Friday, March 14, 2014

Elephants and local coyotes

The above article refers to the discovery that elephants can make useful judgments about people based on the sound of their voices and perhaps other indications.  The article suggests that perhaps other animals can probably make similar judgments.  While I’m not inclined to anthropomorphize coyotes, it does seem that my local coyotes treat me and my dogs in a non-hostile and non-threatening manner.  I should mention in this regard that on one occasion a coyote went on a hike with my kids and me. 

It occurred in the Angeles National Forest perhaps 30 years ago.  Susan, my kids and I parked our car at a trail head and started on a hike.   We saw a coyote hovering about and took a couple of photos of it.  It soon decided to join us.  It went on the entire hike with us.  When it was time to stop for a snack, it wanted its share, which we gave him.  At the end of the hike (which took most of a day) the coyote veered away from the parking lot and disappeared.  We later learned that one of the park rangers had rescued this pup after its mother had been killed.  That outing probably colored my attitude toward coyotes when we moved to San Jacinto.  I’ve never tried to befriend a local coyote but I’ve never expressed any hostility toward any of them; so the sound of my voice (per the article) might not have seemed threatening toward them.  Also, I have discouraged my dogs from chasing them when they gave me the chance.  They have all done it a few times but then gave it up, perhaps to some extent because I urged them to “leave them alone.”  Will Ben learn to “leave them alone”?  Perhaps, but the two coyotes I have seen with him don’t seem too worried about it.

As to those two coyotes, a while ago, I don’t recall the timing but I had Sage, Ginger and Duffy at the time and he will be four in a couple of months.  We were on hikes in the brush when two exuberant coyote pups dashed about near us.  One ran directly toward us. We all stopped in amazement.  It looked as though it was going to run right passed us, but it veered off at a right angle about 10 feet in front of us.  A few moments later the other coyote ran across our path.  They were chasing each other and our presence didn’t stop them from their game.   Are the two coyotes I’ve seen with Ben the same ones we encountered as pups?  This article says coyotes live 10 to 14 year:  I suspect that these two are the same ones, and if so have they drawn conclusions about us?  They would have seen Duffy and me fairly regularly and not needed to interrupt their morning naps to pay much attention to us, but Ben will be relatively new to them and may account for their curiosity about him. 

To the best of my recollection I’ve never expressed any hostility toward them with my voice or actions.  Ginger and Sage both chased coyotes as young dogs, but gave it up as they grew older.  Neither made any move toward chasing these current two coyotes and of course Duffy always allowed me to talk him out of chasing them.  So what do they think of Ben?  I don’t know.  He is not an aggressive dog.  He chases them but doesn’t seem to be doing it as a predator.  His hackles don’t go up so he doesn’t seem to consider them a threat.  They run from him but in a rather nonchalant fashion.   I’m going to try harder to get him to leave these coyotes alone.  They perform a service for me.  Their presence discourages the squeamish from hiking on the river bottom.   Also, they are purported to eat a variety of things including snakes.  I have never seen a snake in any of the areas we regularly hike.  Could it be that the coyotes have cleaned them out?  I don’t know.   

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