Kicking Up Her Heels For The New Year!


2014-12-22 1

Here are photos of a calm day — except the kicking-up-her-heels part. She’s actually kicking up her heels in a hunt after lolling around, doing absolutely nothing, all morning in an open field. And even this little amount of activity was low energy and not too exciting since it didn’t result in a hoped-for lunch, so it was really a very mellow morning.

Anyway, it was the sunshine which was so delicious on this day, and this coyote took full advantage of it, soaking it up for the entire morning before wandering into some bushes and out of sight. This is a happy coyote. Thank you San Francisco for supporting our wildlife. Hopefully more of our urban and non-urban coyotes throughout North America will be able to live this way in the coming year and years to come, without it leading to a death sentence as it has in some communities.

Although not nocturnal animals, coyotes keep themselves hidden from view, by and large, during daylight hours. However, there are some coyotes who, on a regular basis, enjoy resting and sleeping right out in the open where they can be seen, as long as they are not pursued by dogs and as long as their space is not intruded upon by humans.

In A Wheat Field, Excellently Camoflauged

coyote is in the center of the photo in case you have trouble finding it

coyote asleep in a wheat field

Here’s a little fella who looked up at me before plopping down onto the ground and out of sight right there in front of me as I watched. If you didn’t know he was there you would not have seen him. From most angles I could not see him, even though I knew exactly where he was!  It is only because he moved a little that I was able to relocate him again.

For a while he engaged in some scratching and grooming. Then he was down and out and unfindable again!



A Long Winter’s Nap?

coyote sleeping in a hidden spot of sunshine

coyote sleeping in a hidden spot of sunshine with paws over its face

I can’t believe I spotted this little coyote asleep this way — tucked in under a tree in a spot of sunshine! Without the sun right on him, I would never have seen him. It’s almost too cute with his paws curled up over his snout. I wanted to post it for the holidays and to wish you all Peace and Goodwill amongst humans and animals!

To make it fit in with the season, I wanted to call this posting “a long winter’s nap” — but after thinking about it, I added a question mark. At this time of year, the nights are the longest they’ll be all year, so it’s appropriate to call a full night’s sleep a “long winter’s nap.” But this is sort of reversed for coyotes.

Although coyotes are not nocturnal, they have adapted their schedules in order to avoid humans and human activity during the day. For the most part, they are out and about at dawn, dusk and nighttime, and they spend the vast portion of daylight hours hidden away and sleeping.

So since there are fewer daylight hours right now, it occurred to me that maybe coyotes are actually getting only ” a short winter’s nap”?  If that is the case, they’re probably making up for any lost daytime sleep by taking nighttime “catnaps” when they need them!

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:

Need More Sleep

I arrived at one of my parks earlier than I had anticipated. It was before dawn, but I didn’t want to wait in the car, so I headed into the park.  A coyote was sleeping out in an open field — a mound of fur on the ground. She was really well camouflaged — I don’t think anyone else would have detected her there. I took out my camera to videotape the stillness — the video function works wonderfully in bad lighting. The coyote casually lifted her head and looked around, and then looked at me. She hadn’t had her fill of sleep: “Need more sleep.” Okay!  She put her head back down, and I went on.

Sleeping in the Open, In the Sunshine

coyote hidden in a meadow

Most people never notice a coyote sleeping out in the open — after all, they blend in well with their surroundings, and, isn’t it just common sense that an animal would seek cover to sleep?

But coyotes have their own way of doing things. They are, in fact, protected in ways that matter to them. They never rest anywhere close to a path which people or dogs might frequent. A coyote always picks a safe spot, “far from the madding crowd.” These photos were taken with a powerful zoom lens. There are rock and poison oak barriers that prevent access to most dogs and people who might enter the area. Dogs and people are coyotes’ only enemies in an urban setting.

same coyote later on, cropped-in closer

This coyote slept, but kept changing its position every so often, sticking it’s head up for a look around before sprawling out again to sleep. When dog activity in the distance pierced it’s quiet, the coyote sat up to watch sometimes, and ignored it at other times. Then, at a certain point, the coyote slowly got up, scratched itself, stretched, and wandered slowly over to a completely secluded spot under some bushes where he now could not be spotted at all. But, before moving on, two hours had elapsed sleeping in the open, in the sunshine.

Please Leave Me Alone; I Hope No One Sees Me

Earlier on, this coyote had been pursued by dogs. It is now resting here, hoping that by lying completely still, no human or dog will see it. In fact, no one did see it while it was here. When the coyote was ready to go, it got up, stretched, and trotted off.

Sleeping and Resting Right In The Open

Several times I have watched a coyote settle down in a spot, look around, and finally curl up for some sleep, right in the open. It is not exactly in plain view since the coyote is so well camouflaged — it would be very hard to detect that a coyote were there if you had not seen it go there in the first place. However, a few days ago I actually discovered this coyote sprawled out asleep in the wide open. By zooming in with my lens, I could see that the coyote opened one eye and was aware of me from quite a distance, but it did not raise its head. It did not move at all! I’ve put three zooms in here to show how absolutely hidden the coyote is — but the coyote is there!!

Actively Hunting

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Here is hunting sequence. It began with two coyotes hunting right in the same spot, but one went off. The hunting session lasted about twenty minutes. Note that when the lone coyote stood still, which was not often, its tail swished slowly back and forth, back and forth, revealing the coyote’s excitement and tension. There was one pounce, but nothing was caught. In the end, the coyote curled up, right there in the open, right at the hunting spot, but at a considerable distance from any path, and fell asleep!  Hunting might last awhile, as it did here, or, it could be totally effortless, lasting a mere split-second — as if the coyote had gone to the refrigerator and pulled out a coke!

In this instance, the coyote seemed to look directly at whatever he was after. But another technique the coyotes use is “triangulating”, where they will cock their heads from side to side for auditory signals which will tell them exactly where the prey is.

Hunkering Down For Rest

Where do coyotes hunker down for their rest? It appears it is right under the open sky in plein air, and not necessarily in the bushes!! I followed a coyote for about ten minutes as it hunted, it moved on a little, it sat and watched, and then it moved on some more, repeating this sequence. I moved on, too, behind it. Then it sat down and glared at me a couple of times: “yea, what do you want.”  I was getting ready to abandon the coyote when it moved one more time, so again, I peeked over at it. At this time of year the grasses are very tall and I could not see through them very well. However, I could barely discern that the coyote had stopped where another coyote was already lying down — I could just barely make out the ears. This second coyote did not get up. Instead, the first coyote lay down right beside the first!! My own wanderings and observations had obviously ended for that day!

I’ve heard that coyotes actually only use their dens for the first five weeks or so of life, and that slowly they move further and further off from the den area for resting. My thought is that, by varying resting and sleeping locations, the coyotes are actually keeping fleas from building up in an area. These coyotes do have fleas because I’ve consistently seen them scratch themselves.

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