When I was out looking for bear today I had a pretty cool experience with a couple of coyotes, and I'm wondering if what was happening was a prelude to mating. Not that familiar with coyote behavior, so I thought I'd throw it out there to the masses.
When I crested a hill this morning I heard a distinct yelping and howling of either a coyote or a wolf. The barking and yelping seemed coyote-like, whereas the howls seemed more wolf-like. The sound was almost constant. For the next 30 minutes the animal was never silent for more than 10 seconds at a time, and most of the sequences of howling and barking lasted for at least a minute. I eventually got into a position where I was directly across a small cut from the source of the noise - I was on one cliff and the sound was obviously coming from another cliff-top about 500 yards away. I then saw a flash through the trees and was able to see the animal through my binoculars. for the next 15 minutes I saw this single coyote jump back and forth erratically, kick up dirt with its hind legs, and even appear to chase a few little critters around, once right over the ledge of this cliff. (While I thought it was a wolf at first, it was a little too small and had a more triangular-shaped face. Once I got a clear look I was fairly certain it was a coyote.) This erratic behavior accompanied by the vocalizations continued for another 10 minutes until it suddenly stopped. I listened and watched closely, but eventually moved my attention elsewhere and then....well, it was such a nice day that I simply fell asleep in the sun for an hour or so. :) I was awakened by the howling once again, but this time it only lasted for 5 minutes. For the next 3 hours I dropped down into the river valley below and hiked around before returning to my cliff-top vantage point. I was about to head home when I heard it again. This time when I saw the flash of fur through the woods I caught a very brief glimpse of one coyote chasing another. I heard them for another two minutes or so, but never saw them again.
So...was this a mating ritual? Something else? Whatever it was, it was an awesome experience to be serenaded by those coyotes all day long. What a great day!