*FIRST: Coyote Coexistence Guidelines and Safety Information

A ONE-STOP INFORMATION VIDEO on urban coyotes: coyote behavior and how to coexist with them, how to shoo them off from a dog, and why killing them does not solve issues. Updated 6-13-2013. OR press https://youtu.be/euG7R11aXq0 to go directly to YouTube. [A shorter version may be seen at: http://youtu.be/1Kxl31nX0rc]

Para la versión en Español, haz clic aquí: http://youtu.be/FjVGKwLiYG4;

In Mandarin Chinese 普通话: http://youtu.be/aFWyegSrNHw



*A Quote Worth Pondering

“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other.  If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear.  What one fears one destroys.”      Chief Dan George

Charles Wood, a frequent contributor to Coyote Yipps, adds: “I want to try and express Chief Dan George’s words a little differently, though I believe the meaning is the same: ‘If you talk to the animals they will talk to you and you will come to know them. When you come to know them, you will love them, with respect, without fear. What one fears one destroys. What one loves one defends.'”


Hmmm. Not So Sure About the ‘Closeness’ Here


Coyote pairs are becoming cozy again. It’s that time of year. They are spending more time together than in the last few months. Most of the time, both partners appear to be mutually involved — mutually attracted. But I wonder if this is always true?

I watched as the male (right) of this mated pair came out of the bushes and approached the female who was lying in the grass. Rather than joyful greetings when she saw him coming, she put her head down in a manner of *resignation* and waited. The greeting ritual here involved dominance on his part, and some kind of trepidation on her part. It was not the “ever so happy to see you” excitement that I’ve come to expect from other coyote pair greetings, even though those, too, involved a degree of hierarchical activity.

I wondered how often coyotes are in relationships that aren’t mutually desired?

This female seems to like her independence. She spends time alone on a hill where she hunts or rests curled up in a little ball. He, on the other hand, keeps himself less visible by spending time in the bushes during daytime hours. Whereas she always takes off to walk and explore on her own, he has a need to shadow her or wait for her, and when he looses her, say because of dogs or people approaching, he’ll look for her for a short time and then head back to his bushes at a slow and listless pace with head slumped down — one can’t help but read this as disappointment and dejection. Of course, they’ll meet up later in the evening, but he obviously wants to go trekking with her. She doesn’t seem to really care, and makes no effort to locate him after they get separated.

Fleeing From Father

I’m trying to get a handle on a family where the youngster is never present. The parents’ daytime resting time is almost always in close proximity to each other, either in an open field or under cover of some forest edge habitat. Even when I can’t see them, I can tell they are fairly close together because when a siren whizzes by, they respond by yipping which reveals their proximate locations.

It’s hard to tell what’s going on with the youngster — and with the parental relationship with him — because I seldom see the youngster. Until today. Today I watched this youngster out in the unhidden open. What a rare treat! He did not immediately flee to the underbrush the minute he saw a person (me), but rather allowed me to spend time observing. He just sat there and looked around from his safe-zone in the far distance where I know he stays, but this time he wasn’t concealed behind bushes and thickets.

Soon he got up to go: he stretched and yawned, and obviously was at ease, even though a person was observing him. He looked at me, but basically went about his business. He casually walked off, and then started descending a hill when suddenly he stopped cold, did a quick about-face, and headed up the hill in a hurry, lickety-split. He stopped to look back once and then disappeared over the crest of the hill. I looked down the hill to find out what he might be running from and was surprised to see his father staring at him. Hmmm. Instead of running towards each other for a happy greeting, the youngster was running away with trepidation!

Father glaring over his shoulder, up the hill, at his youngster. Youngster hurries away.

Father glaring over his shoulder, up the hill, at his youngster. Youngster hurries away.

Had there been an altercation earlier? Might one of these coyotes have secretly taken and reburied a food cash that belonged to the other? Might there have been an issue with insubordination? Might lessons about territoriality and not crossing boundaries have been involved, or even safety issues about remaining away from dogs? Might the firm establishment of a hierarchical order be involved? Or, highly unlikely, might this have been the beginnings of an early dispersal process? I’ve never seen a coyote dispersed under one year of age here in San Francisco, but I’ve heard it alluded to. The bullying that precedes dispersal may go on for months before the youngster decides to take off for a better life elsewhere. I’m sad that I haven’t been able to see coyote family behaviors from this distant fella. We’ll see what happens.

“Even I Need Help!!”

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Hi Janet —

We have been busy with our programs and especially our school visits!

I wanted to share with you a few pictures of some 5th graders who have made Urban Coyote posters in order to share with others the important roles that coyotes play in our urban communities.

My favorite is one of a young boy who turned his coyote into a super hero! (There is a rat in the corner since we talk with the children about coyotes in the food chain and how they eat rats- which keeps the population down).

So far we have visited several classes with our Urban Wildlife lesson and have been able to share with them many great facts on coyote and the importance of leaving them alone and making sure dogs are leashed. It’s been really fun and the students seem to be really getting the message.

Thank you again for all you do! I hope you enjoy the pictures!


[Kat D’Anjou is a Humane Education Educator at the San Francisco SPCA. We met briefly to exchange ideas and information. Her HEART program (Human Educators Advocating Responsible Thinking) conducts classroom visits and summer camps to help students develop and express compassion, kindness, respect and generosity towards all animals.]

These Parents Spend Bulk of Their Day Together and Far From Their Youngster

In one of my coyote families, the parents have been spending all dusk, dawn and daytime hours far removed and distant from their one single pup. He’s been an “only” pup since he was very small, so maybe it was a single birth.

In the other families I’ve observed, these daytime hours, when the coyotes are visible to me, have included a good deal of “family time”, where parents can be seen engaging with youngsters: playing, sharing, grooming, resting within view of each other.

Not so in this particular family. Although I’ve seen the parents take food to their youngster and groom him — indicating that the family is still intact and functional, I’m seeing these types of behaviors only very sporadically — almost never — and they occur in the most secluded parts of their park. I wonder why more of these quieter daytime hours aren’t being spent with the youngster?

I don’t know the answer to this question, but the possibility occurred to me that the parents might be trying to entice the youngster out of his hiding places — to join them where they are. The parents have been hanging around in a field, at about the distance of several football fields away, but within view of him for the most part. Then again, as opposed to enticing the youngster out of his seclusion, maybe it is the parents who have prompted him to stay there — forbidding him to leave that safe zone? Teaching him about territoriality?  Or, it could simply be that all the interactions always, without fail, take place only during the darkest hours of the night when I am not around to see them.

The youngster is extremely shy and wary — more so than most youngsters. Each coyote, like each human, is an individual and different from the next. I’ve seen this one duck under cover if a person even looks at him from the far distance across a meadow. He ducks into the forest and can only be glimpsed now and then from between the bushes and trees. Maybe he’s just shy, but now I’m also wondering if he might not fit in?

A couple of years ago, in a larger family, I observed that one of the youngsters was shyer and more wary than the rest of his litter. He also seldom ventured into the areas of his park where there are people and pets, even though his siblings did when park patrons were few and the light was still, or had become, murky and dim. He didn’t interact well with his siblings: they played catch and chase and had wrestling matches, whereas this one would sit off to the side and watch, almost afraid to enter the fray, and then try to calm the exuberance between the others as though they were fighting and not playing — he did this by being aggressive. When they tried to include him in their play, he did the same thing. So the siblings just moved off a ways and continued their play. He was a loner who didn’t fit well into family life. He was dispersed soon after his first birthday. Is this is what is going to happen in this family with an “only child”?

San Francisco’s Coyote Population

After his

After his “sentry” duty on a hilltop during the wee hours of the morning before walkers arrived, this coyote stretches and then heads into the bushes to sleep during the day.

Just because the City doesn’t have a lot of information about San Francisco coyotes doesn’t mean that the information doesn’t exist. I myself have been observing and documenting coyote behavior in San Francisco over the last 9 years.*  I am rewriting this posting from questions I received on the Stern Grove Dog Owners’ Group site, where there has been a lot of questioning and apprehension by dog owners about our coexistence policy and about a general lack of information regarding San Francisco coyotes.  I hope it answers some basic questions.

POPULATION NUMBERS: Based on my observations, I would say that coyotes in San Francisco number in the dozens, not in the 100s. Their numbers here and elsewhere are limited by their territoriality: they exclude outsider coyotes from their territories, and their territories must be big enough to support them and their families — this has been estimated to be about a square mile per coyote, or 2 to 4 square miles per family as noted by Professor Stan Gehrt in Chicago, and coyote families fluctuate between 2 and 5 coyotes. Even if they needed 1/2 this amount of space, you can see that SF’s 49 square miles isn’t going to become overrun with coyotes.

POPULATION GROWTH. Within their established family territories, which include nearly all the parks, coyote numbers have not been increasing over the last six or so years. Rather, the number of coyotes has been fluctuating from about 2 to 5 and then back down again — it depends on what is happening interpersonally within the one resident family which lives in that claimed and exclusive territory — most parks or golf-courses have only one family with family-size in continual flux but stable over time. This is what I’ve observed.

And I don’t think there’s a sudden population “explosion” going on right now in San Francisco. This year I’ve seen small, including one-pup, litters. The drought might be playing a role in the low survival of pups. And also remember that under normal circumstances, survival rates for coyote pups within their first year of life is only around 30%.

The coyotes’ chief “predator” in the city is cars. There have been lots of coyote deaths-by-cars in San Francisco. I’ve seen or been told about them on Mansell Street (off of McLaren), on Portola, on O’Shaughnessey, on Sloat by the zoo, on Marview below Twin Peaks, on Lake Merced Avenue, etc. Professor Stan Gehrt in Chicago thinks cars are what kills most urban coyotes. Besides cars, malnutrition and disease end lives in the city, as in rural areas. But in rural areas thousands lose their lives through brutal hunting and shooting. The city is actually a sanctuary for them, but even in a city few coyotes live out their full potential life-span.

DISPERSAL. I’ve observed that coyotes disperse throughout the year, depending on interpersonal family dynamics and resources: I myself have never noticed a set “dispersal season”, and at this early autumn time of year, when coyote pups are only 6 months old, it would be too early for them to disperse anyway. I’m troubled by claims from the city about a “dispersal season” being the reason for more sightings right now. Coyote specialists I’ve spoken to, including Jon Way, corroborate my own observations that coyotes disperse throughout the year. I hope we can clear up the misinformation out there.

The “extra” coyotes, in time, will move out of the city or fill vacant niches: they appear to have their own built-in GPS systems, like migrating birds — coyotes who are relocated can find their way back, and those who leave on purpose can find their way out of the city. For those who don’t leave the city, vacant niches might be found in smaller parks, and maybe even in areas in some neighborhoods: you can prevent the latter by creating disturbances, and by eliminating the foods that attract them, whether it is dog food, raccoons, skunks, rats or even free roaming cats. Rather than move into neighborhoods, they are more likely simply to trek through, doing their job of balancing the environment by eliminating excess rats and other rodents, most of which they do when it’s dark outside. Remember that their territories must be big enough to support them, and their territorial boundaries do not overlap: if there are a number of sightings in an area, it will likely be the same coyotes over and over again which are being seen.

Always and everywhere, the main issue with coyotes is pets. So keep small pets out of harm’s way by supervising them and not allowing them to roam free. Keep larger pets leashed when you see a coyote — coyotes and dogs do not get along. Please watch the online video “Coyotes As Neighbors”, which can be Googled, and look for additional pertinent coyote guidelines at CoyoteCoexistence.com.


Urban Coyote Myth: Coyotes Luring Dogs to Their Deaths, Explained. . . by Mary Paglieri

People’s interactions with urbanized coyotes have given birth to several myths over the years. These stories start from subjective interpretations of observations people make of coyote behavior interpreted through the lens of personal beliefs, biases and the deep-seated evolutionary fear of predators, and have no basis in reality or scientific fact. Which brings to mind a quote by Anais Nin: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

One of my all-time favorites is the story that has been repeated over and over again about how a single coyote intentionally lures unsuspecting dogs away from their homes to become a meal for a hungry pack of coyotes that are waiting to devour it. Another popular version of the myth is that it’s a female coyote in heat that intentionally targets and lures male dogs away to be eaten.

I can understand the mechanism by which these myths can start: through lack of knowledge of animal behavior, specifically, how dogs and coyotes interact. Most times, animal behaviors have simple, uncomplicated explanations and it is important to objectively evaluate that natural behavior, if we are to gain an understanding of how to peacefully and safely coexist with wildlife that are sharing the environment with us.

So, what appears to be “sinister” motivations on part of the coyote is simply this:

1. A coyote investigates another canid (dog) in the neighborhood. Younger coyotes are more curious about new things in their environment. Alpha coyotes will also investigate if there is another canid (dog) in their environment to determine whether it’s a threat. Close encounters, interactions and direct eye contact is made.

2. Dogs are also curious about other canids such as coyotes, and the dog will sometimes follow/chase the coyote as it returns back into the woods/hills.

3. The dog at that point may encounter other coyote family members because young coyotes and alphas sometimes travel together – a natural behavior of social canids.

4. The dog entering the coyote’s domain may then be interpreted as an “intruder.” Either as a competitor over resources, or as a threat to their offspring if there are pups around (or the dog becomes defensive like in the video of the dog and wolves that was posted earlier).

5. An altercation ensues with the dog. Depending on the size and strength of the dog, it can either be injured or killed. Severity of the attack is also dependent on the coyotes’ risk/benefit assessment. During such altercations, coyotes are injured as well – and sometimes, nothing happens…

Traditionally, urban myths and legends always have a moral. The moral of this story is to have the proper fencing to keep your dogs confined to their yards and to keep them on a leash when walking them in areas known to have coyotes.

There are many instances where people have had their larger dogs run off and intermingle with coyotes without incident, as well as times where large dogs have chased down and killed coyotes.


Mary Paglieri,
Human – Animal Conflict Consultant,
Behavioral Ecologist,

Ear Trouble

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Coyote ears are large and their hearing is keen. Ears are crucial for a coyote’s hunting and self-protection. Even though protected by fur, sometimes, a foreign object can get in there and get stuck. The usual response of the animal is to shake its head, rub the ear with a paw, or scratch at it with a hind leg. All those tricks had been tried by this young coyote here, but these activities were not intense. As I watched her during the afternoon, what stood out was the way she held her one ear — the left one — really low.

What could have been causing the problem? Could something have entered into and be lodged in her ear? It’s well past foxtail season. Foxtails are the nemesis of all dogs in the area. These foreign objects have to be surgically removed because, since they are grass awns — barbed seeds — they work their way IN and can’t come out — it’s a one way journey. These barbs can cause infections in many dogs and having them removed helps keeps our vets in business.  I’m wondering how a coyote might cope with one of these, especially if it causes an infection. Since the next day this gal was okay, I’m going to assume the ear problem, however annoying and irritating, involved something small, such as a bug or small grain of debris.


photo by Charles Wood

“Mom” in the Los Angeles coyote family which Charles Wood wrote about for this blog (enter “Charles Wood” into the search box to find his postings) had an ear which shriveled up due to end stage otitis, according to a vet contacted by Charles. It resulted in a permanent disfiguration and therefore an identifying mark for her.

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