Coyote Nap Alarm: Night Vision Catches Mearns Coyote Quick Start


Cochise County, Arizona. Once alarmed, just how fast can a Mearns coyote go from zero to warp speed from a napping start? Our night vision monocular, a Bushnell Equinox Z monocular/camera/camcorder, provided the answer tonight.

Note: If the text bores you, feel free to scroll down to the video immediately.

For some time, we hadn’t even been sure our beloved female coyote, Angel, was even still with us. It had been a long time since she’d come in before full darkness had set, communing with my wife at fairly close range (30 feet or less) and with me at what she felt was a safer distance (30 yards or more). We knew at least one coyote was still in the area, but we’d only been catching a quick glimpse here and there, always at dusk, never enough for firm identification.

That all changed when we bought the Bushnell. Angel showed up the very first night I used it, though she scooted on out of there when the javelina herd came trooping through a few minutes later. There was no doubt she knew I was there; the red IR illuminator light is more than obvious and would have had her diving for cover if she hadn’t known full well it was me behind it. The breeze was toward her, too; her sensitive nose could undoubtedly identify me easily enough.

She drifted on through the next evening, too, though the javelinas showed up even quicker that night and she wasn’t around for long. But she’d come alone both times; we had no idea if she still had a family or not.

Tonight showed us that she did.

First, the entire three-coyote family showed up, providing me with some excellent footage I may use in another post. Next, to my surprise, the baby of the family–most likely born last year, judging by the animal’s size (close to a match for Mom and Dad) plus the clear submissive posture to the parents. In a nutshell, the youngster said, “The heck with nosing around for food or good smells or, since I’m a coyote teenager, whatever. I’m going to take a nap.” And she did. (Gender not determined, but we’re calling this one a female until further notice.)

I let the video clip run for another minute, ended that recording, and shifted the aim of the scope/camcorder to the recumbent pup. This caught her attention; when that night vision IR red light is moving around, it would get anybody’s attention, especially when the focus is shifting to stare you right in the eye. She’d been napping some, but it took her a while to decide to ignore the red light. However, Mom and Dad weren’t freaking out about it, even though they do know enough to think “RIFLE!” and duck out of sight if they’re not sure it’s me. I once caught the eye shine of a coyote (probably Angel) at a range of nearly 200 yards, with me up on our water tower, and she didn’t wait long at all (two seconds at most) to reverse rapidly, disappearing into the brush. I didn’t see her again for the rest of that night.

Okay. It’s not like I stayed out there all night or anything. But I was filming javelinas at the time and did hang around for at least another hour or so.

Bottom line, it took Junior (Juniorette?) more than three minutes to fully relax after I turned the camera on her. The image has this “ocean current” effect running through it that only happens when the digital zoom is applied, but hey. We’re going for observation and education here, not art. Also, I try to limit my clips to around four minutes each, a decent length for a YouTube video (in my opinion, anyway)…and I got lucky. Right near the four minute mark, the pup becomes suddenly and obviously alarmed…and eventually rockets up and outa there from a lying start.

My conclusion? Don’t ever try drag racing with a coyote.

Not long after this clip was filmed, I gave it up for the evening, turned off the night vision monocular, and turned on the little rechargeable flashlight I use to make sure I don’t step on a snake during my short walk back to the Border Fort.

Until I turned on the light, the older coyotes were still willing to hang around for a while, posing for home movies…but I didn’t figure I could beat this one.

5 thoughts on “Coyote Nap Alarm: Night Vision Catches Mearns Coyote Quick Start

  1. Your nighttime explorations of the wildlife are fun to read about. Those coyotes are really quick, and not too trusting of people. That has been shown to be a good thing though. They would have been wiped out if they trusted. You and Pam have shown that you can be trusted is the only reason you can get that close to them.
    We have received the flashlight that fits the shotgun now. Unless they are in our back yard, they are safe. If they are in the back, they are fair game. David also has gotten a .22 pellet gun that is powerful enough to take one out. It will be safer to shoot in the back, because it does not travel as far. It does have the power though and it came with the red dot scope and night vision. We like to leave the wildlife alone and just watch it, unless it is in a position to damage ours. Our back is fenced for a purpose.
    David’s dog cleared the fence the other day, so we figure the coyote did the same. Patch stays in the yard normally, but he did not like the guy standing at the end of our driveway looking at the house. Patch cleared the fence, the guy took off, and David yelled at the dog to get back in the yard. The dog went and pushed the gate open and went back in the yard.

  2. Very cool. The little lady looked like she wanted to fall asleep but didn’t want to miss anything. Was that Angel that came into the shot a few times? I also noticed some eyes glowing behind the teenager at one point. Mama, maybe?

    Do coyote males hang with their mates, Ghost? Or do they leave after they’ve parented their offspring?

  3. Becky: David’s dog sounds pretty darned awesome. And yes, I’d guess you guys have it figured right, that the coyote cleared your fence the same way.
    Sha: That was Angel that came into the shot. At the time this clip was being filmed, Junior (short for Singer, Jr., because he looks like a slightly smaller spitting image of Angel’s father, Singer) was patrolling out and about; those were his eyes in the background, filtering through enough brush cover that he’d most likely have been invisible from my position in daylight. Angel, by the way, IS “Mama” in this family.

    From what we’ve observed to date, it seems that coyote families (at least those we’ve had the good fortune to get to know a bit) operate as sort of a “loose organization”, whether it be before or after a litter is born. I don’t know if there’s a “typical” pattern, but often we’ve seen one or another out and about, totally alone at the time of sighting. But then the pack (family) will come back together; there are specific howls they throw out there to accomplish that, saying in effect, “Hey, I’m over here!” “Yeah, we hear you; we’re over thisaway!” “Okay, I’ll be there shortly!” “That’s a big ten-four!”

    Or messages to that effect.

    There does seem to be a self-limiting rule on pack/family size that works this way:

    1. Any surviving pups (and there usually aren’t that many, maybe only one and seldom more than four) from the year’s litter may hang with the family as they grow into early adulthood, swelling pack size but only on a temporary basis (unless it’s starvation time, in which case multiple families may run together to forage for game–but that’s a guess).

    2. At some point, the “kids” begin to split away from the parents, with (as far as we’ve seen) the males heading out first, though whether to find a mate or their own hunting territory first, we don’t know. That may leave a young female or two, still with the parents.

    3. When the younger female finally comes in heat, though, all hell breaks loose and Mama beats the crap out of her baby girl until the younger female is forcibly separated from the pack, never allowed to mate with Daddy. We observed Angel after her beating by her mother in late 2011 or early 2012, face scratched and limping. A couple of weeks ago, Pam heard a “horrible coyote fight” in which Angel beat up her own daughter in turn and then came sternly walking right back up our driveway, having taken care of business. The baby later came whimper-crying under Pam’s window, as in, “Please feed me! My mother doesn’t love me any more!” This video was taken just a few nights prior to that traumatic event.

    4. Again at a guess, Angel will continue to rule the roost and defend her right to mate with Junior (her second husband, as her first, Bighead, disappeared a couple of years ago–shot or poisoned by a human, we’re guessing). But some year, the tide will turn; Angel will get too old and a vigorous young daughter will whip HER butt, taking over the Mama spot.

    To answer your question more directly, we’ve seen parent coyote pairs stay paired, year around, until one or the other dies. But after the mourning period (and Angel was obviously hugely depressed for months after Bighead’s death–which we believe she must have witnessed), the survivor WILL seek out another mate of there’s one to be had.

  4. Wow, fascinating stuff, Ghost. The mother/daughter disciplinary ritual surprised me. Poor little girl… I’m sure Pam just wanted to hold her and tell the little one her human mama loves her and everything will be okay. So, has daughter been excommunicated?

  5. It is indeed fascinating stuff. We had no idea how that worked until we saw the aftermath of Angel getting her butt whipped and excommunicated as a yearling, but at least she’s stayed with us–denning somewhere nearby and making her presence known to one of us more days/nights than not.

    We’re presuming the daughter has been excommunicated, yes. And yes, Pam would like to comfort her as much as possible, though (fortunately) our redhead does realize a coyote is still a wild predator and not a cuddle bunny per se, so the only comforting available from human to coyote is from-the-heart verbal.

    Coming home after dark last night, a lone coyote that I believe was the daughter was caught in the truck’s headlights, crossing our dirt street near our dirt driveway, and she looked like the daughter to me. With the local coyote bloodline tending to be fairly interbred, all pretty closely related, it wouldn’t be easy for a casual observer to make that distinction, but her “feel” came across as feminine but slightly smaller and definitely lacking in the utter self confidence that Angel has developed over the years.

    She (daughter) does seem to still consider our home turf her home turf, though. When she finds a mate (and she will, sooner or later), I don’t know if she and her fellow will decide to den in the area or not.

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