Apples, Blackberries and Pears, Oh My!

This fella found quite a smorgasbord this morning, all within the space of about 4 square feet! He must have been in coyote heaven. Right after he had picked up and eaten some voles without expending much effort, he walked just a couple of feet to a patch of fruit. There were blackberries, apples and pears either on the vines and trees which he could reach, or just lying around on the ground where they had fallen. I watched him eat one and then another and then another and . . .

He ate for a long time. He ate standing most of the time, but for a while he ate lying down in the cool ivy under the fruit trees. He crunched through the apples and pears the way we would, chomping on mouthfuls at a time, and sometimes taking bites that were too big so that part of the fruit fell to the ground. Then he got up and walked away. There was still plenty of fruit left lying on the ground by the time he departed, so I guess he had his fill!

As he ate, he kept his eyes up, high above himself, and on the lookout constantly. I wondered what was going on above him!? I never did figure it out for sure. It crossed my mind that at one time he may have been hit by falling fruit — a la Chicken Little. I have seen gum nuts fall off of Eucalyptus trees which startled coyotes enough to make them run. Or, it could have been a waving tree branch which he was wary of. Coyotes appear not to like things moving over themselves.

 

Change is Highly Unsettling

This coyote knows her territory like you know the back of your hand — she knows every inch of it — cold! So she’s going to notice all changes.

All changes are unsettling to her. Change is an indicator that something is going on which might be harmful to her. A while back I watched as she followed her usual path. She suddenly stopped, seemingly dumbfounded, and stared straight ahead. Then she turned her head, pensively, as if she were thinking about what it was which was so different. SOMETHING was very different but she couldn’t tell WHAT.

It was a “repaired” retaining wall, which, as a temporary measure, consisted of a burlap covering. It had been all green ivy before the change. She stood absolutely still as she stared at the change.  Then she looked around in back of herself, keeping her head turned as if she had to think some more about it by looking away, possibly trying to remember why she had this tremendous “uneasy” feeling. She examined it one more time before turning around and going the other way. Better not to take a chance with something that makes you this anxious.

In A Wheat Field, Excellently Camoflauged

coyote is in the center of the photo in case you have trouble finding it

coyote asleep in a wheat field

Here’s a little fella who looked up at me before plopping down onto the ground and out of sight right there in front of me as I watched. If you didn’t know he was there you would not have seen him. From most angles I could not see him, even though I knew exactly where he was!  It is only because he moved a little that I was able to relocate him again.

For a while he engaged in some scratching and grooming. Then he was down and out and unfindable again!

 

 

Eagle Owl Lands

Wow! I’m into eagles and owls this week. I tend to like our predators. Here, an Eagle Owl approaches in slow motion and then extends and spreads its incredible talons to grab its perch. I had to share this!! Enjoy!

Our Revered American Bald Eagle Was Once Maligned — and killed — For The Exact Same “Transgressions” As Are Coyotes Today

2013-06-26 Did you know that our now protected American Bald Eagles were at one time vilified as murderers and vermin in the not too distant past? They were imagined to be grave threats to sheep and small livestock and competitors for fish and game birds. Around the turn of the century they and other bird and animal predators were being eradicated. Sounds like a coyote story, doesn’t it?!

bald-eagle_1_600x450“Newspapers printed exaggerated stories of bald eagles attacking small children, blinding, disfiguring or even carrying them away in their claws, like a 3-year-old girl named Nettie in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in 1896. (An older girl was said to have stopped the attack by stabbing the bird in the head with her hatpin.) In 1901, The Los Angeles Times described an eagle seizing a 6-month-old baby. The child’s mother, Emma Goulding, reportedly chased the bird for eight miles on mule-back, then climbed a rocky cliff toward its nest, deflecting attacks from both the eagle and its mate as she ascended, killing both. Eventually, Mrs. Goulding found her baby lying in the eagles’ nest unharmed, then tore her skirt up, fashioned it into a rope, and rappelled them both down to safety.”

“By the 1920s, all this vitriol and killing was pushing the bald eagle toward extinction. Early conservationists, trying to warn the public about the eagle’s predicament, found it challenging to defuse all the hatred that had gathered around the bird. Slowly, of course, public opinion turned in the bald eagle’s favor for a variety of reasons, few of which had anything to do intrinsically with bald eagles. The environmental historian Mark V. Barrow Jr. points out that passage of the first national law to protect eagles, the Bald Eagle Protection Act, in 1940, was partly a byproduct of newly booming patriotism on the cusp of World War II. And in the ’60s, the bird became a sympathetic poster child for the new, pernicious form of damage that the pesticide DDT and other pollutants were leveling on the environment. It was one of the first species listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973.”

Read more about how “we manipulate and manage the world’s wild things to reflect our ideas about what’s right and wrong, about what belongs in nature and what’s an abomination” in Jon Mooallem’s NYT article about “Streaming Eagles”:  http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opinionator/2014/06/20/streaming-eagles/

I wanted to include this article to show that the treatment of eagles was so similar to the way coyotes are being treated in many areas of North America today — and all based, not on truth, but on what folks WANT to believe: Folks seem to WANT to malign them by saddling them with all sorts of untruths. Let’s learn who they are and what they are really like. And let’s stop “managing” our wildlife and just let it be. Nature can manage itself. We need to learn that animals are not bad, they just “are”, and we need to learn to live with it the way it is.

Searching For A Companion After Becoming Separated

These two coyotes, a father and a year-old daughter, were out walking together at dusk, in a thick fog, when a large English Setter up the path went after them. This caused the coyotes to split up, with the female running off and out of sight. The dog owners grabbed their dog and walked on. I watched the remaining coyote, the male, walk on and then head over to some grasses to wait for his walking companion. He waited and waited. Finally he stood up and walked to the crest of a hill where he strained his neck and lifted his head high looking in all directions for her. The crest of a hill is a good vantage point if you’re looking for someone. No luck. He then went down the hill a little ways, walking slowly, and did the same thing. He then turned and looked at me, and I understood.

That he wanted to be with the other coyote, that they were companions who were fond of each other, was obvious. It was joyful to know and understand this, but sad to see the little fellow distressed by her absence and searching for her, but not finding her. In the past I’ve watched coyotes spend half an hour searching for each other after an unexpected encounter on a trail caused them to split up. Coyote family members are good “friends” — not too different from the way we humans are with our family members. They, like us, like being together and doing things together, and they’ll search for one another when they unexpectedly become separated.

Horsin’ Around and Banter

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Coyotes spend a great deal of time playing, which includes horsing around, teasing and bantering. These are extremely social and family minded animals: they are constantly interacting with each other. These two are wild urban coyotes in one of the public parks right in San Francisco, one of the 10 densest urban centers in the country. They are behaving like any of the rest of us might towards a much loved parent!

Here, in the top photo, an adult yearling daughter has just “hopped on Pop”, actually draping her entire body over his like a wet rag! While on top of him, she gave little playful nibbles to his elbows and knees and then she slid off!

She ran off to wrestle energetically with her brother, but within a few minutes she returned to Dad and placed, this time, just a paw on his back, bottom photo, and again, playfully and affectionately nibbled at his elbows, teasing him a little! She’s the only one in this family of three that puts her paws — or even more of herself — on top of anyone else. She is the only female in this family pack. Hmmm. I’m wondering if she has special status due to this, or if she just happens to be the most demonstrative of the group?

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Goodwill Teasing!

There was almost no light, and there were tall grasses between the camera and the coyotes, so these photos are totally washed out and blurry. However, the behavior depicted in them is absolutely fabulous: I decided it was worth it to post them, so I enhanced them as best I could.

A little female yearling coyote “teases” her dad and then her brother by affectionately stretching herself on top of them, and either nuzzling their legs as in the case of her father, or nuzzling their ears, as in the case of her brother! Her behavior was good-willed fun. It was not meant to provoke any kind of reaction — it was simply a display of her affectionate teasing. It looks like this little gal has two BFFs!!

She had been out alone, whiling away the time until the daily family get-together/rendezvous time.

Then her brother appeared and he was absolutely ecstatic to see her. He seemed to “jump for joy” as she and their dad approached him: first he performed one bounce, then one squiggle sitting down, and finally a jump, squiggle and bounce all at the same time!

2014-06-17 (8)Then they all piled up together where there were the usual kisses/nose-touches and wiggly-squiggly movements which are a dead giveaway for the excitement and joy they were feeling.

 

After the general excitement of the initial encounter and greeting died down, the female youngster “hopped on Pop”. It was affectionate contact that they both soaked up. She then twisted her head down and around him and gave him little love nuzzles and bites on his legs. Wow!

The three then broke out into an intense play session: they chased each other wildly, they wrestled, they groomed each other — no photos because the movement in tall grasses with no light just shows blurs. These are all activities which regularly follow the initial rendezvous greetings after spending the day apart sleeping.

During the intensive play period, the female youngster jumped on her brother, as she had done to her dad earlier. Only this time she tugged at one of his ears and then the other, teasing him affectionately.

They played intensively some more and then ran off and out of sight. They would spend the night trekking!

 

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Mischief or Just a Diversion?

My eyes almost popped out as I watched this. Two coyotes were having a fabulous time playing in a yard — I had not seen coyotes play in a long time, so this was a real treat for me: there was joyous wrestling and chasing. Then one of the two happened upon a possible toy — a bright green garden hose — a novel find. One coyote went over and lifted it up in its mouth and began tugging on it — trying to move it. “Toys” are most often played with alone unless there is going to be a tug of war or a chase about it. But the hose was rather cumbersome and not very maneuverable so the coyote couldn’t run off with it or play tug-of-war with it. I thought it would soon be dropped. Instead, the coyote stopped tugging, and within 30 seconds the hose had been sliced in two. Well, there was one thing you could do with an unyielding hose! Afterwards the coyote looked around — it was almost as if the coyote was trying to see if anyone was watching — but the coast was clear (except for me, and I didn’t count).

The coyote proceeded to another section of the hose and tugged on it for a moment before chewing through that! “Done, again, in 30 seconds”. Maybe that was what hoses were for? After this second cut, the coyote walked on a short distance and urinated: “take that”. Hmmm.  Coyotes are very intelligent and can be very purposeful in their activities. They are known for creating diversions for themselves, but in this case, the thought occurred to me that maybe there was more going on than that — could it be that the coyote didn’t like the hose? Could it be that the coyote had been sprayed by a hose?  It was just a speculative thought. Photos of the first “slice” are in the gallery above; and those from the second “slice” are in the gallery below.


Profile by Joel Engardio for the San Francisco Examiner

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get-attachmentA COYOTE WHISPERER FOR URBAN COYOTES: For seven years, 64-year-old Janet Kessler has been voluntarily observing and photographing urban coyote behavior throughout San Francisco’s parks. She regularly logs six hours a day, taking up to 600 pictures. “People think coyotes are vermin, dangerous or the big bad wolf,” Kessler said. “But they’re wonderful animals we can live with if we treat them with respect and take the right precautions.”

Read full essay: http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/woman-on-first-name-basis-with-sf-coyotes/Content?oid=2815528

Extended Family or Strangers? Does the Coyote Community Extend Beyond the Nuclear Family? Recordings from Jo

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The coyote behaviors that I’ve watched and been writing about revolve around single coyote families — almost exclusively. The one exception has been when an intruder was driven out of a territory. We may have found another exception! Last night we heard the first concrete evidence that interactions outside the nuclear family actually do take place!

Background: I’ve been recording the howls of all the coyotes I know. Those I hear regularly I have pretty much learned to distinguish from the other members of their families. Human voices are different and we can distinguish them — each person has a signature voice which is uniquely his own. Coyotes, too, have individual voices which can be distinguished once you get to know them.

One of my coyote families regularly treks the mile from their “home base” to another open space. I’ve followed them and observed them in the distant open space, particularly during the darkest hours of the night. Fellow coyote enthusiast, Jo, lives on the edge of this distant open space.

Not only that, Jo has the extraordinary luck of having a back yard which appears to be a cross-roads for coyotes. She has been seeing coyotes which, although she cannot distinguish between, she’s been sending me recordings of their howls regularly and can distinguish some of the howls. The howls seem to confirm what I have been seeing: that it’s the same coyote family members from another open space who frequent that area.

Jo has just sent two new midnight yipping and howling recordings, taken only six minutes apart. The first sounded with the voices I am familiar with. However, the second one has a voice I don’t recognize — it’s a totally new voice to me.

It’s funny that you mentioned hearing a coyote that you didn’t recognize.  Here’s why: in recording 1, the coyotes were very clearly in one spot toward the upper left of the yard; but in recording 2 from 12:58am, it sounded like the group was joined by an additional group in the neighbors yard to the lower right beneath my window.  There were some voices I hadn’t heard before. The two groups continued communicating from opposite corners until the light went on.  It was AMAZING!”

Jo adds, “Lots of laughs, but I think our yard might be the coyote version of a nightclub where they all just let loose!”

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I’ve often been told that one is more likely to “hear” a coyote than “see” one, and that happened to be the case here. So, although I myself have not seen a new face in the area as of yet, I have heard its howl. We don’t know if the communication with the newcomer was antagonistic or friendly. More than likely it was not friendly since newcomers are never welcome and may, in fact, be vying for that piece of territory. I have been seeing some fight wounds and limping in the resident coyotes which might indicate a territorial dispute.

However, I’ve been speculating for some time that coyote social interactions might extend beyond the nuclear family, based on my observation that the female alpha from one of my groups is absent from her home base on a regular basis for a few days at a time, as are the other family members from that family, but less frequently. My thought is that the alpha female regularly visits her dispersed grown pups from previous litters, and then returns to her own territorial home base. AND that the alpha female may even remain the “matriarch” over these particular dispersed individuals. This is pure speculation, but I wanted to toss it out there as food for thought.

Jo comments about one of the female voices: “Her voice has a beautiful silvery timbre on the high notes that I don’t recognize as any of the other coyotes in this area. I love her song!”

Togetherness, Physical Contact, Care in Yearling Siblings


As in our human families, coyotes each have unique individual personalities and they form unique relationships among themselves which are often very affectionate and caring.

Here, two yearling siblings are out exploring and hunting before meeting up with the adults of the family. I was able to watch the two for a couple of hours.

During this time, each kept visually aware of where the other was and what the other was doing. They would separate for only short periods of time and short distances as they explored and hunted, and then they would look up and run towards each other. Besides simply liking each other, they seemed oddly dependent on each other for safety and security on this particular evening.

In these grainy photos taken at twilight, the little female coyote, to the right, after yet again running towards her sibling, rubbed her head against him and then actually raised the front part of her body over his back and partially lay on him!  Togetherness and physical contact are characteristic of coyote family members. As she lay there draped over his body, she engaged in some tender grooming – looks like she was removing bugs from the back of his head — extending her contact with him and staying there for over a minute, and occasionally looking around before both slipped apart and again wandered a little ways apart from each other.

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sibling youngsters totally attuned to each other

Long Legged

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Garbage Patrol

in a parking lot – rejected item – in the parking lot  
retained item – ten minutes of leaning up – peeing/marking
 

It was dark out, so the photos were blurry, and there was no feel for nighttime or darkness because the camera compensates for the lighting, making it look like daytime. So I experimented and came up with a lighting solution which really does give the viewer the right feeling I had when I took the photos — taken in the dark. Is this how things look in infrared? The tint seems to mask the graininess caused by low light.

Only about 2% of a coyote’s diet, as revealed by scat analysis, is composed of human produced items. Coyotes always prefer their more healthful, natural diet of rodents, berries and vegetation, but sometimes they indulge in “finds” for the change. Coyotes at times will visit picnic areas, trash cans and grocery parking lots where, if our trash is lying around, they will opportunistically pick things up for a special treat. I’ve seen them spit out stuff, so much of it is totally unpalatable to them. But some is enjoyed as you can see here.

On this particular evening, there was debris strewn in this parking lot, and the coyotes noted it as they trekked by. After briefly surveying the surroundings for safety, they did not hesitate to enter the area and went at it! Almost no one was around, and there were few cars — I guess the coyotes noted this, too, and that’s why they entered the parking lot. They wandered around, sniffing things on the ground — almost all of it was rejected and they’d turn their attention to the next piece of trash littering the ground. Finally I saw one of the coyotes pick up a plastic bag and run to the grassy edge of the lot with it. She spent a full ten minutes cleaning up whatever was in the bag. I guess that was enough for her because immediately left the lot after peeing on the spot where she had eaten. I have no idea what she had consumed, but  thought that it could have been the discarded portion of a burrito or sandwich.

leaving – walking down a street – about to cross street
something sumptuous found – keeping an eye on the moon? – rubbing her face
rubbing her back – crossing a street – body rub under some bushes
 

I followed her down several streets to a neighborhood residence where she went straight to a spot she must have known about, dug something up and nibbled on it. She stayed there eating whatever she found and looking around, and up, to make sure she was safe. She was there over ten minutes. My thought is that, since she went straight to that spot, she may have buried something there. When she finished she licked her snout, then went over to a patch of ground with grass only a few paces away and rubbed the sides of her face on it and then her chin. Hmmm — interesting! Then she got up and walked over to a bush which she used to rub her back against, back and forth: was she actually scratching her back, or was there an oder on the plant which she was trying to absorb? She then crossed the street where she found more shrubbery which she rubbed against and under, again, for a considerable period of time, as if she were wiping on, or wiping off, an odor.  Finally she trotted off, peed again, probably as a message, and was off and out of sight.

Eats Seeds and Pods from a Field of Wildflowers

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Coyotes indeed are opportunistic eaters. Here a little fellow is eating seeds and pods from a field of wildflowers, and seemingly savoring his succulent epicurian find! Who would ever have known!

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