Three Disturbances in One Morning is Too Much

Most coyotes you might pass in the mornings in the parks are on their way “home”. For the most part, they are shy so they don’t linger where they can be seen for too long — they prefer not being seen at all. However, they might stop out of curiosity: “what are you doing and where are you going?” Soon they will have ducked into the underbrush, and they are gone.

The few bolder coyotes, usually mothers and leaders of their families, don’t mind being seen at a distance on occasion. Until they go “home”, they might sit in a protected spot high up where they can rest in peace, like the little bull Ferdinand in the story book, and where they can keep an eye on things. If these coyotes are disturbed, interfered with or chased, they will complain loudly and openly rather than just run away, and they may turn around to defend themselves. I watched as this type of coyote was interfered with three times today.

I arrived at the park in time to hear the distressed barking that a coyote engages in after it has been chased or disturbed. This intense barking can go on for as long as 20 minutes. I decided to follow the sound and found the coyote still engaged in its complaining. Although I had not arrived in time to see what actually caused the complaining, I assumed that the group of walkers I was hearing had had an encounter with the coyote, and this distressed barking was the result of that. After taking a photo, I left the coyote barking, and continued up a hill on my walk.

Soon afterwards, I found this same coyote, calmed down, in a different part of the park, on a ledge where it had stationed itself. I watched it and took photos for a while. It relaxed most of the time, but stood up now and then when a runner or dog on a nearby path caught its attention. It always went back to its perch after these had passed.

THEN things changed. The coyote bolted up and stared at something on the path below which I could not see. The coyote got flustered and began running away as a woman yelled for her dog which was now chasing the coyote . The dog pursuing the coyote was a very large German Shepherd. The coyote ran towards a more protected part of the park and started, for a second time, 20 minutes of distressed barking. The dog owner must have grabbed her dog because I did not see it again. Meanwhile, the coyote continued its complaining, keeping its eyes on all paths that might lead to where it was. I have seen that these incidents only happen with unleashed dogs. Although everyone knows that coyotes are in the area, not everyone wants to take the precaution or responsibility of leashing a dog they know might disturb the coyote.

The coyote then trotted a little ways in the direction where the dog had come from, where it continued barking for a short time. The barking session then ended with a few little breathy grunts. The coyote, now calmer, walked back over to the ledge where it had been resting before the German Shepherd chase. The dog and owner were gone.

And now, there is an important point I would like to make. These two incidents may have emboldened the coyote somewhat. If they had not occurred, the coyote may not have gone into a defensive mode or set herself up to be ready when a third dog appeared. What I’m seeing is that if several dogs chase a coyote or interfere with it, the coyote’s defenses may build up. If one person lets their dog confront the coyote, it makes it harder for other dog owners to deal with the coyote which now has its ire up and is emboldened and feeling defensive.

The reason I say this is that I then watched a THIRD disturbance for this coyote — the third in one morning. Right after this last incident had subsided, a female runner could be seen jogging with her two Weimeraners. These also were unleashed. The coyote saw them and stationed itself to watch from a place where dogs could actually reach it — wasn’t this a bit provocative? The coyote now seemed prepared for defending itself if it were chased. As the woman ran by, one of her dogs went towards the coyote — maybe out of curiosity — I did not see if it was a full blown chase. The coyote was in no mood to be interfered with again and it did not head away from the dogs. Instead, coyote gave the display you see here and even ran after the lagging dog to herd it on. The woman ran ahead calling her dogs which were some distance in back of her. As this group ran out of sight, the coyote stood and watched them, and then trotted off in the other direction.

My point in writing this is to let everyone know that coyotes don’t want these interactions. They do not want to be interfered with. They want to be left alone. They want to rest calmly. But, if this type of coyote is approached or interfered with, and if its ire has already been awakened so that it is in a defensive mode, it might very well stand up for itself. ALSO, if a dog has had previous interactions of this sort with the coyote, the coyote remembers, and is prepared for this particular dog. The coyote may even make the first approach in an effort to warn the dog off before the dog even thinks of disturbing the coyote: better warn them off before they chase you.

These encounters can be avoided if we keep our dogs away from the coyotes to begin with by leashing them. Please help establish a peaceful coexistence with our coyotes. A coyote only has its self-protective instincts to follow. Dogs also have to deal with their instinctual and “playful” needs, but in this case the owner can call the shots by preventing an encounter. It is the dog owners who have control. They need to prevent all interactions so as to protect both our dogs and the coyotes.

Shaking Out The Rain

As it rained on and off, this coyote shook out the wetness. The top sequence was after the rain had stopped. The bottom sequence was right in the middle of the rain! The shaking is strong enough to make the entire body look contorted in a photograph, with skin and fur whipping back and forth over the body. The image I was unable to catch was the shaking body with the ability to see the water flying out in all directions. I may still get it yet!!

A Shake-can (Clicker is too weak), If Needed

A soft-drink can filled with a few bolts, coins and pebbles, when shaken, will make a racket to vex a coyote away from you and your dog if this should become necessary. The standard soda-can shaker is rather bulky to carry on your walks. I have found that using a much smaller 5.5 oz. juice can makes just as much noise as the soda can and can easily fit into a pocket. I tried to find an even smaller alternative and came up with a loud clicker. Although this can have a sharp and penetrating sound, even a very loud one will not be as effective as the shake-can.

In all my years of watching coyotes, I have never ever had to ward one off. A coyote might approach in your direction out of curiosity, but it will keep a safe distance because coyotes do not want to tangle with humans. However, if you have a dog, you may feel more secure in a coyote area if you have the can on hand, especially during pupping season. Coyotes have come in close to some of the dogs in our urban parks for various reasons, as I have discussed earlier. The shake-cans have loud and sharp sounds, which, along with your vigorous activity of shaking the can, might serve as a “double” vexing agent. Of course, ultimately, flailing your arms and any sharp sound, even screaming or yelling, will serve the same purpose to increase the distance between you and a coyote who you feel has come in too close to you.

Pesky Gnats

These photos show gnats surrounding this coyote who is attempting to relax. The coyote observed them a few times, and batted some away with its snout, but otherwise put up with them.

“What Are You Doing & Where Are You Going?” -Following

In the morning I saw a small border collie and its owner before I noticed a coyote trotting along a short distance behind them. I called out that a coyote was right there — but this did not phase the owner, who slowly bagged the dog’s droppings before leashing up. This dog and coyote know each other visually, but keep their distance. The owner leashes her dog because she does not want the possibility of an altercation between her dog and the coyote. The result would be a bad reputation for the coyote — so we all guard against this.  In this case, the small dog, about the same size as a coyote, was totally oblivious to the coyote — he had not seen it. Most dogs become aware of any coyote in the immediate vicinity well before their owners do.

The owner continued walking up the hill where she looked back to finally see the coyote herself. The coyote knew it had been sighted, so it jumped into some bushes further back, “just in case” the dog might go after it. The woman and her dog walked on, saying they would be back on their way out of the park. The coyote came out, no longer to follow these two, but to bask on a rock in the sun, even dozing off a little now and then. The coyote might have been waiting for the return of this dog — if it had learned of their walking routine.

After exactly half an hour, the coyote stood up and gazed intently in one area. It kept its eyes glued on a trail which I could not see. It turned out that the coyote was watching this same woman and her dog returning. When I finally did see the owner, we waved at each other and she acknowledged the coyote’s presence, and then she proceeded onto a trail out of the park. The coyote at this point got up, stretched, and follow them to the entrance.

By the time I reached the entrance to the park, the walker was gone, and the coyote was examining something at the end of the trail. I wanted to put this into my blog because it seemed to me that the coyote actually had chosen to follow this particular dog as it entered the park, and then to follow it as it exited the park. There was nothing “threatening” about the following, just a certain “nosiness” on the part of the coyote: “what are you doing and where are you going?” I think the coyote was confirming for itself what she already knew as the pattern: that the dog was just “visiting” the park and then “moving on”.

I have seen lots of instances of coyote “nosiness”. A few mornings ago I was walking with a friend when we noticed a coyote dart by quickly, almost undetectably. Sometimes a coyote might dart by on its way somewhere, and that is the end of that. But sometimes, especially if you, or you and your dog, stop to observe the coyote, it will do the same, even coming back around a bend or a bush fairly close so as to be able to examine you. The coyote wants to know what you are doing and where you are going.  I suppose nosiness elicits nosiness in this case!! Or call it curiosity. The coyotes might engage in this for a few minutes, but inevitably more walkers and dogs appear and the coyotes run off.

Do Coyote Tails Wag? “Catch Me If You Can!”

Yes, coyote tails do wag, but from what I’ve seen, quite differently than a dogs. When the coyotes wag their tails in excited and anxious anticipation, the tails move very slowly in a back and forth motion. When they greet each other at a rendezvous, the tails seems to be swished around in circles — circles of ecstatic joy! Please note the pure joy displayed in their faces as these two coyotes play with each other. They are totally involved with the play and with each other. Their vision was intensely focused on each other as they played, though a couple of times they looked over at me. They seemed to concentrate on each others faces to anticipate what the other would do. Their play involved inciting the other to chase, chasing, keeping away from the other by running around a bush — sometimes the chaser “jumped” the barrier-bush, waging their tails in anticipation as they waited for the other to react, running together, feinting, testing.

Notice their mouths are open, they are almost smiling. Also, there was crouching with the front part of the body down and back part up in a puppy “invitation to play” fashion. When they reached each other after a chase, their mouths were agape and often their teeth are bared, but they never made tooth contact. They often lay in a sphinx-like posture while waiting. They panted. The play continued for 24 minutes before they ducked into the brush.

Experts at Eluding Detection: Coyote behavior

I keep my eyes open for wildlife — this is where my focus is, so I have become pretty good at catching what someone else might miss. Today I spotted a coyote on a path — pretty visible right in the open — but it was gone in the blink of an eye. The minute it knew it had been seen, it immediately was absolutely and totally GONE. It had bounced, like a rabbit, into some underbrush, and although I thought I might be able to see it again, I did not. The day before I was able to make out two ears way up ahead on the horizon with the sun coming from that direction — visibility was bad. When I got there, no critter was to be seen anywhere until with much effort I was able to detect a slight movement off to the side. It was the coyote, well camouflaged behind some thorny underbrush. I had only an instant to look, before it was off and gone.

Coyotes are often not seen by walkers: they easily elude detection, even if you are looking for one. I have seen many walkers not see one that crossed very close in front of them! Of course, at other times you might see one wandering boldly on an open path, totally unconcerned, and it might turn around and examine you out of curiosity. Or you might see one surveying the area from a lookout. There are no generalities with coyotes.

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