Coyote Family Playtime for a 3-Month Old Singleton Pup


This tiny family responds to sirens!

She’s an “only pup” — she has no litter mates. An “only pup” is known as a “singleton” pup. But she is not an “only child” because she has an older brother: a yearling born the year before. He was part of a litter of five, and is the only youngster from that litter to remain part of the family. That yearling plays with the pup, as do Mom and Dad, as you’ll see in the video.

Nighttime is when coyote families engage in most of their family activities: the whole family plays together on and off — when adults aren’t off hunting — during the length of the evening. And then they rest or sleep in different locations during the daytime.

The video above is a composite from one of my rarer daylight captures of family play. Note that, after the intense and fun play session above, the “adults”, trickle off, one at a time, in the end leaving the pup alone for the rest of the day. At night, too, they leave her for long extended periods of time when they go off hunting. She knows she must stay home and keep hidden.

After watching them leave, the pup wanders sadly, slowly, and unenthusiastically back — you can tell this by the lack of energy in her pace — to her hiding place. And that’s how the days go by as she is growing up.

Waiting, by Charles Wood

This little girl yearling is having a hard time waiting for the dusk reunion. Only in the last of the three clips is her yearling companion’s presence detectable by its ears moving. Those ears are near the ground at the right edge of the bush near which the one is standing.

Yearling With Stick, by Charles Wood

My coyotes rendezvous daily around dusk in the same place and have been doing so for the four years I’ve been watching them. They don’t all arrive there at the same time. I’ve often seen one or two family members waiting for others to show up. Once all are together and joyful greetings exchanged, the pack trots away together. I’ve seen some wait for two hours and more, sitting or ambling around. While waiting for each other, I’ve never seen them hunt. The time they spend waiting looks pretty boring for them.

The yearling in the video is passing time by walking around with a stick in its mouth. In the distance to camera right, humans jog and bicycle until it’s time for them to meet up with friends and family for the evening. For humans and coyotes, social contexts are essential.

Individually, coyotes eat small prey and consequently could exist as solitary hunters. Yet coyote food security comes from holding territory and a solitary coyote can’t hold territory. A coyote couple can; and a coyote couple can only raise a family by holding territory. Within that territory, coyote family members don’t depend on group hunts to get food. However coyote families do depend on family members to hold territory. Without family there is no territory and without territory there is no food security for coyotes. Family is food security for coyotes and territory is family.

Within the bond of a coyote couple rests their food security. It is no wonder that a Chicago coyote study researcher has noted no cases of coyote divorce. My Mom and Dad coyotes fundamentally know that eating has been really good since they met, just as good as when they lived back in the homes of their respective parents. In essence, they are each other’s promised land, they are an abundance to each other that only death can put asunder.

Still in its own parents promised land, the yearling was at a comfortable distance from me. It didn’t feel its territory was being compromised and didn’t need to defend it. Its backward glance at me confirmed that I was staying put and that it could keep walking around with its stick.