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?

Mother’s Harsh Treatment of Female Pup Continues

Before I started videoing the above, two coyote pups had been foraging in an open field when they spotted Dad coming. They dashed ecstatically in his direction. After only a short truncated greeting, Dad confirmed his dominance towards the male pup, who willing submitted by lying on his back immediately and not protesting.

This “status confirmation”  has become a routine where everyone knows how to behave: the pups acquiesce willingly to the submission which is demanded of them, and all relationships are confirmed as stable. The other pup, the female, also immediately turned on her back and then kept low, even though Dad was on top of the other pup. This little threesome seemed happy for the few moments they were there: everyone did the right thing, everyone smiled and tails wagged.

Then mom appeared on the scene. With everyone’s attention on the mother, the dad let go of his hold on the male pup who calmly got up and wandered in the other direction from which the mom was coming. Mom immediately headed for the female pup — the one which has been the target of Mom’s animosity and displays of dominance in the last few days. Today the treatment became more harsh. That’s Dad casually viewing the altercation from in front; he’s still limping from an injury a week ago.

Note that the female pup is not compliant and snaps back, which may be the problem — but then who wouldn’t self-protect under this onslaught?  Also note Mom’s final emphatic statement: “And take this, too!” No holds barred.

[Please see the previous two postings on this behavior: Punishment and Punishment Again]

Punishment Again

This is the second time in the same day that I observed this behavior between this particular seven-month old female pup and her mother. Please see the previous posting.

I had two thoughts that might be related to this:  the first about Great Horned Owl dispersal, and the second about canine intuition regarding the alpha quality in another canine.

I’ve seen Great Horned Owls lovingly raise their owlets for almost a full year, from the time they are born in late March, through the fledging stage when they leave their birth nest, and through months of teaching hunting and other survival skills. Then one day, towards the end of the Fall season, both parents — these are parents who have mated for life and have raised their owlets together for the last 15 years — turn viciously against their offspring forcing them to leave the area. There is room for only one mated Great Horned Owl pair in any territory due to limited resources. As time approaches for the new reproductive cycle to begin, at the end of the calendar year, any offspring born that year are driven away by their parents. I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to be so totally loved and cared for, and then have those who loved you suddenly attack you. This is what goes on. The young owls fly off to areas as close as the next park over, if there is room there, or as far away as across the US.

My second thought stems from how my 2-year-old female dog reacted when we brought home a new 4-month-old puppy — a male. We found the puppy — abandoned — and we couldn’t just leave him. She must have intuitively known that he would be growing much bigger than her, and that, based on his behavior and activity level and disregard for her, that he would assume the dominant status eventually. It’s only with hindsight that we came to know that this was going on right from the start. Over an extended period of time we noticed that the alpha status had segued to him, and she just accepted the inevitable. An alpha coyote in the wild, it seems, would do its best to prevent this from ever happening, especially from one of its own pups who began showing signs of any kind of dominance.

So, we’ll soon see how this situation pans out: if it settles down, or if it leads to something.

Punishment

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When “disciplining”, the alpha of a family pack gently puts her/his mouth around the snout of a coyote who is out-of-line, and maybe turns the “underdog” on its back for a few moments. This discipline could be reinforced by the alpha placing its paws on the back of the fellow who is out-of-line. The subordinate quickly shows deference and everything is back to normal within a few seconds:  the alpha status is reconfirmed and everyone knows their role in the family hierarchy. This is not what I saw today, twice.

What I saw today I’m going to call “punishment” — it is much more severe. I’ve thought about what might have lead to this kind of punishment:

The most probable reasons involve defiance of the alpha figure, in this case the mother, or possibly disobeying commands that are meant to protect the family pack and help with its survival. Hierarchy has to be rigidly maintained in a healthy coyote family.

Or, maybe the alpha needed to bring down the highest-ranking pup? Maybe it was becoming too powerful among its siblings?

Then again, this harsh discipline might just be the first steps in forcing dispersal. But then, why would the mother be targeting just the one pup, a female?

I suppose there are all sorts of possibilities. I don’t know enough at this stage to state with certainty what is going on, but I tend to think the punishment was for the youngsters own good, and not self-aggrandizement by a mean mother.  But I was totally taken aback as I observed it.

The youngster in this observation is almost seven-months old, a female. She approached her mother, belly scraping the ground, showing deference, submission and caution. This did not include the wiggly squealing happy meeting that I usually see. The pup approached and quickly turned on her back, with the aid of the mother’s legs. The mother then stood, crouched low, over the youngster for a long period of time, snarling now and then at the slightest hint of movement or protesting from the pup. At one point, as the pup lay there quietly, the mother licked the female pup’s private parts. and then the pup’s inner leg. The pup remained quiet at first. Then the pup seemed to protest and tried getting up, and even almost got up at one point. The mother snarled viciously and was able to quickly put the pup down again.  Then the pup did break away for a moment, but the mother quickly used her entire body to hold the pup down. There were then a series of hard punch-bites from the alpha-Mom.  This was all carried out in silence except for one high pitched whimper from the pup near the end of the “session”.  The pup then was able to get up and dash off for cover into some bushes about 50 feet away.

Mom then sat up and looked ahead and around, without a second glance towards the pup in the bushes. Within a few minutes she headed down the hill. The pup came out of the bushes and watched — watched longingly and sadly as the mother headed off. Were they not reconciled? Would this continue? At the bottom of the hill the mom looked back, seemingly disapprovingly, at the pup, and then continued on. The pup stayed at her spot by the bushes and looked very sad, watching the mother disappear into the distance. Many minutes later, the pup, too, headed down the hill, but in another direction.

Greeting Sounds, from Jo

This recording was definitely a special one from last night, very full of love and excitement.  Reminds me of when my dad used to come home from business trips and my brother and I would be shrieking with glee!

At 42 seconds there is a muffled growl, and then it goes silent.  I remember reading “How to Speak Dog” many years go, and the author said that in the wild, the mother dog will silence her pups by placing her mouth over their muzzles and making a low growl, as if to say ‘ssshhh.”  Is that possibly what happens at that 42 second mark?  That would be fascinating!   … Jo

[Hi Jo — It is very possible that what you describe was going on! Yes, very exciting! Janet]

Hey, Mom, Wanna Play?

How could anyone not want to be with such adorable pups, you might ask. But mothers need a break from their kids sometimes. Just look at the video, Meet The New Kids On The Block, to see what a coyote mom has to put up with! It looks like an incessant onslaught!

Kids of all species LOVE to play with their parents and want their attention! In the sequence of photos above, the kid comes up to Mom  for fun and games — he doesn’t seem to realize that she’s resting. But she does not want to be pestered here. “Beat it” is what she is saying.

1) Mom resting
2) Hey Mom, wanna play?
3) Please? NO!
4) In this slide he has withdrawn his hand as though it’s been slapped
5) Okay, BE that way! [The “kid” does a funny little twisty dance here!]
6) I’m outta here! Maybe Dad will play.
 

Moms often need free time away from the family.  Below she’s gone off some distance for a break, but she’s keeping an eye on them from her high vantage point, and will rush down to protect them if that is needed.

Mom rests on a knoll in the distance

Mom rests on a knoll in the distance

Mom’s Transformation, by Charles Wood

When I first met Mom she appeared to be a timid coyote. The first two pictures, from May and June 2010, show a reserved Mom. In the May 2010 picture she was peering out at my dog and me. She didn’t want us there and perhaps in just showing herself she said she wanted us to leave.

In the June 2010 picture, she barred my dog’s and my way into the den area. She was lactating and her puppies were about fifty yards behind her. Yet still, with puppies to protect, her eyes didn’t even dare to meet ours.

By August 2010 she had transformed. No longer reserved, the picture from August shows the first time Mom came up to my dog and me to scrape dirt. She seemed exhilarated and free.

The picture in December 2010 shows Mom giving us the look I still see today. Compare her December look to the look she gave in the May and June 2010 pictures. Quite a difference.

The video opens with Dad waiting for his pack to arrive after having run up to me and my two dogs. In fact, Mom was around the corner and up on a ridge, out of Dad’s sight. Neither seemed aware that the other was nearby as they waited for each other. Not shown in the clip, Mom came up just below Dad. He didn’t rise to greet her and his body language wasn’t typical of a happy greeting. Instead Dad looked startled. Maybe Mom had caught Dad unawares, but I think there was more to his atypical gesturing. I think that Dad wasn’t at all surprised to see Mom. Instead, I think Dad was surprised by Mom’s mood.

Upon meeting, typically Mom and Dad are pleased and happy to be in each other’s presence again. They expect joy from each other when greeting, exude joy upon first sighting each other. Yet that day Dad acted startled when he first saw her. To me, Dad’s reaction was a surprised “What’s this? You’re upset? About what? Oh yes, I see. Of course I’m with you on this, of course, of course.” It teemed with domestic intimacy.

Dad had previously approached me and my dogs, messaging us. He was done with that, relaxed, situation under control. When Mom arrived, she wasn’t done, wasn’t relaxed, and the situation wasn’t under control. The man was still there with his camera. Lynne, with two dogs, had been watching Mom as Mom watched Lynne watching her. Then Lynne had started to walk in the wrong direction, toward the den, not away from it. Mom came off the ridge and headed toward Lynne. Coming down, Mom then saw Dad. He was lying with his back to the dogs and the two people, doing nothing. Situation under control? Hardly. Upset? You bet she was upset. With everything!

To Mom it was all messed up. Compared to Mom as she was two years ago, Mom is today a completely different coyote. If my dogs and I are in part responsible for her transformation, I can’t help feeling a little sorry for Dad. Then again, maybe there was no transformation, perhaps I just hadn’t yet seen that side of her. Maybe I wrongly thought she was the “nice” coyote when all the while Dad knew her better.

Fierce protector, a master of the bluff, Mom in the clip studied the field as Dad stretched, he preparing to follow Mom’s lead. To camera left, Mom looked toward Lynne as she walked toward me with our two leashed dogs. Mom didn’t even wait for Dad to finish his stretch. She took off at Lynne and the dogs a fraction of a second before Dad was fully ready. Mom looked totally into it, with an exaggerated bounce in her gait. In contrast, Dad’s body language said that he was just along for the ride, accommodating his spouse. I left the camera, ran at the coyotes and they broke off their mock charge.

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.

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