wolves killing Chica and most pups…caused an incredibly increased rate of maturation in Kinky Tail. She went from bouncy pup to very intense young groomed princess to be Queen…quick. Months. 

Now…we will wait and see. 

Come winter…will Slim Jim seek a mate in his advanced age, or just try to eke out some more days? Will Kinky Tail become Territorial Female as a Yearling ? Or young mother??? Big brother surely will take a mate at years. Will he opt for old home range? And what will Batman and Robin do? It seems best they stay long as they can with Big Brother. When they “visit” Kinky she drives them away. But if she’s out patrolling..Slim Jim is very sweet to his….sons/grandsons. 

Kinky seems at the Helm. Slim Jim is Hale and Hearty but Old.
Big Brother and little Brothers Batman and Robin fine on old range.
Janet….moved on. Too much drama!

Take care human Janet, Lou

A Calm Rendezvous at Dusk: Family Life

Family members usually hang low during daylight hours, often resting and sleeping in very different locations, and then come together in the evening to begin their activity with their rendezvous which is a very social event where there is a lot of physical contact and grooming, and social interactions such as play and reaffirmation of rankings. Usually the entire family is involved — it might be the one time you are able to see the whole family together.

Alpha female and male greet each other after having spent the daylight hours apart, quietly resting

In the video, Mom, the alpha female, is already out in the open grooming herself when the alpha male joins her at a short distance in the grasses. These two had already greeted each other with nose touches and minor grooming about 200 yards away about ten minutes before this. They spend their time here grooming themselves and biting at gnats or mosquitoes.

Soon one of the youngsters arrives and flops on his back for a long and thorough grooming, mostly to his belly. Grooming serves not only to rid them of all sorts of bugs, such as ticks, but it’s a bonding mechanism as well, and also a control measure: the youngster, as far as I have seen, is required to put up with it whether he/she likes it or not. After the long period of grooming where the youngster lies perfectly still, the two other youngsters arrive. This is a family of five. These youngsters are almost six months old now. They look smaller than they really are because they are keeping low as required.

The controlling adult snarls and snout-clamps, and the pups remaining low to the ground and even crawling on their bellies are how the strong hierarchy, and therefore order, is maintained. When the youngsters start resisting this order is when it’s time for them to go.

As rendezvous go, this one is very calm. I’ve seen them where the youngsters are rearing to go and hardly able to contain themselves in anticipation of the family activity after a daytime of quiet. Parents will be leading them to new places and new adventures — all of it a learning experience for them.

Mom Brings in the Grub and Helps Eat It

Many species regurgitate food for their youngsters, including wolves, wild-dogs, gulls, bats and apes.

For coyotes, regurgitated food is a kind of pablum or baby food which is fed to them as the milk-weaning period ends at about 6 weeks of age. And regurgitated food usually ends as the parents begin bringing in more and more whole prey, and as the youngsters become proficient at hunting for themselves.

In this video, Mom rushes in to feed her brood and they know what’s coming: two of her three four-month-old pups dance with excitement around her, barely able to contain themselves, one emitting little vocalizations of anticipation. As the youngsters close-in excitedly towards Mom’s mouth, she has to weave herself through them to find space where she is able to regurgitate the large quantity of food which she has brought to them in her belly. Before it’s even all out, they dig in. . . . and she partakes in the banquet! Soon the third pup appears. There is sibling competitiveness, and in the end Mom begins to groom one of the pups.

It’s really cool that this occurred right in front of my field camera!

The “Abandoned” Family

Old alpha female guarding her pups from atop a knoll overlooking the area, and snoozing at the same time, always with one eye open!
Here she is barking at a dog lingering too close to her denning area.

What’s happening in the family Rookie abandoned, and why might he have left?

You’ll recall from my posting that Rookie was actually an unwelcome intruder to begin with within the family he joined and then left. He had moved in on that family which had lost its long-time alpha male to old age, and he moved in right during the short breeding period. The scent of hormones called and he filled that role. But I don’t think Rookie was ever totally accepted. I continued to see the original family grooming each other ever so affectionately — in Rookie’s presence — but he himself, Rookie, appeared to be groomed less often and more out of a sense of duty than anything else.

The remaining yearling male in that family, a two-year-old who might otherwise have been encouraged to disperse, was obviously being encouraged by his mom and remaining sibling to stick around — something I could see through the family’s greetings, grooming and interactions. Well, he’s still there, and with Rookie gone, he appears to be in the process of moving into that alpha male position if he hasn’t already done so.

I get the impression that both Rookie and his abandoned family are happier and better off with the change. Rookie has been warmly and openly accepted by his new mate in a new territory, whereas I don’t think he had ever been totally integrated into the family he left — he always remained “the outsider”. This may be the reason he left. From what I’ve seen in coyote families, interpersonal dynamics and feelings run very much parallel to our own, the big difference being that they seem to move on quickly with the challenges and changes that confront them: with an attitude of, “it is what it is”. And this “abandoned” family is doing just fine — even better — without him. Several generations before this, by the way, within this same family, the family existed and thrived without an alpha male — that male had been killed by rat poison. Over time, one of that alpha’s male offspring ended up moving into that alpha position. This family is quite an inbred one.

How has the abandoned family adjusted to Rookie’s departure? The old alpha female is now the sole overseer and guardian of the family — she had been very much under the thumb of her previous old mate — the one who died of old age — she was always “second” to him in command. But that has now changed. She can be seen guarding and messaging intrusive dogs. Her vigilance keeps her more out in the open, and takes her to knolls with vistas where she perches herself for snoozes, always with one eye open. And she is raising her pups born this year. She still keeps them well hidden, and disciplines them severely for breaking her rules. A couple of days ago I heard intense angry growling, and then the response: the high-pitched complaining yelps of a pup being disciplined. I tried recording it, but did not catch enough of it to post it.

I have not seen the alpha female’s two-year old daughter lately — this is a littermate of the remaining male yearling. Remember that she also and unusually, for being in the same territory, became a mother this year. The last time I saw her she had a horrible huge (6″x 12″) raw, red, inflamed wound on her side. I got the impression it was some kind of mite. I hope she’s healing and I hope she’s still around. I’ll keep my eyes open for her. [UPDATE: Good news! I saw the two-year-old daughter one day after I posted this writeup: she was hunting alone in a field and her hotspot seems to have resolved itself!]

Two-year-old male son of the alpha female is acting as the ipso facto alpha male now. He obviously feels very relaxed at the way things are now.
Alpha mom grooms her yearling male son, creating a tighter bond and promoting him as the territorial male.

And her son grooms her in return just as affectionately.

And off this pair goes, for their evening trek together, probably very happy that Rookie left.

© All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share, with permission and with properly displayed credit: ©janetkessler/coyoteyipps.com.

Unexpected Aftermath of Killing a Coyote

I just posted about the 7-year-old alpha male coyote father who was heartbreakingly killed by our City’s dog catcher (ACC). That occurrence left a gaping vacancy in his territory. What has been the aftermath in the family so far?

I have the perfect opportunity to observe this situation right here and now in San Francisco — so I am doing just that. A previous case I documented, where the alpha father died of natural causes, resulted in a period of chaos before things settled down to a new normal and a new dynamic — and THAT story actually dovetails into this one, which I’ll get to towards the end of this posting. But there has been no chaos here, fascinatingly.

For a couple of days after the alpha male was killed, things went on as normal: the male didn’t seem to be terribly missed by his mate, afterall, coyotes may wander off for a short day or two when they aren’t missed by their families. After several days, however, I noticed his “widowed” mate, the alpha female, wandering around more and marking more and leaving her own scent — more so than had been her normal routine. Was she putting out beacons to signal him to return? Was she looking for him? She would not know that he had been killed by humans, but she would know that he was missing, and so was his scent.

At first marking (left) and then intense sniffing (right) [these are cropped and enhanced trail camera images]. I put out field cameras along what I had seen as their well-travelled routes, hoping to get a glimpse of the activity.

Over only a couple of days, I was surprised to see that she didn’t become more frantic as might be expected, but rather she calmed down, it seems, into a kind of acceptance mode. Her sniffing seemed to segue from searching for something lost into intense inquisitiveness about something new and unfamiliar: her perfunctory quick glancing sniffs changed to intense and lingering poking.

Her family consisted of herself (alpha mom), her mate (now gone), and a four-year-old “nanny” who seems to be helping out with the unusually large litter of seven pups. The “nanny” continued her habitual behavior of simply passing by now and then — I didn’t notice a change in her behavior. Maybe there has been a change in pup behavior in the aftermath of dad’s disappearance: they don’t appear to be exploring as widely as before the killing: is this a safety precaution due to their dad’s disappearance?

Then, within just four days after that shooting, a newcomer male appeared in the area. And he has remained for the last 6 days. Yikes, that was fast! “Vacant niches” in coyote families are notoriously soon filled, we’ve heard. A male outsider would not have been allowed here if alpha dad were still around. But he’s not around, so he’s not marking and leaving his scent, nor is he physically present to drive an outsider away. It’s incredible how quickly “word spread” about his absence: these animals are obviously quick to read scents and other markers that we humans aren’t even aware of, and to appraise situations.

And alpha mom seems to be more than welcoming him! Maybe she had no choice; maybe survival of her family depends on having an amenable “guy” there. My trail camera caught her hopping all over him and putting her paws on his back — she’s asking him to stay. She didn’t spend much time mourning the loss of her just-lost mate. Coyotes are survivors. They don’t feel sorry for themselves or dwell on the past — coyote life seems to be about business as usual and keeping the show on the road. A territory needs a male to better keep things in order and defendable. Will he take on helping to raise the youngsters, or will he shun them? There’s a lot to find out.

SHE is welcoming him by hopping all over him, and then you can see them trekking together in tandem — all within less than a week of her mate’s having been killed.

Interestingly, I know the new male, an older guy, who came from a not so distant territory within the city where he himself already has a family. Hmmm.

And this is the most interesting and juicy part: that new male is one and the same individual who just at the beginning of this pupping season joined an existing family, filling a vacancy in THAT family caused by the loss of its alpha male to natural causes: old age. Let’s call this new fella Rookie. Apparently Rookie went to town when he joined that family because both the alpha female there AND her two-year-old daughter produced pups this year. I called this “den-sharing”, and think of it as kind of “Rookie’s harem”. So it appears that he already has two mates. And now a third? Does this make him into a sort of super alpha male, or will he be giving up that previous family where he has pups from two females? Or maybe he’s just checking out the new vacancy here and won’t stay?

Background information: We all know that coyotes are famously monogamous and mate for life — this is all I had ever seen in 14 years here in San Francisco with two rare and recent exceptions: the den sharing which involved this particular new male, and a divorce which, strangely, involved a previous life of the killed alpha male. It’s a small world.

AND — to further confuse the issue and expand the exception to “mate for life” and “monogamous”, within a distant fragment of that “den sharing” territory, I had seen yet another lactating female WITH this same male, Rookie. Hmmmm. What’s that about? Is Rookie just a rare exception? We’ll have to wait and see how all of this pans out over time. It’s nothing less than a soap-opera, with cliffhangers and all!

© All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share, with permission and with properly displayed credit©janetkessler/coyoteyipps.com.

Pack Strategies, Growing Pups, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet!

I hope all is well with you as the season progresses. This time of year flies. I am walking well after hip surgery and slowly recovering.

The updates on the 2 mom coyote pack continue thanks to the careful work and amazing skills of the knowledgeable ranch family who have allowed coyote to share their massive ranch properties. Decades of tolerance and behavior modifications have created a land where coyote, livestock, wildlife all thrive. (LGD dogs are big part..but thats another story) The extended family all take turns monitoring and studying the coyotes. They are documenting great stuff.

Old SlimJim, (father) Chica (Mom) Janet (daughter and 2nd mom) and Big Brother (yearling) all thrive. They indeed, moved the pups from the rocky cliffs to the open Oak Savannah ecosystem. Incredibly, all 9 pups have still been accounted for. Originally 11, it’s still a big group of pups.

One adult is almost always with or near pups. They have had several moves and it seemed Slim Jim initiated every move. The family discussions about why Slim Jim moves them so much are awesome to hear. Was it because the local cougar made fresh marks nearby? Was it because soon a salmon run will deliver salmon to a riverbank where Slim Jim gathers the expired fish? Is it because the wolves come around and scout? One ranch youngster has an observation. “Bigger Grasshoppers and more Voles” he says. “Slim Jim took the pups where the grasshoppers are already big and the voles are everywhere there”.

It’s true-the pups are already foraging and catching rodents and grasshoppers. It is very important for pups to forage and feed themselves ASAP. 

It’s likely a culmination of all these and more. Slim Jim is an old coyote who knows all these areas. And the food sources. He has literally moved his pack where this summer, rodents, insects, wild plum groves, and expired salmon all will be. Slim Jim also has a unique skill which he’s shared with Big Brother his son. A few miles away a ribbon of country road unfortunately delivers deer being hit and killed, or running off to die. Slim Jim takes full advantage of such road killed deer. And delivers huge meals of venison. It is very rare for pups to eat so well. Big Brother and Dad have hugely impacted pup nutritional provisions.

Other note: All the adults are super lean and seem exhausted at times. They seem to take turns pup sitting. Big Brother the most. Pups are weaned it appears. Of the 9 pups, one with kinked tail sleeps with adults rather then littermates. Kinky Tail seems a favorite. It is groomed more than any pup.

Turkey Vultures make the pups duck or hide, indicating the local golden eagle may be why 2 pups are gone. 

Pups also seem to hunt then bolt at times.  Its suspected snakes are instinctively avoided at least by pups. Many rattlers here. So snake aversion is good. 

The Patriarch of Ranch family has studied “his” coyote over 60 years. He is house bound usually. But still listens to coyote news and gives his thoughts. 4 generations of family discussing coyote packs is very special.

His thoughts: “That’s a really big litter. By summer’s end the adults will be tired and ready to stop providing. The pups will develop extra fast and really scatter about. And Big Brother will be a great dad after raising all those pups. Janet the Daughter will get a new hubby. Old Slim Jim…well, let’s hope best.”

Big Litter, lots of food, and tired but skilled adults here. A structured but unusual pack going fwd. And a Ranch family sharing it all from 10 years to Great Great Grandpa.

Take Care Janet, 

Lou 🐾

[All photo credits are from the author, Walkaboutlou]

The Dilemma of Denning, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet. 

The continued scouting of the 2 mom pack carries on and is really amazing.

So the situation was Chica Alpha Mom, and Janet the Yearling Daughter (possible) denned together to combine 11 pup litter. The Alpha male is Slim Jim, old but more than capable. Yearling male, Big Brother, rounds out adult pack. 

Mom and Daughter early in denning were fed regularly by the males. Deer scavenging, and Bison afterbirth proved to be fortuitous finds for males. About 3 weeks into denning, both females suddenly went back to foraging and hunting. Big Brother was relegated to #1 pup sitter which he seems made for. He alternatly is playful, guardian, and cleans pups for hours. At night he is relieved, it seems, to forage and water for himself.  

Last year the pack denned in hilly country, surrounded by thousands of field rodents, etc. This year, they moved their early dens to a rocky series of cliffs-like terrain miles from the hills. This is very likely the regular passing area of foraging wolves. Also…this year is far drier. There are less rodents.

The cliffs are perfect for tiny pups to start. But they aren’t ideal to raise a older litter. We suspect the calorie and water needs for large litter, will mean a move soon to a late spring/summer rendezvous area. It also will mean pups can start foraging for rodents and grasshoppers themselves. This is pivotal. I think especially of Slim Jim and Chica weighing denning safety vs feeding family. Its really a process. The cliffs mean some safety. The hills mean pup development and food. And the hills hold danger in every way. 

It has been a great start for the den but not perfect. The pups went from 11 to 9. A golden eagle who regularly soars over is suspected. For 2 days the pups seemed to stay in den. And Big Brother snarled up into the passing sky silhouette. We dont think this a coincidence. 

Also, Old Slim Jim showed us how seriously he takes denning. Coyotes are vocal. Notoriously vocal. Big Brother was yipping and howling and was even joined by several pups. It seemed he was literally leading a puppy chorus when Slim Jim came racing up to the den and literally slammed Big Brother down and gave him a very big round of discipline. Big Brother slunk to a nearby rock, chastised and mournful.

The watcher (the family members are taking turns in observations) was pretty stunned at Slim Jims ferocity. He is actually a very laid back guy (and really tired and slow) But then we discussed-how many times have they vocalized at this den? Well…until that incident, no one has heard vocalizations. It would appear, Slim Jim, Chica, and Janet have been mute here for some weeks.

We think we know why. Trail cams reveal passing wolves just miles away every few evenings. As they trot through, they no doubt are hard at work raising their litters too. But wolves are very hard on coyote dens. They will not hesitate to raid and dig out denned pups. We believe Slim Jim knows too well, the risks of denning with wolves about. And he has perfected ghost like habits this year. Big Brother learned a big lesson.

So…Slim Jim, Chica, Janet and Big Brother all are working hard and 9 of 11 pups still thrive. They likely are on the cusp of moving their litters to the hills and spring/summer areas. BTW-every night Chica and Janet clean the pups and attend them. Big Brother leaves. And when pups go down, Slim Jim hops a tall rock to do the night’s sleep sentinel post. Chica often approaches him. She grooms and nibbles his face and sparse coat. He seems to greatly relish this short time. His old tired white face relaxed and strong. 

I am very moved at this pack. And old Slim Jim’s efforts to raise his latest family. 

1) rocky cliffs; 2) This area of vast foothill ranges will be likely where this year’s pups will be taken for summer rendezvous. It is much more dangerous but this is where the pups will need to be. It’s here they will learn to be Coyote survivalist. 

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