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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Canine-feline territorial marking

Some interesting animal behavior has been underway just outside our house. Yesterday morning, I discovered that the bobcat had left a calling card overnight. A scrape with his hind paws (from top to bottom in the photo) and then scat. His pawprints are obvious above his territorial marking.
After seeing this scent marking, I moved a trail camera closer to it to capture the behavior of animals passing it.

Yesterday evening, a trio of coyotes trotted into our clearing. In the photo below, a coyote is passing the camera in the foreground. In the background, next to the big tree, another coyote is leaving scat over top of the bobcat's scat.
One of the most interesting things that I've learned with my trail cameras is that different species communicate with each other using their territorial markings. In one remote spot in the forest, three different species rubbed their fur and scent all over a tree trunk within weeks of each other last fall - a bear, a bobcat, and a mountain lion. In another case, a bobcat rolled on his back in the spot where a bear had just scent marked a tree and undoubtedly urinated at the same time.

So, contrary to what I learned in school and in my recent reading, territorial markings are not just for members of the same species. Other species respond to them as well. It's fascinating to me that canines and felines speak the same language, in terms of territorial markings, and talk to each other.

In the next coyote photo from last night, a coyote passed the camera and spotted another coyote looking straight at him. Notice that the trotting coyote's tail is up, compared to the photo above and all the other coyote photos that I've shown in the past. I think that the tail position is part of the communication between these two coyotes.
Finally, after two of the coyotes departed leaving a lone coyote, he raised his head to the sky in a howl.

Each morning, K heads out the door with me and checks out the animal scents around our house from the night before. I can tell how much activity occurred based on her excitement level. Today, it was high!

I feel so grateful that K can go on my morning snowbike rides with me again. Yesterday morning, she stood in a favorite spot with blue skies, white mountains, and orange lichen all around her.
Our rides are a special time for the two of us, and she glows in the beam of my attention. Her eyes sparkle as she runs. I think that she's as grateful for her return to snowbiking as I am!
In the evening, we share our hike with R, making the dynamic completely different. His high energy style requires lots of supervision. The upside is that he lures K into raucous playing, which I thought that I might never see from her again!

Yesterday evening, they sat in a beam of light from the setting sun, a pair of Labradors alert in their forest.
They ran like the wind, coming when I called them.
They both sported the "wild ear" look when sprinting.
After our time in the sunshine yesterday afternoon, we headed to a dark and snowy north-facing slope to scout out possible bear dens. Today, we're heading out for some more exploration after seeing some good signs yesterday!


  1. Interesting about the scent posts and nice pics :). The night pics on the Cuddlebacks look great.

  2. That's interesting about the different species. Have you witnessed any "communication" between your dogs and any of the wild animals? How do your dogs react when they are inside and hear a coyote howl? My grandparents live up in the north woods in Wisconsin and their dog (who is a real woods dog, not like Pip) really freaks when he hears coyotes.

  3. What a wonderful set of photos. Maybe the next set of photos will show what happens when a deer or elk (prey animals) happen on the scene?

    Mogley G. Retriever

  4. Very interesting about the different species!

  5. Never really thought about the different species communicating to each other in that way.

    And we love the flying ears!

  6. We found your blog thanks to a friend that directed us here. We are very happy to find you. Your blog, the pictures and everything is very interesting and beautiful. We really look forward to reading and enjoying more of your activities in the Rockies. Hugs, Debbie and Holly

  7. Very interesting that you see that interspecies communication. I can only imagine what the pups hear would have to say to the local cats:) Hope you find those bear dens, but do be careful.

    Love those flying ears.

  8. Hi Y'all,

    What wonderful coyote pics and info.

    Love the "kids" race of freedom!

    I sit here listening to Amazing Grace and only know that y'all are truly enjoying God's country.

    BrownDog's Momma

  9. It is Amazing that the Coyote was marking the same spot has the Bobcat. Both Dogs look so happy to be running side by side. Awesome Pictures!

  10. KB, we have gotten so behind with our slow dial up, and so trying to make up for it tonight. We just spent some much need time to stop, relax and enjoy the peacefulness of your site. It is such a good feeling to know that we can come visit, and feel we just toured your world with you,,,,
    thank you for all the beauty you just shared with us.

  11. Hello! I'm catching up on your blog posts and have once again felt like I learned something--I guess you can teach an old dog something after all!!

    Hope you've had an enjoyable day!

  12. I have it on good authority that the wild ear look is all the rage this season! K and R are on the cutting edge!

    I love that picture with the blue sky!

    The canine/feline marking discussion reminded me of our first Greyhound who decided that she was too special to go outside and pee in the rain, so she held it for a week, then snuck downstairs on a Friday night when we went out and flooded the catbox! I'm pretty sure there was a message for us and the cats that time! :P

  13. Such a great combination of wild and domesticated animal photos! (Not sure quite where R would fit! lol)

    Hope your basement cleaned up OK and all is back to normal.

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  14. Hmmm. Now you've pointed it out I can see that the canine / feline marking battle gets played out here as well.

  15. Chalk me up as another who never realized that species communicated with each other via markings. I wonder if they listen to the calls that the other species make, also?

    I, too, have wondered how K and R react when they are inside, and sense animals in your clearing. About the nearest I can come is when my very domestic cats, who never set a dainty foot outside, see something out of the window. They definitely react.

    And, we won't talk about how excited they get when I go to the Cornell birding site and play bird calls, evil thing that I am.

  16. Hey....K and R really are doing well now. Such joy in their faces. Sophie just came in from her evening constitution checking out the entire property. I went out to make sure all was fine and the next thing I see/hear is a pheasant charging into the skies. I always feel sorry for that feller because I'm always scaring it...because I forget that it has taken over one area of the property. Sophie pays no mind to it...Too busy peeing!

  17. A couple of you asked how K and R react to the animals outside. If a coyote howls, K reacts by barking ferociously but R reacts by howling along with the coyotes. It's quite funny to see his nose in the air as he sings.

    When they see animals outside, they invariably react defensively, barking with a fury. I usually hope that the Duo doesn't spot our wildlife visitors so that I can watch them for a while.

    One night when we were inside the house, we heard what we thought was a cat yowl. Since there are no domestic cats that live outside around here, it had to be a bobcat or a mountain lion. The dogs went berserk, to put it mildly.

  18. Fascinating about the communication between felines and canines. You have to wonder how many expletives are involved in scat and urine marking ;)
    That pic of the vocalizing coyote is wonderful. I just wonder what the message was...maybe there was another of their group that was lagging? Was this coyote the one that maintains the pack's cohesion?
    I'm going to feel my eyes peeled for signs of bobcat - coyote messages. Now that we seem to have a regular bobcat, this may increase communication with the resident coyotes....


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