As I continue to photograph and learn more about ducks and geese (my next post) I’m taking a slight departure to share my coyote friend with you.
There are three different coyotes that I have photographed at Nisqually NWR. This morning we ran into this beauty twice. Coyotes are a canine species smaller than a wolf. While the average male weighs in at 18-44 pounds, the female has a smaller frame and averages between 15 and 40 pounds. Any guesses as to the gender of this one ?
In Native American folklore the coyote is known as the “trickster”. They are intelligent, cunning and swift. As a spirit animal they represent “testing the bounds of possibility and order”. Often thought to be bad luck they are more likely messengers of attentiveness. “Be cautious of the tricksters that surround you”.
Coyotes are known to be highly flexible in their social organization, living either within a family unit, or in a loosely knit pack of unrelated individuals. They are mostly solitary hunters but will work with others to take down larger prey.
While mostly carnivorous, they will occasionally eat berries and vegetation. Their primary diet consists of deer, rabbit, rodents, birds, fish and invertebrates (an animal lacking a backbone). Their greatest threat is humans.
Once socialized to humans they can become aggressive so it’s worth keeping an eye on a couple of the residents at NNWR. Seeing just how close they are getting to people in broad daylight is surprising and if it gets much closer it could easily become alarming. That said, I have never had a bad encounter.
They hunt mostly at night although the hunt continues in daylight hours for the three residents I’ve seen. They have keen senses of both hearing and smell but rely mostly on visual cues during the day. They attack rodents by ‘pouncing’ whereas they ‘chase’ ground squirrels. The fact that they are essentially color blind (seeing only gray and shades of blue) makes the visual cue of movement even more important.
They are good swimmers and fast runners, reaching speeds between 35-43 mph when in pursuit or chased. A notable difference between coyotes and dogs is the position of the tail when running. The tail is down when coyotes run, tail is up when dogs run.
( You could watch for this at the time of day known as “between dog and wolf”. Interestingly, while coyote tails are down and dog tails are up, a wolf tail is straight out …)
It is currently mating season (between Jan and March) and once paired, coyotes are monogomous and mate for life. They either create their own den or clean out abandoned badger, marmot or skunk dens.
The average litter size is 6 pups weighing anywhere from .50 – 1.10 pounds at birth. They are born blind and helpless, completely dependent on milk for their first ten days, after which time their eyes will open and they become more mobile.
Coyotes reach their adult dimensions at 8 months, their adult weight a month later. They develop 11 distinct vocalizations, though the “howling at the moon” is the one that seems to stick.
There may be clearer photographs if you go looking. The ones I’ve shared here are my own, all from the last eight months (most from just this morning). Conservation status of the coyote is of “least concern”. Their numbers and habitat are both healthy and thriving.
A “fun fact” is that coyotes are known to have formed “friendships” with badgers. They have been observed laying their heads on badger companions or licking their faces without protest. How wonderfully odd !
Enjoy this glimpse of the “trickster”. Thanks for joining me here ♡
Great photos, as always. And those eleven distinct vocalizations are why—I’ve read—when they howl at night in the hills around me, it sounds like there are many of them; when in fact, that’s not the case. Just singing, I guess.
That makes sense. Maybe they should call them a chorus of coyotes ! Such beautiful creatures and they get such a bad wrap.
I’ve seen a coyote at Nisqually several times but never managed to take a photo like these! Love these, especially the close-up of the trickster!
Thanks for writing ! The coyotes have been quite active the last couple months and have been pretty photogenic too ! I feel lucky every day I’m there.
It was so much fun to see the coyote this morning! Thanks for sharing your pictures. Especially appreciate the additional information on their habits, hunting patterns, and ‘menu’ choices. As far as having badgers as friends that information was unexpected.
It was pretty cool to see him on that road for sure. I learned a lot about them writing this. I kinda love the badger thing ♡
Wonderfully done! Thank you for this!
Thanks, Dan. The coyotes have been a very reliable sighting. They might just be my spirit animals !