A Mated Pair in Sync

I first spotted him in the distance as a silhouette against the sky. As I got closer I saw who it was.

It’s always a joy to catch a glimpse of this pair and catch up on how they are. I don’t see them nearly as often as I used to, which over the years has been pretty much every single day. With more ailments, aches and pains as they age, I’m sure they feel more vulnerable and less inclined to risk encounters with dogs. This morning I was overjoyed to see one of them at dawn. I could only see a dark silhouette on the horizon against the lighter sky. I hurried over to be able to identify who it was: it was Dad! He was sitting on a path as the daylight slowly creeped over the horizon. When the first leashed dog walked by in the distance, he got up and sauntered away and over to a grassy knoll, where he again lay down and kept his gaze in one specific direction.

He got up, stretched, scratched, and went over to another grassy knoll where he continued his vigilant gaze

Suddenly his intense gaze softened and he got up slowly as though he were finally ready to leave. And it’s then that I noticed his mate had suddenly appeared next to him. Now his focused gazing into the distance made sense: he had been waiting for her, keeping an eye in the direction she had gone and from which she would be coming. And SHE knew he would be there waiting for her. They are a pair closely in tandem.

They greeted each other gently, warmly, knowingly — I sensed the deep intuition they had for each other — and then they began walking off together, but not before she, the female, acknowledged me from the distance with a knowing glance. I’ve known her for her whole life since she was born, but I’ve known — or I should say *observed* — him only as long as she has, as long as they have been mates over the last two years.

They loitered together for just about a minute, poking into the ground and circling each other. I think he wanted to walk on immediately, but he waited for her, while she seemed to be stalling before *heading-in* for the day together. I had the sense that her stalling was actually testing me — coyotes constantly test — watching for my minutest reactions and reading every flinch I made. I guess I passed, as I always seem to have, because she slowly turned to take the high road where she knew I could observe her (and have many times) even though dogs and people might be on this path — she may even have known that I would be asking folks to leash, as I often have — I absolutely believe she knows when this goes on — whereas he, the male, felt more comfortable taking the lower path where there was plenty of foliage to duck into if a chance encounter were to occur with a dog. So they took separate but parallel paths, based on their individual comfort levels, but still in tandem and within view of each other.

She kept looking in his direction, making sure they were keeping apace of each other.

I soon lost sight of him below the crest of the hill, but I knew he was there because she kept looking back in his direction. She followed a narrow path around the hill, then crossed over the lower path and descended into the thicket. And then, within 2 minutes, he appeared at that same spot, and he also disappeared.

First she descended and disappeared into the nearby woods (left), and he soon followed (right).

It was a real pleasure to see the harmony between these two. They communicate intuitively — and by that I mean in ways we may not be able to decipher: As I watched, I could feel that deep understanding between them. Lately, when I see them, I almost always see them together, just the two of them, without any of their offspring, though the family does come together every evening. These parents have been together for two litters now, and I’m expecting there will be another litter coming up next year.

I probably won’t see them again for a while — that’s the latest pattern — but I felt caught up!

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.

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