Joyce White Organizes a Coyote Coexistence Meeting in Los Angeles

2015-04-21

Hi. My name is Corky, the friendly coyote. Can we all get along?”

Hi Janet,

It was hugely successful with the President of our 10th District here in Los Angeles named Herb Wesson!  He was overwhelmed and stunned by the turn-out there which was OVER 130 people!  Said he’s never been to a neighborhood gathering like mine with those many folks attending, EVER!  (Smile).. Actually, I was counting on more than the 130 since I had told so many people about it and many of them, did not show. Had they come out, it would have been over 200!!

I named my furry friend “CORKY” and put him on a little stand with a little note saying, “Hi . I’m CORKY, the friendly Coyote. Can we all get along?  The neighbors loved it and the speaker from The Los Angeles County Urban Wildlife Assn. thought it was AWESOME, especially all the literature I had on the table!  Almost ALL of it was gone at the end of the meeting.  He talked about how to prevent them from being aggressive and how one should take a straight back, upward posture when confronted by a coyote. His presentation was interesting but our literature was THE BOMB!!

Lots of questions were asked and answered with the information you sent, especially the shooing away of the coyote..  Everyone was glad they attended and thought it went very well.  A good time was had by all and they loved all the donated food by local restaurants and MY SPECIAL HUGE PAN of spaghetti!..Thank You so much for the fliers and I will continue to pass them out where I can and where needed.. Love, Joyce

Friendly Coyote-Dog Contact

Recently I observed actual contact — friendly contact — between a young insatiably curious coyote and a dog in one of our parks. A fairly small unleashed dog headed to the bushes where a squirrel was jumping around. The coyote has had his eye on this particular squirrel and the bushes it lives in for a long time, so I’m sure the coyote claimed them as his own. I don’t know if the coyote approached the area initially for the squirrel, as the dog had, or if it was another instance of the coyote’s keen interest in particular dogs.

The coyote reached the dog — the dog owner was not within view. The dog neither ran off in fear, nor showed any antagonism whatsoever towards the coyote. Rather, the dog stood totally still with its ears back and allowed the coyote to sniff from behind. Coyotes approach animals always, if possible, from behind, where there are no teeth! When the dog turned it’s head to look at the coyote — facing the coyote — the coyote’s hackles went up high and it flinched in preparation to flee.  But the dog again looked away, so the coyote continued sniffing and investigating the not-unfriendly dog.

No tails were wagging, so it was not necessarily a “happy” moment. It was more of a “discovery” moment, with neither canine nor canid knowing what to expect from the other, yet each sensed something other than hostility or antagonism from the other. Each animal was allowing an unknown stranger — therefore possible danger — into its personal space. Neither animal was trusting nor overwhelmingly apprehensive, but their mutual hesitant behavior showed that they each had inklings of both. They touched one another briefly and then it was time to go. Both of these canines are full-grown youngsters, about 18 months of age. The coyote is a young male, the dog is a fixed female.

At this point the owner appeared and we discussed that leashing was a good idea in the area.  Since we don’t want to encourage interactions between pets and wildlife in an effort to keep the wildlife wild, we’re suggesting dogs always be kept away from coyotes: coexistence works best when minimum boundaries of 30-50 feet are maintained with people. These boundaries should be increased to minimum 100 feet when dogs are involved.

Leapin’ Latrans

2015-02-23 at 17-42-53 Here’s a coyote — Canis Latrans — leaping through a wild mustard field in an urban park. He’s flying high above the three-foot tall flowers which are not only impeding his progress, but are also impeding his view. And what’s he so interested in seeing? An unleashed dog running erratically through the field in the distance! Coyotes are extremely curious critters — curiosity is a measure of their intelligence. “What was the dog doing, and where was it going?”

Please keep dogs leashed if you are in a coyote area of your urban park, especially now during pupping season! As soon as I informed the owner about coyote behaviors, he leashed his pet and was on his way. Leashing a pet not only keeps the pet away from coyotes, it also keeps them calmer. Coyotes sometimes react to the hyperactivity of some dogs. The coyote sat a safe distance away and watched them depart.

Coyote “Attacks” and the Media, OR “Messaging”

The following news item and video (click on the link) serve as a departure point for exposing the truth about most reported “attacks” by coyotes, and for explaining coyote “messaging”: “Caught On Camera: Dog Attacked By Coyote”.

Although the video purports to show an “attack”, it does not do so. By calling this an “attack”, the article is creating a news story through sensationalist hype and playing on people’s fears. It sells well, it’s exciting, and it raises the fear level to a frenzy that, for most folks, justifies killing coyotes. It is irresponsible journalism, but it is how the press has been handling almost all reports regarding coyotes. We have suggested to journalists and news stations that they please contact biologists trained specifically in coyote behavior to help them get correct information out to the public, and this article does at least list what folks can do when they see a coyote. At the same time it calls what happened an “attack” which is blatantly incorrect.

What the video does show is a few seconds of a dog running from a coyote chasing it. Also, the article reports a couple of sightings, and that the dog, Lexus, came home with a few scratches. These are the facts from which this “attack” article is spun. But the dog wasn’t maimed, he wasn’t hurt, and there’s no proof at all that he was “attacked”. That he “got away with his life” is pure fabrication and sensationalistic. If anything at all, the dog was simply “messaged” to stay away for intruding or even chasing the coyote. That’s it.

I’ve been photo-documenting urban coyote behaviors, including their interactions with humans and pets, in urban parks for eight years.  I have only seen coyotes chase dogs in the manner shown in the news video clip, when a dog has gone chasing after the coyote first, or when the dog has intruded on the coyote in some way and then decided to run off. Dogs are constantly intruding on coyotes. A coyote’s nipping message is their attempt to drive the dog away, not maul him to death. It’s how they protect their territories or dens and it’s how they drive intruder coyotes away.

This series of 17 slides shows what happens when coyotes and larger dogs engage. When a coyote approaches a dog, it does so by making quick, short charges and quick retreats, where it is always ready to run off if the dog faces it. Coyotes aren’t animals who will take chances of being injured, so they avoid all-out fights with dogs. Please remember that running away by any animal raises a coyote’s adrenaline and incites a coyote to chase. We advise people never to run from a coyote for this reason. For more information on dog encounters, see video presentation, “Coyotes As Neighbors” and posting of March 30th: Pupping Season: What Behaviors to Expect If You Have A Dog, and What You Can Do,.

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“Messaging” by coyotes consists of nips to the dog’s hindquarters and rarely amount to more than abrasions or scratches. You need to watch this behavior as it happens to really know what is going on. The coyote does not open its jaws for a big massive and incapacitating chomp into your dog. The coyote’s jaws remain fairly closed with only it’s lips pulled back a little from its front teeth so that it can pinch the dog enough to give it a firm message, and these are delivered to the back legs or rump of the dog.

How to prevent it in the future? Don’t let your pet wander freely in coyote areas, even if it’s your own wooded backyard. Coyotes want to be left alone, so keep your dog away from them. Since small pets can be mistaken for prey, please never leave your small pet outside unattended. Note that your fenced yard is a human fabrication which is supposed to keep other humans out. It won’t keep out raccoons, skunks, birds, gophers or coyotes. Coyotes have boundary markers which consist of fecal marking material, not physical fence barriers. So the only way to protect your pets, even in your own yard, is to supervise them or keep them leashed.

http://wtnh.com/2015/03/29/dog-attacked-by-coyote-in-ansonia/

Pupping Season: What Behaviors to Expect If You Have A Dog, and What You Can Do

Coyote pupping season is in full swing, which is obvious from coyote behaviors I’m now observing in our parks. Since mating occurred through mid-February and, now that it is mid-March, dens are being selected and dug. In preparation for the big event, all coyotes, especially males, are vigilantly contributing their share to the process: they are safeguarding their family territories to help make them safe for pups. Where does this come from?

We all need to become aware of coyote behaviors so that we can know how to prevent issues. Coyotes don’t like canine intruders in their territories: they even don’t allow non-family coyotes in. All canines, be they wolves, dogs, foxes or coyotes, don’t really like each other and all will exclude the others, as well as members of their same species who are non-family members, from their territories. This is instinctive behavior. We can’t really change their instincts for survival, but we can learn about them and understand them, and modify our own behaviors, so that all of us — human, cat, dog, coyote — can coexist. The guidelines are few and simple.

What behaviors might you see at this time?

1) Coyotes want you and your dog to know they are around so that you’ll know that the area has been taken and is not up for grabs. One way of letting us know this is being more conspicuous. Increased visibility is a “message” to everyone and it’s a pretty basic way of letting us know they are around.

2) Coyotes also may actually approach dogs to get them to “move on” or “go away.” As you are walking along, a coyote could hurry in your dog’s direction and could even try to sneak up from behind in an attempt to give your dog a little nip or pinch on the hind quarters. Remember that they are approaching your dog, not you. They could try to do this when you aren’t looking at them, even if your dog is leashed. Their aim is not to maim, but to firmly “message” your dog to leave.  A small abrasion or scratch may result. You can prevent this.

What you need to do during this season is:

1) Be aware, alert and vigilant as you walk your dog during this pupping period. If you see a coyote, even if it’s out in the distance, make sure your dog is on a short leash and continue walking on and away from the coyote. Nonetheless, the coyote, or coyotes, could hurry in your and your dog’s direction — they have a job to do which is instinctive: know what is happening and be prepared.

2) If and when a coyote has come within 30-50 feet — just stop and face the coyote eyeball to eyeball — usually this is all you’ll have to do for the coyote to move on. If the coyote remains there, step in his direction and clap your hands or toss a small stone in his direction (not at him so as not to injure him), if the coyote moves, continue on your way, keeping an eye on him and without running. If he makes a second attempt, do this again with a little more energy. He’ll run off, and you, too, should walk on out of the area.

[For more information on coexisting between people, pets and coyotes, see “Coyotes As Neighbors”, a one-stop video presentation, created by Janet Kessler based on her photo-documentation of coyotes in urban parks].

Peaceably Coexisting, from Amie

This one is of my ranch that shows how rural we are and why the water would be found behind my house, gravity.

This one is of my ranch that shows how rural we are and why the water would be found behind my house, gravity.

I have a quick question. I live in a rural area of Southern California adjacent to 15,000 acres of open space. Is it possible that the coyotes living on my ranch consider us part of their pack? I don’t feed them but they get water from the stock tanks. None of my animals are concerned about them and I have yet to lose one to a coyote, including chickens which have been allowed to free range 24/7 for years. At this point, we’ve had generations born here and they all seem to except us. In fact, if someone down the road shoots at one, they run back here. One female that was born behind the house has chased the hoses I was dragging around, like a puppy would. I don’t encourage that but there is something going on that fascinates me.  Just wondering if you’ve heard other stores like that. 

Thanks, Amie

2015-03-176

Right after I received your last email, a neighbor stopped by while I was out front to tell me they thought I got a new dog but then realized it was a coyote playing in my front yard. I cannot locate the picture I was going to send you but I do have a couple that you might be interested in. Here are a few more that show the small fence that keeps my chickens out of the creek. The one of the cattle has the den in the picture, taken from my back deck. And of course, the rabbits feel safe too! 


Hello Amie,

What a wonderful testimony to coexistence your experience is!  I’m a coexister living in Atlanta, GA and your story reminds me of the touching book by Dayton O. Hyde entitled Don Coyote.
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Thank you for sharing, Cathy

Hi Amie —

Right off I would say that these coyotes probably do not accept you as part of their family pack, as much as they accept you as part of their environment — a safe environment. You have proven to them that you won’t go after them, and they know that.

In most instances coyotes leave other animals alone if they themselves are left alone. I’m in contact with a woman who regularly sees a coyote and a skunk resting within view of each other in her back yard! Ferdinand the Coyote, by Charlotte Hildebrand.

You’ve allowed the coyotes to drink from your water trough without chasing them out. By not creating antagonisms, you’ve created a live and let-live situation. So there’s plenty of water for everyone, and probably plenty of food in the way of gophers and voles. HOWEVER, if food for some reason were to become scarce for them, they very well could try a chicken, and if they caught one they might actually begin seeing them as a food source.

One question I have for you is, do you have dogs? Dogs seem to create the biggest issues for coyotes, especially if they go after the coyotes during their first encounters. If you don’t have dogs, these issues, of course, won’t exist. Please let me know!

People need to hear these positive stories and yours is really nice!


I do have two dogs but don’t let them run free. They’re 30 pound house pets. The other morning I decided to take my female with me to feed the horses. She was off leash but is well trained. We turned the corner by the garage and a coyote was standing right there in the driveway. I picked up my dog and brought her inside, but neither animal really reacted. When I came back, the coyote was in the same spot and then scampered to my horses. My horses don’t even look up when she goes in there with them. I had to laugh because it was just like having a ranch dog tag along while doing chores.

We also have a spring/creek right behind the house and have water there most of the year. They build their dens close to the spring, in my pasture. I do have three young cows out there now and if they get close to her den, she comes out and stands guard but that’s it. 

Amie

What Is Going On With A Coyote Which Appears “Bolder” Than Normal?

2015-02-08 1

Seeing coyotes more often. Some folks believe, incorrectly, that coyotes become dangerous to humans and pets if they get used to seeing us: getting used to seeing us is called “habituation.”  I’ve observed, first-hand, over the last eight years, the behavior of several generations of urban coyotes and their pups and never have seen habituation cause aggressive or dangerous behavior. A habituated coyote, per se, is not dangerous or aggressive; habituation is not the same as food-conditioning. All that may result from habituation is that they may allow themselves to be seen a little more, so you might see them more. Coyotes are instinctively programmed to become used to and therefore ignore — habituated to — the same constant elements in their environment, and this includes a constant stream of humans. Not running quickly from people who have never bothered them is a coyote’s way of avoiding wasting unnecessary energy in human dominated areas. However, they retain their wariness of humans and will keep a safe distance and not approach us, and their other behaviors continue as before.

A habituated coyote is not a dangerous or aggressive coyote. One of the cure-alls which is being offered by some organizations to keep coyotes out of sight is “hazing”. Indeed, scaring a coyote from your and your dog’s immediate personal space is necessary and effective if you do it correctly. However, you cannot just generally “haze” a coyote and expect it to disappear from view forever because, over time, coyotes become used to the “hazing” — habituated to it — as they do other things in their environment. Rather than fleeing, the coyote may just stop and curiously look at the hazer, or take longer to flee. And this is when folks begin to interpret that failure to flee as “habituated and therefore bold and dangerous”: again, this is an incorrect assumption. The hazers have simply taught the coyote, over time, that hazing is something else in their environment which they must get used to. Again, these coyotes retain their wariness of humans and will not approach us.

Seeing an incident of “communication” for what it is. What I have seen is coyotes attempting  to “communicate” or “message” their needs for space, personal safety, and territory to dogs. Please remember that coyotes keep other coyotes out of their territories by messaging them in the same way they message dogs. Only one coyote family occupies any particular territory. Dogs, especially very active ones, are seen no different than any other interloper coyote. Coyotes communicate with dogs and interloper coyotes in the only way they can: by “showing” their needs, often via an antagonistic display, a series of charges and retreats, or, sometimes, a nip to the haunches. Coyotes are superb communicators — many of us who have been walking our dogs and seen this behavior “get it” — we see it for what it is. When we respect their needs, their need to communicate in this manner stops. But some communities are taking this to the next level by saying these animals must be proactively eliminated, “because they are a danger to the community”. In fact, simple precautions of leashing and knowing how to shoo off a coyote from your personal space will solve the issue without resorting to the draconian kill solution, an approach which will simply disrupt a stable resident family of coyotes and create bigger issues for their human neighbors. And, coyotes actually keep additional coyotes from entering their territories by using this communication behavior.

So-called “Bold” behavior explained: “messaging”. What I have seen is that someone in every coyote family has a stronger “position” or “duty” to keep things safe. And this is not necessarily the alpha — it could be a beta. A coyote with this behavior is the one which some communities are targeting and calling “bold” and therefore “dangerous to humans”. Many folks now know that this coyote, if killed, will soon be replaced by another — the vacated position will soon be refilled — so killing the coyote serves no real purpose in reducing the population of an area. Those in favor of lethal removal now say that what they are really trying to eliminate is the “bold” coyote. But, it is also erroneous to suppose that in killing a coyote, the “bold” behavior is what will be removed, and that a milder coyote will replace the killed one. There is no evidence or justification for this thinking. The “position” and “duty” involving taking on protective behaviors to benefit the family and its territory, will also be taken over by another coyote. That position will always be there. This is why you don’t kill what you may perceive as a “bold” coyote. So, killing neither changes the number of coyotes in a territory, nor does it eliminate the existence of a more “bold” coyote. And an additional problem with eliminating resident coyotes is that a newcomer “replacement” will have to learn, over time, what the original coyote already knew about urban living and coexistence, and the way he may learn this is through trial and error involving more encounters with people and pets, and by visiting more yards.

The only effective approach for dealing with this situation is to thoroughly educate the public about coyote behavior, and to set appropriate guidelines — including a warning always to walk away from a coyote if you have a dog — this will discourage an interaction; be prepared to effectively shoo the coyote away if it approaches into your and your dog’s personal space; and put up signs advising folks that this isn’t the best place to walk dogs at the moment. This is enough to prevent further incidents. This is what we do in San Francisco. IF this is not enough, a behavior modification program such as VEXING would be the next step.

Small pets may be seen as prey. Regarding pets as prey, again, coyotes can’t distinguish between who is your pet and who isn’t — small animals look like prey. Coyotes are not targeting your pets to take them from you in order to be aggressive, they are simply fulfilling their need to survive. Therefore, small pets need to always be kept under supervision where there is wildlife. And a tit-for-tat retribution isn’t going to solve anything. Removing a coyote, even if you get the right one, which is extremely unlikely, will not bring back your pet, nor will it prevent future unguarded pets from being taken. What will solve the issue is guarding pets and keeping them out of harm’s way, the same as you do, hopefully, as you cross the street.

Coyotes may visit yards and even come up on your porch. They are exploring, curious and looking for food, often enticed by strange and strong smells. Get rid of all food attractants and scare them off to teach them that you don’t want them there. You may have to do this a couple of times, but they will learn.

No Need To Kill Coyotes. You don’t need to kill coyotes, ever, unless they have rabies — the possibility of which is exceedingly small — or unless there is something going on beyond what I’ve described above. The rare incident between a dog and a coyote, as described above, is bound to occur on occasion, but keep in mind that, in the scheme of things, the number of these incidents is minor.

Ecology, Environmentalism, Sustainability. Again, I want to repeat what I’ve said before: The driving ethos these days is “environmentally friendly” and sustainability”. Environmentally friendly means not destroying what nature has given us — it means developing guidelines which inflict minimal or no harm on the environment: coyotes are part of our natural environment. The idea of sustainability resulted from concerns about how humans and our “needs” were altering healthy and balanced ecosystems, which was coming back to haunt all of us. It turns out that we don’t need to destroy so much — we don’t need to kill these animals, and we actually should not do so. They are part of the system and they help keep it balanced.


 Here is a clarification of the three terms, defined by me as I use them in this posting:

Shooing off/scaring a coyote. This is a method to scare a coyote away who is in your personal space or approaching your personal space or in your yard. It always involves stepping in the direction of the coyote, sometimes aggressively, to make it move. It is very straight forward: nothing more is accomplished than simply making the coyote move away. You may have to repeat this at some future point, but the coyote will soon learn that he should not approach you. A pamphlet which describes this can be found here: http://coyoteyipps.com/#jp-carousel-31191. And, IF the coyote doesn’t move, it is suggested you call it a day and leave the coyote alone — there are reasons for a coyote’s behavior that have nothing to do with the concept of “habituation”, such as pup protection.

Hazing. This also is a method of scaring coyotes away, not dissimilar from shooing a coyote away. But this is a term, as I see it, with added concomitant meanings. The premise behind this term is that “habituated” coyotes are a danger, so the goal is to re-instill fear of humans into the coyote. The expectation is that the coyote will then stay out of view. When coyotes don’t respond to this treatment as expected because they’ve become “habituated” to the scare tactic itself, this coyote now is considered, incorrectly, even more of a danger and becomes the target for lethal removal — it results in increased human fears of coyotes. Please note that coyotes do not lose their innate wariness of humans due to habituation, no matter how often they see us.

Behavior Modification, or conditioning is a method of learning which depends on rewards and punishments. It is used to modify very specific behaviors, not just that a coyote has been seen in a field. Food conditioning falls into this realm. Coyotes are rewarded for coming into your property when there is food there. If food continues to be there, they will continue to come. To break this conditioned response, first, remove all coyote attractants. If this is not enough to deter a coyote, the opposite of a reward is instituted: a punishment is offered which will deter the animal. What you specifically offer as punishment will depend on exactly what is going on. A trained animal behaviorist should be called in when this is needed. Vexing is one behaviorist’s specific methods:http://littlebluesociety.org/vexing–isi-.html.

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