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II. THE SOCIAL BEHAVIOR OF DOGS AND COYOTES THE ESSAYS IN PART II are concerned with various aspects of the social behavior and behavioral ecology of coyotes and dogs, apart from social play, which is the subject of the next section. They highlight the importance of comparative research, covering such topics as social organization and behavioral ecology, social communication, behavioral flexibility, the behavioral biology of feral dogs, scent marking, and the processes of domestication and feralization. Dogs are fascinating beasts on their own, independent of the wonderful traits which we impute to them. I have learned much from the dogs—Moses, Mishka, Sky, Inukpuk, Sasha, and Jethro—with whom I have shared my home, and I always love to recall John Allen Boone’s lovely stories about his canine friend Strongheart, and John Muir’s beautiful prose about his beloved dog-buddy Stickeen. Muir wrote: “Stickeen was more than just a clever dog, he was a messenger, a harbinger of good news about the natural world.” There are numerous examples of the close bonds that develop between dogs and people, and because of this, there are numerous opportunities to learn not just about dogs but about how their behavior is similar to and different from that of their wild relatives, and about ourselves. Dogs are relatively easy to study, and knowledge of their behavior can add to our enjoyment as we watch them romp about in our homes and at dog parks. We can also learn much about dog behavior by studying shelter dogs, a point well made in Leslie Irvine’s book If You Tame Me. My graduate work at Washington University focused on comparative aspects of behavioral development and detailed analyses of the dynamics of social play in various canids. I had longed to conduct field research, and when an opening for an ethologist became available at the University of Colorado in Boulder, I applied for the position and was hired in fall 1974. Shortly thereafter I was fortunate enough to have two superb graduate students join me—Joel Berger and John Byers—who have gone on to enjoy stellar careers. Both Joel and John conducted fieldwork on various aspects of behavioral development and social organization in bighorn sheep and peccaries , and their field experiences kindled my desire to get out into the field. In September 1977, I began a seven-year field project on the social behavior and ecology of coyotes (Canis latrans) who lived around Blacktail Butte in the Grand Teton National Park. The main focus at the start was on differences in behavioral development among individual coyote littermates and how these differences influence later patterns of social behavior, especially social play and aggression. The fieldwork in the Grand Tetons was absolutely wonderful, often tedious and frustrating but also incredibly rewarding in numerous ways. My interest in coyotes also had a practical side, stemming from a wide variety of horrific techniques that were used to control—kill—them, methods that did not work then and still do not work. I wanted to try to bridge the gap between those “wildlifers” who wanted to control coyotes despite the lack of knowledge about their behavior and those who wanted to learn more about them from a more academic perspective that could have practical implications. In 1974, I organized a symposium on coyotes and later edited a book on their biology, behavior, and management. In the late 1970s, data were published that suggested that coyotes were major predators on livestock and other animals, but much of that information was not subjected to statistical analysis. Indeed, when I did some statistical analysis, it turned out that coyotes were not as devastating to livestock as were, for example, other predators and disease. Interestingly , my paper was accepted and then temporarily rejected for what I learned were political reasons. Some influential people weren’t happy with what the statistical analyses showed. COYOTES: TIRELESS TRICKSTERS, PROTEAN PREDATORS The first essay in this section, “The Social Ecology of Coyotes,” appeared as a cover story in Scientific American. In this paper, Mike Wells and I presented data that showed that the social organization of coyotes—whether they lived alone, with a mate, or in a pack that resembled a wolf pack—was influenced by the nature of their food supply, especially elk carrion. We also showed that for the most part, a coyote pack was an extended family of parents and young from various years. 78 PART II Coyotes are genuine masters of behavioral flexibility...


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