Suspicious of Novel Items in A Known Environment? (Revised and Updated)

A new pile of debris, consisting of cardboard pieces in a pile, caught the attention of this 3-year-old female coyote as she headed to her favorite hideout retreat for the day. She approached the pile, as though she were hunting — slowly and carefully, almost tip-toeing in. Then, she turned her head from side to side as she listened for what kind of sounds the new “object” might make. The pile remained silent, so she decided to investigate closer.  She snuck up, ever so carefully and hesitatingly, and attempted grabbing a section of the cardboard in her mouth. This caused another piece of cardboard to shift and move where she had not expected movement. She immediately flinched back, backed up, and then stood behind a planter, keeping an eye on the pile of cardboard. Nothing happened, but, for the time being, it wasn’t worth the risk to explore further. Her suspiciousness ruled supreme, and she skedaddled lickety-split away from the cardboard, around some bushes, and out of sight.

Coyotes are very aware, wary, and suspicious of any changes in their known environment. In this case, someone had dumped some cardboard outside their home. Even though the new material made her uneasy, the coyote was curious and checked it out: she was actually drawn to it. The unexplained movement in the cardboard served to further raise her suspicions, but only temporarily: she moved away but then came back to finish her investigation. Now, I see her there constantly, totally ignoring the piece of cardboard. Each coyote is different, and in what I’ve seen, innate curiosity seems to trump fear — at least little fears!


Coyote Ramblings: Hunting for Food and Watching

Here is a coyote rambling the morning away. The coyote was actually hunting: while I watched it, it caught two voles and made several unsuccessful attempts at catching others. This coyote kept fairly hidden as it hunted. Few people actually notice the coyotes in a park, and this seems to be how the coyotes want it. It wandered on a path, but mostly off of paths.  And it kept track of dogs being walked — it kept away from them all, just looking at them now and then from the distance.

THEN, the coyote saw a large dog begin digging intently. THIS was interesting to the coyote. The coyote actually approached a little as the dog was digging, but stayed far enough back so as not to be noticed. When the dog and owner moved off, the coyote looked around and then quickly went over to the digging spot. Here it sniffed intently and then began its own digging! I’m sure the coyote’s keen eyesight had picked up that the dog had left empty-handed. I found it fascinating that the coyote had used the dog’s digging as a clue for finding something! I watched the coyote dig here for seven minutes! In the end, there was no prize for the coyote, but for me, this was prize observation time!

“What Are You Doing & Where Are You Going?” -Following

In the morning I saw a small border collie and its owner before I noticed a coyote trotting along a short distance behind them. I called out that a coyote was right there — but this did not phase the owner, who slowly bagged the dog’s droppings before leashing up. This dog and coyote know each other visually, but keep their distance. The owner leashes her dog because she does not want the possibility of an altercation between her dog and the coyote. The result would be a bad reputation for the coyote — so we all guard against this.  In this case, the small dog, about the same size as a coyote, was totally oblivious to the coyote — he had not seen it. Most dogs become aware of any coyote in the immediate vicinity well before their owners do.

The owner continued walking up the hill where she looked back to finally see the coyote herself. The coyote knew it had been sighted, so it jumped into some bushes further back, “just in case” the dog might go after it. The woman and her dog walked on, saying they would be back on their way out of the park. The coyote came out, no longer to follow these two, but to bask on a rock in the sun, even dozing off a little now and then. The coyote might have been waiting for the return of this dog — if it had learned of their walking routine.

After exactly half an hour, the coyote stood up and gazed intently in one area. It kept its eyes glued on a trail which I could not see. It turned out that the coyote was watching this same woman and her dog returning. When I finally did see the owner, we waved at each other and she acknowledged the coyote’s presence, and then she proceeded onto a trail out of the park. The coyote at this point got up, stretched, and follow them to the entrance.

By the time I reached the entrance to the park, the walker was gone, and the coyote was examining something at the end of the trail. I wanted to put this into my blog because it seemed to me that the coyote actually had chosen to follow this particular dog as it entered the park, and then to follow it as it exited the park. There was nothing “threatening” about the following, just a certain “nosiness” on the part of the coyote: “what are you doing and where are you going?” I think the coyote was confirming for itself what she already knew as the pattern: that the dog was just “visiting” the park and then “moving on”.

I have seen lots of instances of coyote “nosiness”. A few mornings ago I was walking with a friend when we noticed a coyote dart by quickly, almost undetectably. Sometimes a coyote might dart by on its way somewhere, and that is the end of that. But sometimes, especially if you, or you and your dog, stop to observe the coyote, it will do the same, even coming back around a bend or a bush fairly close so as to be able to examine you. The coyote wants to know what you are doing and where you are going.  I suppose nosiness elicits nosiness in this case!! Or call it curiosity. The coyotes might engage in this for a few minutes, but inevitably more walkers and dogs appear and the coyotes run off.

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