Pre-Pups

Even before mating, the alphas in any coyote family (the established adult mated pair) start preparing for “the event” of the birth of a new litter of pups. Only the alphas in any coyote family reproduce, which has the effect of limiting the population density in any given territory and area (see Frank Knowlton in 1972). The process begins months beforehand, when the female ensures that she alone will be the one within the family and on the family’s territory to produce offspring. Her objective is to become the one and only Queen Bee.

Female offspring who have “come of age” so that they are reproductively viable — usually during their second year — become viewed as possible reproductive competition to their mothers. The alphas are extremely jealous and possessive of their mates at this time. Their ploy involves several tactics, including simply keeping yearling females away from their Dad. This, in-and-of-itself wouldn’t do the trick since there are many instances when daughter and father could find themselves together when Mom was not around. So another tactic is a little rougher, and this video shows how it happens: a mother wallops her yearling daughter to either disperse her or to instill fear so she won’t reproduce.  Apparently stress blocks reproduction. I don’t know if these bio-functions are involved, but it seems that they may be. In the video, note the angry, low-tone growls which are so much quieter than their howls. Here you have communication to one individual, not everyone. 

Towards the end of this period of antagonism towards yearling daughter, which can go on for months, courting and mating take place between the alphas (see Courting Behavior and Courting Behavior in Full Swing). Then and only then, after estrus is well over and Mom is plump with developing offspring, will Mom begin to slowly relax her antagonistic behavior towards daughter, and slowly things calm down again between the two into a state of normalcy approximating what it had been like before the reproductive cycle headed this way.

As the time of birthing nears, I’ve noticed that the birthing moms are less out-in-the-open. This may be due to their becoming more protective of the treasures they are holding inside, but it also could be that they are busy with other things, for instance, this is when dens are dug.

Here is a female who has plumped up during pregnancy.

But the female isn’t the only one to change her behaviors for this event. Also, Dad becomes very protective of the female. I never saw this Dad become aggressive towards his yearling son, however, one day the son was gone. Had the son crossed the line — gotten too close to the female who was his mom? — I don’t know. But I did see dad several times with many wounds — coyote wounds. He has been fighting to protect his mate.

So, the next step is pups. I stay well away from anywhere I suspect there might be a den, so it won’t be for months until I see what she produced.

The expectant parents: any day now!

A Nice Compliment!

I received a wonderfully supportive email a few weeks ago from Dan De Vries. I asked if I could post it and he said yes.

“Hello Janet, I imagine you have seen this by now, but just in case I’m forwarding it.  Much in this brief essay reminds me of your work. Keep it up! And, yes, feel free to use my name.  One of the things that struck me was that Jane Goodall doesn’t have an academic degree in a science.  Which makes her a citizen scientist (of the world).  I believe that there is definitely a place for humanists in the “natural” sciences.”

I’ve received this same compliment numerous times, but this time it was with the attached article which indeed shows a lot of overlap! Thank you, Dan!

A High School Class Turns An Image Into An Eye-Catching Table of Contents

(click for larger PDF version)

Levi Wood, a student at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colorado contacted me a while back to use one of my images for his student produced magazine, The Howler.  It was a class project with Levi as the editor-in-chief. I was pleased that he chose this very fluid, twisted, almost corkscrew image, and even more impressed with how he used it, and morphed it into a table of contents. The final result is innovative, imaginative and eye-catching, yet clear and straightforward. Nice you all! And kudos to the class!

Hello Janet!

I wanted to give you the final product of the image as it will look in our magazine to give you some more context. We just finished the magazine this week. I have attached a pdf of the table of contents with your image.

The image is pretty self-explanatory, but essentially we are using the coyote as a frame for the preview images for each story, and each page number is listed to the right of the graphic. The staff list and everyone else in the class who helped produce the magazine is on the left page along with our mission statement. We wanted to do something really different but cool for the table of contents, and when we were looking for images of coyotes we stumbled upon your beautiful pictures and knew they would be perfect.

Thank you so much for allowing us to use your images, they really add a lot to the magazine and we would be happy to send you a copy of the issue! If you have any questions let me know.

Thank you

 

An Eye-Opening Revelation

It’s true that coyotes have chased dogs, but almost always this occurs after the coyote was chased first. To most people, a dog chasing a coyote looks much like a dog chasing another dog, or a dog chasing a squirrel. It looks like a game.

Focused-in closer, it looks like a terrorized coyote running away from danger more often than a game. Wild-animals instinctively know that any injury could compromise their ability to hunt and fend for themselves, and therefore their survival: fleeing from possible harm for them could be a matter of life or death.

Fortunately, coyotes are smart, and they are quick: most can get away. Nevertheless, energy expenditure during an attempted escape is enormous, and not something any animal wants to put up with.

In the case I’m depicting here, the owner had been playing tennis, with his dog sitting there calmly on the court with him. When the owner noticed a coyote beyond the court on a hill, he went over to take a photo, which attracted the dog’s attention to the coyote. In a flash, the dog was after that coyote.

They ran zig-zag all over the steep incline, through uneven piles of brush and wood-piles. It was not an easy chase for either of them. One false move — a misplaced step in a hole or on a sharp stick — and the threatening dog could tear into the wild animal, whereas the dog probably didn’t comprehend the chase as anything more than a game. The dog could stop whenever he wanted. Coyotes being very light-boned, sinewy, stream-lined and lithe can handle steep inclines and debris better than dogs who are more muscle-bound and heavier, and lead a more indoor life. The heavier dog wore out first, and it is at that point that the owner was able to finally grab his evasive and excited dog.

Notice that the coyote’s tail is tucked deep under and his hackles are up, his ears are back and he’s carrying himself low: he’s running scared.

I spoke to the owner after the event. He told me he had feared for the life of his dog as he tried to recall his dog, a 70 pound solid-looking dog. I told him that, in fact, his dog could have killed that little 25 pound coyote. The surprised owner opened his eyes wide: “Oh!” He hadn’t thought of that: it made immense sense to him and he wanted to know more. It was not the answer he was expecting — in fact, it was indeed an eye-opening revelation to him.

He had heard only that coyotes attack dogs. I gave the owner the link to the video, Coyotes As Neighbors, and when I next saw him he told me that his view of coyotes had changed. Now we have someone else onboard to help us spread information about coexistence: Yes, you must keep your pets away from coyotes for TWO reasons: to protect your pet, and to protect the coyote. Leashing the dog when coyotes are around is the best way to accomplish this.

Belly Sliding

Hind legs are extended out in back and left limp, while the forelegs pull her down the hill! Whee! It’s fun, whether or not an itchy tummy is involved. I’ve caught stills and a video from separate occasions. The video at the end is the tail-end of another such belly sliding session — I missed capturing the fun part but her happy-go-lucky and bouncy mood is captured in her gait as she hurries off.

 

Connecting With Animals: Anthropomorphizing

via Connecting With Animals: Anthropomorphizing

 

Coyote Speaks Her Mind, An Update

I want to update the continuing story of the loner coyote I wrote about in: Coyote Speaks Her Mind to the Dog Who Chased Her Three Weeks Ago! The story through that posting evolved from a dog who repeatedly chased the coyote, to the coyote finally vocalizing her distress at being chased while remaining hidden in the bushes.

Soon thereafter, this coyote would follow that dog, which is now kept leashed, screaming out her anguish, now in plain view — no longer hidden in the bushes. For months this behavior continued, daily, and then the vocalizations stopped, but the following behavior still continued, always at a safe and great distance. 

One might ask, “Why would a little coyote follow a dog — even a large 100 pound dog — if she were fearful of the dog?  The answer appears to be that ‘following’ is used by coyotes both to escort out and to assure themselves that a threatening (or perceived as threatening) animal is leaving an area. It is a territorial behavior. Coyotes’ survival depends on their territoriality: they claim, and exclude other coyotes, from the land which will supply them with, and ensure them a supply of,  food and protection from competitors. The screaming, which incorporates deep raspy sounds, is a brave warning, more bluff than anything else, but also a release of the coyote’s distressed feelings. The coyote appears totally aware that the dog is tethered: she has fled like a bullet when the dog got loose and turned towards her.

The little coyote’s behavior towards that dog is continuing to evolve. Yesterday, after seeing the dog in the far distance, she simply ran the other way and disappeared from view over the crest of the hill before the dog had a chance to see her!

A few days ago, having seen the dog from a great distance, she ran off and hid rather than take a chance at being seen.

Crouching low the minute she saw the dog, in hopes of not being seen

And today, the little coyote didn’t notice the dog — the dog is walked daily in the park — until the dog already was close by. Her evasive strategy this time involved crouching down into the grasses and ducking so as not to be seen. She was not seen by the dog, but she was seen by the owner.  She remained in her crouched-down spot as the dog didn’t seem to notice her (the dog was leashed and couldn’t have moved towards the coyote even if she had wanted to). 

The coyote got up and watched them walk away and disappear over the horizon and then took after them, but remaining out of sight.  She spotted them at the crest of a hill where she sat and kept an eye on them from the distance until they left. This owner is doing as much as he can to avoid conflict by walking his dog on the leash and always walking away from the coyote. Fortunately, he is fascinated and amused by her behavior!

By the way, I have seen this same behavior in a number of females, and one male coyote — it’s not so unusual, so folks with dogs should be aware of it so they don’t freak out if it happens towards their dog. What to do? Simply shorten your leash and keep walking away from the coyote. Also, try to minimize visual communication between your dog and a coyote — the communication is most likely to be negative, so why even go there? Again, simply shorten your leash and walk on and away.

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