Father and Son

Coyote fathers are totally involved in the raising of their youngsters. Here, Dad and five-month-old son spend a few moments watching the goings-on around them before Dad then grooms the pup — probably removing ticks — and then son prods Dad for some food, unsuccessfully.

Ear Trouble

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Coyote ears are large and their hearing is keen. Ears are crucial for a coyote’s hunting and self-protection. Even though protected by fur, sometimes, a foreign object can get in there and get stuck. The usual response of the animal is to shake its head, rub the ear with a paw, or scratch at it with a hind leg. All those tricks had been tried by this young coyote here, but these activities were not intense. As I watched her during the afternoon, what stood out was the way she held her one ear — the left one — really low.

What could have been causing the problem? Could something have entered into and be lodged in her ear? It’s well past foxtail season. Foxtails are the nemesis of all dogs in the area. These foreign objects have to be surgically removed because, since they are grass awns — barbed seeds — they work their way IN and can’t come out — it’s a one way journey. These barbs can cause infections in many dogs and having them removed helps keeps our vets in business.  I’m wondering how a coyote might cope with one of these, especially if it causes an infection. Since the next day this gal was okay, I’m going to assume the ear problem, however annoying and irritating, involved something small, such as a bug or small grain of debris.


photo by Charles Wood

“Mom” in the Los Angeles coyote family which Charles Wood wrote about for this blog (enter “Charles Wood” into the search box to find his postings) had an ear which shriveled up due to end stage otitis, according to a vet contacted by Charles. It resulted in a permanent disfiguration and therefore an identifying mark for her.

Fabulous Big Ears: Five Photos, One Coyote

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Mother Daughter Greeting

A joyous wiggly-squiggly muzzle-licking "hello"

A joyous wiggly-squiggly muzzle-licking “hello”

Exuberance, kisses, wiggly-sguiggles, and unbounded joy: that’s the description of a parent/pup greeting, in this case it is a mother-daughter greeting. The greeting lasted only about ten seconds, but it was intense.

The child coyote crouches low, belly right on the dirt, and extends her snout up to reach Mom’s. Ears are laid way back in total submission. At one point, the little girl is ready to turn belly up. This little coyote is ecstatic and overflowing with affection and happiness. Although it is the child that displays most of the affection — note that Mom’s eyes are squeezed shut most of the time, probably for protection from the onslaught — it was Mom who actually joyously ran down the hill to greet this little one, so Mom initiated this greeting! When Mom decided to go, the youngster followed.

This display of affection occurs even if the separation has been less than 1/2 hour. Coyote family members show this kind of affection for each other whenever they’ve been separated for even a short period of time.

Bug-In-Ear Attack

Imagine having something super irritating lodge in your ear and not be able to get it out. I watched this young coyote work on it for 20 minutes. I could feel when the distress got excruciating: the coyote ran towards bushes to dislodge whatever was in there, he ran towards another coyote to ask for help but didn’t get any response, he shook, he scratched, he galloped about, rubbed on bushes, he moped forlornly with his ears down, he tilted is head in all directions. He ultimately resorted to eating grass which coyotes do when they have an upset stomach — of course this didn’t work. I was not able to see that he solved the problem.  I really felt for the little guy.

We humans have our own worries, so we forget that even wild creatures, too, have many seemingly mundane things to cope with. I’ve seen thorns in foot pads, eye infections, ears infestated with mites, limping, skin ailments, wounds, etc. These things occur regularly in our wildlife. This series of photos, over a long twenty minute period, show how distressing it can be for animals to deal with these seemingly petty annoyances.

A Mother’s Concerns, by Charles Wood

Saturday my leashed dog Holtz and I revisited my Los Angeles area coyotes’ field, taking a shortcut back to the car.  Mom showed herself for a few moments and then crept back into the brush.  There were also teenagers in the field playing with their assault air rifles.  Although my path and theirs didn’t cross I would have liked to hear if they had coyote stories of their own to tell me.  As Holtz and I left, the kids were cavorting and shooting their air rifles blindly into the brush, putting an end to my bird and coyote watching.  There were many ears and eyes following those kids, all on the move away from them.  If the kids decided to actually hunt they would have had trouble finding anything to shoot.  Like Holtz, they lack stealth.

Earlier in the week I showed a photo of Mom to my veterinarian who confirmed Mom’s ear was infected or had mites, was a source of discomfort, and would eventually develop into cauliflower ear.  Another concern is that this year, the brush in their field is being cut more frequently.  In early December the brush was recovering from its earlier mowing, yet in mid-December the brush was mowed yet again.  Last June, most of the field was a diverse puppy training ground and a small yet thriving ecosystem.  That messy and dull looking area is quite different from both the neighboring golf course and public park.   The golf course and park seem as deserts when compared to dull brush.  Fortunately we also have a protected 100 acre nature center area that supports an assortment of living things providing each for the other, coyotes and hawks included.

I wonder what, if anything, could or should be done for Mom’s ear.  I’ve learned from Janet’s blog that removing a coyote from its environ for treatment is a significant disruption of the group.  Her two youngsters, neither yet a year old, still depend on her maturity and skills.  Another consideration is that she is or will soon be in season.  Holtz has had otitis caught early and the treatment was to irrigate his ears with Betadine followed by daily applications of ointment to his ear canal with oral antibiotics twice a day over a two week period.  With Mom, she probably has damage to or a collapse of the ear canal and a cursory web search of the topic suggests treatment at this stage is more complex with no certainty of a successful outcome.  Even were resources available to provide treatment, intervening might do more harm than good.

I don’t like that answer.  Mom has grown to dislike me just as much as I have grown to love her.  I do feel her jobs are of more concern to her than is the discomfort from her ear.

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


Note the different ear positions of a coyote which tell us so much! Coyote ears are big and their hearing is very sensitive. Their hearing is so acute that they have been known to recognize a hunter 3 miles away — their large outer ears are able to capture sounds that we humans are not attuned to. However, I have watched a coyote jolt up in surprise at a walker or dogs that suddenly appeared from around a bend close to where the coyote was resting! Maybe they tune out sometimes!

Besides hearing, the coyote’s ear positions actually tell us a lot about a coyote’s attention and emotional state — and in fact these are easily read by other coyotes — they communicate their emotions and intentions this way to one another.

When the ears are both pointed UP and pointed forwards, the coyote is concentrating intently on something in the direction ahead, and probably looking intently at the same thing.

When the ears are laid back, all the way against the neck, there appears to be timidity or fear or even submission involved. I’ve seen this when a coyote pup approached its mother, and I’ve seen it when a coyote stood very still in one spot keeping its eyes on two large dogs which were above the coyote’s level.

When the ears are level and out to the side it appears that coyotes are in a content or neutral state. I have seen ears out like this when nothing is going on: after a coyote has been up on a ledge scoping an area where, it turns out, there is no one. I have seen ears out to the side like this after one coyote had a leg injury. Could ears out to the side also indicate pain or resignation?

Constantly moving ears which “swivel” from position to position are picking up ALL the various surrounding sounds. As a coyote swivels its ears it will also turn its head so that sounds in back are picked up better. Coyotes need to know  if danger is lurking nearby.

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