Garbage Patrol

in a parking lot – rejected item – in the parking lot  
retained item – ten minutes of leaning up – peeing/marking
 

It was dark out, so the photos were blurry, and there was no feel for nighttime or darkness because the camera compensates for the lighting, making it look like daytime. So I experimented and came up with a lighting solution which really does give the viewer the right feeling I had when I took the photos — taken in the dark. Is this how things look in infrared? The tint seems to mask the graininess caused by low light.

Only about 2% of a coyote’s diet, as revealed by scat analysis, is composed of human produced items. Coyotes always prefer their more healthful, natural diet of rodents, berries and vegetation, but sometimes they indulge in “finds” for the change. Coyotes at times will visit picnic areas, trash cans and grocery parking lots where, if our trash is lying around, they will opportunistically pick things up for a special treat. I’ve seen them spit out stuff, so much of it is totally unpalatable to them. But some is enjoyed as you can see here.

On this particular evening, there was debris strewn in this parking lot, and the coyotes noted it as they trekked by. After briefly surveying the surroundings for safety, they did not hesitate to enter the area and went at it! Almost no one was around, and there were few cars — I guess the coyotes noted this, too, and that’s why they entered the parking lot. They wandered around, sniffing things on the ground — almost all of it was rejected and they’d turn their attention to the next piece of trash littering the ground. Finally I saw one of the coyotes pick up a plastic bag and run to the grassy edge of the lot with it. She spent a full ten minutes cleaning up whatever was in the bag. I guess that was enough for her because immediately left the lot after peeing on the spot where she had eaten. I have no idea what she had consumed, but  thought that it could have been the discarded portion of a burrito or sandwich.

leaving – walking down a street – about to cross street
something sumptuous found – keeping an eye on the moon? – rubbing her face
rubbing her back – crossing a street – body rub under some bushes
 

I followed her down several streets to a neighborhood residence where she went straight to a spot she must have known about, dug something up and nibbled on it. She stayed there eating whatever she found and looking around, and up, to make sure she was safe. She was there over ten minutes. My thought is that, since she went straight to that spot, she may have buried something there. When she finished she licked her snout, then went over to a patch of ground with grass only a few paces away and rubbed the sides of her face on it and then her chin. Hmmm — interesting! Then she got up and walked over to a bush which she used to rub her back against, back and forth: was she actually scratching her back, or was there an oder on the plant which she was trying to absorb? She then crossed the street where she found more shrubbery which she rubbed against and under, again, for a considerable period of time, as if she were wiping on, or wiping off, an odor.  Finally she trotted off, peed again, probably as a message, and was off and out of sight.

Up Against A Wall and Walloped

A father and a daughter coyote had been lolling on a hillside when the daughter’s attention became riveted on something in the distance. She stared at it for a minute and then darted off, at a full run. Dad was surprised at her suddenly bolting away, but he followed not too far behind. And I, too, ran, but at a relatively slow follow.

When I caught up with them, they were sitting next to a house and their attention was focused on something I could not see. One of the coyotes then ran forwards and I could see flailing tails and lowered bodies, and rolling around. There was a third coyote there. It was because of this third coyote that the others had made their mad dash over to this area.

I soon recognized the third coyote as a male sibling to the female, son to the father — a family member! I had not seen him in months. This is a coyote whom I had characterized as timid and careful. He preferred “watching” his siblings roughhouse rather than entering into rough play. The last time I saw him, he had hurried off quickly — he avoided being seen by people and pets. I imagined that he had either moved into the bushes for good, where he would live his life hidden from view, or dispersed.

Could this be a joyful greeting of the kind I have seen so often? As I got closer, the sad truth revealed itself: teeth were bared. I realized that this male youngster had probably been driven off, banned, from the territory at some point. Today there was a confrontation because of the male youngster’s return to “forbidden” territory. This would explain his absence.

The fray moved to the open lawn at first but soon the yearling male coyote backed up against the wall of a house — and he remained there, possibly for protection. At first both father and daughter coyote charged him. But then the female youngster went off in the distance, focusing her attention elsewhere, but intermittently updating herself on the battle between father and son, with a glance in that direction.

11-month old male coyote, up against a wall

11-month old male coyote, up against a wall

Dad coyote would stalk, then strike. The strike consisted of punching, nipping, and knocking the youngster over with a shove from Dad’s hindquarters, maybe in an attempt to sit on him, or throw him on his back. The son yelped and fought back in self-defense, all the while standing his ground and not succumbing to lying on his back submissively. I wondered why he didn’t just run off. Did he know he might be chased, and, out in the open, there would be no protection at all? Or was he himself making a “comeback” claim?

The assaults were not aimed to maim, they’re intended as a firm messaging device: “Leave! You are not welcome here anymore!” The father’s strikes were short but intense. After a few seconds of contact, Dad would withdraw about 30 feet and watch, either lying down or standing, probably giving the youngster “the evil eye” — communicating through facial expressions and body language. After a few minutes, there would be another round of this activity.

At one point a dog and walker appeared. I suggested to the owner that he leash his dog and keep moving. The man waited there for a few minutes. At that point the young female jumped IN FRONT of the dog and walker and lured/led them away from the battling coyotes! Fascinating!  The young female returned to her spot in the near distance after the dog and owner were far enough away.

Eventually Dad decided to walk away from the “interloper” coyote, but not before giving several backward glances over his shoulder at the young male — shooting him the “evil eye” again, and peeing a dislike message. He then slowly walked off, with the female close behind, stopping every now and then to look back at the young male who remained with his back up against the wall. When they were out of sight, the young male lay down for a minute, but only for a minute, and then he, himself, darted off quickly in the other direction, and into the bushes.

I caught up with the Dad and young female as they, too headed into bushes. I suppose that the young female is being guarded and protected, and that the territorial domain will be hers. I’m wondering if she has alpha characteristics which might have driven the mother away. Just a thought.

Interestingly, I’ve seen moms beat up female youngsters in this same manner, and now a dad doing the same to a male youngster. It’s as if each parent is jealous of it’s unique position and wants to keep it that way. It’s same-sex youngsters who present the biggest threat to any adult. Is it dispersal time, or some other rule which is being imposed? Pupping season is beginning, which means territories have to be secure for any pups which might be born this year.

Rufous and Mary’s Place, by Charles Wood

For several years I visited a nearby field to watch two wonderful coyote parents whom I named Mom and Dad. In November 2012 I found that their daughter Mary had paired with Rufous and displaced Mom and Dad from the field. Mary was born about April 2011 and has lived in the field her entire life. (I  don’t know Rufous’ origins or history other than that he is the type to weasel his way into a territory and turn a nice young coyote female against her own parents.)

In the video I included scenes of goings on in the field other than those of coyotes. Rabbits are plentiful, I’ve never seen so many there. The first scene shows two in contention about something. The second scene shows rabbit contentiousness isn’t uncommon and that rabbits take dust baths (the rabbit in the rear flops down to roll in the dust.) Next is Mary investigating and running away, though I could not determine what she ran from.

On a subsequent day both Rufous and Mary went toward the den area. Note the rabbits that jump around in the brush easily getting clear of her. Also, Mary seems to have scratched a marking onto her neck, and at that time appeared to still be nursing (June 7.) Following is a scene of a dancing rabbit. Next, a red-tailed hawk appears to have caught a rabbit. That hawk is a real work horse and is there every day. Over about two months I’ve only seen Rufous and Mary four times.

The final three scenes are from June 28, 2013 and begin with a rabbit once again getting clear of the oncoming coyotes. Rufous goes ahead while Mary hangs back, both having spotted my two dogs and me. Rufous veers camera left and then appears to break into an unsuccessful chase of rabbit. The last scene show Rufous catching up to Mary near the entrance to their den area. Mary doesn’t appear to be nursing any longer, my first having noticed her lactating May 1. If you watch closely you’ll see another rabbit bounding away from Rufous and Mary, neither appearing to have expected to encounter yet another running rabbit. Both appear to look around for where the rabbit might have come from rather than to look for where the rabbit may have gone. As I said, the hawk is a real work horse, but he is an army of one against the rabbits and Rufous and Mary don’t seem to be taking up much slack. Not pictured are two skunks that seem to go wherever they want around Rufous and Mary’s place. Mom and Dad ran a tighter ship, that’s for sure.

Becoming serious now: once Rufous and Mary went into the den area I didn’t hear the sounds of a coyote family reunion. However one clue, perhaps, that there were pups there is that Rufous and Mary were more interested in getting into the den area than in challenging my dogs and me. That was perhaps the first time that they didn’t message us to leave. Once they were concealed in the den area, they didn’t later come back out as in the past to check on my dogs and me, hopefully because they were being secretive and were busy with the pups.

Another observation: when Rufous and Mary were coming straight at my dogs and me, Mary held back and Rufous went first, providing cover for her. When they traveled with their flank towards us, Mary went first where Rufous was placed to cover her rear and flank where he could easily cut off an approach. In neither case were they bunched up. Instead they were positioned for maneuver.

As to the rabbits: in past years there weren’t as many in the field while at the same time more coyotes were living in the field, as many as seven in some years. Rufous and Mary remind me of my dogs where, upon having a rabbit run off, look around for where it came from after a short and unsuccessful chase. In the video it is interesting for me to see that to a coyote as to the camera, a rabbit is just a flashing tail that’s easy to lose sight of, an effective defense for the rabbit.

Following Mom, by Charles Wood

Pup1

Both photographs are of my LA county pup following Mom around. Both were alarmed when they saw my companions, another human and two good sized dogs, and me. Mom headed down the road and within a minute her puppy followed. The road offered us a clear view of them, but for only parts of the way because brush along the road at times concealed them from view. Soon both coyotes were hidden. Yet Mom could have immediately hid with her puppy in the brush. Why didn’t she? I think she had decided it was to her advantage to use the road strategically.

When Mom took to the road, I didn’t know if she intended to approach or avoid. I think she knew that by taking to the road, I wouldn’t know where she would end up or whether she intended to come towards me or intended to go away. All I would really know was that she was on the move.

PupMom

After dusk, Mom came out from hiding to sit and stare at us, her puppy still in the brush. A third coyote, Dad, came in and out of view near them. Together, Mom and Dad formed a stone wall against an intrusion. Then, apparently instantly oblivious to danger, the puppy decided to come out and join Mom. Mom got up and the puppy followed her back into the brush. The puppy is too young to know that Mom doesn’t want to play when actively guarding the family.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Dad Relaxed, Sort of – by Charles Wood

Dad Where

Here in LA county Dad relaxed in late Tuesday’s sun. I took a few pictures of the road and of Dad. My sense of how things along the road should look, allowed me, with the naked eye, to spot him from 1100 feet away. I was about half way to him on the river bank.

I couldn’t tell which coyote it was. Its only with a photograph that I can identify a coyote by magnifying it in my camera’s display. Even from that distance, the pictures were of a Dad looking right at the camera.

Dad Relaxed

I wasn’t able to spot Dad until I was within 1100 feet. Dad would have spotted me a lot farther away than that. There’s nothing to obstruct his view of me, my dog, and my tripod coming over the bridge and down the river bank. Still, Tuesday, he wasn’t particularly concerned with us. Other days, he just gets mad.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Puppy Watch – No Sightings, by Charles Wood

Here in Los Angeles County my coyotes see me before I see them. Once I noticed Mom in the distance observing me. Once I looked up to see a yearling watching me. Dad also kept the pressure on me, seeing me first about every other day. I received their attention despite trying a new tactic.

Typically I walk east to get to watching places. Saturday I instead went north along the eastern boundary of my coyotes’ field. Along the east is a fenced off structure that has only a couple places where I can see into their field. Unfortunately, they too can see me.

I hoped they wouldn’t see me. As I happily walked, Holtz was ahead of me. Then he turned to come back. Immediately he started adversarially stalking towards something to my rear. Holtz’s head was slung low, protruding with his tough guy gaze fixed on the other side of the fence. I grabbed him and turned around. I expected to see a dog with a walker. I saw nothing. It must have been a coyote, no doubt one of mine that had been tailing us. Compared to a few months ago, my coyotes are visible and active.

Coyotes with puppies are more active for a couple of reasons. First, they are alert for interlopers. Coyotes hide and protect their young and are vigilant for all possible dangers. Also, they hunt more for having more mouths to feed. Fortunately for coyotes, nature provides them with more to hunt during spring.

This time of year, my coyotes’ rabbits also produce offspring. Controlling rabbit populations is an important coyote job. Young rabbits are easier to catch than adult rabbits, and I imagine that in good years there are lots of them for adult and child coyote alike. The richness of vegetation from good rains provides more cover for rabbit nests. Rabbit nests would be fairly easy for a foraging a coyote puppy to find all on its own. Yet the coyotes and other predators don’t find all the nests. One reason they don’t is that adult rabbits make themselves conspicuous this time of year, acting as fast running decoys that lead predators away from their nests. Dense ground cover with a bumper rabbit crop in their field is an excellent incentive for my coyotes to remain in their field.

A balance between predators and rabbits protects the field itself from a being overgrazed by rabbits. Fifteen years ago, when I would only see foxes, rabbits were a problem down river at Leisure World which suffered from a rabbit invasion. I suspect that since the coming of coyotes, that invasion silently went away along with the foxes.

Taking Control of the Den, by Charles Wood

Here in LA County I’m starting my fourth year watching a coyote family fortunate enough to live in a square mile of undeveloped land in the middle of suburbia. Pictured together are the two I call Mom and Dad, moving across their home range. Pictured alone is a young female coyote I don’t believe I’ve seen before. Surely their child, she may be from their 2011 litter.

Mom & Dad

I haven’t seen Mom and Dad for about six months. At that time, Dad looked like an old beat up coyote with an illness. Rumors of Dad’s death have been greatly exaggerated!

From the riverbank outside their field Tuesday, I watched Mom as she watched me while sitting outside their den area. NewGal showed up next and Mom didn’t rise to greet her, meaning they had been together in that area for a bit. I started to walk away. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two coyotes joyfully greeting and knew a third had shown up after an absence. Through my camera lens I could see it was Mom and Dad. The couple then moved across their field towards where I had been standing on the riverbank. I lost sight of them in the brush. They were agitated so I continued to walk away.

New Gal

A jogger came from their direction and told me that a coyote was out on the riverbank. Surprisingly, he said that the coyote was going away from me. Probably it was another coyote in that field that irked Mom and Dad, a coyote they didn’t want around and worked together to chase off. Dad’s hackles were up for trouble and Mom was his backup.

Mom and Dad have returned to their den area and have taken firm control. Last year they successfully kept me from seeing their puppies. This year I need to work smarter.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

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