Anxious and Scared for HIS Safety

The first part of this video is a rehash of what I’ve posted before. In this video, I’m standing right next to the dog, so you will experience most of the first section as if you were the dog. Also, this recording occurred many months ago when this coyote had just become part of a “pair” of coyotes — it is out of synch with the reality of today. But it has a telling display of one coyote’s concern and worry for another coyote in the last 30 seconds of the video.

For those who are unfamiliar with this coyote, a little background: There is only one dog which this coyote reacts to with such focused intensity as you’ll see in the video: The coyote’s hackles go up, her back arches, her head is lowered, she snarls and kicks dirt ferociously and angrily, and she emits distressful barks.  More often than not, she bouncingly follows the owner and dog for some distance maintaining this scary “Halloween cat” posture and continuing the barking. At a certain point, she’ll stop and watch them fade into the distance. After about 20 minutes, she knows exactly where and when they will reappear for the last leg of their walk, so she sits on a little knoll overlooking the spot until dog and owner come into view, at which point she’ll begin her distressed and anxious behavior again until they disappear down a neighborhood street for good for the day.

The coyote’s behavior, although territorial at its core, also has an aspect of “personal” animosity involving one-upmanship. The dog is a female six-year-old whose owner — he is always very respectful of the coyote and always walks away from her — attempted promoting peace between his dog and the coyote three years ago by squatting down close to the coyote and speaking gently to her to show how harmless he and the dog were. Only the dog was not giving off the same friendly vibes and messages, as revealed by the dog’s behaviors when she slipped her collar a number of times, ending up chasing the coyote, and even running up to this coyote’s favorite lookout posts and peeing there: “take that”. The coyote, of course, runs lickety-split from the dog, but always circles back to keep an eye on the dog after the dog is re-leashed. The coyote’s reaction to this dog is not just a random now-and-then occurrence: it has been going on almost every morning for three years: this coyote’s fear and anxiety towards the dog is major in her life, and given that the dog is three times her size, I think she’s very brave to confront her fears and anxieties so regularly and so directly.

The owner finally tired of this behavior and began taking an alternative route, but on the day of the video, the coyote caught a glimpse of the dog, and her behavior recommenced. Circumstances had changed for the coyote by this time: she had a new companion, a one-and-a-half year old male coyote who had joined her only a couple of months earlier. These two coyotes were becoming best friends. The female coyote had become particularly guardful of the new fellow after his leg injury a month earlier so that when any dogs came around, she frequently ran interference by running in front of them to take them off of his trail.

So on the day of the video, the female coyote saw the dog that had become her nemesis and began her distressed behavior as she had so often done before. I went up to speak to the owner and then stood by his dog as I videoed. The male coyote was not around when the female coyote first began her tirade, but at 1:33 into the video, just as the dog re-emerges for the last leg of her walk, the coyote spots her male companion and she runs off to divert his direction away from the “fearsome” white dog. In the last 30 seconds of the video, the female coyote is terrified and frazzled: she is beside herself with out-of-control anxiety and fear for her male coyote friend and she’s trying to communicate this to the younger male who seems not to get it: he remains calm and unfazed.

When the dog owner sees the coyotes, he quickly move down the street and away from them, and the dog was leashed anyway, so there was no danger of a chase. But the intensity of the little female coyote’s emotions and efforts are on full display in these last 30 seconds — she is beside herself in fear for her new friend and is trying to “save” him by trying to get him to move. 1112

Habitat Destruction

Wishing All Coyotes, and You, Happiness In the New Year!


Yes, coyotes can be very happy critters. Seeing is believing. “Blissful” only begins to describe this young gal’s elated wallowing on the old tennis ball she has just delighted in playing with for half an hour. May all coyotes, and you, find this much joy in the new year!

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.

Coyote Voicings

Artwork by Kanyon Sayers-Roods

I have added to my Introductory Pages a writeup of Coyote Voicings — Yips, Howls and other Vocalizations: a Panoply of Sounds and Situations.

Summary: Coyote communication occurs mostly via eye contact, facial expressions and body language and it can be very subtle. Coyotes are not forever vocal as humans are; they tend to be on the quiet side — except when they aren’t! Here I explain their voice communications, based on my own daily dedicated observations over the past 11 years, and then I give about 20 examples, chosen from about a thousand that I’ve recorded.

Carl Safina: A Talk at WildCare

Carl Safina is one of my great heroes, as he is many other people’s.  All my views about sentient wildlife, examples of which I see daily as I watch my coyotes, are confirmed by Carl. When he speaks, I feel as though he is taking the words right out of my mouth — every single word and thought about animals as feeling and thinking critters. The difference is that he is an academic, and to have an academic stand up for these things is an important turn of events, though late in the coming. Academics have long separated humans absolutely from all other species and they don’t tolerate anthropomorphizing which they consider unsupportable and therefore fanciful. In fact, accurate anthropomorphizing is no longer thought of as unsupportable: it’s the path that behavioral research is now taking.

I see a lot of coyote behavior for many hours each day. I have spoken a lot about coyote feelings and their intense family lives — lives which really are not so different from our own in a great many respects. I’ve had some academics pooh-pooh what I say. But Carl, as Jane Goodall, who has actually spent time watching the animals as I have, supports these same ideas. Theories and studies of focused slices of animal behavior do not cover the same ground as being in the field watching the whole picture: an animal going about its life.

It’s because an animal feels hungry that he eats, feels tired that he sleeps, feels joy that he plays, feels affection that he caresses another. It’s what they feel that actually drives their lives. Above that, their amazing family ties and lives are a wonder to watch: a microcosm of your favorite soap opera, with a cliff-hanger every day!

Carl says that our need to see ourselves as above anything else speaks volumes about our insecurities. In fact, what makes humans different is that we do things to the extreme, which animals don’t do: We are, at the same time, the most compassionate and the cruelest of the species; the most creative and the most destructive of them. This is what makes us human. Having emotions and emotional bonds are not what distinguishes us as human.

Please make sure to check out Carl’s recent book, which now can be obtained in paperback: Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.

I took notes at Carl’s talk, but rather than present them here, I’m linking to a video of the exact same lecture given by him elsewhere: straight from the horse’s mouth.

 

Smiling and Showing the Tip of The Tongue

A coyote smiles when it is happy! I have noticed coyotes smile especially during and after playtime.

Smiling is also a method of purposefully communicating goodwill. In this sense, I’ve seen smiling during play, when “getting rough” might have overtones of aggression which could easily be misinterpreted. Since playing incorporates all the moves of real-life fighting — even though it is “not for real” — play could be interpreted as aggressive if it were not for the smile. I have also seen smiles used as a communication device to disarm another coyote who is angry. Smiling signals “I’m not a threat to you. I’m not going to challenge you. I want to please you. I like you.”

And, I have had a coyote seemingly smile at me: “Hey, I see you down there and I’m okay with that.” Facial expressions function the same way in coyote society as it does in human society. Coyote society is highly socially organized according to dominance and pack loyalty, so it comes in handy.

Related to this is showing the tip of the tongue. I see this as a small kiss. It appears to communicate the same message as smiling, but in this case, it is almost always when there might have been room for negative misinterpretation of the coyote’s intentions. It appears to be almost as a gesture of apology.

2011-02-01

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