Coyote Interrupted

Sirens set this coyote off, with long drawn-out howls and barking, and pauses in-between.  I’ve only included part of the recording here. During one of the last pauses you will hear, unusually, a dog’s response, which surprises the coyote who stops to carefully listen. “What the. . . . . who does he think he is?”  Anyway, the interruption seems to tick off the coyote who throws herself into the next howl with a spirited leap, howls some more, and then hurries off to a place where she might get a view of her competitor. I don’t think she saw anyone. The coyote continued to howl, but the dog did not, and the siren had long since ceased, so things quieted down fairly quickly.

Sniffing For, then Scratching At an Irritant

This fellow had been relaxing when he suddenly bolted up and looked into a neighbor’s yard, then trotted over and stood behind some thick growth and sniffed intently, with his nose high in the air. He spent a full minute doing this, closing his eyes sometimes as if to really savor what might be in the air. He was in an overgrown empty field, and directed his sniffing towards the yard next door where several dogs lived. These dogs were never out of their house without their owners. However, I had seen one come over to the overgrown field to do its business and I had seen this particular coyote sniff out these messes and urinate on top of them. Also, I’ve seen one of the dogs chase this coyote, though not in a very intense manner. These dogs are particularly acute at either hearing or smelling coyotes that come to the property: at the slightest hint that a coyote might be around, one and then all of them will begin barking together. I think there are four dogs who live there, on and off.

On this day, no dogs were around. The coyote sniffed carefully from a long distance away, and then slowly trotted closer to the hedge which divides the properties — yawning on the way over. I think coyotes sometimes yawn to maintain a casual-calm mood for themselves. At the hedge-line, the coyote stopped and stretched its neck up to get a better view. Again, no dogs in sight, and no barking.  So the coyote carefully and slowly entered the yard, walked around casually, found the smell he was looking for, urinated on the spot, and then kicked and scratched that area of ground where he had urinated.  The coyote had probably found a spot where one of the dogs had urinated.  “Take that!” It was one of those “oneupmanship” behaviors directed towards the dogs which have been an irritant to the coyote. When done, the coyote exited the yard and continued trekking through uninhabited areas before disappearing.

No Wiggly Squiggles For Me, by Charles Wood

Mister runs

Monday my leashed dog Holtz and I went into my Los Angeles area coyotes’ field.  A man headed toward the east end of the field with his dinner.  He asked me if the coyotes were still coming in there.  I said they do and that I had seen some last night.  He walked on in and I got settled.  Mister and one of his siblings soon came north towards me.  Mister wasn’t happy and immediately ran towards me.  My friend Lynne and her dog were watching from the bridge.  It unsettles me to see one of my coyotes running towards Holtz and me.  I know they are going to stop short, yet I still feel a little like turning and running.  I wonder if an intruder coyote would turn and run upon seeing Mister’s territorial display.  Mister stopped short, as they all have in the past, and delivered a message.  He hovered over it for a long while and I had thought he was heaping on a lot more.  He wasn’t.  Although his eyes were on my friend, his ears were on Holtz and me, which I think was an interesting choice.

It is hard for me to reconcile Mister’s warning behavior with his rendezvous joy.  Is this tough guy the same coyote that wiggly squiggles with his mom and dad?  He is tough with me.  After giving us his message he ran back south some.  Then he started barking and yipping, doing so until I left.  Meanwhile his companion was hidden.

When I disturb a pair, one typically warns while the other either hides or backs off a bit.  I don’t think the one that doesn’t warn lacks courage.  I think it waits as a reserve force.  I think so because when meeting paired Mom and Dad, they trade off as to who warns and who holds back.  Whether Mom or Dad, the one who warns is probably the one who feels the most irritated by me that day.

Mister dumps

A few years ago I ran into a fellow in a wetlands area.  He told me he had once been surrounded there by eight provocative coyotes near where we were standing.  Feeling uneasy, I asked him what he did to get out of that situation.  He said he picked up some rocks.  I looked around and didn’t see any rocks handy.  I asked him where he got the rocks.  His girlfriend’s jaw dropped, her eyes bugged out and she stepped back.  The fellow’s answer was embarrassed and vague.  I didn’t believe his story.  In fact, in that same general area, I once did happen upon a number of coyotes (I didn’t count them).  One came forward to bark and yip while several waited to its rear.  It was easy to walk away with leashed Holtz and none of the coyotes followed.

I’m not sure who Mister teamed with Monday, its photograph was unclear.  Yet it seemed to have Mister’s lower lip black bubble, which I thought was a trait shared only with Dad.  Yet Mister’s Monday companion almost certainly wasn’t Dad, the size and the eyes weren’t Dad’s.  So who was it?  To confuse me further, the coyote in my April 21 video post I first identified as Bold and subsequently as Mister.  It isn’t Mister, the lower lip isn’t right.  Yet I’m not sure it is Bold either.  Bold’s conformation is superior and the April 21 coyote’s isn’t.  That its body shape was lackluster made me think it Mister, but I missed that the lower lip wasn’t Mister’s.  I wonder if there are four, perhaps five of the seven last year pups still with Mom and Dad.  If there are more than three yearlings in there, I may never really know it to a certainty, and if there are extra yearlings in there, I don’t really know if they are siblings to the others or not.  What I do know is that this group is pretty good at delivering confusion.

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.

So, There!!

Here is a sequence of events that gets you right into a coyote’s world.

I came down a path to find a coyote high on a rock, carefully watching some dogs and walkers approach. As the dogs and people reached a point where they might have spotted the coyote, the coyote hurried down the rock, waited for a moment and then hurried to behind a bush to hide and wait for the group to pass by — I was impressed with this little coyote’s intelligence and planning. Neither the people nor the dogs saw the coyote at all.

After this group had passed, the coyote scrambled back up to the lookout on the rock, watching this group until they were totally out of sight. A huge yawn and stretch was in order to celebrate the successful evasion. But it was important now for the coyote to “speak its mind”. It trotted down to the path where the group had passed, smelled for the exact location to leave its mark, and pooped. Then it walked a little further, smelled another spot where the group had been and this time urinated on that spot. And that is precisely what this coyote thought of that group.

The history behind this is that this particular group of dogs has continually chased this coyote, and one of the walkers has continually thrown stones at the coyote. So, yes, the coyote avoids them, but feels free to “speak its mind” about them — telling them off in its own way!

No Contest

Sometimes, the best strategy is to lay low, even though you are already as low as you can get. There was a little bit of snapping at the aggressor, but the fellow on the ground opted to stay down. He usually flees or hits the ground when the dominant guy approaches to get a rise out of him. The aggressor soon tired of this and moved away — which is what the underdog wanted!

A Coyote Surprises Me: Coyote behavior

It was a foggy morning. The fog was very dense — so much so that I actually turned off at the wrong intersection on my way to the park: none of the familiar landmarks could be seen. This, on top of the dark dawn hours, made the beginning of the day very mysterious. It was a suitable morning for surprises.

When I reached the park where I was headed, I began walking and recording park sounds. I wondered if the dampness in a dense fog might affect the quality of the sound. Sound travels further, but not as crisply, I think: I say this because this is how the foghorns in our area sound. I stopped a couple of times to record water, birds, and voices in the distance, and then I continued down a very open path — one with no bushes for hundreds of feet.

When I was halfway down this path, I turned around — I think I was expecting some walkers to appear — the same ones whose voices I had heard in the distance. But there, on my path, not more than 40 feet behind me, was a coyote hurrying towards me — a coyote which I am familiar with. I have seen coyotes approach dogs and their walkers in this same way, but I had no dog with me — a coyote has never hurried up to me from behind this way before, so I was surprised. When I turned around and faced it, it stopped.

The coyote had been coming towards me rather purposefully. At first I thought that maybe this was part of its monitoring/patrolling behavior, or that I may have entered its “space” without knowing it. But, this particular coyote has always ignored me — allowing me to observe it from the sidelines. Never, until this day, I thought, had any of its behavior acknowledged me or been directed at me. Other coyotes have watched me, but not this one.

Just then, as I was trying to figure out this behavior, a walker and her very large dog appeared from further back on the path, over the crest of a hill, in back of the coyote — and the dog chased the coyote. Ahh, that was it — the coyote had been actually evading this dog, hurrying ahead of it, on the same path I was on. The owner was able to call her dog back, but the coyote wanted it known that it didn’t want to be chased or interfered with, so the coyote returned back after the dog in an antagonistic and defensive posture: crouched, hackles up, and teeth bared. The dog again chased it off and this time the coyote headed away, hurrying into the distance.

At the same time, two other beautifully sleek, young adult coyotes appeared and sat in the distance — these are all part of one family group. I walked in their direction. As I got closer, they walked towards me and stopped — they’ve done this once before, looking at me curiously — maybe assessing me — there was definitely a questioning aspect to their stance. I have photographed these two, not too often, but often enough to feel that my respect for their wildness and their space has led to a returned respect which warranted them not fleeing.  I took a few photos in the fog, and then both coyotes, as the first one, hurried off as they heard more human voices coming down the path.

** IF A COYOTE COMES TOO CLOSE FOR YOUR COMFORT, it is important to know how to ward the coyote off. Flail your arms, make yourself big, and make sharp noises, facing the coyote. The coyote is no match for a human and will most likely flee. Statistically, coyotes are not a danger to humans. However, it is important to remember that they are wild — so, for your own feeling of safety it is important to keep them at a safe distance.

One-Upmanship: Coyote behavior

After watching a coyote “show up” a dog, I was reminded of such behaviors with my own two dogs. One can see coyotes as very similar to one’s own dogs in many ways, except that a coyote must totally depend on itself for survival, so its behaviors have more serious intent.

Cinder, my cattle-dog mix, was extremely brave behind a fence, showing certain dogs exactly what she thought of them. In her mind, she had the power to tell them off. However, walking on a sidewalk, she maintained her decorum and safety by never testing these same dogs. On the sidewalk, there was no  barrier to protect her from the other dog.

My other dog, Park, a large lab mix, was once on a walk with me when we passed a dog who was barking furiously at Park from behind a picket fence — this, for my dog’s daring to come too close to his yard. I would have respected the dog’s wishes and given him and his yard plenty of berth. But no, not Park. Park casually, deliberately and slowly walked right up to where the dog was barking, calmly lifted his leg, and peed right there — and the dog could do nothing about it. “Take that”.

So, today I noticed the same type of behavior in a coyote. The coyote had spent a calm morning observing its park from high up on a knoll. After a few hours, it decided it was time to move on — probably towards home –- but it was in no hurry to get there.

The coyote got up to go, pooped, smelled some Christmas decorations which had not been there before, and ate some grass, keeping its lips up as it did so — I have no idea why it did this, but I did observe it. Then, it turned in its tracks, concentrating its attention over to where a dog was sporadically barking — the dog was in its own yard, behind a cyclone fence. The coyote closed its eyes fairly regularly, as if to block out the sound. The coyote stood still, without moving except for its ears and eyes, for about a minute. Then it stretched as an end to its stillness and as a prelude to something else.

Suddenly, the coyote took several leaping jumps — like a horse rearing up before galloping — and ran rapidly over to where the dog was behind the fence. Its hackles were up. When it got within five feet of the fence, it kept its mouth agape with teeth showing and scratched the ground intently in a bouncy manner. I was able to get four rapid shots of the dog and coyote in close proximity — with the cyclone fence between them — before the dog disappeared totally. It must have retreated into its house. “Take that.” The coyote continued on its merry way, triumphant, down the path and into the bushes.

Postscript: I’m trying to understand coyote behavior as I go along. It seems that the behavior I describe here as one-upmanship might be in a similar vein as the short back-and-forth chase interactions between a large dog and a coyote: that it was done for the interaction with no serious intent — in this case with a fence between?

See posting of February 4th: A short back and forth chase: interaction between a large dog and a coyote.