The collared peccaries (javelinas or Pecari tajacu) are obvious in the header photo, but the Mearns coyote (Canis latrans Mearnsi) watching them in this Cochise County wildlife mixer?
Not so much.
Hint: The coyote is behind the left hand pair of skunk pigs, watching the herd steal his lunch.
Or at least what he thought was his lunch. We often put out snacks for the wildlife around here, but the coyotes only get a bite or two if the timing is exactly right. Today’s offering, in addition to carrots dropped closer to the Border Fort for the little desert cottontail rabbits to enjoy, included leftovers from the fridge and a bit of reasonably stale dog kibble. We never need to worry about cleanup; the desert is self cleaning in a major way. But if we put the goodies out when there’s a lot of light left, the ravens usually get first crack at the snacks, and there are a lot of the big black birds around here. If we drop the chow when there’s no light left, odds are the javelina herd will claim it.
This time, the treats hit the ground right at dusk, late enough that the camera lens had to slow down to 1/8 second to get any picture at all. That’s my excuse for the less than perfect quality of the photographs, but hey, the content makes up for it.
How many photographers do you know who’ve captured a peccary and a coyote in the same frame, eh?
A couple of months ago, my wife heard these two dominant males and their followers fight in a big, noisy pack vs. herd mixed martial arts contest, probably a coyote attempt to steal and eat one of the younger peccaries. Whether or not the attack succeeded, we will never know; we had not yet come to know the pig herd, its numbers and its individual members.
Wait. Did I say MMA? No…probably not that. The coyote pack (of at least three at the time) did attack the pig herd (of at least the five individuals we see running together these days), but it was all pretty much fang vs. tusk, nothing mixed about it. Except that they did mix it up something fierce for at least ten minutes.
In other words, these guys have tangled before. Singer II came away unmarked and Bob Pig carries a noticeable scar from the fight on the left side of his face, but they know each other well now. Singer knows he can’t kill the big boar and that he takes a risk if he tries. Bob knows that as well.
And brother, do I ever understand. Personally, I’m built a bit like the coyote, long and lean, and it’s the stocky pig-built fighters who’ve always given me the hardest workout in any contest between us.
The coyote held vigil for quite a while. At times, he stood motionless, watching the peccaries eat. At other times, he scanned the surrounding terrain, carefully keeping an eye out for other threats as any healthy, nervous coyote with extreme survival skills must do. Sometimes he restlessly trotted back and forth, a common behavior for a lot of the coyotes we’ve observed over the years, an action that often indicates both interest and caution. I would have loved to show him on the move like that, but the light was too far gone; my few attempts blurred badly.
In the end, he gave it up as a lost cause and trotted off into the brush.
The amount of food we put out for our local wildlife is certainly not enough to function as anything more than a wee snack; every critter who partakes (unlike birds at an overstuffed bird feeder) must still hunt or forage to survive. But the snacks certainly do seem to give the critters a reason to show up long enough to say hello to the camera and also to provide us with numerous insights into their social lives we could obtain in no other way.
As for the javelinas, they kept right on picking up the last few scraps after the coyote headed out. Their indifference to the predator who led a serious attack on them is impressive. “You took your best shot”, they seem to be saying. “How did that work out for you?”
Whoa! Stop the presses! I just took a much closer look at one particular photo. Here, some time before Singer II gave it up, he is clearly trot-pacing…and he must have been doing so in a way that signaled HUNTING BEHAVIOR to the burly boar, Bob Pig. Bob is turned around, facing the coyote head on, his demeanor clearly broadcasting his message: “You want a piece of me? Come on, then!”
Wow. Double wow. Take a look; Singer is blur-pacing (upper left) while Bob is facing him in ready position.
The rest of the pig herd continues to feed, relatively undisturbed and continuing to feed–although the above photo does show them huddled closely together with bristles raised, so they’re not nearly as blasé about the whole thing as they’re pretending to be. Apparently, they do trust the boar to act as their first line of defense…which, come to think of it, is as it should be.
Let’s take a little closer look at that face-off.
We’ve seen Bob Pig face us, but not in potential fight mode. Here, in a photo taken two days ago while he was stealing carrots from the little desert cottontails, he’s looking right at the camera, calm as can be.
Bob Pig is of course, first and foremost, a pig. Okay, a peccary, but he and the domestic swine and feral razorbacks all belong to the same family. Experts may argue the fine points, but to us, he’s a pig. And as a pig, he’s an expert on the subject of food. He tried stealing more of the bunnies’ carrots right after the other snacks (left well away from the house) were gone. Pam saw him, used her Mommy voice to tell him in no uncertain terms that he was not entitled to swipe the carrots belonging to the wabbits, and startled him to the extent that he backed up a step and looked in surprise toward the steel security door behind which she was standing. Then he started to move in on the carrots again. My wife spoke again, more forcefully, and thrummed the perforated steel repeatedly with her hand.
That was enough; Bob took off like a rocket. He might be unafraid of a predatory coyote, but he’s not about to mess with my redhead.
Final bonus photo: When I went out to feed the critters, moments before most of the photo action commenced, I noticed a black tailed jack rabbit sitting quietly some distance away. Between the distance (which required use of the digital doom feature on the camera) and the extremely low light, the enlarged photo came out looking a whole lot more like an oil painting than a digital photograph. Enjoy the effect.
The big jack rabbit was wise enough to slip into the brush when the coyotes showed up, of course. He’s undoubtedly tough enough in his own right or he wouldn’t be surviving in southern Cochise County desert, but he’s no Bob Pig and he knows it.