|Coyote running in its colorful winter coat|
|Coyote dam at the west end of The Coyote Brush Highway|
|Colorful pup at night at the new location|
|Whitish pup during the day at the new location.|
Compare these photos to those at original location to see similarities.
Coyotes are sometimes described as being organized into a social group with an alpha male and female, their pups, and several other adults. Some coyotes are nomadic, roaming alone without a set territory. Other coyote packs have been described as small family units consisting of the male and female breeding pair and their young of the year and perhaps siblings of the previous year. The coyotes I was seeing on the Dipper Ranch seemed to be a small family unit.
|Bobcat also following The Coyote Brush Highway near the large Douglas fir.|
Once at dusk when I was returning from swapping out the memory cards on the wildlife cameras, I saw an adult coyote ahead. I stood still and was able to watch it intently scan the ground to each side as it obliquely crossed the pasture towards me. After about one minute, it recognized my figure as something that didn't belong there, stopped and looked me in the face. It is strange to have a coyote look at you straight in the face because usually they will only look at you sideways. They become shape shifters when they stare directly at you - their face somehow looks distorted. I don't know if the coyote was willing to challenge me because the camera was up to my face and therefore it did not feel like it was looking directly into my eyes, but its message came through the lens clearly, "Do not mess with my family!" Then it turned around and trotted under a barbwire fence where it knew I would not follow.
|Coyotes seem strange when they look directly at you|
The backyard camera was surprisingly busy at night. Water was sparse in the late summer dry season, and I discovered deer, raccoons and coyotes were visiting the ground-level birdbath outside our bedroom window to drink. Later, they were coming to eat fruit from the persimmon tree. I was amused to read one study of items in the diet of 168 coyotes in Arkansas: 34% poultry, 23% persimmons, 11% insects, 9% rodents, 8% songbirds, 7% cattle, 7% rabbits, 5% deer, 4% woodchucks, 4% goats and 4% watermelon (Feldhamer, et al.). Note that there is a native persimmon in Arkansas whereas the tree in my backyard is an Oriental persimmon planted by the former residents. Coyotes are omnivores and I often see native and cultivated berries and fruit in their scat.
|Coyotes drinking out of birdbath|
|Coyote checking out the Moultrie camera on the persimmon tree|
Food supply is the prime factor in the number of female coyotes (including yearlings) that breed in any one year. Food availability the previous winter and lower population densities of coyotes generally increase litter size with the average being six. Harsh winters with deep snow may favor coyote productivity by resulting in more carcasses of large ungulates (deer, elk, moose, bison) which the coyotes feed upon. They even form larger packs during such winters. We don't have large native ungulates left in the Santa Cruz Mountains and snow falls only one or two times a winter melting within a few days. However, last January a steer died on the Dipper Ranch from causes we were never able to determine, and it may have influenced the local coyote population in a similar manner. From my observations and wildlife cameras I set up, I guessed there were one or two large coyotes and at least 2 medium-sized individuals that were probably yearlings feeding off the steer carcass for 3 weeks. Ordinarily, the yearlings would have dispersed to their own territories by winter. The carcass in January in some way probably influenced the number and health of coyote pups we saw in June.
|Summer sky under which the coyotes roam.|
Milky Way on the left, Scorpius stretched out over the hills.
|Coyote juvenile hunting for trouble|
In August, I saw a lone coyote pacing under the power line above the orchard. When I came back in the afternoon, the coyote was still there, pawing the earth and sometimes looking up at the power lines in a peculiar way. I climbed that hill the next day and found a bobcat carcass. The bobcat looked immature and had not been fed upon, just smashed hard onto the ground. I guessed the juvenile coyotes were wandering farther and eliminating smaller, competing predators.
Suddenly in October, the coyotes looked different. They had changed into their winter coat, fluffy and colorful. At this point I couldn't tell whether I was seeing the alpha pair or the young of the year but their coats were brilliant. One morning as I was closing the garage, I heard a coyote barking. It's uncommon for me to hear coyotes calling at this time of day, so I turned off the car and ran for the backyard. I could see a brightly colored coyote standing stiff-legged in the open pasture below the house, barking intently at the nearby forest. Soon, the coyote started charging up the hill straight at me. Eventually it realized there was a person standing next to the big pine tree and it veered off but continued helter-skelter.
|Sporting a fluffy winter coat at the Newt Spring|
|Mountain lions are usually solitary unless it is a female with kittens, or siblings dispersing from their mother's territory.|
|Coyote watching at the gate at dusk|