Youngster Makes a Quick Dashaway

The youngster in the middle here is a seven-month old male pup. He’s on good terms with both his parents. He greets both parents, and then Dad, to the left, “puts the youngster down.”

Dad has been out of commission for several days, at least during my observations, due to an injury he sustained either from an aggressive dog or possibly from a fight with a raccoon: his face and head have lacerations, and he limps on both his left legs. I’ve noticed that injured coyotes lay low for a while. Because of his recent absence, he may have a need to re-establish his position in the family hierarchy, which may be why he puts this pup down. The youngster submits easily.

Mom is to the right. She has just finished a pretty amazing harsh attack on this youngster’s female sibling.  Is this youngster fearful of the same punishment which has just been dished out to his sister?

More Rendezvous Behavior: Fussing Over His Pups, Grooming & Intimacy

Charles Wood and I both have written a number of postings on coyote rendezvous behavior.  Coyotes are social animals who, except for transients and loners, live in nuclear families. They mate for life — coyotes are one of only 3-5% of mammalian species that do so — and the family is what centers their lives. Hey, not so different from us!

I recently wrote about a coyote mated pair — one with a den full of infant pups — who took off to rendezvous at dusk — like a couple on their way to a tryst in the dark.  Mated pairs are special buddies, and you can see it in that posting. I’ve also assembled a photo essay for Bay Nature on “Raising Kids in the City” to let people know about how social and family-minded coyotes are.

Today’s rendezvous was a family one. Mom and two kids were out lolling around on the hidden side of a hillside, waiting for dusk to get a little heavier.

Dad gets up & stretches

Dad gets up & stretches

After seeing them, I kept walking and found Dad sleeping in a little ball, about 400 feet away from where the others were. I settled down to wait for some activity. Suddenly Dad sat up, as if he knew that the others were waiting for him. What was his cue? He hadn’t seen the others — they were within his line of sight, but he had not looked in their direction. I’m sure he hadn’t heard them or smelled them. Maybe it was a cue in his circadian rhythms, much like our own, built in and influenced by daylight hours, or possibly by the movement of the moon?

He allowed himself a long stretch, and then scouted the length of a path before walking slowly into a clump of bushes which were in the direction of the place where the other family members were hanging out.

rendezvous begins

Rendezvous begins with Dad’s arrival

Mom relaxes a few feet away

Mom relaxes a few feet away

Since I could no longer see Dad after he disappeared into the bushes, I headed back to the hillside where I had first spotted the 3 other coyote family members. By the time I got to the spot where I could see them again, Dad was there. His arrival had sparked great excitement. Tails were wagging furiously. All coyotes, except Mom, were falling all over each other and doing their little wiggle-squiggle thing that they do when they greet one another.  Mom hadn’t moved from her sphynx-like pose, arms extended and crossed,  a few feet away. Now three pups were visible, but the shyest scurried behind a bush when she saw me.

Dad fusses over the first pup, stopping only to watch an owl pass overhead

As the excitement of the greeting calmed down, Dad approached the two remaining pups, one at a time. The first one he nudged in the snout, and then he poked his own snout into its fur, over and over again, twisting his head this way and that, in a grooming sort of way. The young pup closed its eyes and let itself enjoy the affectionate massage which went along with the grooming.  After about four minutes Dad moved over to the second pup. The first pup got up to follow and stuck its snout under Dad to smell his private parts. Dad did not like this and must have given a sign, because the pup turned away quickly and moved off.

Then Dad groomed the second pup: repeatedly nudging the pup’s head, licking and cleaning it. He then moved to the pup’s rear area and seemed to do the same, though I was on the other side so I could not see exactly where the licking was occurring.

Dad fusses over the second pup, spending lots of time licking and grooming the head and end of this 6-month old pup

Then my Canadian friend walked up, and I explained to her what was going on. We heard a siren in the distance. All coyote activity ceased and there was silence. I suggested to my friend that we might be in for a great family howling session, and I set my camera into “record” mode in preparation. Sure enough, the howling and squealing began, with the entire family joining in, AND was there another pup in the far distance adding its voice to the fabulous chorus!? Then all sounds ceased, after about 2 minutes. All the coyotes ran off, with happy flailing tails, in a single file, into the darkness and out of sight. There was no longer enough light for my camera to focus. My friend and I departed, too, delighted by how magical this had been. Here is the recording:

Bay Nature: Coyotes Raising Kids in San Francisco

#68 BN6

Continue reading by pressing this link: http://baynature.org/articles/photo-gallery-coyotes-raising-kids-san-francisco/

Mother Daughter Greeting

A joyous wiggly-squiggly muzzle-licking "hello"

A joyous wiggly-squiggly muzzle-licking “hello”

Exuberance, kisses, wiggly-sguiggles, and unbounded joy: that’s the description of a parent/pup greeting, in this case it is a mother-daughter greeting. The greeting lasted only about ten seconds, but it was intense.

The child coyote crouches low, belly right on the dirt, and extends her snout up to reach Mom’s. Ears are laid way back in total submission. At one point, the little girl is ready to turn belly up. This little coyote is ecstatic and overflowing with affection and happiness. Although it is the child that displays most of the affection — note that Mom’s eyes are squeezed shut most of the time, probably for protection from the onslaught — it was Mom who actually joyously ran down the hill to greet this little one, so Mom initiated this greeting! When Mom decided to go, the youngster followed.

This display of affection occurs even if the separation has been less than 1/2 hour. Coyote family members show this kind of affection for each other whenever they’ve been separated for even a short period of time.

Pups Spied: Showing Themselves When They Shouldn’t

I watched two pups come out of hiding to join their mum as she waited for dark to fall in order to take them on an outing. Only they were not supposed to do that: they were exposing themselves to danger. She was the one who was supposed to get them when the time was right. Rather than happily greeting them with squeals and kisses as they approached her — this is what she normally would have done — she hurried right past them as if they didn’t exist, hoping they would quickly follow, into some denser brush that would hide them! The trick worked! Coyote parents put exceptional effort into protecting their young.

A Rendezvous Ritual

Coyotes spend a good deal of their day sleeping. Members of a pack or family may sleep within close proximity of each other, or they may sleep much further apart, but probably within the same couple of acres of each other. They have amazing built-in time clocks, but they also are influenced by circumstances of the moment. My own dog could tell the time and knew what was to be done at that time. For example, I always set off, with my dog, at exactly 2:40 to pick up one of my kids at school. But one day I fell asleep — I would not have made it on time except that my dog began poking me with her muzzle at exactly 2:40. Needless to say, I was amazed. The same is true for coyotes — they seem to know when it is time to meet up, but if people or dogs are around, they will delay.

Most coyotes I know like to go trekking alone. After all, their staple diet consists of voles and gophers — animals that really can’t be divvied up very well. Might as well hunt alone. But some coyotes do enjoy trekking together, usually in pairs. When they hunt in pairs, there is usually a rendezvous beforehand.

Rendezvous locations can remain the same for a while, or they can change drastically from day to day, but coyotes seem to have various favorite meeting spots which they alternate between for a while, before changing these altogether .  This is where they congregate to then move together for their foraging.

In this case here, the older female had spent her day sleeping in the sun quite some distance from where the young male had been also sleeping in the sun. The female was the first to move around — she disappeared into some bushes. In the meantime, I watched the male who moved from where he had been sleeping to a new location where he curled up and then dozed a while longer. Finally, he got up, stretched, scratched, and began to forage. I watched him catch a vole and toy with it. He continued searching for voles and then looked up ahead. He must have seen the female approaching, because he sat down and watched intently. She trotted over, and arrived on the scene.

The ritual began with hugs and kisses. They are hidden in the grass in these photos, but you can see what is going on. It was intense, but lasted only about a minute. That was the first phase of the meeting. Then there was a pause where all activity ceased. I think the male was waiting for something, but since nothing happened he turned around and backed into her — it looked like a request. He did it again and then looked over his shoulder: “well?”. The older female was obliging. She began grooming the young fellow, pulling off burrs and bugs. He accepted this, repeatedly laying his ears back against his head — he seemed to melt with the attention. There was care, affection, and intensity here which few animals that I have seen show each other. The next phase of the meeting involved trotting off together. From what I have seen in the past — though I did not follow them this time — they will spend their time together trekking, marking their territory, hunting, playing, exploring and maybe even meeting up briefly with a couple of lone coyotes who live adjacent to this territory, before again returning to separate localities to rest.

I’m Pretty Sure There’s A Coyote Den In My Backyard! An Email Exchange

Hi Janet — Late this morning, I am positive that I heard 2-3 coyote pups signing to each other behind our yard and the neighbors. Either way, this feels a little bit too close for comfort. They sounded maybe 50 or 75 yards away. It was definitely not the sound of average puppies… the only way I could describe it was like warbly singing, with crying yips.

Also, when I took my dog out back earlier this morning, I found fresh dog urine right next to the house — I was perplexed at the time because our yard isn’t accessible from the street, only from the back of the hill. But now after hearing the puppies, I think that one of them was in our yard.

I appreciate the majesty of coyotes, but I wonder if it’s safe to be outside with a den so close. And I worry about my dog, too, even though he is never ever unattended in the yard. My dog is large and old, but he’s still quite fiesty with other big dogs. I’m not sure how aggressive things might get with coyotes around.

I also have a large vegetable garden that goes straight up toward where I heard the pups. The garden is watered at night and morning — is it safe for me to be out there during puppy season? The top of our garden is really only about 15 yards away from where I heard them.

Sorry for the long note, but wildlife is not my expertise. My boyfriend chuckles because I run away when the trio of raccoons comes into the yard. I’m starting to feel a little trapped in the house…

Do you have any advice on safety? I would be grateful if you do…
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Hi  —

I don’t think there is a den there. I know the coyotes that roam that area and they did not have pups. Coyotes, when they greet each other, have a very high pitched, puppy-sounding squeal — what you describe as “warbly singing with crying yips” — which often is mistaken for puppies. Please listen to recordings #2 and #5 on the Urbanwildness.com site: http://www.urbanwildness.com/urbanwildness.com/Coyote_Howling.html. There are more recordings on CoyoteYipps.com.

Please know that you are totally safe — coyotes do not care to deal with humans: you are bigger and smarter than they are, and they know it. Dogs are sometimes another story: coyotes are very territorial towards dogs, the same as they are with non-resident, interloper coyotes. If your dog is always attended out of doors, there should be no problem. If you, for any reason, need to scare a coyote away, make noise and throw a threatening caniption to let the coyote know that you really don’t want him around. If you want hands-on help to show you how to feel safe around coyotes, let me know. And feel free to contact me about any coyote issues which you are worried about. Please let me know if this has been at all helpful. Sincerely, Janet

PS: If it does happen to be a den area, I would be very surprised. It would mean that coyotes are there within another coyote’s territory. There is a female I’ve been following — an interloper — but I have not seen her with a male companion — she seems to be a loner. Whenever she is detected by the area’s resident coyotes, they drive her out. And, if there indeed is a den, you would be seeing come coyote activity regularly right there — probably every night. Please keep me posted! Janet
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Thanks, Janet! Your letter makes me feel better already. So helpful!

I was on your site for hours after I wrote you. Your photography is incredibly special. One of my housemates also heard the ‘song’ this morning and so together we listened to your amazing sound clips! We agreed that what we heard was a little different, so we found a clip on youtube that sounded most like what we had in the back yard, but our visitors sounded a little bit slower and more like they were calling to each other yard-to-yard. Here it is: http://youtu.be/xsQRNBm4_z4.

Really it was an amazing experience hearing that this morning, and if I wasn’t such a nervous-nellie then I probably would’ve thought to get my iphone memo recorder out (Next time I will record it, if there is a next time. . .)

Just thinking of it now — but there have been a couple nights in the last two weeks when it sounded like the raccoons might be fighting with a dog outside — there was that wet-snarly sound, growling, and a lot of screeching on the part of the raccoons. I wonder if that’s your area’s interloper?

I have to say, I have such respect for the wild life up here…to me, all dogs are angels on this earth, including and especially our native coyote friends. I will definitely write to you again if I hear or see anything. I’ll keep a journal, too. My desk faces the steep slope of our yard and I’ve got a great view on both sides — if I see anything you will be the first to know.

Very best!  Jo

PS: About your breath-taking video of Myca trying to play with your dog…you raised the most patient, loving, and well behaved dog that ever walked the earth. What a special day that must have been!

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Hi Jo —

Thank you for this wonderful email! Glad you liked the sites, but I’m especially happy that you are thrilled about your visitors!!

The coyotes may be in the area in hopes of snagging one of the young raccoons that you’ve been seeing. The growling you heard may have been a coyote confronting the mom raccoon — that may be why the coyotes are hanging around. It’s part of nature, even if it results in heartbreak. Yes, please keep a journal!  Janet

PS: On the you-tube video, those are not puppies, they are adults — that is what they sound like. Janet

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They just came back to sing! It’s a kind of quiet recording because my volume was a little low, I will try to do better next time. I can’t believe they are here again!!! Same spot, too!  High pitched greeting could be mistaken for puppies

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Hi Jo —

Yep, that’s the greeting! Very exciting!! Thank you so much for sending this to me!  Their behavior is quite different lately and I’m trying to figure out why. Also, if you do get a photo, let me know. I’ll probably be able to identify them if you get a face-on shot — their faces are as different as humans once you get to know them. If you want, I can give you a brief biography of them!

I would love it if you could keep me posted on your “coyote adventure”. And, would it be all right if I posted this on the blog? Let me know! And I look forward to hearing more!  Janet

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Janet,

I am SO sorry to bombard you with emails today, but I realize the audio recording I sent you earlier was from another email account and I didn’t even sign my name. I am just so excited to have heard the coyotes again that I’m bumbling on simple social graces.

I am re-attaching the audio so I can be sure you receive it, and also attaching  a photo of the garden with notations of where the coyotes seemed to be when they sang.

I am feeling a little protective over them now, just thinking that there might be a den — I hope the neighbors choose to leave them be, as I am. They are one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever heard in my life! Thank you for writing to me earlier, and for sharing your experiences on your website. I feel so much more at ease about my new ‘neighbors’. Because of you, Janet, I am officially in AWE of these animals! I will keep a journal of their howling schedule for your reference, too.  Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with me. Maybe we will have a chance to meet sometime depending on whether I continue to hear them singing! I think you might have some new coyotes in this area to photograph!

Jo

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Hi Jo —

You are not bombarding me, I’m thrilled about this, too! Please don’t get exciting about pups — I don’t think there are any. Coyotes would never den in a garden where you work. I think they’re there because they’ve found the raccoon. That is my hunch. But let’s see how it plays out. And yes, if it does turn out to be a den, I would not tell anyone — that’s the safest thing to do, and I will keep your secret! And, yes, hope to meet you sometime!  Janet

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Hi Janet, The coyote experience has been incredible today! Young and old…they are magnificent. I hope it continues! You’re wonderful, Janet,

Jo

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Hi Jo —

If I post your stuff I would not specify where it is — best to keep location vague. Notice that none of my postings specify place. The point is the story: that you were a little apprehensive, that you thought it might be pups and finally that you were thrilled and even got a recording. Thanks, Jo!  Janet

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The strangest thing happened yesterday…our wildlife ‘regulars’ returned to the yard. I realize I didn’t tell you that many of them had been m.i.a for a week, including the three raccoons. I truly thought my beloved Scrub Jays had been eaten by the raccoons. The Jays had been nesting in our yard, and since last week, I saw only one just hopping from high-spot to high-spot looking for the others. One day it even flew directly into my window! This is extremely bizarre behavior for our Jays, and I was totally horrified to see it distressed. BUT…late yesterday afternoon, the Jays came back AND in broad daylight one of the raccoons wandered through the yard…also very unusual. The raccoon might have been limping, but hard to tell. I do worry about the other two raccoons now…they were thick as thieves. I also hate to think of any creature alone in the world.

I bet you were right to say that it has been hunting (not a den) that brought the coyotes here.

Meantime, I’ve still got my audio recorder on the desk, just in case….

Jo

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