Diverting Attention

The coyote had made herself very visible on the side of the hill during the early dawn hours, sitting there and watching the sparse activity on the path and street below: a few walkers, dog-walkers, workers and traffic. Whenever she spotted a perceived potential *threat*, she ran out onto the path in front of whomever she was worried about, forcing attention towards herself so that the youngster up the hill would not be noticed; or she ran onto the path in back of a dog to make sure dog was moving on. A couple of times she got too close to a dog and the dog reacted by growling and barking. But when the dog and walker moved on with a shortened leash, as I advised, that was always the end of it: this is what the coyote wanted.

I looked up and saw the youngster there watching the goings-on. When looked at directly, he moved to a bushier part of the hill and watched from behind the thicker foliage — this was a shy one.

Soon Mom headed down the street a ways while maintaining eye-contact with the youngster, and then she stood in the middle of the street, eyeing the youngster repeatedly. At this point, it became apparent that she was trying to coax the youth in her direction so that she could take him away from the open space. He was too fearful, and during her ten minute effort he did not come. So Mom returned to the hill and sat there close to the path, again drawing attention to herself apparently as a ploy to keep attention away from the kid. It worked: no one saw the kid except me while I observed.

By the next day, the youngster had still not left that space. Maybe reinforcements were needed to entice the little guy to leave, because now, there were two adult females with him. I spotted the three of them sleeping together on the incline before dawn.  The second female was much more reclusive than the first one — she made no attempt to serve as a decoy. Instead, she, too, remained as hidden as possible, similarly to the youngster, while the first female performed as she had the previous day. You would have thought that during the night there might have been a change in the situation, but there had not been.

On the third day, the lot was vacant! I guess the two adult females had accomplished their mission! The day before had been one of the few times I had seen that particular second female whose relationship to the family I have not figured out. Some coyotes are much more reclusive than others. Most likely, she would be related: either a yearling pup herself from the year before, a sister, or even a parent or aunt of the mother coyote. Coyotes are territorial, and it’s only family groups that live in any particular vicinity, keeping all other coyotes — intruders — out of the picture. This is one reason they feel territorial towards dogs.

Coyote Voicings

Artwork by Kanyon Sayers-Roods

I have added to my Introductory Pages a writeup of Coyote Voicings — Yips, Howls and other Vocalizations: a Panoply of Sounds and Situations.

Summary: Coyote communication occurs mostly via eye contact, facial expressions and body language and it can be very subtle. Coyotes are not forever vocal as humans are; they tend to be on the quiet side — except when they aren’t! Here I explain their voice communications, based on my own daily dedicated observations over the past 11 years, and then I give about 20 examples, chosen from about a thousand that I’ve recorded.

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.

Los Angeles Sirens, by Charles Wood

Unisex Pat

My March 22, 2017 post showed three coyotes, a male protector and two other coyotes. Better pictures of those other two coyotes are Mary and Unisex Pat. I’ve decided that it is Mary, Mom and Dad’s daughter. Mary Macbeth I should call her given Rufous and her history with Mom and Dad, now deceased. At best they kicked Mom and Dad out of the territory about four years ago.

But Mary is clearly showing. After all, Unisex Pat is one of Mom and Dad’s grandchildren and so I can’t hold a grudge against Mary. Rufous, if he be there, has proved himself. He does make a good living on a fine piece of property. And he helps with the kids; isn’t out and about, god knows where, instead of being home like he is supposed to be.

Mary

So I have made my peace with Mary. I can’t wait to see more grandchildren!

The LA Siren video was taken to get the howling sound. I wasn’t sure if the coyotes were in the brush until the siren sounded. That day I never did see them. The siren video has three separate videos combined. The first segment is when the siren was far off. There was a lot of howling at that. Oddly, when the emergency vehicle went right by on the road, the coyotes went silent. After the emergency vehicle passed, the coyotes made some more howls. But that last set of howls sounded ineffectual. Why is that?

Maybe it’s that the howling was supposed to keep that big bad whatever away. When it came close they got very still and quiet. I guess they thought that their magic howl didn’t work this time. The thing came closer anyway. So when it left it was sort like a feeble “And don’t come back, ah, whatever.” Am I anthropomorphizing?

No. I’m not. I’m making reasonable guesses from what I know about myself and from what I know about coyotes. Coyotes and humans know what it is to be scared and brave at the same time. And to get still when things look like they could get real bad. There is a symmetry to it all.

Ah, you might say. Poor man. Hasn’t he read Descartes:  “I think, therefore I am.” Animals don’t think, you might say.

I say rubbish. I say  “I am, therefore I think.” I say no organism could ever live and has never lived without a faculty for thought. And so the argument goes. I may be right, you may be right; and we just differ on that principle.

Or maybe, just maybe there is a logic to it all and we might as yet find an idea of “self” for all living things that is clear and intelligible. Maybe then we would get some respect for being investigators of the heart, rooting around for truth by perceiving what situations seem like and how it all feels.

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.