Battling Balloons: Compelled to Find Out About A Novel Object

Coyote Contends with Curiosity and Fear: Curiosity Wins

At first glance, you might think the little coyote in this video has flipped out, but keep watching: she’s found a bouquet of balloons that were left overnight and is having a ball testing them and making them bounce around. She zooms past them quickly because she’s not quite sure what they are capable of. As she does so, she prods, taps and tests to find out. Contrary to what some folks think, coyotes are drawn to novel objects, not driven away by them!

Coyotes are innately curious, inquisitive and nosy: they have a need to know. So they are compelled to investigate, to test new objects: it’s a survival skill. Place any novel object, including unpredictably bouncing balloons in a field, and although their initial reaction to most new things might be to stand back and watch, soon, sometimes over the period of several days, but sometimes right off, they begin to investigate, gingerly moving in closer and closer until they can touch it ever so quickly and then jump back or withdraw their paw — just in case it bites — little by little examining and testing its reactions/responses.

Coyotes test an object’s danger and limitations in order to allay their fears. This may be one of several reasons they approach some dogs: they are investigating what a particular dog’s reactions might be to them and if the dog’s intentions might be harmful. How to handle this? Keep your distance always. The minute you see a coyote, especially if you have a dog with you, shorten your leash and walk away.

 

Thrilled To Be Observing My Urban Wild Neighbors, by Ella Dine

I live in Portland, Oregon, and I have observed a coyote family in the same location dozens of times in a green space/natural park surrounding a local college, most notably in the evenings, and especially during pupping months.  The area provides not only diverse coverage but also supreme visibility, with rock and mulch piles of varying heights.  It also boasts plenty of shade and a water source (either a stagnant puddle or two, as you can see in the second picture, or a tiny creek/run-off not too far away).  Best of all, this little area is set back just far enough from all major walking paths so that the coyotes can go about their business while dogs and their people pass by at a safe distance.  Most people seem to pass without noticing the coyotes at all.  Today, I observed mom and dad, and got a brief glimpse of one pup, though I believe there are more in the family.

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Just seconds before this, mom was lounging.  I will call her “mom” because I think she is the female, but I may not be correct.

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Here she has opted to step up on a rock for a better view.  She remained this way for a long while after hearing some kids yell in the distance.  Until, her thirst got the best of her…

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It’s going to be 100 degrees in Portland for the 2nd day in a row, which I imagine is tough on the coyotes.  After disappearing to where I think the pups were, mom reappeared and drank some of this muddy water.  I couldn’t help but wonder if coyotes are prone to the same illnesses as their canine counterparts, like giardia?  

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All was quiet for a long time, with little movement in the area until mom ran out of sight.  I looked around to see what mom had run from, and I spotted someone on his way back from wherever he had been (I think this is the male—he appears darker in color and slightly larger).  

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At this point, I decided to move on as I felt that dad had certainly noticed me, but I didn’t leave without noting that the coyote I call “dad” took his position where the other coyote had been, seemingly on watch.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the routine would be repeated throughout the day?  One on watch while the other checks the perimeter then they switch places?  It’s hard to guess, but I am lucky enough to retreat to my air-conditioned house, thinking all the while that no matter what transpires for this coyote family on this brutally hot day, it’s such a thrill and honor to observe these resilient neighbors whose very survival depends upon their constantly observing us.