15 Apr 2015 Leave a comment
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.
10 Apr 2015 4 Comments
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.
05 Apr 2015 2 Comments
in coexisting with coyotes, coyote "attacks", coyote "messaging" behavior, coyotes and dogs, coyotes defending themselves, dog reactions to coyotes Tags: coyote "messaging" behavior, coyote attacks, coyotes and dogs, sensationalist media
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,.
“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.
24 Mar 2015 3 Comments
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].
20 Mar 2015 4 Comments
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.
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!
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.
15 Mar 2015 Leave a comment
Coyote smelled or eyed a skunk and carefully approached, then followed at point-blank range. Skunk had his tail up, but did not back up and spray — might he have had no “ammunition” left? Skunks apparently are very conservative in their use of their spray because it takes a full two weeks or so to fill up the sack once it is used. And Coyote made no attempt to grab the skunk, nor to deliver an incapacitating shake: Might this have been due to the skunk smell the skunk carried with him, or, possibly to the coyote’s inability to tell where the head was?
At any rate, Coyote followed skunk and when Skunk stopped, Coyote then moved to the side and watched. Skunk kept his eyes on me and on Coyote, approaching neither of us. Soon I could tell Coyote wanted me gone, because he kept eyeing me and then he led me away — and I obliged by following. But he came back. Alas, Skunk had moved on. All in a day in the life of an urban coyote.