10 Feb 2014 2 Comments
We finally have been getting rain in San Francisco and the Bay Area! After the driest year in recorded history, it’s been raining hard and almost non-stop, adding around 9 inches to our parched landscape! Hooray!
The younger coyotes here are new to rain, having experienced only one previous short rainfall in their entire lives! Youngsters born last year are stepping high through the mud, and holding their ears down, gloomily, showing that this is not the happiest of situations for them — we’re all wary of what is unfamiliar. This heavy rain will change all that!
Older coyotes who grew up with rain are taking the downpour in stride: they enjoy sitting in the rain and watching the few walkers who are willing to venture out in this weather. Hunting is often better during and after a rain, and, most importantly, rain provides an opportunity for a nice “shower”: the rain soaks in and the coyotes shake it out, which loosens the dirt and sends it flying.
13 Aug 2013 Leave a comment
I seldom see coyote pups because the coyote parents I follow are pretty good about sequestering them and keeping their hideouts totally secret. Although I know generally where pups are hidden due to the trekking patterns of the parents, I stay away from these areas out of respect for them. So when I did see one the other day, out in the open, it was a real treat for me!
At first, when I came upon this pup in the distance, I had to look hard. My initial impression was that it might be an adult newcomer to the area — it was a new face to me and its behavior was also new: coyotes are as unique as humans in how they look and behave, and this is how I tell them apart. But interlopers don’t just wander into an established territory and act “at home”, especially during the pupping season. It was only slowly, as I focused carefully on the face, that I became aware of the similarity between this one and a pup I had seen over a month ago — so a full month younger — within a half a mile of this location. Might this be that pup?
A four-month-old coyote pup could easily be mistaken for a full-grown adult at first glance, especially when seen at a distance — see the above photo. It turns out that this was the case. Young pups have fairly full coats and bushy tails — not having been through a seasonal shed yet — so at a distance they can look larger and even adult-like! However, up close, and, of course when next to an adult, you can see that they still are youngsters, smaller than the parents, and they definitely still act like “children”, clumsy and inept, who lack the knowledge or skills to survive effectively without the help of their parents.
And, just as often as a pup might be mistaken by most folks as an adult, I have discovered that the opposite is also true. Many people have asked me if one or another of the adults I’ve been observing is a pup. It’s true that adult coyotes at this time of year, appear smaller and with slightly different body contours due to fur changes, making them look puppyish in many ways. At this time of year, all adults have shed their long winter coats, so they, in fact, do look much smaller and lankier, and lighter in color, which makes them look quite a bit more like one might think a puppy would look.
Please keep your dogs away from coyotes, both to protect your dogs and to protect the coyotes. Adult coyotes are more protective of their territories when there are pups around. Because of this, it’s good idea to review a little about coyote behavior, especially towards pets. Visit the one-stop informational video which I’ve posted before: http://youtu.be/euG7R11aXq0
29 Jun 2013 Leave a comment
For several years I visited a nearby field to watch two wonderful coyote parents whom I named Mom and Dad. In November 2012 I found that their daughter Mary had paired with Rufous and displaced Mom and Dad from the field. Mary was born about April 2011 and has lived in the field her entire life. (I don’t know Rufous’ origins or history other than that he is the type to weasel his way into a territory and turn a nice young coyote female against her own parents.)
In the video I included scenes of goings on in the field other than those of coyotes. Rabbits are plentiful, I’ve never seen so many there. The first scene shows two in contention about something. The second scene shows rabbit contentiousness isn’t uncommon and that rabbits take dust baths (the rabbit in the rear flops down to roll in the dust.) Next is Mary investigating and running away, though I could not determine what she ran from.
On a subsequent day both Rufous and Mary went toward the den area. Note the rabbits that jump around in the brush easily getting clear of her. Also, Mary seems to have scratched a marking onto her neck, and at that time appeared to still be nursing (June 7.) Following is a scene of a dancing rabbit. Next, a red-tailed hawk appears to have caught a rabbit. That hawk is a real work horse and is there every day. Over about two months I’ve only seen Rufous and Mary four times.
The final three scenes are from June 28, 2013 and begin with a rabbit once again getting clear of the oncoming coyotes. Rufous goes ahead while Mary hangs back, both having spotted my two dogs and me. Rufous veers camera left and then appears to break into an unsuccessful chase of rabbit. The last scene show Rufous catching up to Mary near the entrance to their den area. Mary doesn’t appear to be nursing any longer, my first having noticed her lactating May 1. If you watch closely you’ll see another rabbit bounding away from Rufous and Mary, neither appearing to have expected to encounter yet another running rabbit. Both appear to look around for where the rabbit might have come from rather than to look for where the rabbit may have gone. As I said, the hawk is a real work horse, but he is an army of one against the rabbits and Rufous and Mary don’t seem to be taking up much slack. Not pictured are two skunks that seem to go wherever they want around Rufous and Mary’s place. Mom and Dad ran a tighter ship, that’s for sure.
Becoming serious now: once Rufous and Mary went into the den area I didn’t hear the sounds of a coyote family reunion. However one clue, perhaps, that there were pups there is that Rufous and Mary were more interested in getting into the den area than in challenging my dogs and me. That was perhaps the first time that they didn’t message us to leave. Once they were concealed in the den area, they didn’t later come back out as in the past to check on my dogs and me, hopefully because they were being secretive and were busy with the pups.
Another observation: when Rufous and Mary were coming straight at my dogs and me, Mary held back and Rufous went first, providing cover for her. When they traveled with their flank towards us, Mary went first where Rufous was placed to cover her rear and flank where he could easily cut off an approach. In neither case were they bunched up. Instead they were positioned for maneuver.
As to the rabbits: in past years there weren’t as many in the field while at the same time more coyotes were living in the field, as many as seven in some years. Rufous and Mary remind me of my dogs where, upon having a rabbit run off, look around for where it came from after a short and unsuccessful chase. In the video it is interesting for me to see that to a coyote as to the camera, a rabbit is just a flashing tail that’s easy to lose sight of, an effective defense for the rabbit.
27 Jun 2013 Leave a comment
This coyote has used its hind feet to scrape fur off its upper back. But what about the lower body where the hind feet can’t reach? The shedding there, it turns out, is helped along by other means which I saw today.
These two photos show the coyote innovatively sticking its snout under some stiff straw and walking under it so that the stiff straw scrapes its entire back.
The coyote’s next step was to lie on its back and squirm back and forth, using the stiff stubble coming up from the ground to scrape and scratch fur on the entire back. I’m sure the coyote was after the itch caused by the dead fur, but the effect is actually to help along the shedding process.
24 Jun 2013 2 Comments
I’m seeing big fat ticks these days, and I’ve suspected that fleas also are rampant because of all the scratching and the resulting loss of fur. But, it turns out that all the scratching may have less to do with bugs than I thought!
The veterinarian suspects the loss of fur may be due not only to the pesky bugs which cause a lot of itching and therefore scratching, but also may be due to the coyote’s helping with the seasonal shed — it appears that coyotes have been using their hind paws — scratching often — in order to get all that itchy dead fur out.
Coyotes are approaching the time of year when their coats are at their thinnest. But the fur is exceptionally sparse just where those hind legs can reach on the back at the shoulder blades and behind the ears. That is where almost all the scratching is occurring! The rest of the fur is coming off more naturally and at its own pace.
The scratched spots looks mangy, but I’m told that mange is systemic and would not appear just where they can reach with their hind legs. So it’s other things: ticks, fleas and seasonal shed, but no mange. That was a relief to find out!
01 May 2013 2 Comments
I had been told that nursing mother coyotes stay in the dens, or fairly close to them, during the 5 weeks following birth when they are being nursed. Guess what? They don’t!
A nursing mom’s need for nourishment skyrockets during this timeframe in order to keep up with the growing nutritional needs of her pups for which she is the sole supplier through nursing. Nevertheless, moms appear to keep themselves pretty secluded and out of sight. New moms are even more secretive and evasive than normal because the lives of pups now depend on them — it’s a safety measure.
This new mom was in a field only a moment or so. The rest of the time she moved slowly under bushes and next to “edges” of taller growth, where she could easily slip away from view. When she saw anyone coming, she slowly stepped behind something, be it a tree, tall grasses, bushes or a stump, where she would not be noticed, and she wasn’t. She headed “in” for the day when a man and his dog came around a bend and saw her. He stopped and observed. She calmly slithered out of sight. The dog was leashed and well behaved. It all happened so quick and smoothly!
It’s much too early for pups to be out and about. Pups are kept secluded in their dens until about the fifth week of birth, and even after that, their introduction into the bigger world will be a gradual one, and as secret as possible to begin with!
30 Dec 2012 7 Comments
These are schematics showing the difference between coyote and dog paw prints. In theory these are correct. I have seen coyote tracks which look elongated as in the drawing. The photo of the coyote pouncing reveals a compact and oblong pad structure with claws pointing somewhat inwards, as in the drawing. And I have seen dog tracks which look roundish, with the claws splayed outwardly. But real footprints left on the ground are not always so clearly distinguished. The reason is that coyote pads and dog pads spread out on various surfaces.
Today I watched a coyote make these footprints on a wooden stair in the photograph below, so I know they are coyote paw prints. Yet look at them: they look more like the drawing of the dog’s print.
26 Oct 2012 4 Comments
These pictures show my mom and dad coyotes in Summer and Winter fur. I’ve also included a picture of Dad after he went for a July 2011 swim. He looked surprisingly skinny. Both Mom and Dad in 2011 were underweight. I agree with Janet who had surmised around summer of 2011 that their 2010 large litter and two new pups in 2011 left Mom and Dad with less food, three or four of seven 2010 pups surviving and staying with them through late 2011. When too many coyotes are around, fewer coyote pups are produced, again as Janet reminded me this year when we saw just one pup. Again, Mom and Dad had two pups in 2011 and in 2012 they had one.
For me, my July 2011 encounter with Mom was significant and I want to describe it. The July 2011 picture of Mom was taken from a bridge and shows her looking up and at a time when her milk was drying up, a time when she was a particularly busy coyote.
Coming into view from under the bridge, Mom at first hadn’t sensed that I was there. The sound of my camera alerted her to my presence, interrupted her travel and she stopped. She hadn’t wanted to stop, but I again had bothered her and that disliked dog, my dog, was there too. She had to stop and “deal”, it’s the rule.
Stopped, Mom seemed only slightly disturbed. Then she slowly scratched herself, trying to rid herself of us like two dastardly fleas. Done scratching, she still did not look up at me. Instead, closed mouthed, she turned her head to the right and stared motionlessly off into the distance at nothing, focusing. Mom composed herself for several more moments, preparing to speak while exuding patient exasperation. She knew it was me there, above her on the bridge looking at her for the hundredth time, that horrid dog at my side. We were too close, but not unforgivably so because the proximity was entirely impassable height. Mom contemplated a safe yet unwelcome circumstance. Self-possessed, she sorted through the implications. Mom’s pregnant pause was longer than I expected. My mind cleared of all except anticipation. Mom looked deep within herself, carefully considering her next words.
What do you say to an errant grown man who, though knowing the rules, repeatedly insists upon transgressing beyond endurance despite having been told over and over again not to do so? “You, man, and me, coyote: here we are, too close now, inconsequentially albeit. I am unpleasantly surprised and actually sir, we don’t know each other all that well, now do we?”, she could have thought to herself. When Mom was ready she looked up at me, was composed, calm, stern and seemed to say: “Do we three have to do this again?” Mom asked me: “Must we?” That question was also her statement about who she must be. Before she had spoken thus, I didn’t know her.
Having interjected myself into Mom’s intimate space, from taking her away from her more important tasks, and from having been spoken to about that by Mom, I felt sheepish, humbled if not shamed. Yet I took her picture as she looked at me. Then, as she trotted away, she seemed wise and I like a child. She talked to me alright, and it was a significant encounter to me because that is when I recognized her. From that recognition, I began to love her. For my having taken Mom’s picture then, I would say to her, “Mom, you are a coyote, and I am human, we each are what we must be.”
Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.
25 Sep 2012 13 Comments
Usually there are two classifications people use to describe a coyote’s size: 1) it was big, 2) it was small. But perception very often has little to do with reality. I’m going to give four telling examples.
I watched as a fellow’s dog chased a coyote, and then the coyote turned on it’s chaser to return the treatment. The owner made a flailing attempt to shoo the coyote off. When the encounter was over, and the coyote had retreated, the man, who was unaware that I had watched the entire event, told me about the 100 pound coyote that had engaged his dog. Anyone who knows coyotes knows that they run from 18 to 35 pounds, so this statement had more, I think, to do with his fear, or to do with a good story — we’ve all heard about the size of the fish that was caught.
The second example is of a gardener in one of the parks who respects coyotes and sees them often enough. We both had seen a coyote curiously watching an older man who had fallen while attempting to grab his dog which was chasing this coyote. The gardener pointed out that the coyote was very small, probably a puppy. Yet, several days later a coyote passed, at about the same distance, and this same gardener told me that was one of the biggest coyotes he had ever seen — “he knew coyotes well so he could tell a big one when he saw one”. Interestingly, these two sightings involved the same coyote, a coyote I know very well and can easily identify. I have not figured out why he saw them so differently: was it the lighting? Was it that when seen on a large field with a man close by the coyote looked smaller, or did holding its head down make it look smaller? Was it that when he saw the “large” coyote, it appeared large because it was on a ridge?
The third story is about a young woman who was very excited about telling me that she had seen a small coyote pup. This was in January, so of course I wanted to see for myself. Since pups are born in March or April, it would be very unlikely that she would see a small pup in January. She took me to the area, and, yes, it was a playful coyote, but it was not a pup. It was a full-grown two year old that I had been keeping track of for some time. This young woman really likes coyotes, so I’m wondering if she sees them all as adorable pups?
The last example involves the perception of an older woman who is very used to seeing coyotes in a park, so you would think she could assess their sizes pretty well. She likes them well enough, but would prefer that they not be around when she walks her dog. On this particular day, she ran up a hill to shoo away a coyote because she thought it was too close. She told me it was a small coyote — a puppy — and she was helping it. Again, this was an adult coyote which she has seen plenty of times and which I’ve been keeping track of. Another man, months ago, labeled this same coyote as “huge”, which spread as a rumor by folks who wanted to believe this.
Frankly, my conclusion is that describing the size of a coyote often has little to do with reality, but a lot to do with how one is feeling about the coyote at the time. Also, descriptive words often carry very individual-specific and individual-nuanced meanings which everyone doesn’t necessarily agree on. And, in addition, I’ve heard that seven people witnessing the same car accident will give seven different versions of what happened — versions which might often be contradictory — they actually perceive the accident differently.
10 Jun 2012 4 Comments
What happens to our urban wildlife neighbors as they age? I took some photos of an older coyote today. I could see that, as the years go by, the body becomes worn and feels the effects of the accumulated wear and tear, and the effects of time. There is a slightly slower gait and it takes longer to get going. You are a little stiffer and some of your joints hurt — bending to scratch takes a little more effort and does not look as easy as it used to. You seem to crumple into a blob when you sit sometimes, hanging from your bones instead of sitting up straight and strong.
More time is spent napping during the day and you forget that you’ve already stretched before you take off — or maybe it just takes more stretches to get all the kinks out? Your coat is a little more ragged, tattered and torn and the many scars underneath show through. Not only might your eyes be more swollen, you have to squint often to see past your weaker eyesight — and the animal world doesn’t have the privilege of glasses. Unless a gopher is an easy catch you won’t go for it.
But, to me, it is because of these changes that this coyotes is more adorable than ever. He’s worked hard and earned every one of these badges of his accumulated years. Also, young pups have come and gone, and so have a couple of mates. Life never has been particularly easy, and I can see that it is less so with time.
What really matters is that this coyote is still the alpha of his pack, that this is his own territory, that he protects and hunts every day for his family and his yearly offspring. San Francisco in one of the best habitats around: there is water nearby, there still are trees and thickets which provide protection and cover, and there are fields for hunting! Life is still pretty good!
11 Oct 2011 2 Comments
Winter fur is taking on its very full look at this time of year. The fur will remain thick and long through the winter months and then will start shedding in the springtime. By the end of June coyotes are looking pretty ragged and scrawny because of their sparse fur.
Compare these two photos, one taken in October and the other taken at the end of June. Colors and markings also become muted when the fur is at its sparsest, and this is when you can see their true size: they are scrawny little things weighing 25 to 30 pounds — the rest is all fluff!