Looks Like A Pup, But It’s A Mother Coyote!

Here is a mother coyote that people have been mistaking for a pup. At this time of year, after the entire coat of fur has been shed, coyotes indeed can look very small and thin, with very large ears that seem too big for their heads — just the way a coyote pup might look. This particular coyote is on the smaller side to begin with — probably under 25 pounds which may contribute to people’s thinking that she’s a pup.

Please keep away from all coyotes, be they pups or adults.

A Shaky Beginning for A Coyote Litter

Chuck Rossi was going to be posting his videos of coyotes growing up and we were all excited about it. However, this, below, was the only video posted on April 30th because then Chuck noticed that the mom hadn’t returned for a few days.

Mom coyotes frequently leave their pups for a full day, or even for several days, leaving them with enough food in the den to keep them going. The rescue group Chuck contacted decided to retrieve the youngsters, and it may have been a good idea since a coyote was found killed on the side of the Alameda Expressway about 1/2 mile away — they are assuming this was the mom.

I see Dads hanging out not far from their dens these days — that’s their job right now: they are on sentry duty to protect the dens and pups. Where was Dad in the case of this den? Dads fully contribute to raising the youngsters, but these youngsters were still lactating — could Dad have filled in here? The question is a moot one since the pups are now under the care of a rehabilitator.

No one can prepare baby wild animals for life as well as their parents can. If you suspect you’ve found *abandoned* coyote pups, stand back and watch for a few days before *saving* them. Maybe they need saving, but maybe they don’t! See: Please Don’t Rescue Abandoned Coyote Pups!

Shy Mom – Brave Mom, by Charles Wood

Janet’s post from May 4th reminded me of my Mom coyote from about 7 years ago. Janet noted that it took courage for her coyote to message a dog that in the past had chased that coyote. I agree.

My mom coyote was shy when I first ran into her. She had shown herself to me and my dog Holtz as we wandered around in her territory. I didn’t know how to communicate with Mom coyote and had some vague hope that we would become friends. She showed herself and so I decided to sit down. I did sit down and so did Mom. She seemed pleased that I had sat. However, being friends wasn’t in the cards.

Shy Mom


The Shy Mom photo is her at what turned out to be an easy entrance to her den area. She chose to stand her ground where pictured, barring Holtz and my progress into the brush. We moved toward her. She went back into the brush. I couldn’t see where she was so I went forward. She came out as soon as we stepped forward. That was a message that was clear and I left.

Mom – Braver


Later I thought I had such a good picture. I was close up to her and there was a lot of detail in it. I carefully edited it as it appears in this post. What I edited out of the photo was something it took me a couple years to notice. I had edited out her full breasts and swollen nipples. I hadn’t looked carefully. Once I did look, it fully explained to me the reason she had barred the path to her den area. Yet she had been so polite. She wouldn’t make eye contact, instead averted her eyes. Previously she would shadow us and occasionally stand out nervously in the open for a while. I decided she was terminally shy.

Brave Mom

A few months later Mom became brave. With Holtz by my side and separated from Mom by a chain link fence, Mom came up to us and did a number. Then she showed us how fit and brave she was. After that day, going just by my percepts, she was no longer shy with Holtz and me. After that day Mom gave us more of the same and then some. I couldn’t help but interpret her change in behavior as her change in mind and spirit when around us. Being friends, of course, was not in the cards that Nature dealt us.

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

How Much Rain Do You Think A Coyote’s Coat Can Hold?

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Answer: In the winter, lots! Certainly more than your own soaked coat and jeans, and more than your 30-pound dog’s coat unless it’s got longer fur than the coyote’s. From the looks of it, I’m supposing you could water two small potted plants for a week if you could only transplant the coyote as a sprinkler to your yard!

Coyote coats serve to insulate them against the elements.  And the coats are fantastically camouflaged, helping them to blend into the landscape, especially during the dryer months. The coats aren’t large — they only cover scrawny, 30-pound frames, but the fur is long, reaching four-to-five inches in the winter. These coats are wonderfully crinkly and puffy, making coyotes look bigger than they actually are.

Their full coats will be shed in the springtime, at which time you can often see their ribs and hip bones poking up and visible through their skin. Their new coats will begin coming in sometime during late summer.

Shaking the rain off not only lightens the load — water is heavy — but it also serves to loosen some of the grime which has accumulated. Shaking also helps take care of the drip getting into their eyes. Oils and an undercoat prolong the time a coyote can stay dry in a downpour.

Coyotes are usually out, rain or shine, sometimes just to survey their territories and look around. Burrowing rodents must often come to the surface to keep from drowning during heavy rains, and coyotes often take advantage of this for hunting sprees.

A Mom Revelas to Me That She’s Had Pups

Here is a young mother who reveals her motherhood status to me. It was very exciting to see her! She’s two years old and she has just had her first litter.

a lactating mother

a lactating mother

In very young mothers, however, unless they show you their bellies, it is almost impossible to tell that they are lactating: the mammary glands are compact and don’t “show”.

young mother -- her lactating status is a secret

young mother — her lactating status is a secret

On the other hand, older mothers very often do reveal their status as mothers. By the time a coyote has aged and has had several litters, the mammary glands sag more, and if you are looking for it, you can see what is going on.

a lactating mother coyote

a lactating mother coyote

More on lactating mothers: https://coyoteyipps.com/2010/05/26/lactating-mothers/

Coyote Youngsters In San Francisco in January

Nine month old coyote pup

Nine month old coyote pup

Youngsters are approaching 10 months of age here in San Francisco. Above is a photo of one of them. They are still slightly smaller than adult coyotes, but seen alone, most folks would not be able to tell the difference.

Coyote youngster hides behind bushes

Coyote youngster hides behind bushes

If you are lucky enough to observe them in action, you will find that their behavior gives away their young age: they are more flighty, erratic, awkward, zippy and distrustful than older coyotes. They are curious but most likely will observe folks and dogs from behind a bush and at a substantial distance, as seen in this photo to the right.

Coyotes tend to play with their siblings, unless it is an “only child” — I’ve observed several one-pup families in San Francisco — in which case they play with a parent. Play is their main interest and occupation, and when they are together, they are constantly and joyfully playing roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble wrestle, chase and tug-of-war.

Youngsters are also good at entertaining themselves. I’ve seen individual youngsters play with an abandoned tennis ball for over 20 minutes, bounce themselves down a hill repeatedly, chase their tail — no different from your own pet.  They can also be seen practicing their hunting skills alone, though with substantially less aplomb than an adult.

Even if you don’t see a parent around, a parent is very likely to be close by keeping an eye on things, just in case a dog might try chasing. A parent will run in to its pups’ rescue if it feels the youngsters are being at all threatened. Youngsters normally take cues for their own behavior from the parent who is nearby.

Pupping: Coyote Parents Are Worried, Concerned, and Suspicious of Dogs

The Behavior

Dad coyotes are out for a while in the mornings to perform “sentry duty”. With so many dogs in the parks, you can be sure Dads are concerned and worried about the areas where youngsters have been stashed to stay safe.

Most of the time, a dad will just lie and watch, sometimes with one eye shut, from a location with a broad view. He is not only watching, he is also making himself visible. Making himself visible during this time frame is a communication device for letting others know that he is there — the territory is taken. This is about territorial behavior — about protecting one’s turf.

During the time that he’s lying there, he may become uneasy over a particular dog he’s spotted in the distance. If this happens, he’ll sit up or stand to watch more keenly. This may be all he does before lying down again. However, being the good caregiver and guardian that he is, he may hurry after the dog and follow to assure himself that the dog is headed away from, and not towards, a pupping area — sort of “escorting” the dog away.

If the dog owner is not vigilant, the coyote could get close and might even deliver a messaging nip to the dog’s behind — cattle-dog fashion — to get the dog to hurry along. All dog owners should be aware of the possibility of this behavior. Remember that coyotes don’t allow other coyotes into their territories: If YOU were not there with your dog, the coyotes would be trying harder to let the dog feel unwelcome. This does not happen frequently, but I’ve seen it a number of times.

What To Do

What should a dog owner do? I’ve posted this before, but it needs to be emphasized. Remember that coyotes are not interested in tangling with humans — rather, they want to message the dog. First and foremost, if you see a coyote, always leash and continue moving away from it. You should keep your dog in sight at all times. Don’t let your dog lag far behind you where he’s out of your line of vision.

If you see a coyote following and getting too close, you need to stop and shoo it away. Simply turn around and glare at the coyote. Eyeball him eye-to-eye to let him know you mean business and that you are targeting him.  You can add emphasis by lunging or stepping towards the coyote. You want to move in his direction without getting close. One walker recently told me that she pointed at the coyote by extending her arm out far and pointing her finger at the coyote in a commanding sort of way as she stamped her foot and lunged at a coyote. By eyeing the coyote and pointing at it, there will be no mistake about who your message is for. Picking up a small stone and tossing it in the coyote’s direction is always effective. Either way, you are moving in his direction, or moving something in his direction, which is what causes him to move. Then turn around and walk on, but continue looking back. If he continues to follow, you should repeat this more emphatically — it may take several attempts before the coyote gets the message. Never run from a coyote.

NOTE, that if a coyote is close enough to engage with your dog, you’ll need to be ferocious in your shooing it off. Please see the demonstration in the “Coyotes As Neighbors” YouTube video (you can google this). It’s best never to let a coyote get this close in the first place.

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