Coyote Speaks Her Mind to The Dog Who Chased Her Three Weeks Ago!

Three weeks ago, this coyote was chased by a dog. She fled and hid in some bushes where the dog could not reach her, and she remained there screeching distressingly for 20 minutes after the chase. An excerpt of her perturbed vocalizations can be seen and heard in the video at the bottom of this posting. This coyote normally simply flees when chased by dogs without vocalizing, so the screeching sounds were notable.

The chase must have been traumatizing because three weeks later, as can be heard in the video above, she *told-off* that dog — letting the dog know what she felt — even though there was no chase this time — just the memory of it. Please note that the dog owner is extremely respectful of the coyote and cares about her welfare. Just before the chase three weeks ago, his dog was playing in the off-leash park when the dog spotted the coyote in the distance and went after her. The owner is being much more vigilant so that it won’t happen again.

The *telling-off* incident, which is the focus of this posting today, began in the early morning with the coyote loitering calmly, close to the road, when the leashed dog and her owner appeared. The owner and dog headed away from the coyote and across the street to get to the trailhead into the park, making sure to go way around the coyote. This was the best thing to do. But the coyote had something to say. She bravely, *messaged* the dog with what I call a *halloween-cat warning display*: high arched back with hackles up, head down, snarly-face, and tail tucked under. The message: “please leave me alone.” The dog, of course, couldn’t do anything because she was leashed, but she probably grimaced some kind of message to the coyote — and I really wouldn’t know who *messaged* the other first. Note that although many people think it is their dog which is endangered by a coyote, very often it is the other way around: coyotes are small, weighing only about 30 pounds — fluffy 4-inch long fur conceals a much smaller size — while the dog in this incident, a four year old female, weighed close to 80 or more pounds.

large four-year old female golden-retriever mix

The leashed-dog and owner then climbed the hill at the trailhead. The coyote moved away as they did so, and she watched them from way back. After the walker and dog distanced themselves into the park, the coyote, too, climbed up the hill at the trailhead, apparently to keep an eye on them, remaining at the trailhead, keeping well back and a very safe distance just in case of another chase (which did not happen because the dog remained leashed). And then, surprisingly, the coyote began vocalizing her feelings, apparently scolding and/or warning that dog, as you can hear in the video above. When the dog and owner disappeared over a hill crest in the distance, the coyote followed just enough to keep them in view, and continued her tongue-lashing message — always from a very safe distance — until dog and walker were out of sight. Wow! What a spunky little coyote!

This behavior — vocally spewing out her anger and warning at this particular dog — happened again just a few days later, and now has been repeated a number of times, always and only towards this particular dog as far as we know. The second time it happened, the coyote freaked out upon seeing the dog — she was scared and ran off agitatedly, but she returned, and, seemingly very upset, delivered the same tongue-lashing tirade as she had before. It was fascinating to watch. At the same time, I want to make sure folks understand that this was not an act of aggression, but rather a communication. By simply walking away from the coyote, the owner did what is recommended. I asked the owner to please write up the *history* he has had with this coyote and he said he would — he and his dog seem to have interacted with her a while ago: this, hopefully, will help round-out an understanding of the behavior and this particular dog’s relationship to her.

HAPPY ASIDE: Yesterday, I stayed a long time at this coyote’s park, watching her relax and sleep in tall grasses where she was mostly hidden from view. If and when anyone realized she was there, they were beautifully responsible: runners ran way around her, taking her presence in stride, and dog-walkers leashed their dogs, gave her a wide berth, and walked on. YAY for everyone!!  Thank you all for making coexistence work and for being ambassadors for her welfare! One walker told me that several months ago she overheard some youths saying they would bring their pellet guns for when they saw her next time. My friend took their photo and told them that if she ever heard about it, she had their photo and would turn them in. Again, thank you!

‘Tis The Season

Here is a little drama during mating season. The neat thing is that I sense a lot of respect and understanding between these coyotes — a respect and understanding that comes from affection, and also from a rigidly established hierarchy. In the photos, you see the male approach the female who has been observing the world go by in a very relaxed manner. Affection is often displayed between these two — kisses and nuzzling, often with the use of a paw, as here. Here, the affection begins no differently than usual: he puts his paw on her face and caresses her, nuzzling her affectionately.

Then he shifts around and tries mounting. He gives it a try, but after a short time she breaks away from his hold, barring her teeth: the answer is “no.”  She is not receptive to his advances at the moment. To emphasize her “no”, she then lifts herself and puts both her paws on his back and keeps them there in a display of dominance. When she walks away, thinking his advances are over, he runs after her — his intentions must have been obvious to her, because she now wraps her jaws around his, and he allows this. Her statement is stronger this time, and he accepts her command. There is clear communication between them. They continue hunting for a long time. Several times he became interested in her odor, and sniffed her intently, but he never tried mounting again during this observation.

I have read that mating in coyotes actually makes them very vulnerable to dangers. The reason is that there is a “tie” which occurs which prevents them from separating for an extended period. If a predator or danger of any sort were to arise, they wouldn’t be able to do much about it. Please see the following post with a video I found on youtube which shows this.

Trekking Purposefully

I was able to follow two coyotes for about half an hour as they trekked through an urban neighborhood, crossing streets, over dirt paths and sidewalks and through yards, ducking into and out of hidden spaces — their pace and course were very purposeful.  I didn’t see where they ended up, which might have helped me decipher what was going on, but the half-hour I watched clearly demonstrated their very keen awareness: their consciousness and knowingness and understanding.

They knew how to follow the vegetation, logs or areas which might offer some protection. The coyotes sniffed and marked/urinated regularly as the terrain changed or when they veered into new areas. At one point, one coyote stood sentry for about five minutes, insuring the coast was clear in all directions before both took off through an area where dogs often congregate, but there were none today.  But they also crossed into wide open areas such as streets — once stepping out of the way of a car but remaining in the street within about 10 feet of the car as it passed. Their awareness was keen for everything except cars.

These coyotes were not just meandering around or hunting. They had a plan — a plan they had worked out. They knew exactly what they were doing and where they were headed.  How did they know this, and how did they both know this? And how did they communicate this to each other?  I have seen coyotes head out in this manner to certain lookout points in order to observe dogs and walkers from the distance — it is very purposeful behavior. But this time, these two disappeared from the main dog walking areas, so that could not have been their motive. Perhaps they had recently found a field full of gophers which they wanted to revisit?

Anyway, the point is that coyotes can be very purposeful. They appear to be able to work out a plan and carry it out and communicate this, and deal with unforeseen interruptions along the way yet continue their plan. For instance, at one point a man saw them and threw stones at them. The coyotes veered off the path and circled around to avoid him — but they then continued in the direction in which they were originally headed. I have seen lions communicate hunting strategy and carry it out. The animals can communicate very effectively in subtle ways that we humans cannot pick up on. We humans aren’t quite smart enough to figure it out! We like to measure animal intelligence against our own — for instance, by how many word/symbols a chimp can manipulate. Wow — they can learn our language! Yet we haven’t been able to learn or decipher theirs!

Still Looking Up To Mom: Coyote Behavior

One early morning walker who was out early with her small dog had something interesting to say about her small dog’s behavior when the dog became aware of coyotes up ahead on a path. As the unleashed dog came over the crest of a hill along the path, it suddenly turned back and hugged against its owner’s legs. The owner said the dog was “asking to be leashed — asking for protection”!! When the woman herself reached the crest of the hill, she found out why. There were three coyotes. They were quite a distance away, but nevertheless, the little dog was nervous about them. The woman sat down, hugging her dog, and watched for a while and then she took a path which circled way around where the coyotes were. When I saw her again the coyotes had moved a bit, but they were still there.

The small leashed dog was actually trembling and began barking when it saw the coyotes again, yet at the same time, this dog was very curious about the coyotes, and vice-versa. I think with many dogs there is a “push-pull” interest about the coyotes. Coyotes appear so familiar to us all in many ways, yet at the same time they are sensed by the dogs as being so completely different from themselves. The woman took a quick photo and decided to walk on. That her dog had asked for protection — that he had asked to be leashed in the face of potential danger — was fascinating. Could this also have been meant as a message to the owner: “beware of what is ahead?” The same behavior had been described to me once before, but in this previous instance the dog had been a very large male Labrador.

While this woman was circling around I watched the coyotes. There were two young ones — they were very alert. But what was of primary interest was that they kept their attention on “mom” who was sitting up higher on a hill. The young coyotes moved around a little bit, but mostly they were still and strained their necks at times to keep their mother in view or to find her.

As a set of dog walkers went by in the distance, the mother went further up the hill where she was now hidden — she kept her eye on this dog group. I could not see her, but the young coyotes knew she was there and they kept their gaze on her. As the walkers and their dogs descended the hill I noticed that the mother coyote had come up behind them: she wanted to see them, but didn’t want them to see her! There must have been communication between the two young coyotes and their mother because the youngsters wandered slowly towards a brush area as they kept looking back at her — as if they were following her orders or getting her approval. After 25 minutes of continually returning their gaze to their mother, they finally slithered into the underbrush. These young coyotes are not quite a year old.

Communication: Coyote behavior

I clicked away at three coyotes I saw this morning — not a usual sight. I really couldn’t see much detail until I got home and blew up the photos. It is the zoomed-in photos that allowed me to see what was going on — but not what it was about. One of the coyotes had a wide gaping mouth in many of the shots — it is almost a smile if you look at the eyes: possibly a need to comply? This one also tended to keep its ears low and out to the sides. Another coyote had its teeth bared and lips pulled back — the others followed this one as it eventually walked up the hill. The third coyote stood back and stayed back further. I would think that a snarl and baring of teeth would either signify displeasure, or it may have been a threat or even a command, but I did not have time to observe long enough to be able to say for sure. There was also body contact as two of them walked side by side. The coyotes followed each other at first, and then slowly, one by one, they slithered or bounded into the brush.

What Does The Yipping Mean?? I wanted to mention another behavior which surprised me. I was at one end of a park photographing a juvenile coyote which was hunting. The coyote caught a muddy gopher and carried to the middle of a hill where the coyote lay down to eat it, right there in an open area of grass, in plain view. When the coyote was finished, it began wandering on the hillside. As it did so, I heard the coyote’s mother begin an intense barking episode on the other side of the park. It flashed through my mind that I might be able to see how coyotes react to “communication”.

But there was NO reaction whatsoever: no hiding, n running towards or away from the barking, no tensing up. There was total unconcern, and absolutely no change in this coyote’s meanderings on the hillside. When I reached the other side of the park, sure enough the mom had been chased by a dog and was letting everyone know that she was upset. She ended up climbing to the top of some high rocks where she continued her barking for 20 minutes or so. So, obviously, the barking was not a communication to other coyotes. It was just a display to the dog who had chased her. Also, could it have been an emotional release?

Then, the very next day, I was in the vicinity of the mom who was basking in the sun in her normal fashion, when coyote yipping began across the canyon. This would have to have been one of her offspring. In this case, the mom did sit up and listen, cocking her ears back and forth, but she remained put, and eventually lay down to bask some more. The yipping went on for about ten minutes. It appeared that the mom could assess the danger of the situation from the yipping she was hearing. I have seen a non-yipping situation where this mom raced down the hill to aid her pup who was being chased by a dog. Hmm, coyotes seem to be able to size up the danger of a situation pretty accurately.

See entry on December 28th: “It’s a Boy!”