Individuality: Coyote Faces and Personalities: WHO are they?

Among other things that I’ve focused on in documenting and investigating coyote behavior and family life, is coyote individuality. This little summary actually is from my  February Sausalito exhibit: “Coyotes, Beyond The Howl”, which appeared in the above 5 foot panel.

Coyote Faces and Personalities: WHO are they?

As I wrote in an article in 2011 for WildCare Magazine, “Your average little coyote — only 30 pounds concealed under all that fluffy fur — is intelligent, curious, playful, protective, adventurous, cunning, independent, self-reliant, has family values, a frontier spirit and strong individuality. Hey, aren’t these the same rugged frontier characteristics in which we ourselves take pride? They also exhibit some “softer” characteristics, such as affection, care, happiness, patience, timidity and dejection.”

But beyond these generalizable characteristics, what are individual coyotes really like and how are they identifiable as unique individuals? What their behavior has shown me is that they indeed are very individualistic — they are individuals and should be looked at as such. We should be asking, WHO are they?

Using fur and markings to identify coyotes is not very effective. For one thing, different lighting conditions can alter our perceptions. But also, fur changes over time: every year it is shed and along with that shedding, the markings become muted until a new coat grows back. However, each coyote has a very different face and can thereby be distinguished this way. And the distinctions go much deeper than their looks: each coyote has his/her discrete personality, a unique history and their own social situation — each is an individual, and this is what I see. This is one of the reasons they are so fascinating to study and document.

What characteristics might make one coyote different from the next? First, family situation is very important, with many behaviors stemming from family roles and interactions: Mom, Dad, pups — or the lack thereof for recently dispersed loners. And each of these roles is carried out a little differently depending on the individuals involved.

Personality characteristics also define each coyote: Some are tricksters or teasers, some are more adventuresome, curious, intrepid, shy, bold, bossy, wary, patient, persistent, easy going, tense, care-giving, more or less social or playful. Some are domineering by nature, some are more submissive, and so forth. Some of the traits appear to be ones individual coyotes are born with. Others seem to arise or develop over time, possibly as a reaction to siblings and parents, to repeat situations and environments.

Personalities are a matter of degree: by comparing and contrasting various coyotes, you can see very palpable differences. Here are some very short snippets about seven of the more than 30 coyotes and their family situations I have come to know and see regularly or have known (some of these have moved on):

Maeve, age 6, is a single mom, acutely aware of her surroundings and totally in-charge of her family — a true alpha — in spite of her very tiny size. She knows every single regular walker and dog in her park and knows which may go after her or her pups — she goes into high-alert when these are around, and keeps her eyes on them. She exhibits double the personality and fun of other coyotes. She’s always out doing things during daylight hours and she wears her feelings on her sleeve, which is why it’s so rewarding to watch her. I tend to think she has a sense of humor about herself. She teases her pups good-naturedly.

Silver, age 9, is an incredibly devoted male. He follows his mate around everywhere and wants to be with her, always solicitous and displaying a huge amount of affection. He’s a father who is a harsh disciplinarian with his pups — he’s had six litters so far. He’s the one who is always on the lookout for threats to his den, and on the slightest suspicion of danger, he moves them. As he has aged, he displays less bravado, preferring to hide out — unless his mate is threatened! He’s an alpha by default and often uses brawn to lead.

Gum Nut, aged 2, was the guy who always ended up at the bottom in a vie-for-superiority pileup with siblings. He loved to play and get along, had not an ounce of bad will or competitiveness, spent all his time with his sister and would have become her mate if Dad hadn’t kicked him out. He endured being at the bottom of the totem pole in the hopes of staying with Sis. Daily bullying and harassment by Dad (this was the father role at work) finally got to him.  One day he was no longer there. He existed for the love of his sister, and for their exuberant play, wrestling, grooming, nuzzles. After he left, I found him in another park where he lived for a while as a transient. I no longer know his whereabout.

Chert, age 5, was always the most fearless and adventuresome of her litter. I would find her exploring far afield way before the others did. She’s still very independent, to the point of being aloof, and enjoys going off on her own. She’s affectionate towards her mate, but submissive him, the dominant one. In the past was not a good mother — she fussed minimally over her brood and seemed just to *put up* with motherhood, but Dad filled in for her! This year is different. She’s been minding her brood, possibly because, for the first time, there’s more than just one pup in her litter.

Scout, age 3 1/2, was an *only child* though more infant pups may simply not have survived. Suddenly one day, Dad turned on her and forced her to leave. She had a mind of her own and was somewhat of an upstart, which may be the reason she was kicked out fairly early — at 9 months vs. some who don’t leave home until as late as 3 years of age. She found herself an open space where she has survived for over 2 years as a “loner” coyote. After neighbors’ initial alarm and fear of the newcomer, they took a liking to her — too much so — and fed and befriended her. Tossed food from cars and on the side of the road, this little coyote’s life now is in constant danger from cars.  Please don’t feed or befriend a coyote — it hurts them! She is spunky and full of fun, but much too uppety — approaching some dogs testingly even when they bark at her ferociously. She loves to play with toys, be they sticks, balls, old shoes or jackets, or even bushes, and she seems to appreciate an audience, judging by her eyeing hers repeatedly to see their response and then continuing.

Sonny, aged 1.5, is particularly unique. His twin sister is his opposite: out in front, investigating new situations, not fearful,  and imposes dominance on a younger sibling . Sonny, on the other hand always keeps back. He assesses everything visually from afar, and is quick to flee. But if there is trouble, say from a dog, he’s there to help defend. He is peacekeeper among his siblings: if one taunts or threatens another, he steps in and disciplines with a threatening snarl and snout clamp. He does not like dissension. I saw a Ted Talks video recently which emphasized that these are the markers of a true alpha. Bravado, by the way, is not one of the markers. Also, he consoles any of the others who have been heavy handedly disciplined by Mom. Interestingly, he’s buddies with his Dad.

Ivan, aged 12, is the oldest living coyote I know. He’s also the largest and the gentlest. He’s the alpha of his family, though his mate often attempts wresting control. This fellow just watches it happen, doesn’t respond, and picks up where he left off. Dispersion for his last son of last year was such a joy to watch. There was always respect and encouragement, never any bullying as I’ve seen in other coyote families. Shortly before this last son took off, I saw Ivan encouraging this youngster to play as an equal with him, his dad. The youngster was overjoyed and so was the dad. It was their last play session together before the youngster left. I’ll always see that session as an encouragement by Ivan, and their mutual acceptance that the next step was departure. This easy-going and caring family ruler, however, is a toughie when it comes to intruder dogs who he would message ferociously — no holds barred!

(To be continued)

[Note: What I say here is entirely drawn from my own extensive and long-term, first-hand observations of coyote interactions within their families]

 

Coyotes: Beyond the Howl, An Educational Exhibit by Janet Kessler

In case you might have a burning interest to know more about coyotes, visit my exhibit which is going up next Sunday at the Sausalito Library and will run for 6 weeks! It’s more of an educational exhibit than anything else, showing some of their constant interactions. The more people understand how social they are, the easier it will be to accept and even embrace them.

Coyotes are social and, except for some transients, live in families. The 28 large 24”x16” zoomed-in snapshots in this exhibit show some of their less-seen behaviors and interactions, as well as their individuality: each coyote looks different, and the differences reach deeper than their fur. Short howling and hunting video clips are included. An explanation of a few relevant survival behaviors and some simple guidelines help round out “the picture” of these neighbors who are becoming a more visible part of the urban landscape.

Janet Kessler a.k.a, “the Coyote Lady” in San Francisco, has been called a, “pioneer in the photo-documentation of the lives of urban coyotes, capturing their intimate lives”. She is a self-taught naturalist and urban coyote specialist who, daily over the past 11 years, has been documenting coyote family life, their behavior towards people and pets — and our pets’ behavior towards them — and getting information and easy coexistence guidelines out to everyone. Google her “Coyotes As Neighbors” video, and visit: Coyoteyipps.com.

Dates: January 28 to March 10, 2018

Hours:

  • Monday-Thursday 10am-9pm daily
  • Friday-Saturday 10am-5pm
  • Sunday noon-5pm

Place: Sausalito Public Library, located in the City Hall building at 420 Litho Street in Sausalito Enter parking lot from Bee Street (off Caledonia Street). From San Francisco, take a ferry ride over!

Janet will be in and out. If you have questions, just seek her out, or contact her through her blog, coyoteyipps.com

[Press Here for a printable Flyer]

On Installation Day: Our team of three had fun installing the exhibit in the very charming Sausalito Library: we had the layout mapped out beforehand, so only minor logistical adjustments to our plan were necessary. We were rewarded with “ooohs” and “aaahs” from the library staff and visitors from Connecticut, and then from the first official early-bird visitors. We finished a little after opening hours and went off for a reward meal overlooking the bay, which we suggest as something to add to your visit.

Hmmm. Not So Sure About the ‘Closeness’ Here

2015-10-21

Coyote pairs are becoming cozy again. It’s that time of year. They are spending more time together than in the last few months. Most of the time, both partners appear to be mutually involved — mutually attracted. But I wonder if this is always true?

I watched as the male (right) of this mated pair came out of the bushes and approached the female who was lying in the grass. Rather than joyful greetings when she saw him coming, she put her head down in a manner of *resignation* and waited. The greeting ritual here involved dominance on his part, and some kind of trepidation on her part. It was not the “ever so happy to see you” excitement that I’ve come to expect from other coyote pair greetings, even though those, too, involved a degree of hierarchical activity.

I wondered how often coyotes are in relationships that aren’t mutually desired?

This female seems to like her independence. She spends time alone on a hill where she hunts or rests curled up in a little ball. He, on the other hand, keeps himself less visible by spending time in the bushes during daytime hours. Whereas she always takes off to walk and explore on her own, he has a need to shadow her or wait for her, and when he looses her, say because of dogs or people approaching, he’ll look for her for a short time and then head back to his bushes at a slow and listless pace with head slumped down — one can’t help but read this as disappointment and dejection. Of course, they’ll meet up later in the evening, but he obviously wants to go trekking with her. She doesn’t seem to really care, and makes no effort to locate him after they get separated.

Siblings: Diametric Opposites

“Careful and Dependent” spends her time waiting and watching

Today a coyote youngster was in an open area. This coyote can be characterized as “careful and and dependent”. She’s wary and not willing to take chances, unlike her siblings. Today she had planted herself in a safe location near some bushes — she could escape to the bushes if necessary from any harm. From here she watched her surroundings, and she waited. She seemed to be waiting for a family member — someone familiar —  to appear on the scene.

Soon a sibling did appear on a hilltop, a sibling who has a dramatically different personality type from the one just described. I’ve observed their different personality types right from the start, nothing has changed from day one: just like humans, there is a lot which is innate and unique about each coyote. This one, in contrast to the previous one, could be characterized as “adventuresome and independent”.

The adventurer saw her sibling in the field below and ran down to greet her, happily, caringly, affectionately, and the shy coyote ran to greet her: there was joy and camaraderie.  Both coyotes then wandered around for a short time, and then the adventuresome one headed off to forage, hunt and explore the area beyond view. She was more interested in her explorations than in the other coyote, whereas the shyer coyote kept her eye on the more adventuresome one until she was out of sight.

When the shy one sees the adventuresome one (left),  she runs to be with her (middle), but I’m in the way, so she turns back to her safety spot and remains there (right).

The shy coyote lay down to watch and wait again once her more adventuresome sibling was out of view. The adventuresome coyote seems to serve as a protector and role model for this shy one.

When the adventurer eventually re-appeared in the distance, the shy coyote jumped up and ran full speed to be with her. But  the adventurer had not been aware that the timid coyote was running towards her. The adventurer turned back and away again as the timid one struggled to catch up. That’s when she saw she had come too close to me and would have to pass me to get to where she was going.  She stopped. Apparently it was not worth the risk for her to follow her sibling. Instead she returned to her protected area where she waited again for awhile and then turned in for the day.

Meanwhile, the adventurer spent the entire morning not too far away, discovering new places to dig up gophers, and spreading her wings a little bit more.

Personalities Emerge Early

rough and tumble and playful

rough and tumble — they’re playful

There’s an array of trait possibilities which form our personalities and make each of us unique. This is as true for animals as it is for humans. Pet owners will tell you that dogs from the same litter can differ tremendously: each pup brings its own unique combination of characteristics into the world.

And coyotes, too, are unique individuals.  I’ve seen this particular litter three times now and I’m seeing behavioral differences which distinguish each pup.

The top photo shows pups who are rough and tumble and full of play. They like to run pell mell after each other — tumbling over each other and getting all tangled up is part of the fun.

reserved and careful and even a little bit dainty

Diametrically opposed is a very little reserved and careful pup. This one sat back and watched as the others roughhouse and play fearlessly. When she noticed me, she hid behind a tree. She? Of course I don’t know, but that would be my guess based on her comparative smallness and daintiness. I wonder if she is a runt.

the adventurer

the adventurer

And then, there’s the adventurer who is curious and explores far-off distances alone — probably unbeknownst to his parents who are still trying to keep the pups’ existence a secret.

I’ve caught him — he stands out as being larger and stronger than the others — on my field camera not anywhere near where I’ve seen the others: exploring and examining the territory, totally on his own.

I’ve also spotted this one sleeping on his own out in the open, which is something his parents do, but not his siblings. This one seems to be exceptionally bright, inquisitive, and self-sufficient — at least comparatively. Just hope he doesn’t get himself into trouble early on by wandering so far off from the rest of them in this litter.

Mystery Foxes, by Charles Wood

Dad 2010

I took the 2010 picture of Dad in early June. He walked out of his hiding place in the brush and boldly strutted by Holtz and me. Dad stopped not far away and seemed pleased with himself as I photographed him.

Thursday Dad ran at my two dogs and me, stopped, and watched as I made them stop their barking and lie down. Dad was in his field on the other side of a fence and my dogs and I were up on the river bank. Instead of walking my usual southbound route I had come up to their field from the south. My plan was to catch my coyotes unawares. I didn’t.

Both photographs show the prominent scar on Dad’s nose. Mom’s droopy ear and Dad’s nose uniquely identify them. Mom and Dad are a solid core for their pack, their children. I know Mom and Dad when I see them and I can count on seeing them. The children seem as a furry blur in comparison and are harder to distinguish and monitor.

Dad 2012

Two days ago a jogger spoke to me as he went by on the river bank. He yelled out that he had just seen a fox. I was surprised to hear that since I haven’t seen a fox on the river in at least ten years. I walked to where he had pointed and I didn’t see anything. I can’t imagine that someone would confuse Dad or Mom with a fox. I can imagine that someone would confuse a coyote puppy with a fox. In the first week of June last year a park ranger said he had seen two foxes in the field. It is a bit of a mystery that fox sightings occur at about the time I expect coyote puppies to be out and about.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Spectacular Ordinary Sand!

Wow, this post is totally off topic, but I thought everyone might want to see the beauty which photography can reveal. Who would have known??

“Viewed at a magnification of over 250 times real life, tiny grains of sand are shown to be delicate, colorful structures as unique as snowflakes. When seen well beyond the limits of human eyesight, the miniature particles are exposed as fragments of crystals, spiral fragments of shells and crumbs of volcanic rock.”

Note that they are as individualistic and as interesting as people or coyotes if you’re willing to look hard enough!!

Please see the full article in the Daily Mail, or Dr. Gary Greenberg’s Microphotography site: sandgrains.com 

(posted with Dr. Gary Greenberg’s permission)

“Choose One, Ladies”, by Charles Wood

If you were a marriageable young coyote female, which brother would you pick?  Would it be Mister?  Or would it be Tom?  Does Mister’s white-tipped tail seal the deal?  Or would you forgive Tom that fault when you say “I do.”?

Mister has a yearling brother Tom.  How could I have confused Tom with Mister?  Yet confuse them I did.  Tom is one more male yearling to add to my pack, last pictured together in my post here:  Los Angeles Area Pack, by Charles Wood.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Encountering Someone New

I recognize all of the coyotes I see on a regular basis as individuals — and they recognize me — so when I did encounter someone absolutely new, it gave me the opportunity to observe a kind of wary curiosity towards me which I had not seen in a while. This little gal was charming in her careful-curious/ push-pull behavior towards me!  I’ve named her “Wary”.

Her individualistic characteristics would probably not be recognizable to many, but to me they stood out: her extremely fine and pointed snout, her uneven and almost human eyes, her large rounded ears with the very dark centers which she kept straight up and higher than any of the other coyotes do, her compact stance. There were coat markings, but it is the facial features and comportment which have always interested me the most. There was a delicacy about her and an alertness or readiness to flee — along with the very natural “insatiable curiosity” which is so characteristic of most coyotes.

She did not ignore me as most of the others now do, but watched me carefully and questioningly — always on her toes and ready to split.  After standing there, very still, and observing each other from a large distance on the path where we first spotted each other, she turned to hurry off, but then came back to peek at me from behind a bush, stretching her neck to make sure she could see me, and to see what I was doing. For my part, I walked away when I could tell she was having second thoughts about watching me watching her — but she decided to linger  a little longer which gained me a few more minutes to try to get a good shot of her. Then, her better instincts took over, and she trotted away.

I don’t know if I’ll ever run into her again, but I’ve named her anyway, just in case I do see her again. I say “her” because of her delicate features. The coyotes whose gender I could not be sure of  I tend to label as females until and unless they prove this is not so. Females tend to have “sweeter” or “cuter” faces with narrower jaws and foreheads and delicate little noses — at least compared to the males. Young coyotes have these same features until they grow out of them — which is why two I knew as infants I called females — but they ended up revealing that they were males — not for a full year did I know this! I have a friend who laughs at the change: “they were girls for almost a year”!  The older males I have seen were obviously male: they were bulkier and hulking, husky fellows who huffed and puffed, kicking and scraping the ground in a big display of power before departing. Their message was clear and I stayed clear. I wonder if the young males I’ve known will be like this? I wonder if this one will remain a female?

Why Isn’t Mom Around?

Hi Janet:

Last evening my husband, Bud, and our dog were walking on the nearby trails and saw a coyote pup about 150 feet ahead zigzagging back and forth on the trail.  He stopped, remembering that I had told him that coyotes are very protective of pups.  Our dog has a bad sense of smell so didn’t notice the pup.  Then another pup comes out of the blackberries and then a third.  They were very curious and moved about 50 feet down the trail toward Bud and still our dog did not see or smell them.

Bud was delighted but also concerned and was ready to turn around when the little yapper dog who lives much further up the hill but next to the trail saw our dog and came down the trail full throttle and barking loudly.  He was not at all interested in the pups but he did scare them and they dashed into the blackberry bushes.  Bud continued up the trail and only when he got to the spot they disappeared into did our dog smell them.  He then went nuts of course.

Is this normal for pups to be exploring without an adult near?  We knew that there was a den closeby that area because of the amount of scat on the trail.  We have noticed pup scat lately also. We also suspect there is another den about half a mile from this one.  How much area does a group of coyotes claim?  Or do they claim it at all?

We have many black-tailed deer in the area and many fawns each spring.  I have been curious about the possibility of coyotes killing very young fawns that are left in hiding while their mothers graze elsewhere.  I have never seen any evidence of this happening.  Does it?

Thanks for all you do for coyotes!  Ginny

~~~~~~~

Hi Ginny –

Thanks for sharing your concerns — it’s a very interesting situation. From my own experience and from what I have read, coyote pups are keenly watched by their parents — either by one or by both parents. Even if a parent is not apparently around, the parent/s are always close by and ready to defend the pups if necessary. I should add that I have seen a mother coyote keep an eye on her brood from a huge distance away — she kept an eye on them as she relaxed in the sunshine. And then I saw her dash off in their direction, but I do not know why. Mothers do leave their pups when they go off to hunt, but she tucks them away in a safe spot where they normally stay. 

Other possible explanations for pups without a parent close by, include an overtaxed single parent who happens to be in hot pursuit of prey nearby, or a parent holding off another dog which had chased it in hopes that that dog wouldn’t find the pups. Worse would be if the parents have been injured or are ill and unable to defend their brood, or if they’ve met an untimely death.

More than likely, the pups just strayed from where they were supposed to stay put. But it wouldn’t hurt to check on them.

Maybe you could take walks in that area of the woods for the next few days until you can figure out the situation? Whatever you do, don’t get too close to the pups and don’t try picking them up — a parent coyote may come out of hiding to ferociously defend its young. If you continue to see the pups without a parent, you have a dilemma: I’m not sure the pups can survive without their parents, however anything you do to interfere is going to alter their natural lives forever.

If you see the pups alone again, you could call the humane society. If they are progressive, they would help raise the pups in such a way so that they won’t become habituated and so that they can be released again into the wild. Most humane societies are not equipped to do this.

You could also leave the pups to see if they make it on their own — maybe the humane society could suggest a way for you to help these pups without actually intruding on them or overtly interfering so as not to habituate them or alter their wildness?

As for the fawns, coyotes tend to look for the easiest prey to catch. Voles and gophers work fine in my area, but they also eat skunks, raccoons and squirrels here. Yes, coyotes are known to prey on newborn deer. I’ve read where newborn deer are protected by their lack of odor — I don’t know how much protection this offers against coyotes. But also, coyotes are known to be very individualistic in their behaviors and just because coyotes in one area eat certain prey doesn’t mean they do so in other areas. So to find out what yours specifically are up to and what their eating and preying habits are, you would need to explore for such activity.

You said there was another den only half a mile away from this one. A coyote family normally has more than one den which it moves the pups between. Moving the pups diminishes flea infestations and also it  serves as protection against predators.

Also, it is not unusual for coyotes — including very young ones — to be curious about walkers and dogs, and follow them.  However, a parent — if he is around — may decide that this kind of behavior calls for disciplinary action: see Charles Wood’s posting  More Dominant Male/Father Coyote Behavior .

I hope this helps a little. Please let me know, and please keep me posted on what you find out!  Sincerely, Janet

~~~~~~~

Thanks for your reply Janet.  Bud went to the same spot tonight and didn’t see the pups.  There is a lot of underbrush and blackberries everywhere along the trail except where it has been removed as invasive species.  Coyotes are not seen often because of this.  Lots of people let their dogs run loose on the trail but Bud did not see anyone else yesterday although it is a fairly large, heavily wooded area with several trails.

Regulars on the trail only see coyotes a few times a year.  Most of the trees are deciduous so I really tried to spot them during the winter but no such luck.  I think they are very used to the dogs and walkers and so know where to locate so they are not within view.  We will keep an eye on the situation as best we can.  The city only removes invasive species by hand so they do not have funding for much work.  They primarily remove the holly trees hoping to attract songbirds.  There are some songbirds there but also in residence is a Cooper’s Hawk(s) who dines on those same songbirds.  Ginny

Adolescence, by Charles Wood

Bold on Saturday

My Los Angeles coyotes are certainly more available to me than they were over the winter.  Yet I am only seeing Mister and Bold moving around.

A couple days ago at twilight Mister quickly trotted down their road, stopped in the brush to wait and then a few minutes later returned to where he had come.  I believe he wanted coyote companionship because his gait was unusually brisk and because in the past I have repeatedly observed family members rendezvousing around dusk at the area he briefly visited.  Twice this week I saw Bold travel from their nesting grounds to a marshy area a little north east of it.  She seemed driven by an idea of where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do.  On Saturday she found a spot suitable to urinate on and had her legs set in order to precisely aim while she stared at me.  Her ears are deliberately positioned to sense any approach from her left or her right.  She seems as a self-possessed young female who knows what she wants out of life and how to get it.  Mister seems as a coyote who for now takes his anxieties a little too seriously, too quick to bark at me, too impatient for others to be there when he wants them to be.  (Mom in contrast waits for others very patiently.)  Shy for now seems to enjoy everything in too full a measure.  Perhaps her wariness balances her and keeps her from getting into situations she isn’t yet ready to greet.

Bold on Thursday

I haven’t seen Mom or Dad for over a week.  I speculatively attribute their absence to their being preoccupied with new puppies.  I have been wondering how helpful the yearlings are with day care.  It is starting to look like they aren’t all that helpful because what I have been seeing is them either playing or walking around absorbed in themselves.  Still, the mere fact of their presence at Mom & Dad’s surely must make their home a more secure place for them all.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Los Angeles Area Pack, by Charles Wood

Bold

Wednesday I saw Bold as I was standing on the river bank.  She sat on the road in the field and after a few minutes began an approach.  I left for home.  Undoubtedly there are three siblings from last year with Mom and Dad this pupping season, two females (Bold and Shy) and Mister.

It is clear from the picture today that Bold is female.  She is also identifiable in that she lacks Mister’s black tipped lower lip, a trait Mister evidently got from Dad.  Sister Shy also lacks a black tipped lower lip, is slightly smaller than her siblings, and her eyes are friendlier.  Mister seems a little smaller and rangier than Bold.

Shy

Bold and Mister actively warn me while Shy has only warned me when accompanied by Dad.  Shy is less purposed around me, leaves more quickly, usually has her mouth open and/or tongue out, and has a happy-dog personality.

Mister

A year ago I would have described Mom as, though not exactly friendly, at least somewhat indifferent compared to active Dad.  Yet soon enough Mom began to warn me on sight as does Dad.  Bold’s fuse is longer than Dad’s and Mister’s while Mom stares a little longer before going to work on me.  Shy doesn’t work without encouragement and Bold is firm in her stare and willing to escalate if I linger.

Dad

It isn’t possible for me to observe my five coyotes without raising their concerns to some degree or another.  I’ve only seen the siblings hunt when they were very young.  The only one I saw eating was a pup chewing on a dead bird.  They don’t play with sticks or pine cones when I am around.  It is typical for me to spot a coyote only after one or more has spotted me.  Other than from Shy, the looks I get are of coyotes enduring my dog Holtz and me yet again, enduring the task I represent to them, the task of inviting me to leave.  Shy won’t hold my gaze for long, the others will stare at length.

Mom

Our encounters are engaging though not entirely entertaining.  Still, in the two years I have been observing Mom and Dad I’ve learned a few things.  Coyotes maintain a more or less permanent home; year old coyote offspring, both male and female, can stay with their parents despite new puppies; father coyotes do child care; and coyotes hide themselves and their puppies well, to name the most significant.  I’m not sure how I will manage to see young puppies this year when there are five observant adult coyotes united in their will to not allow it.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Dad’s Son, by Charles Wood

Saturday as I arrived at the bridge I saw that I had already been spotted by one of my Los Angeles area coyotes.  It wasn’t glad to see me, sat and stared up.  It stood and began to urinate like a male.  Yet it wasn’t Dad.  It was a yearling male coyote!  I’ve named him Mister.

I had thought there were four coyotes in my field:  Mom, Dad and two female yearling coyotes, Bold and Shy.  I was wrong.  I didn’t realize that one of the survivors from last year’s litter was a male.  My previously posted video (https://coyoteyipps.com/2011/04/21/dad-and-his-daughter-bold-by-charles-wood/) was also of the male coyote I saw Saturday, though I thought then that I was observing Bold.  I wasn’t.  It was Mister.

After first recognizing a male youngster, Mister, I wondered if he and Bold were the same coyote, wondered if I had Bold’s gender wrong.  On study, Mister has, like Dad, a lower lip with a black tip and Bold lacks that marking.  Shy has unique markings under her left eye and walks around with her mouth open.  Bold may also be a male, but “she” is not Mister and neither Bold nor Mister are Shy.

Mister

One reason in favor of my accepting three survivors from last year is that in August 2010 I took a photograph that appeared to have one too many youngsters in it, a youngster standing off at the side partly hidden by a bush while two other youngsters greeted Dad.  That mystery coyote didn’t participate in the greeting and vanished quickly.  Photographs are difficult to interpret and I felt there wasn’t enough evidence to allow myself a third survivor.  Unfortunately for me, I usually see one or two coyotes, three infrequently, four very rare.  I’m now willing to accept that the August 2010 photograph indeed shows a third surviving youngster from 2010’s litter of seven.

Mister

Mister was the only coyote I saw Saturday.  Evidently none of the others thought he needed any help, though some or all of them may have been there concealed.  One of Mister’s roles in child care is to keep me away, as they all do.  I had read that young males are driven off by their parents before the next litter is born:  not absolutely true.

Last year I didn’t see any undispersed youngsters around when the puppies emerged.  Nor did I see Mom and Dad together with the puppies, just saw Dad caring for them, from June to the end of August when I did see Mom again.  By the end of August I would see two youngsters and missed that there was a third.  Still, four of the puppies had apparently not survived through August.  I suspect that life is easier for Mom and Dad with some of last year’s puppies around to help with newborns and to defend their territory.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

To Be or Not To Be Seen

I am finding a few polar opposites in coyote personalities. One set of polar opposites is to be seen or not to be seen. In the top row of photos is a coyote who I noticed at about the same time he noticed me. He looked around briefly, and then decided to move out of sight. This is very normal behavior for most coyotes. They are shy and they don’t want to be seen.

On the other end of the spectrum is the coyote who, instead of moving out of sight, actually deposits himself on a rock or hill where he knows he will be seen. He knows you are watching him — or maybe he knows you are admiring him. He almost poses for you. And sometimes, he almost falls asleep — eyes close and the head nods off and is caught with a sudden jerk that wakes the coyote up — and he knows you are watching the whole time. Of course, a safe distance and no dog are pre-requisites for a coyote who chooses to be seen.

“River Pack Update: Some things change, some stay the same” by Charles Wood

My last post was February 22, 2011 when I photographed the mom coyote that lives in a small field that borders one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  That post was about 9 weeks after having seen Mom, Dad and their two undispersed female children who by today would be about a year old.  In the past I called one of the children Bold and the other Shy.  I have included their earlier photographs in today’s post.

A couple weeks ago I began to enter their small field a few times to walk along its roads with my leashed dog Holtz.  Coyote tracks and droppings were on the roads, yet my coyotes, if even present during my visits, would not come out.  I remember winter 2009-10 was a time I rarely saw my coyotes.  Winter 2010-11 has been the same.  I wondered if Dad was still paired with Mom and if not, who would be with whom and would there be more pups this year.  I wondered if the two female youngsters had dispersed or worse.  Perhaps they had all moved to other areas.

Today as I walked south on their road, at their nest area, I spotted the first youngster peering from the brush.  She came out to watch us and then left to hide.  In her photograph, note she has distinct blemishes below her left eye.  Regardless, I’m not sure if this first youngster is Bold or Shy.  I seriously doubt it was neither.

I continued my walk and later left the field via the same road.  Dad peered out from the nest area.  I photographed him and he went back into the brush.  I walked on towards the exit and Dad and a youngster came out to the road and watched our progress and assessed whatever odors we had left on the road.  I say ‘a’ youngster because I am not sure which it was.  Eventually Dad and the first youngster pictured began to follow Holtz and I as we continued to leave.  They did so after returning to the brush and coming out to the road several times.  For the fact that they were not in my continuous view, I’m not sure Dad’s companion in approach is the same youngster shown marking on the road.  I am sure Dad’s companion in approach is the first youngster because the final picture of her in this series shows the same blemish pattern below the left eye.  If she is Bold, she is still so.  If she is Shy, she is less so and learned more from Dad today about how to deal with intruder dogs.  What has changed, and what is the same?

Certainly Dad is the same in his distaste for Holtz.  When following us, Dad decided to quickly close the distance between us.  Before so doing, he scraped dirt.  He and the youngster split up, where Dad came east of the rocks and the youngster came towards us to the west of the rocks.  They met up at the rocks, the youngster holding back as Dad charged Holtz.  The Dad And Youngster photograph was taken after Dad’s charge.  He had come to about 20 feet and stopped, backed off some and stood as shown.  He seemed calmer so I took his picture.  I didn’t take pictures during Dad’s charge because I was charging towards Dad to get in front of Holtz.  Here we see one function of long hair on a coyote’s nape and shoulders:  he sure looks bigger!

My exit strategy after such a confrontation is to walk on, stop, turn around and stare, walk on, turn to stare.  Dad’s exit strategy is to pace, yawn, poke his tongue out, find a nearby site to lie down, attend to his grooming needs and stay put as we leave.  The youngster wanders around, visits Dad, wanders some more, going back and forth yet not forward.

I’m happy to know Dad is still holding his field and that at least one of last year’s pups is alive and undispersed.  I suspect that Mom is present and that there may indeed be more pups this year.  I’m interested to know if last year’s pup(s) will remain and have a role in caring for newborns.  The weeds are growing back quickly in the areas cleared in fall and winter.  The coyotes make use of the additional cover as a puppy kindergarten.  Last year I began seeing the pups in late June, observing them from outside of the field.  The information gained today leaves me content to now keep out of the field.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos:Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Previous Older Entries