Daughter(s) Still Here, by Charles Wood

Before twilight today I saw two of the coyotes in the group living in a small field bordering one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  I saw Mom and Dad on May 25 and May 3 where Mom was clearly lactating.  On April 21 I saw Dad with one of his year old daughters.  Each of the coyotes today had two good ears.  Since Mom has one cauliflower ear, the two coyotes today had to be either both of the year old daughters or one of the daughters accompanied by Dad.

It has been more than a month since I last saw one of the daughters and I had wondered if they were still around and helping with Mom and Dad’s new puppies.  It is clear from today’s sighting that at least one daughter is still here.  I hope to be seeing the puppies in the next few weeks and am looking forward to learn how the daughters will share in childcare.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Our EXISTING Wildlife Habitat Is Being Destroyed For Native Plants

 

“Lamented Changes In Our Garber Park Neighborhood”, by Diana

I have been thinking about our Garber Park neighborhood and how it has changed over the past 25 years that we have lived here on Evergreen Lane. I have been thinking how habitat has altered since 1986 and how the overstory of greenery has declined.

In 1986, Evergreen Lane was truly evergreen. In September of 1987, I recall that our neighbor, Mr. Garfield, a professor at Cal, described it as a “magic street.” At that time the street looked like a green tunnel, with big trees on both sides all the way down to Garber Park. A giant eucalyptus tree stood majestically at the intersection of Evergreen and Slater Lane. The air was cool and fresh, invigorating with the moisture of shaded land.

For several years after we moved into our house, deer abounded. There were spots below our home where they rested during the day. When the heat became extreme in late summer, the deer found cool places to sleep under our house. Often, in the fall, we would see male deer butting heads down the hill, while the does hid in the deeper tree growth.

There were raptors perched in the oak trees and hawks flying across the skies. We would see bats fly by the windows at night. And, at certain times of the year, we would hear owls calling to each other in the dark as they waited to spy mice and other small night-time venturers. Every night, we would be greeted by a mother raccoon and three babies eager to hunt for crumbs that might have dropped from the picnic table on the deck.

Mobs of robins arrived to find berries before they embarked on their migratory journeys. We enjoyed watching the abundance of spiders, tiny orange fellows that would spin their webs on plants in summer, adding dashes of color among the greenery. It was beautiful to watch them spin their slivery architecture; their webs were jewels that reflected the dappled sunlight.

Wild bumble bees built a hive under the house, and yellow jackets would visit us when lunch was outdoors, snatching tiny bits of food from the tablecloth. We had a water snake living in our garden for several years. In the garden, we also hosted voles and, once in a while, we would spot the woodland pack rat, an intelligent, clean animal.

Now, when we look around us, we see changes everywhere. Nature no longer seems as close as it used to be. When we look down at the arena where the bucks once battled, it is empty. It has been years since those scenes occurred. The path between houses here where we often saw three or four deer ambling down together is seldom used. We had one doe and a fawn visit last summer under the house, but they stayed for only a day, then disappeared. We spotted one deer resting down the hill this last year.

We know fatalities have occurred due to heavier and faster traffic on Claremont Avenue; that may account for part of the loss. But we suspect that the deer may miss the trees and bushes that have been removed over the years. Careless pruning has opened up much of the green overstory that once existed.

The raccoon population was bothering a neighbor so raccoon families were trapped and taken away as nuisances. Few have been our way since that time. This last year I counted only four or five cobwebs in the garden.The bumble bees have disappeared, as have the yellow jackets. Wild bees’ nests were destroyed by people who believe that bees’ nests house “dangerous pests.” Someone used a shovel to kill the water snake. Its body was left to rot in the sun. The robin activity was much lower this year. Perhaps they miss the berries; many of the berry bushes have been removed because they are said to be invasive; they are “not the right kind,” except that the robins really liked them.

We read that rat poison is spread in parks discourage rodents. The poison moves up the food chain to destroy other species. We have never used pesticides or any other materials that would harm the abundant life that the park and the overhanging trees on Evergreen Lane once supported. Yet, the majority of the wildlife described above has disappeared.

Granted, the 1991 fire (which thankfully did not reach Evergreen Lane or go into Garber Park) and construction in surrounding areas have occurred in the intervening years since we have taken up residence here.

But the raptors are leaving us; a few hawks roam the area but lately I have seen or heard only one. Now, with more eucalyptus trees removed, the evening dance of the bats has also disappeared. We have no idea why so many animals, birds, and insects have left us.

Something in the environment has removed what they needed. We don’t know what it is. We know we miss the spontaneous and vibrant natural environment that greeted us here in 1986. Now we are scrubbed and clean. The bothersome species have been banished.

We miss the cool, scented evenings filled with moist, clean air. Dust is much more a part of our life now, seeping into our house through any crack or cranny, making us think twice before we throw open the sliders for fresh(?) air.

With all respect to those who have come to restore Garber Park to its “native” beginnings and have worked hard to remove built up debris, we can’t help but long for that time when venturing into the Park was a near wilderness experience with dark, cool overhead coverings and the unexpected rush of an animal disturbed in its quiet retreat from the heat. I understand that the work that is going on in Garber Park is well intended… I also feel the magic slipping away.

[Reprinted with permission from  Spring issue of Hills Conservation Network’s newsletter and Save Mount SutroThe same changes described in this article are taking place in too many of our Bay Area parks: Sutro Forest, Twin Peaks, McLaren Park, Mount Davidson, Glen Canyon. Ecological destruction, whether from building and traffic, or from native plant experiments in "restorations" inevitably impacts wildlife and atmosphere. Garber Park photo credit Bindu Frank].

Fleeing

Here is the look of a coyote fleeing, first dogs, and then a person. The coyote seemed to have a definite idea of where it was going when I first saw it. I followed far behind. Then, suddenly, the coyote stopped because, about 200 feet ahead, in its direct path, it could see dogs playing in an open area. The coyote observed for a few seconds, and then turned to go the other way, looking back a couple of times at the dog group to make sure it had not been seen. The dogs and owners did not see the coyote. The photos from the top row depict this situation.

As the coyote headed back in the direction from which it had come, a lone walker appeared about 100 feet ahead on the path coming in the coyote’s direction. I was on this same path, so that now, the coyote was between two humans on the same path. The coyote jumped off the path and into the tall grasses and continued 100 feet further away from the path. The coyote remained on rigid alert and ready to bolt as it and the lone walker eyed each other intently  for a few seconds. The bottom row of photos shows the coyote in this situation. The coyote did not like the situation and bolted further off and out of sight.

These are the most typical and common coyote reactions when a coyote inadvertently chances upon either dogs or humans in its path. The coyote does not want to encounter dogs or people — however, this sometimes just happens by chance as the coyote makes its rounds or moves to a different part of a park.

If the dogs had seen the coyote, there very well could have been a reaction by the dogs. Unleashed dogs, of course, are freer to do as they please and don’t tend to make intelligent choices when wildlife is involved. Pupping season presents additional challenges for all concerned: a coyote feels much more territorial and protective during this time period, and we humans need to be more vigilant about keeping our and our dog’s distance and respecting a coyote’s needs.

Purposeful With Pups Around, by Charles Wood

Before twilight today I saw both of the parent coyotes who live in a small field that borders one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  The last time I saw them was May 3.  I’ve yet to see their puppies this year.

Dad is still looking a bit thin.  I came across them both as I was leaving their field.  Mom was partially in cover.  I moved about twenty feet away from my leashed dog to get a less obscured picture of her.  Seeing an opportunity, Dad quickly approached my dog Holtz.  Dad disregarded Holtz’s barking and then charged.  I snapped a quick picture and then moved to stand between him and Holtz.  His opportunity blocked, Dad broke off his charge, moved back, calmed down and did some investigatory sniffing.  Throughout the event, Mom stood at the ready.  My read of Dad is that he would have stopped short of contact with Holtz regardless of my having blocked him.  There is an element of bluff in Dad’s displays and he was aware that Holtz, for being constrained by leash, could not engage him and hence, a close approach was safe.

The photographs included in this post illustrate how purposeful my coyotes can be when they have pups around.  Note that upon seeing my coyotes in their field, I head for the exit at once.  On the way out, I’ll stop in a clearing and take some photographs.  At times they merely hide, other times they do as they did today.

As mentioned in my post of May 3, Mom apparently has had her puppies this year.  It isn’t clear to me if today Mom and Dad, upon seeing me from a distance, messaged their accompanying pups to stay hidden while they took action against the intruders.  Instead, perhaps the two daughters from last year were babysitting so Mom and Dad could have some time off.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos:Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Sleeping in the Open, In the Sunshine

coyote hidden in a meadow

Most people never notice a coyote sleeping out in the open — after all, they blend in well with their surroundings, and, isn’t it just common sense that an animal would seek cover to sleep?

But coyotes have their own way of doing things. They are, in fact, protected in ways that matter to them. They never rest anywhere close to a path which people or dogs might frequent. A coyote always picks a safe spot, “far from the madding crowd.” These photos were taken with a powerful zoom lens. There are rock and poison oak barriers that prevent access to most dogs and people who might enter the area. Dogs and people are coyotes’ only enemies in an urban setting.

same coyote later on, cropped-in closer

This coyote slept, but kept changing its position every so often, sticking it’s head up for a look around before sprawling out again to sleep. When dog activity in the distance pierced it’s quiet, the coyote sat up to watch sometimes, and ignored it at other times. Then, at a certain point, the coyote slowly got up, scratched itself, stretched, and wandered slowly over to a completely secluded spot under some bushes where he now could not be spotted at all. But, before moving on, two hours had elapsed sleeping in the open, in the sunshine.

REMINDER: It’s Pupping Season: If Needed, Flash An Umbrella!

It is coyote pupping season. We all need to remember to stay away from coyotes and their dens. Coyotes are feeling particularly edgy and protective of their space right now. When the pups are brought out of the dens, and when they begin to explore further afield, the coyote parents will defend a much wider area around the pups and they will do so more fiercely than usual. We need to give them plenty of girth so that they feel safe. After all, we are the ones who are intruding on their homes.

Coyotes will inevitably flee from human beings when there is a chance encounter on a trail. They may stop for a moment to look — they are curious — but they don’t care to tangle with humans and will move off — unless you get too close to a den area, in which case they may stand their ground. With dogs, there is always the potential for conflict. Coyotes always see dogs as potential threats — this increases many times over for a coyote when there are pups to look after. Leashing dogs in coyote areas, which both keeps the dog calmer and closer to you, is the single most effective way to avoid problems. But even a leashed dog, if he is active and displays antagonism towards a coyote it sees up ahead, can occasionally incite a negative coyote reaction.

If you have a dog, keep walking on, away from the coyote. Try not to stop and stare because this sets up an opportunity for the dog and coyote to communicate through body language and eye contact — it almost always involves mutual dislike. If the coyote feels threatened, he/she may stand his/her ground with a warning display which includes what I call the “Halloween Cat” display: arched back, hackles up, snarly face with teeth bared, head down, pacing or bouncing: this is a message — it is the only way a coyote can make you understand what its needs are. This, sometimes, can then erupt into a long distressed barking session. And ultimately, the coyote may try to herd the dog away by actually nipping at its butt. You need to move on — away from the coyote, but you may need to shoo the coyote off if it comes in too close.

As you retreat from an upset coyote, make sure that you walk away, don’t run. Running might incite the coyote to chase — it’s an instinctual reaction. An angry and loud voice, along with sharp noises or flailing one’s arms might hurry them on their way. Clapping ones’s hands, or shaking a small 4-ounce juice-size can with coins in it works. The newest idea that has been suggested is carrying a small fold-up umbrella with you if you walk in a coyote area and feel a need for added protection. Just flashing the umbrella open and closed a few times will startle a coyote off! I’ve never used this method, nor seen it used, but I can see how it would work.

NOTE: I’ve never had a negative encounter with a coyote. But I have watched other people have them. Every incident I have seen has been caused by a human with their dog who inadvertently or purposefully refused to respect a coyote’s space. I’m writing this to let everyone know that you can control a situation by becoming aware of known coyote behaviors which I’m hoping to show in this blog.

So, There!!

Here is a sequence of events that gets you right into a coyote’s world.

I came down a path to find a coyote high on a rock, carefully watching some dogs and walkers approach. As the dogs and people reached a point where they might have spotted the coyote, the coyote hurried down the rock, waited for a moment and then hurried to behind a bush to hide and wait for the group to pass by — I was impressed with this little coyote’s intelligence and planning. Neither the people nor the dogs saw the coyote at all.

After this group had passed, the coyote scrambled back up to the lookout on the rock, watching this group until they were totally out of sight. A huge yawn and stretch was in order to celebrate the successful evasion. But it was important now for the coyote to “speak its mind”. It trotted down to the path where the group had passed, smelled for the exact location to leave its mark, and pooped. Then it walked a little further, smelled another spot where the group had been and this time urinated on that spot. And that is precisely what this coyote thought of that group.

The history behind this is that this particular group of dogs has continually chased this coyote, and one of the walkers has continually thrown stones at the coyote. So, yes, the coyote avoids them, but feels free to “speak its mind” about them — telling them off in its own way!

Coyotes Use Dens Only For Pupping

It may come as a surprise that coyotes do not use dens year round. They use the dens to give birth to their pups and as a place to nurse their young — whelping. The pups move out soon after these beginnings, however, they retain use of the well hidden areas around the dens — these become their secret resting places. Most coyote families retain several of these areas for their use. The pups are moved regularly to escape flea buildup and as a safety measure. I think of  a coyote den as being similar in usage to a bird’s nest: it is a temporary “nursery”. However, the nest, if it is still somewhat intact, may be fixed up the next year to be used again. This is how the coyote dens I’ve seen work. People are constantly asking me where the dens are, and I have to respond that, unless they are having pups, there are no dens: coyotes sleep out in the open and can sometimes be seen doing so. See my posting of July 15, 2010: Sleeping and Resting Right In The Open.

The den is dug by both parents-to-be on sandy hillsides and steep creek banks, under logs or rocks, within underbrush and in open areas where the digging is easy. These are always areas chosen for protective concealment, but also, they are places that can be watched by a coyote parent from some distance, again for protective purposes. Not all coyote dens are made by coyotes themselves: coyotes sometimes dig out and enlarge holes dug by smaller burrowing animals, such as badger or fox dens. In suburban and urban areas coyotes may dig dens in golf courses or in other vacant lots, under sheds and under culverts and storm drains.

Dens are usually three to six feet below the surface and can run from only a few feet to 50 feet into a hillside.  The dug out tunnel leads to a large chamber, which often has a second or even more entrances that are better hidden than the digging entrance.  Active dens are hard to find because of the various entrances — and because coyotes are very careful not to lead anyone there. Coyotes have not one, but several dens which they move between, not only to protect the pups from predators, but also to protect the pups from the fleas and other parasites which build up.

A coyote will fiercely defend its den if it believes the pups are in danger, even charging full-grown grizzlies who came too close. This is why dog owners are warned to keep their dogs far away from coyotes during pupping season. Pups are born from March thru mid-May, and then are nursed for 4-6 weeks. But the end of nursing is not the end of “pupping”. I’ve seen mothers fiercely defend pups who are approaching two years of age when dogs go after them. It is best to respect coyotes and allow them the space they need to feel safe.

Here is a wonderful link to a video of pups emerging from their den for the first time, produced by BBC Worldwide. It is called Coyote Cub Singing, and shows a very young coyote pup producing his first high-pitched howl!! Also, see more coyote pups emerging from their den.

A High Rocky Lookout to Check Things Out

I’ve watched coyotes for a long time. They love to raise themselves on a rock at the top of a cliff where they scan in all directions, including down, for any and all activity. They are sentries making their inspections.

We have all seen birds sitting on rocks. But when I saw a bird look in all directions, including far down the cliff edge of the rock, I knew the same thing was happening. And then today, I couldn’t believe as I watched a little brown squirrel head straight for one of the same rocks that many of the other critters use. He scampered to the top, stood up high, and looked in all directions, including over the steep edges to the activity far below, and continued inspecting for many minutes! We humans do the same thing. You know, we really are not so different!

“Did you know that coyotes put out fires?”

I could not believe this when I read it in Hope Ryden’s book: God’s Dog, page 144. The man asking the question had been smoking a cigarette, which is what probably prompted the question to Hope as they observed a coyote. “Did you know that coyotes put out fires?” The man proceeded to set an envelope on fire with his cigarette and tossed it in the coyote’s direction. The coyote quickly “pounced on it, and began drumming the flames with her forefeet while bouncing on and off the blaze until only the edges still had sparks”. The fire wasn’t out yet, so the coyote, with its shoulder, pushed the scrap of paper with embers against the ground, then stood up to examine it, and repeated this again. The fire was now out. Apparently all coyotes put out fires — small fires. Wow!!

To Be or Not To Be Seen

I am finding a few polar opposites in coyote personalities. One set of polar opposites is to be seen or not to be seen. In the top row of photos is a coyote who I noticed at about the same time he noticed me. He looked around briefly, and then decided to move out of sight. This is very normal behavior for most coyotes. They are shy and they don’t want to be seen.

On the other end of the spectrum is the coyote who, instead of moving out of sight, actually deposits himself on a rock or hill where he knows he will be seen. He knows you are watching him — or maybe he knows you are admiring him. He almost poses for you. And sometimes, he almost falls asleep — eyes close and the head nods off and is caught with a sudden jerk that wakes the coyote up — and he knows you are watching the whole time. Of course, a safe distance and no dog are pre-requisites for a coyote who chooses to be seen.

Night Eyes

night eyes

This photo was taken just as it was getting dark. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can count the number of eyes!! Thanks, Allie! I really like this photo. Photo courtesy of Allie Light.

“Got Milk? Yes!” by Charles Wood

Mom

At twilight Monday I saw both parent coyotes who live with their two one-year old daughters in a small field that borders one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  The last time I saw one of the one-year old daughters was April 21 when she was with Dad.  I last saw the other daughter on March 30.  I hadn’t seen Mom since February 22.  It looks like she’s had a litter.  New puppies weren’t with Mom and Dad.  I assume they are still well hidden in their den.  I doubt the puppies were left in their den alone, but I don’t know for a fact that they weren’t.

Would the parents leave new puppies unsupervised and unprotected?  It’s likely the two daughters are still there even though I didn’t see them today.  It is surprising to me that the daughters are apparently able to help with newborns this soon and to this extent.  One of the daughters is bold, serious and fierce; the other:  not so much.  Instead she seems to be a coyote that has an eager, happy-go-lucky temperament and is more prone than the others to run and hide upon seeing me.  Are they both trusted nannies, or if just one, which?  There is a chance that the puppies are safe enough to be entirely unattended for a while.  I’m not able to know any of that for sure.

Last year I didn’t see puppies until the first week of June and it took two more weeks to get

Dad

a photograph of them.  From June to well into summer, Dad was the only adult coyote I saw attending to the puppies.

Note that Mom’s left ear is infected or has mites, is a source of discomfort, and may now have developed into cauliflower ear.  She nevertheless is taking care of business.  Dad is looking a bit thin to me.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos:Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Grunting & Barking

barking


Audio File –> GRUNTS & BARKING

Relaxing comes easy to this coyote. Still, there are nuisances which have to be dealt with — the main one being intrusions from dogs, even if they are in the distance. If a dog has chased a coyote in the past, he’ll do it again. The dog communicates his intentions and attitude through his gaze and stance to the coyote. The coyote remembers all dogs that have threatened him.

So, the walkers and dogs came into view;  they never got excessively close. The coyote first stood up and watched intently. And then, as the dogs eyed the coyote and got excited,  the coyote’s grunting began. The grunting is almost inaudible — visually one can see the coyote’s slight huffing and puffing. My dog used to do this when he wanted to have the last word after I scolded him: huffing with a little grunt. The grunting in coyotes often precedes a long barking session, as it did here — it’s almost as if the grunting served to wind up the coyote!

The audio I’ve included here has 1:20 minutes of grunting — you have to listen very carefully to hear it through the singing birds and sounds of traffic — the grunts are very soft and there are pauses. Then, at 1:20 minutes, the barking begins. I’ve included a full five minutes which all sounds the same, so there is no reason to listen to the entire recording. The barking actually went on longer than the recording — until dog and walker were out of sight and far gone. At that point, the coyote curled up on a rock, as he had been before.  Soon a runner approached up the path the coyote was on, and the coyote fled.

.

Dead Mole Found, Played With, Buried

Moles are unpalatable for coyotes — I have never seen a coyote eat one. But I have seen coyotes toy with dead ones, urinate on them and, here, bury one.

This coyote looked like he just “happened upon” the dead vole, though he may have been drawn to the mole’s location by its odor. There was no battle which is how I knew the mole was already dead. Possibly it had been left by this same coyote on a previous day. The coyote picked it up, walked a ways with it and tossed it in the air and caught it a few times. Then he carried it a little further, looking around to find the “right spot” to bury it. The carcass was then placed in a depression in the grass, and the coyote used its nose — only its nose — to push the grass over, again and again, until the animal was totally covered and undetectable.

Interestingly, dead animals, including moles, have a very strong odor, and, coyotes’ sense of smell is superb. Any coyote could have found this buried mole simply by sniffing. I wonder who the mole was being hidden from?