Rendezvous, Mid-January

The Rendezvous is a recurring nightly coming-together of coyote family members. It usually happens at about dusk, right before taking off together or separately on their treks to mark their territories and hunt and otherwise be together. It’s a highly social event with interactions occurring between each individual: there are greetings following rank protocols, and there’s usually play and teasing between the different individuals.

These rendezvous are always interesting to me — great for learning about individual and family dynamics. Each rendezvous is different, with different seasons revealing different priorities and seasonal stages. Their individual personalities pop open when they’re together, as well as their stages of development — things you don’t always see when you see individuals alone, or see them only very occasionally, or without knowing who each individual is, including teasing, affection, disciplinary level, etc. Because they aren’t just hurrying away or hunting, certain things become more obvious: statuses, injuries, courting behavior, changes in relationships such as burgeoning rivalry between brothers, who is missing (because of death or dispersal). If dogs interfere, then their reaction comes into view.

Rendezvous usually occur at dusk, so the waning light makes observing, and even more so, “capturing” the observation, more difficult. Towards the end of this session, I was literally guessing where the coyotes were as my camera captured the blackness, which I was then able to edit into readable, even if extremely substandard images. So here are a few sequences that had meaning for me. I’m sure there was a lot I missed in-between these, but these will give you an idea of how full those get-togethers are. I believe you all can see more through still images, rather than a video where you might actually miss what is going on. But also, videos take up a lot of space and, for me, are harder to edit down. Nevertheless, I have included two short video sequences here and inserted them where they fit in chronologically.

1 & 2 pup cowers as dad approaches; 3 & 4 pup reaches up to dad with snout and paw

This rendezvous, from when the first coyotes appeared, until they departed the area, lasted exactly half an hour. As I said, by the time it ended, I could not see anything clearly. It began with a youngster appearing and looking around. He soon cowered submissively asa snarly Dad approached him. After cowering acceptably to Dad’s satisfaction, the youngster — 9 months old at this point — still keeping himself low to the ground, stretched up his snout and then his paw in a submissively accepting gesture to Dad. But the status routine apparently wasn’t settled yet, because the youngster, see second group of photos below, attempted following Dad, and was repelled by Dad’s snarly glare — communication is very clear to every coyote. The youngster again cowered and went the other way. Within a few minutes after this, Dad was happy with the respect shown him, and allowed the youngster to relax close by (last of the 8 first photos).

5, 6 & 7 pup follows dad but is repulsed by dad’s expression; 8 finally the two relax proximately to each other [each galleries can be clicked for a larger view, and then scrolled through]

Most observers aren’t able to break apart these different interactions as they observe. More is going on here than mere greetings, statuses and interactions. It’s pre-mating season, so mating time is going to commence soon, if it hasn’t already.

Then, Mom arrives. Mom arrives and vocalizes, and the rest of the family joins in as she hurries over to them (video below)

Above video: Mom arrives and vocalizes, and the two other family members join in.

Above, 1) Mom arrives and begins howling. #2 Dad responds as does the one youngster there. #3 Mom hurries over to them and sniffs around. #4 Mom urinates. #5 Her urine is full of hormones at this time of year and Dad, you can see, is keenly interested in their levels. #6 Dad lets youngster know he’s in the way with a snarl: pup pulls his mouth back in a grimace and sits back to allow Dad plenty of room

#1) Second pup arrived on the scene and Dad gave him the same treatment his brother got. #2) Brother takes in that family interaction — they all can and do read minute nuances in each other’s interactions and know the meaning of it all. #3) Dad is heading the youngsters away from Mom who you see to the right. I don’t know what her intent here is, but you’ll see her later reaching out to say hello to this male pup of hers. #4 Mom heads away from them and eats grass: she’s nervous, while #5) Dad dozes nearby. At this point, #6 it’s the youngster who heads towards Mom, possibly indicating that he’s ready to get going.

Two other family youngsters were not present. One yearling may have dispersed, but the other youngster is probably still around. Not all family members are always present for these rendezvous. After the last photo above, all family members got up and interacted as you see here in the video below.

Video shows a few moments of the interactions: Dad wove himself between his mate and the youngsters — he didn’t want to give them the opportunity to become interested in her other than as a mom. Mating season is about to begin, so he has to keep this kind of order.

#1) Mom stretches and then leads the family pack out, but then she waits for them all to catch up and she #2) brings up the rear. #3) Note that her interest is first and foremost Dad: they touch noses as she reaches them, with the youngsters knowing to wait their turn. #4) Mom seems to be intent on saying hello to the youngster she was unable to greet earlier (because of Dad’s interference). The last two photos #5) and #6) show them four of them just before they disappeared, with Dad reaching out to touch one of the youngsters at the end there. I’ve included a small photo here showing how dark it actually was out there for these last images. Photo editing is amazing these days: that is the same unedited photo as #6 above.

Sparks’ Presidio Family: an Update

Sparks, three-year-old, defending the denning area in the Presidio

For those of you who are interested and have followed his story, Sparks, who had recently been living as a loner in and about the Presidio, has succeeded in integrating himself into the established resident family of coyotes there! He is even behaving like the alpha male, so he may have taken Puff’s, the Presidio’s previous alpha male’s, place. I don’t know this for sure yet, but it’s highly likely, judging by his behavior and that I have not seen Puff. If Puff still is around, then Sparks, a three-year-old male outsider, somehow has become accepted as an integral beta family member. I need to see more interactions to know the exact situation — these coyotes have been particularly elusive. I will edit with an update when I find out.

Here is a brief summary of Sparks’ story, with links if you want to dive deeper:

Sparks was one of a litter of five — one female, four males — born in Glen Canyon in 2019. The siblings were particularly tight, and when Sparks had his first arm injury — this was the right arm and probably just a severe sprain — they helped him to safety when dogs appeared closeby. He had a special affectionate bond with his sister, and the two of them together began their first dispersal foray to Golden Gate Heights Park when they were exactly one year old.

Two months later, his sister returned to Glen Canyon where she remained with her birth family, and Sparks appeared in the Presidio which already had an established alpha pair of coyotes. It was not long before I saw him with another leg injury — an actually broken forearm — the left one this time. He left the Presidio on that broken arm and returned to a backyard in Golden Gate Heights, three miles away, where he remained for three weeks until exactly August 14th — that’s when he was last seen there — nursed by a couple of Good Samaritan neighbors. He was now into his seventh month of dispersal.

Left: Wired, the Presidio alpha female for the last 3 years; Right: Puff, the Presidio’s alpha male beginning three years ago who I’m not seeing lately. His absence would mean Sparks is the alpha male.

He reappeared in the Presidio on August 15th, 2020. And then I lost track of him for six months, only to suddenly be surprised by his appearance in North Beach (see above link) a month later in September, when I was updating myself on those resident coyotes. He was now 17 months old and still recovering from the broken left forearm — still limping severely. I’ve always thought that his weakened condition is what helped other coyotes accept him into their fold. For two weeks he stayed with the North Beach family, and I saw a lot of affection and banter between him and Cai2, the (at the time) three-year-old alpha female there, but I never saw him interact with Stumpf, the alpha male. By the way, the Cai2 is the littermate sister of the Presidio’s Puff, born in 2017 in North Beach to the previous North Beach alphas — they are five years old as of this writing.

Sparks’ dispersal in 2020

After this North Beach interlude, Sparks headed back to the Presidio, still with a strong limp, where I have spotted him regularly ever since: this now is his home. At first, I never saw him interact with the resident Presidio family. He seemed to exist around them, and possibly was allowed to stay due to his injured arm — he limped severely for a long time, and even has residues of that limp nowadays — which may have rendered him non-threatening to the resident coyotes. Be that as it may, in January 2021 he was seen being chased out of the Presidio by Puff a number of times — that was the beginning of the breeding season — but Sparks didn’t leave. Wired and Puff, the resident pair, had their second litter that year with Sparks hanging out not far away. That may be when the relationship began changing.

I stopped observing the Presidio coyotes for over a year — there were too many other territories for me to keep up with — but I returned last week, the first week of July, 2022 to update myself on the situation there.

Of highest interest, as stated above, is that Sparks, who is 3.5-years-old now, is acting as though he were the alpha male in the Presidio: defending the den site, babysitting the youngsters of which there are two (apparently there were three but one died, according to the Presidio ecologist), and leading the one family rendezvous that I saw, which included a yearling female and the two pups. Absent from the rendezvous were alpha female/mom Wired, and Puff. There are other yearlings in the Presidio, but they were not involved in this rendezvous. Wired can sometimes be seen sunning herself at the denning site during daylight hours. Is Puff still around? As I said, if he isn’t, Sparks will have taken his place and would be the current alpha male. If he is still around, we’ll know that he was accepted into the family as a beta male to help out by guarding, babysitting, and defending the territory if it ever came to that. But whatever the situation, Sparks is now totally integrated into the situation: this is, somehow, HIS family. Below is a video of the rendezvous of a few days ago:

So the current Presidio family consists of Sparks, Wired, two pups and a yearling daughter. There’s also another male who I call “LowKey” who has come into the denning area, but hangs out more on the periphery: I don’t know his position in the family yet. And there are a number of yearlings who may still be using the Presidio as their base, but don’t hang around the den site.

Two pups born this year (left and middle) and a female yearling (right), all are Wired’s offspring. The yearling would have been fathered by Puff, but what about the two pups?

[press on any of the images to enlarge it and scroll through each row]

Left: Sparks is acting like the alpha male as he guards the area. Center: Wired has been and continues to be mom — she’s on her third litter since moving into the Presidio and becoming the alpha female thre. Right: This fella who I call “LowKey” hangs out on the outskirts of the denning area, he’s at least two years old and is somehow also associated with the denning family. In some ways, he looks like Sparks, and may be genetically related.

© 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.

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