Coyotes Celebrate Coming Out Ahead: Intact and Uninjured, and Still In Charge of Their Territory

Here is a typical morning in an urban park where there are coyotes and where dogs run free. If you have a dog and know coyotes are out, or if you see a coyote, you need to leash up and move on. In this park, there is a particular team of dogs which chases and harasses these coyotes on an almost daily basis.

On this day, coyotes were out finishing their nighttime trekking. They picked one of their favorite knolls to hang out on. They often stay out to watch and keep an eye on the dogs which visit the park daily, but also they are there “to be seen” by these same dogs: they want these dogs to know that the territory is already claimed — their presence sends this message. It is a purposeful activity. They knew the route and the time that most dogs would walk by, and that time was coming up. They plopped themselves down high up on the incline a substantial distance from any trails and began grooming themselves.

Most dogs and their owners passed uneventfully, as usual: most folks in San Francisco are in awe of and love their urban coyotes in the parks: It makes the parks seem a little more “natural”, a little closer to the nature that humankind once knew, a little further removed from the city right next door. Both coyotes and dogs learn something about each other as they watch one another, and peace is maintained by the owners keeping their dogs away from them.

Unfortunately, there are antagonistic dogs who pursue, and owners who allow their dogs to pursue and harass coyotes. It is always the same dogs, and it is always the same owners who allow it, and it happens on a regular basis. It happened again today, as predictably as the dawn itself. Two dogs from the same family — therefore a “pack” working as a team together — came up the trail ahead of their owners and went searching for the coyotes, saw them and chased after them. The coyotes ran further up the steep incline which was difficult for the dogs. The coyotes stayed up high on the hill and watched. At one point, when the second dog appeared they came down a little, still keeping their safe distance away.

One of the dog owners, one who had no intention of ever leashing his dogs to control them, ran up the hill towards the coyotes and starting heaving rocks at them, snarling, “Darn coyotes, stop bothering my dogs!!”  The coyotes backed up a little preparing to flee, but the dog owner backed down the hill. Of course, it was the dogs and owner who were doing the harassing, not the other way around.

Eventually the recalcitrant dogs and disrespectful owners walked on. The coyotes watched them leave and then hung around to watch and just “be” for a short time, grooming themselves and probably communicating in ways we humans cannot understand: their distress, relief, joy, excitement, and fears, among other things, are communicated simply by the way they act — by their body language and facial expressions.

Then it was time to go. The coyotes ran towards each other, tails wagging, bodies bouncing and wiggling, and headed off. They were all intact, there were no injuries, the territory was still theirs. They seemed to celebrate all this as they left the area hugging next to each other as they went.

 

Question: My Dogs Are Chasing Coyotes

2013-07-09

Hi Janet,

I found your blog Coyote Yipps when I was looking on the internet, as I have a question on Coyotes and my dogs. Its really wonderful what you are doing for Coyotes and I loved reading through your postings. However, I’d like to ask a direct question about a situation with my dog(s.)

I live in Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles and my house backs on to the state park and hundreds of miles of the santa monica mountains. I have taken my dog Krissi out the back there for nearly a year hiking trails and have occasionally seen coyotes, but we have always kept a respectful distance. I do have her off leach as this is her home, but she is well trained and rarely goes far from me. When we are at home, she does jump the fence and has free access to an area she seems to stay in. I have seen coyotes on the ridge above our house. Krissi has been keen to chase these coyotes off ‘our patch’ if she senses them within theses boundaries. She is a german shepherd/ healer mix and is very quick and smart, but also very gentle. Not at all agressive. I have always felt a bit nervous of her going out there and have kept a close eye out, but I trust her and she seems to be clear within this boundary.

In the last weeks I have been dog sitting another young dog, 2 year old, Lady. She is a hound mix, with some pit bull in her. Krissi has now got much more confident, and is leading Lady off on adventures, where they have been gone for up to an hour and come back exhausted.

This morning, they were keen to get out at around 7am for a pee, but they jumped the fence and went high tailing it up to an area above the house. I heard what I am sure was a coyote squeeking/yelping and both girls went off in what sounded like hot pursuit. I called and whistled and they came back 10 mins later, Lady with no collar on, and they were both panting, elated and thirsty. There was no signs of a fight or any blood or anything that led me to think there had been a conflict of any kind.

I am about to go out and look around the area I saw them go to, which I think might be a coyote home? I wonder if coyotes would be making a home so close to where a dog lives? or if the coyotes are watching out for them? or if they are just hunting for food themselves? (There is a small enclave of cabin houses where I live.)

It is a dilemma for me, because I obviously want to protect wild life, but I also want to give my dog(s) freedom to be able to explore and be free. I dont want to leach them all the time and I cant fence the property.

Can you let me know your thoughts, as I dont feel right that they are chasing or harrassing Coyotes.

Thank you for your time.

With best wishes, Sandy from Topanga

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Hi Sandy

Thank you for contacting me. I ended up contacting Wildlife Conflict Manager Mary Paglieri at LittleBlueSociety.org to get an accurate read on your situation. Mine are all “urban” observations and have to do with pets/coyote interactions in the city under human supervision: in these urban areas, dog predatory behavior is kept in check by the presence of alpha humans. In rural areas, when humans aren’t around, anything goes.

Since the size of your dog is large, it can hold its own against any coyote.  Please realize that the behavior of your dogs away from home can be quite different in how they interact with other smaller animals. The breeds you mention have a high prey drive. Left to their own devices, it is highly likely that they will chase and they could even kill coyotes and other animals.

Most dogs look elated after a predatory chase and a kill. That the collar was off suggests that there may have been a struggle. Shepherds’ and Pit Bulls’ mode of dispatching other animals is to grab and shake — and it doesn’t necessarily draw blood. Two dogs have now formed a pack, making them more dangerous to wild animals. And both dogs outweigh coyotes — there is no contest.

I’ve read and heard about dogs which have established respectful relathionships with coyotes in rural areas  — they read each other well, and they respect each other’s boundaries and keep their distance. If your dog is exhausted and happy from running, it doesn’t sound like this is what is going on. In city parks, I have never seen coyotes and dogs frolicking together just for fun. In the parks, a “truce” between the animals is maintained through respecting critical distances and keeping dogs away from coyotes. Alpha humans are always there to moderate the dogs’ behavior. Dogs and coyotes don’t really like each other.

Also, if there is a coyote pack/family, they could get fed up with what they consider to be harassment within their territory, especially when your dog is alone. If there are “raspberry” abrasions on Krissi’s legs, or a nip on the haunches, these constitute clear messaging to your dog from the coyotes that they want your dog to stay away.

So, although this might be an unhappy solution for you, my suggestion would be to not to allow your dogs free reign in this area. Hope this helps!

Janet

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Hi Janet,

Apologies for the very late response and for your time in answering my then, current issue. I’d like to share briefly the outcome of the story.

Unfortunately, due to fencing costs, the amount of land that I have and my adjacency to the state park, I was not able to stop my dogs from running off the property. What I did, was to be vigilant about them staying close to me over a month or so and to train them to come at my call. I kept them in from ‘magic hour’ before the light changes at dusk, or from going out early in the morning, unless accompanied. Since that initial incident, there have been no such behaviors of chasing, or any nicks or bites to my dogs.

What I can report is an interesting incident after one of my dogs had caught a rabbit and brought it down to the house. The rabbit was fully in tact, and seemed to have died of a heart attack. I left the rabbit by the edge of my property that night and in the morning I went out with the dogs, only to be greeted by a very large coyote just beyond my property line. My dogs and he circled each other, but at a respectful distance, whilst I shouted at my dogs to come back. Neither the coyote or the dogs listened to me, they were in a kind of territorial dance and the coyote ended up leaving, with much strength and at his own pace with my dogs staying with me. It was interesting to say the least and very unexpected. I felt like they knew each other and I had been the only one in a panic. (I carried the dead rabbit up the ridge and left it for the coyote as a peace offering.)

I have not seen the coyotes near my property since and my dogs have not been out on any ‘hunts’ as far as I can see. The coyotes used to come right into the garden and close to the house, as I caught them on my wild-life camera. My dogs have been staying at a closer radius to home. It seems the game is over.

My conclusion is that there was indeed a dialogue between them, the coyotes very clearly showing they did not want the dogs in their area and it seems the message got across and an agreement was made.

I am putting up the wild-life camera again to see if the coyotes are around further up the ridge, so I’ll see what is happening, if anything.

Best wishes and thanks again for your time.

Sandy from Topanga

2013-07-09 (1)

Breeding Season: Different Behaviors and Edginess

Coyotes come into “season” once a year. This, unusually, is true of the males also. Females come into estrus in January. Coyote males produce sperm only at this time of year, and the process takes about two months. As happens with all critters, including humans, the hormones become powerful source of drives and behavior changes. Above are photos of a male showing a strong interest in a new odor. This is the kind of behavior you will see now.

In addition, it appears that the hormones can cause an edginess around dogs — akin to PMS in humans!? If she’s in heat right now does she need to keep dogs away from herself?  Other behaviors I’ve noticed recently include much more wandering and a lot more marking and scratching the ground. Below is a video of a female coyote reacting to an unleashed dog even though the dog is quite a distance away.  The dog is barking threateningly at the coyote and then approaches. The coyote reacts by baring her teeth, raising her hackles, bouncing up and down and scratching the ground. When the owner finally grabs his dog, the coyote runs angrily down the hill to watch them depart.  You can tell she’s very upset at how she was treated by the intrusive dog, even though the dog, in this case, was a substantial distance away.

Expressing “Dislike”

A man sat down sat down with his arms around the dog to keep her activity in check — he had just become aware of a coyote but he had no leash or collar.  This was his first visit to this particular park. The coyote, about 150 feet away, sat down to watch this newcomer dog. The dog showed absolutely no interest in the coyote, even though he clearly saw it. After a few minutes, the man decided to release the dog and the dog began playing with a stick. The coyote watched. The dog then moved on to a pine cone which he pounced on and then, rump up, front down, invited the coyote to play. The dog never made any attempt to get any closer to the coyote. The owner, fearing that this might lead to no good, decided to move on, with the dog staying right at his side. Soon they were far down the path and out of sight.

The coyote then hurried over to sniff the spot where the dog hand been playing. He sniffed thoroughly for all clues the dog might have left. I guess there was no interesting information, because he walked on, and began hunting and wandering about. However, about 35 minutes later — it seemed like enough time for the coyote to have forgotten the dog — the coyote returned to that spot either in passing, or on purpose. He definitely remembered the dog. He sniffed the stick again and then left a pile of poop on it — a message left for the dog in case he should return, or just venting his own feelings?!

Classic Defense Pose

This coyote was lying down, peacefully relaxing in a remote open space when it was eyed by a dog in the distance. It is one of the dogs that purposefully looks for coyotes to pursue them. The owner of the dog doesn’t feel that it is her job to leash her dog, even though this dog continually harasses coyotes. So the dog, upon seeing the coyote, came bounding over in hot pursuit. The coyote reacted with this defensive display message: “leave me alone”.  The dog ignored this, so the coyote turned tail and tried hiding, which didn’t work.

The first photograph shows the coyote scratching the ground and bouncing up and down as the dog approaches. Second, third and fourth photos show the coyote’s lips pulled back, teeth bared, ears down and back, arched back with fur standing on end, tail tucked under. This classic defense pose — the “halloween cat” pose — is supposed to make the coyote look ferocious in order to get the message across, but it doesn’t help with some of the dogs. When the coyote finally flees here, it slinks closer to the ground with shoulders hunched and hind quarters pulled in. Hiding only gained the coyote a few minutes. The dog ended up chasing the coyote a long distance before losing track of it.

Hunting Togetherness

These two seem to be in each others’ faces. If they were to catch a vole or gopher, I wonder if they would share it? Towards the end of the video here, one coyote runs off because dogs are approaching. The other coyote didn’t seem to want to give up the possibility of a catch! However, it, too, bolted, the minute the dog actually saw it and began to chase — right after I cut off the video.

Puppy Watch – No Sightings, by Charles Wood

Here in Los Angeles County my coyotes see me before I see them. Once I noticed Mom in the distance observing me. Once I looked up to see a yearling watching me. Dad also kept the pressure on me, seeing me first about every other day. I received their attention despite trying a new tactic.

Typically I walk east to get to watching places. Saturday I instead went north along the eastern boundary of my coyotes’ field. Along the east is a fenced off structure that has only a couple places where I can see into their field. Unfortunately, they too can see me.

I hoped they wouldn’t see me. As I happily walked, Holtz was ahead of me. Then he turned to come back. Immediately he started adversarially stalking towards something to my rear. Holtz’s head was slung low, protruding with his tough guy gaze fixed on the other side of the fence. I grabbed him and turned around. I expected to see a dog with a walker. I saw nothing. It must have been a coyote, no doubt one of mine that had been tailing us. Compared to a few months ago, my coyotes are visible and active.

Coyotes with puppies are more active for a couple of reasons. First, they are alert for interlopers. Coyotes hide and protect their young and are vigilant for all possible dangers. Also, they hunt more for having more mouths to feed. Fortunately for coyotes, nature provides them with more to hunt during spring.

This time of year, my coyotes’ rabbits also produce offspring. Controlling rabbit populations is an important coyote job. Young rabbits are easier to catch than adult rabbits, and I imagine that in good years there are lots of them for adult and child coyote alike. The richness of vegetation from good rains provides more cover for rabbit nests. Rabbit nests would be fairly easy for a foraging a coyote puppy to find all on its own. Yet the coyotes and other predators don’t find all the nests. One reason they don’t is that adult rabbits make themselves conspicuous this time of year, acting as fast running decoys that lead predators away from their nests. Dense ground cover with a bumper rabbit crop in their field is an excellent incentive for my coyotes to remain in their field.

A balance between predators and rabbits protects the field itself from a being overgrazed by rabbits. Fifteen years ago, when I would only see foxes, rabbits were a problem down river at Leisure World which suffered from a rabbit invasion. I suspect that since the coming of coyotes, that invasion silently went away along with the foxes.

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