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!

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.

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/

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.

Nursing Coyote Mothers

a lactating mother coyote

a lactating mother coyote

I had been told that nursing mother coyotes stay in the dens, or fairly close to them, during the 5 weeks following birth when they are being nursed. Guess what? They don’t!

A nursing mom’s need for nourishment skyrockets during this timeframe in order to keep up with the growing nutritional needs of her pups for which she is the sole supplier through nursing. Nevertheless, moms appear to keep themselves pretty secluded and out of sight. New moms are even more secretive and evasive than normal because the lives of pups now depend on them — it’s a safety measure.

This new mom was in a field only a moment or so. The rest of the time she moved slowly under bushes and next to “edges” of taller growth, where she could easily slip away from view. When she saw anyone coming, she slowly stepped behind something, be it a tree, tall grasses, bushes or a stump, where she would not be noticed, and she wasn’t.  She headed “in” for the day when a man and his dog came around a bend and saw her. He stopped and observed. She calmly slithered out of sight. The dog was leashed and well behaved. It all happened so quick and smoothly!

It’s much too early for pups to be out and about. Pups are kept secluded in their dens until about the fifth week of birth, and even after that, their introduction into the bigger world will be a gradual one, and as secret as possible to begin with!

Three At Dusk, by Charles Wood

Here in LA County Sunday I finally saw three of my coyotes just as I got ready to call it quits. A young one came out to wait. It soon hid in the brush. Mom came up just a bit later from the south. She stopped and, with her child hidden nearby, immediately started to howl. She howled unanswered for several long breaths. Then others joined her howling and yipping even though they were a few feet away! It is when the others joined in that I switched on the video. Mom’s voice, though hard to distinguish, is the highest. She has a thin and very high voice. Sunday was the first time I heard it. Most of Mom’s howling was not in my direction. She only turned my way when she was more or less done.

Six seconds into the video a rabbit decides to relocate. Mom heads to her family nearby and the video is cut before she goes into their hiding place camera right. When the video resumes, Dad heads camera left, their child comes out, and Mom pees camera right. It is Mom who pushes her child away from Dad. In that segment it is clear her milk has come in. Note that the child comes back in ten seconds. Mom holds perfectly still for Dad’s inspection of her and the child gives them more space. Dad next seems to feel a choice is required of him: follow Mom and child camera left or deal in some way with me. Maybe trying to decide, he sits and scratches. Dad then pees where Mom had. Unfortunately, the child did not and I don’t know if it is male or female. After more cavorting they head east. They exit where the rabbit was last seen, though they don’t seem interested in finding it.

I should mention that I have had an second dog with me for a few months when I watch for my coyotes. Both Holtz and Lucas, an eighty-five pound German Shepard Dog, watched their wild dog cousins Sunday with interest, standing silently with me on the riverbank.

Mom’s howling was unexpected. I’ve seen them reunite at the same spot several times. Many more times I’ve seen one or more coyotes there waiting patiently for other family members to show up. They arrive and they wait, but I’ve never seen any howl for others. The obvious difference is that Mom recently had her pups. Maybe Mom’s anomalous howling was for being in a hurry for being away from her pups. Maybe not. She may not have been summoning the others with her howl, may have known they were right there. She may have just felt like howling.

Where are this year’s pups? It is the same question I posed last year upon seeing Mom with her milk in, but no pups around. Who was with the pups, or, were there any? My guess is that last year she had a small litter. The young coyote in the video is probably one born in 2011 and it has taken me a year to see it.

This year I’m not sure if the adults in the pack are more than the three in the video. I suppose Mom, who has successfully raised a few litters, is in the habit of leaving newborns behind in their den. I have to assume she knows what she is doing. I think the fact that she is out, apparently taking a break from newborns, means that there are more than three coyotes in the pack this year.

Lactating Mothers

Here are photographs of older lactating mother coyotes. From a distance their condition might easily be missed, but zooming-in on an image clearly reveals the state of the coyote. Mother coyotes are nursing their pups at this time and they are very protective of them.

By five to six weeks of age the pups will have been weaned, but the family remains a very dynamic group for interacting, learning, helping each other, playing and hunting.  The family unit is an extremely strong one for coyotes — this is something we humans need to be attuned to.  A mother coyote will watch out for her pups well beyond the point when they are old enough to fend for themselves.

There is only one breeding female and one breeding male per “pack” of coyotes — a “pack” is actually a family unit. Unrelated coyotes do not band together as a “pack” as do feral dogs. Sometimes the dominant one is the female, and sometimes it is the male of the breeding pair — in this case, it is this female mother. It is this dominant coyote which we all need to develop respect for if we want coexistence to work in our urban parks. Respect means not allowing our dogs to intrude on her — by leashing up in a coyote area.