Coyote Tail . . . Fun, Fleas, or More?

This coyote spends a lot of her time sitting and observing what’s going on, but recently she has been plagued by fleas — she’s been overwhelmed by them. Many of her behaviors reflect this: scratching them, darting away from them (as though this would help!), running in circles after her itchy tail, curling in a little ball to be able to reach the flees on her back and her tail with her snout, and discovering that she could “roll” when she did this. You can actually see the flea bites all over her face. It must be excruciatingly uncomfortable. I’ve had a couple of flea bites and it was awful. Dogs get fleas and it drives them crazy!

And why does the coyote jump up and down, bouncing a little like a pogo-stick? Coyotes do this when they get excited and when they want a better view. This coyote, judging from the direction of her gaze, has seen something on the other side of the hill which we can’t see. I would guess it’s a dog that simply caught her attention. I’ve seen this reaction to a dog in the distance many times.

A dog walker suggested that, from what she knows about dog behavior, that the coyote’s behavior in this video might be anxious behavior due to the photographer because her own dog freaks out when “a lens is shoved in her face”. I took the suggestion to Turid Rugaas, who studies wildlife to know what is *natural* behavior in order to understand stressed-out dogs. She assured me that this is not what is going on here. First of all, this is not an inbred little domestic dog, it is a wild coyote. Secondly, no lens is being shoved in this coyote’s face — this video was taken well over 100 feet away. Thirdly, this coyote has her freedom to move, and would do so in order to avoid a stressful situation, unlike a dog who feels constrained by it’s owner’s *unnatural* demands: it’s this latter which causes anxiety in dogs. Fourthly, loner coyotes without families invariably become inventive in their play to fill the time that normally would be devoted to family interactions. Coyotes are social animals, so when there are no family members to interact and play with, and because they need to expend their pent-up energy, they invent all sorts of play activities for themselves.

5/20

A One Hour Peek Through An Opening In The Bushes At A Coyote Family’s Interactions At Dusk

I peeked through an opening in the bushes into coyote family life during the hour before their active life begins in the evening at dusk. This entire family was together: mother, father, uncle and one pup. There is only one pup in the family. The pup is super-well protected and superbly indulged by the three adults in the family: the third adult is a male from a previous litter who I will call Uncle, even though that’s not exactly what he really is.

The hour was spent in constant interpersonal interactions — there was not a moment when something was not going on or when some interaction was not taking place. Coyotes are some of the most social of animals, and their social life takes place via their intense family life.

The activities during this hour included Mom grooming Dad and vice-versa, Mom grooming Pup and vice-versa, affectionate play between Mother and Pup, all four coyotes aware of me and glancing at me in the far distance, Dad dominating Uncle — this happened continuously, Pup dominating Uncle who is low man on the totem pole, Uncle standing off to the side alone with ears airplaned out submissively, Pup hopping and jumping around trying to get others to play — as any only child might. And, most interesting, a sequence where Pup jumped on Dad (oops) with unexpected consequences and confusion.

Grooming, playing, cuddling and general interacting were constant activities (below).

This sequence (below) was pretty interesting because Dad ended up disciplining Mom instead of the Pup who caused the disturbance! Pup had jumped over — or onto — his parents who were lying next to each other. Dad either got confused and disciplined Mom — she’s the one lying on her back as he stands over her — OR, Mom’s growl at the Pup may be what Dad was reacting to. Dad coyote does not tolerate any aggression in his family, even from Mom. At the first sign of any antagonism or dissent, he squelches it. Dad is the oldest and wisest in this family, and the ultimate authority. In another family I know, Mom is the ultimate authority: every family is different.

Rigid status preserves order, but sometimes it’s hard to watch. Uncle is low man on the totem pole, and he’s made aware of this constantly: what is Dad’s “order” is Uncle’s strife and oppression.  There seemed not to be a minute that went by when Uncle was not reminded of it. It happened with physical put-downs three times in this hour, and in a more subtle manner, with glances, many more times.

Dad stretched, which meant it was time to go.

Dad stretched, which meant it was time to go.

As it got darker, the time came for the family to trek on. The move was signaled by Dad’s signature stretching. Dusk had settled in and their day was beginning. And my viewing time had come to an end because as they slithered away into the night, I could no longer see them.

Profile by Joel Engardio for the San Francisco Examiner

2014-01-10 at 16-16-29

get-attachmentA COYOTE WHISPERER FOR URBAN COYOTES: For seven years, 64-year-old Janet Kessler has been voluntarily observing and photographing urban coyote behavior throughout San Francisco’s parks. She regularly logs six hours a day, taking up to 600 pictures. “People think coyotes are vermin, dangerous or the big bad wolf,” Kessler said. “But they’re wonderful animals we can live with if we treat them with respect and take the right precautions.”

Read full essay: http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/woman-on-first-name-basis-with-sf-coyotes/Content?oid=2815528

Fur, Bugs

I’m seeing big fat ticks these days, and I’ve suspected that fleas also are rampant because of all the scratching and the resulting loss of fur. But, it turns out that all the scratching may have less to do with bugs than I thought!

constant scratching causes hair loss

constant scratching causes hair loss

The veterinarian suspects the loss of fur may be due not only to the pesky bugs which cause a lot of itching and therefore scratching, but also may be due to the coyote’s helping with the seasonal shed — it appears that coyotes have been using their hind paws — scratching often — in order to get all that itchy dead fur out.

it's not mange; note pattern of hair loss where hind leg can reach

it’s not mange; note pattern of hair loss where hind leg can reach

Coyotes are approaching the time of year when their coats are at their thinnest. But the fur is exceptionally sparse just where those hind legs can reach on the back at the shoulder blades and behind the ears. That is where almost all the scratching is occurring! The rest of the fur is coming off more naturally and at its own pace.

hair loss behind ears

hair loss behind ears

The scratched spots looks mangy, but I’m told that mange is systemic and would not appear just where they can reach with their hind legs. So it’s other things: ticks, fleas and seasonal shed, but no mange. That was a relief to find out!

Happy Summer Solstice! A Summer Gallery of Six Photos

I decided to post a gallery of six photos to celebrate the longest day of the year — the Summer Solstice — and the coming of Summer. No story is attached, except I like these photos taken yesterday! Click on any one to enlarge it, and then scroll through them. For more photos without stories, visit Urbanwildness.com.

Coyotes vs. Nutria, by Jen Sanford

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nope, no birds involved, sorry.  At Ridgefield yesterday I watched a pair of coyotes try to take down a nutria and fail miserably.  I thought I was about to vomit my lunch while watching a nutria get torn in half, but nope.  He made a run for it down into the slough.  But it was still cool to watch.

From Janet: I want to point out that coyotes often hunt in pairs like this, especially when there is larger prey than a gopher involved. Also, coyotes, like the rest of us, don’t always have the same skill sets, most of which have to be learned through practice and through watching other coyotes. All the bites by the coyotes were to the nutria’s back: I wonder if they were trying to break its back to incapacitate it?  Or, might they have been trying to pick it up to carry it off, but unable to do so? It looks like the nutria endured several puncture wounds — I hope its injuries were not too severe. Nutrias were “eradicated” from California, but they still inhabit Oregon. Thanks, Jen, for sharing your posting and superb photos!

This posting and photographs were republished, with permission, from Jen’s site i used to hate birds.

Coyote Interrupted

Sirens set this coyote off, with long drawn-out howls and barking, and pauses in-between.  I’ve only included part of the recording here. During one of the last pauses you will hear, unusually, a dog’s response, which surprises the coyote who stops to carefully listen. “What the. . . . . who does he think he is?”  Anyway, the interruption seems to tick off the coyote who throws herself into the next howl with a spirited leap, howls some more, and then hurries off to a place where she might get a view of her competitor. I don’t think she saw anyone. The coyote continued to howl, but the dog did not, and the siren had long since ceased, so things quieted down fairly quickly.

Previous Older Entries