Relationships are funny things. They change in unexpected ways, especially over time. This is apparently just as true for coyotes as people.
When Pimpernel first met Skitter, they were both very young. Pimpernel essentially saved Skitter’s life, snapping him out of terror and depression and giving him the will to live. Hence the name Pimpernel, named after the Scarlett Pimpernel—the Zorro of the French Revolution—because she rushed in there to save him. Or at least that was the effect of her rushing over to dominate him, because he decided to live. For a good while, the relationship was one of domination on her part and adoration on his. They both lived in our cabin—she for illness, he for infant care—but eventually, we moved them outside. Skitter grew up into a strikingly handsome, rather macho male. There were skirmishes as he tried to assert himself over her, and she, a rather strong-willed female, basically said “You must be kidding!” But he didn’t give up either. In the end, we put them in two adjoining enclosures to ease the snarling and tension. That way they could each retreat when they needed to. But Pimpernel kept egging him on, poking at him through the wire mesh that separated them with one slender paw. And one day, he bit it and broke it.
We wanted no more accidents or vet bills so we separated them with a solid wall, making a metal slide gate that could be pulled up if for some reason we wanted to connect the two enclosures. Relative peace for a couple of years, Pimpernel an outgoing friendly greeter of all human beings, Skitter a surly but gorgeous male. Then this August we did a double-take. Two coyotes in Pimpernel’s enclosure? Were we seeing double? It couldn’t be. But it was. How did it happen??
We looked closely at the metal gate. It had corroded. Jean’s theory – Skitter had peed on it daily for years, it being the opening to Pimpernel’s enclosure. (It is worth noting, in support of Jean’s theory, that there is another metal slide door on the opposite side adjoining the enclosure of a Faerytale, a lovely, gentle coyote female. Not a drop of urine was spent in that direction. There is no accounting for tastes.)
When we looked at the gate, there was an unbelievably small opening through which no coyote could possibly get through. But apparently, it was possible. They were pacing around each other and we were unsure of the relationship. We put him back and blocked the hole with a stone. Next day: two coyotes in Pimpernel’s enclosure. Apparently getting along. We put him back to see how it had happened and watched in disbelief as he lay on his side, edging around the stone, flattening himself and pushing through, inch by painful inch. We were sure he would get stuck. Cut on the jagged edges. But he made it through, triumphantly.
I brought some people to visit Pimpernel, as I often do. She exuberantly ran over to us to greet us. Skitter, always shy, approached hesitantly. She whirled on him and snarled ferociously, basically saying “Mine. MY privilege. MY job.” Or, knowing her, “MY possessions, who scratch me upon demand…” There was one handsome, macho male, cringing as far into the corner, looking at her, head averted, with terrified eyes.
It is all very confusing. Who is in charge? Who will dominate who, or will it be a see-saw? Is it a love-hate relationship? A “they can’t live with each other and they can’t live without each other” type of relationship? Do we arrange trial separations along with joyful temporary reunions? Do we leave them together or not? He certainly earned his way. So now what?
In any case, we have asked a welder to come and replace the gate so we can easily put them together or separate them as the need arises. What will happen next? We shall see…