WILDLIFE WEDNESDAY: Coyote, the Family Dog
The desert dog that doesn't miss a trick, part 1
Everyone in the desert has a coyote story, probably a dozen. Maybe you’ve driven by Tripod mooching along Utah Tail, or possibly you’ve found that a sharp-toothed coyote has ruined your water hose. (I know I should have curled the hose on its holder instead of leaving it out. Lesson learned.)1
A pack comes around our house and drinks from the water dish.
Coyotes are social and sticking together is important to them, although young animals travel alone sometimes until they can establish or join another pack.
Boop! Coyotes are curious, which makes sense because they are looking for opportunities and will eat almost anything—which you know, of course, because their scat is full of fur, little bones, and berries.
The coyote in the video looks as if it has a mane along the ridge of its spine. It’s not a Rhodesian ridgeback-coyote hybrid and it isn’t growing a mini-mohawk. Some coyotes can’t quite reach the middle of their backs when they try to scratch off the hair they shed.2
Insolent beast! This coyote urinates in the water dish to mark its territory and disapprove of an empty water dish.
Coyotes maintain their territories by marking them with urine and howl to warn rivals away and attract possible love interests. The coyote has a very thick winter coat and has probably been eating jackrabbits or cottontails or ground squirrels or packrats or birds or dead things or plants. Like humans, they’ll eat just about anything. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some coyotes around with mange, probably as a result of eating a rat or mouse that died after eating rat poison.3
Coyote has a reputation of being a trickster in so many California Native stories, including a series of prints created by Maidu/Portuguese/Hawaiian artist Harry Fonseca. The artist called Coyote “playful and foolish, but I never forget that he is wild, he is a dog, that he can bite very, very hard."4
Even if they are up to no good, I like living around these desert dogs.
My condolences if you have lost a cat, dog, or pet rabbits to coyotes.
Also observed in the Coyote Yipps blog—a deep dive into and a long-range study of San Francisco’s urban coyotes.
Please find some other way to remove rodents. The toll rodenticide takes on scavengers and carnivores is horrible.
Coyote’s trickster nature is probably why I got food poisoning at an opening of Harry Fonseca’s work at the LA Natural History Museum. It was that or the artichoke dip.
Thank you as always for sharing your wildlife photos and videos; we’ll include them in a feature soon. Always looking for more Twentynine Palms wildlife! Email your files to firstname.lastname@example.org
Desert Trumpet writer Kat Talley-Jones is a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
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