Vying For Her

This family unit consists of a male and a female litter-mates, and a male who appears to be an older sibling. The two littermates are yearlings born in 2018, and the older sibling was probably born the year before. This older guy now is clearly dominant over the younger male, though I remember when there was more equality between them.

Both males have always catered to the female who seems to have a special position in the family apparently just because she’s a female. I’ve seen this special status given to other lone females in families. These three spend most of their time together.

Above is a video of one of their recent evening rendezvous. It begins with the younger male watching from the distance and very interested in the interactions of the other two. He clearly is apprehensive about joining them. However, even for coyotes, the heart is often stronger than the mind.

He suddenly decides to join them, running towards them. Upon reaching them, he immediately throws himself into a lower “small” submissive stance towards the other male — they appear to have worked out their ranks — but his aim appears to be to get past that male to the female in order to exchange warm greetings with her. Each male, then, makes an effort to continuously wedge himself between the other male and the female. This wedging behavior has been going on for months, as seen below in its incipient stage, when the two males were more on an equal footing: this equal footing has now changed. Now it is more obvious that there is a triangle involving jealousy, control, and ownership. You can probably guess how this will end up.


Several months ago, the play sessions between the three of them were intense: they’d romp, hop over, nuzzle, fall to the ground in a heap, lick, play chase. There was a whole lot of carefree fun. You can see that the snout-clasping was pretty evenly divided between them — there was no definite hierarchy yet between the males.

But even back then, each of the males was very tuned-into the interactions of the other with the female, and each worked on creating a wedge between his brother and sister. The female interacted less, preferring to look on, and sometimes snarled or grabbed the snouts of the others — she appeared to know what was going on. Even in humans, “friendly” play often has a competitive component (sports, board games): it can “measure” where you stand in relation to another individual. In coyotes, this play was a sort of litmus-test for for their eventual ranks in the real world.

Interestingly, I’ve seen this exact same behavior within a family consisting of a male and female sibling and their father after the alpha-mother’s disappearance left a vacancy for that family position. In this case, the father used himself as a wedge to keep brother away from sister, and it was for very selfish reasons: HE obviously wanted to possess her: Adroit At Keeping Two Mutually Attracted Coyotes Apart.

Cuddling, Teasing and Play


Of course pups cuddle, tease and play with each other. And parents do the same with their pups. But in the coyote world, these inter-personal activities are prevalent throughout adulthood between mated pairs: coyotes really like each other (unless they really don’t, which is a different story). They are social, meaning they spend a lot of time together interacting with each other, be it simply through visual communication or more emphatically through physical contact. Their involvement with each other is constant and can be intense.

In this video you’ll see some of that activity between a bonded pair. You’ll see affectionate nudges and teasing, fond provocations, tender mouth clasps or little “kisses” and cuddling. This is what goes on between them when they’re left alone and not having to constantly watch over their shoulders for danger — mostly from dogs. The activity occurs throughout the year, not just during the reproductive season.

Camaraderie and “Checking-In”

Although coyotes have nabbed raccoons and often work as a team to do so, our coyotes here in San Francisco usually forage individually because of the nature of their prey: small rodents, squirrels, voles, even birds, berries, etc. Even so, they often head out to hunt in pairs. They are social animals, so being together is as much fun for them as it is for us. They often become separated as they follow their noses to areas quite distant from the other, but eventually, they come together to “check-in”. When this happens, there is a little greeting and acknowledgement which consists of eye contact, nose touches, and sometimes some play.

These photos today are of a recently bonded pair of coyotes. Their relationship as a pair is new. Their regular “checking-in” involves more overt displays of joy than most: you can just hear them thinking: “I’m so happy to see you, I’m so happy that you are here with me!” Their interactions at this time are much more similar to what happens at an evening rendezvous, when coyotes come together after having been sleeping apart most of the daylight hours. The rendezvous is a very intense time of socialization between coyotes: there are wiggles and squiggles and joyous jumping over each other, chasing, lots of body contact, body hugs and love bites. Well, this pair greet each other in this manner after they’ve been apart for only 5-10 minutes! It appears that this new match was made in heaven!

A joyous game of chase and catch-me-if-you-can

Playful jumping all over each other

Hugs and togetherness in midair

Body contact even as they run off together

A provokingly affectionate teasing nip to the leg

Contact again, with a paw on his back

Background on these two coyotes: This pair of coyotes came together only several months ago. In her birth family, the three-and-a-half years old female had been an “only child” where her parents left her by herself hours on end, so she was used to being all alone. She dispersed early and became the resident coyote in her new claimed territory which had been left vacant by a coyote hit by a car several years earlier. Here, she remained a loner, and over time, began focusing on cars, humans and dogs for entertainment: coyotes are social animals, and with no other coyotes around, she made do with what there was in sort-of the form of virtual interactions. I worked with the community to discourage interactions in order to preserve her wary and wily wildness as much as possible. Education of this sort worked because most people wanted to do what was best for her. It appears that this coyote didn’t know what she had been missing in the form of “real” interactions until the male showed up. Suddenly, she was overjoyed to finally have a real companion! She is the one who displays the most exuberance and joy when they “check-in”.

The younger newcomer male arrived after having been dispersed — driven out — from his birth family in August by his own siblings who had formed an alliance or bond between themselves: there was no room for him there as an adult. Once youngsters disperse, I usually don’t see them again, but I have been privileged to reconnect with three of them after they dispersed. Once I get to know coyotes, they become easily identifiable through their very distinct appearances and behaviors. Of interest to many people might be that there happen to be “family resemblances” in some coyote families, no different from family resemblances in human families. This male came from a family of four siblings who used to play endlessly together through a year-and-a-half of age.

The play gets more rough and tumble, but is always affectionate

Jumping all over each other with hugs

“Ha ha, gotcha!” Teasing is how they display their connectiveness

Pulling him by his fur has got to be high on the list of tolerances between bonded coyotes

Only a good friend would allow you to grab him by the scruff of the neck with your teeth!