“Didn’t Mom Tell You Not To Play With Your Food?” & Dad Steals The Meal

This was absolutely entertaining to watch today! Little female yearling wanders off to hunt from the area where her Dad had stationed himself to keep an eye on things. She works hard and is extremely patient, which pays off: she succeeds in catching some prey after about 15 minutes of intense effort, and immediately kills it.

Instead of eating the prey right away — an indication that she was not terribly hungry — she plays with her catch for a few minutes, tossing it up in the air, catching it, pouncing on it, and generally just having fun. “Didn’t Mom tell you not to play with your food?” A friend of mine suggested this might be a good descriptive title for this posting.

When I was a kid, if you could get away with it,  much more fun than eating was to see how high you could stack the peas, form a dam in the potatoes and break it so the gravy would run out, make the chicken wing work, organize the carrot sticks in geometrical patterns, spread everything around so it looked like you had eaten most of it. “Don’t play with your food” we were told, but no reason was ever given.

Today I noted that there might be something to that rule! Within a few minutes, Dad came walking over from his lookout post. “There’s Dad! I’ll show him what I can do!” The youngster tossed the prey high up in the air one last time and tumbled over in the process, with Dad watching and closing in. The prey flew up in the air and landed on the other side of Dad.

We all know that coyotes are opportunistic, and here was an opportunity! Dad grabbed the food that had been tossed and ran off with it! And he ate it up! The thief!! Might there be a moral to the story?

And the youngster watched, somewhat bewildered! Dad then scratched himself by pushing his back against the stiff branches of  a bush, and then both coyotes headed over to where the prey had been found in the ground. But there was nothing else to be had from that location. Ahh, that’s life!

The youngster turned to Dad and began grooming him. All appeared to have been forgiven, and maybe even forgotten! The female hadn’t been hungry anyway, right?! Then, they both headed off into the bushes.

Following Mom, by Charles Wood


Both photographs are of my LA county pup following Mom around. Both were alarmed when they saw my companions, another human and two good sized dogs, and me. Mom headed down the road and within a minute her puppy followed. The road offered us a clear view of them, but for only parts of the way because brush along the road at times concealed them from view. Soon both coyotes were hidden. Yet Mom could have immediately hid with her puppy in the brush. Why didn’t she? I think she had decided it was to her advantage to use the road strategically.

When Mom took to the road, I didn’t know if she intended to approach or avoid. I think she knew that by taking to the road, I wouldn’t know where she would end up or whether she intended to come towards me or intended to go away. All I would really know was that she was on the move.


After dusk, Mom came out from hiding to sit and stare at us, her puppy still in the brush. A third coyote, Dad, came in and out of view near them. Together, Mom and Dad formed a stone wall against an intrusion. Then, apparently instantly oblivious to danger, the puppy decided to come out and join Mom. Mom got up and the puppy followed her back into the brush. The puppy is too young to know that Mom doesn’t want to play when actively guarding the family.

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.

Rainy Dawn — in Sepia

It was wet, wet, wet outside, so, of course, when I came across coyotes making their rounds, they, too, were wet, wet, wet. These semi-silhouette photos were taken under very bad early and gloomy light conditions. My ISO must have been about 6400. Nevertheless, the individual fur strands stood out sharply against the background sky and I thought their forms on the rocks were absolutely beautiful. Under those lighting conditions, there really was no “color” in the photos, so I played with some “enhancement” possibilities and decided that sepia showed these forms off to advantage.

Rock formations and outcroppings exist in a great many of our Bay Area parks: these are mostly chert, but there are also a few serpentine formations.

Rottweiler Harasses Coyotes

I have seen the kind of activity in this video too often. Our Animal Care and Control Department, ACC, points out that some individuals continue to allow their dogs, “off-leash in active coyote areas despite education, posters, flyers, signs and barriers all warning dog owners to abide by the law and keep their dogs on-leash, or, better yet, avoid the marked areas entirely.”  So a few irresponsible individuals are setting themselves up for unexpected coyote encounters by not following the simple rules. The only method to keep coyotes and dogs apart is to leash the dog in a coyote area. If you and your dog see a coyote, walk in the opposite direction, not towards it.

We are lucky to have an Animal Care and Control Department which is taking a proactive stance to protect both our native coyotes and companion pets. ACC has recently cordoned off areas and instituted temporary park closures — they have been forced into doing this because a few dog owners continue to be irresponsible towards their pets and our wildlife, putting both at risk.

People have asked about “relocating” our coyotes — this is not an option since another coyote would just fill the vacant niche left behind, and relocation is a death sentence for any moved coyote. Coyotes are here to stay and the community needs to learn how to peacefully coexist with them. Ninety-nine percent of everyone I speak to loves having coyotes — a bit of the wild — in our urban parks. It brings back something that they’ve been out of touch with for too long. Note that it is only a few individuals who are irresponsible. Please be a responsible pet guardian: leash your dog in a coyote area or visit parks which do not display coyote warning signs. We only have ten coyotes in the city — it doesn’t take a lot of effort to coexist with them.

Winter Comes To L.A., by Charles Wood

I’ve been watching my Los Angeles county coyote family since 2009. I watch them during outings with my camera and my dog, Holtz. In the spring and summer I see them frequently. In fall and winter I rarely do. I usually spend a couple hours waiting for them to appear, viewing them only for a few minutes. If they linger, it is to scold Holtz and me.

I saw one Sunday at dusk and took its picture. I had just arrived in their field. The coyote spotted me as it came down a dirt road 200 yards to the south. It ran full speed and stopped about 100 feet from Holtz and me. It yipped and scraped as I took its picture. A few minutes later it was still yipping as I walked on the road back to my car. Which one of my coyotes was it?

Sadly, it wasn’t Dad. It has been more than three months since I last saw him. Six months before that, he was a healthy looking adult male. When I saw Dad in August he looked thin, scraggly, and old. It broke my heart to see him ailing and my instincts told me to let him go. I’ll know Dad is dead if he isn’t with Mom next pupping season. If I see him sooner, I’ll be the only one seen rejoicing because Dad doesn’t like me and he and Holtz have issues.

It wasn’t Mom, lacking a cauliflower ear. It wasn’t Mister, Dad’s yearling son, the lower lip being wrong. If male, it could be brother Tom. If female it could be Bold, but not sister Shy because Shy is smaller. My guess is that the coyote knew Holtz and me. When it saw us it ran up to scold us. All of my coyotes scold us; coyotes that don’t know us just leave. Still, it could be a new coyote, perhaps a new mate for Mom.

Earlier Sunday, I spoke with a man about my coyotes. He said he walks near their field regularly and sees them, though lately not so much. I asked him if he recognized them as individuals and he seemed to say yes. I asked him if he knew the mom, distinguishable by her cauliflower ear. He looked at me saying, “I don’t know them that well”. A nice man who stays on the trails, my coyotes know him as well as they need to. They have to know me a little better than that.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Not Seen

For three full hours this coyote was able to avoid being seen by anyone at all except one man who said he thought he might have seen it, but wasn’t sure!  The coyote picked times to move around when there was little activity. When it heard or saw someone, it slipped casually into the bushes — there was no quick movement which might have drawn one’s attention to it, so people simply did not notice. When there were not enough bushes around to “slip into”, ducking casually behind one, so as to be partially hidden, worked. At one point, on parallel paths separated by greenery, the coyote simply stood absolutely still and watched, until the “danger” on the other parallel path had passed, and then continued on its slow trek. When it stopped to relax, it did so in tall grasses or against shrubbery or far enough away from the beaten path so as not to draw attention to itself. Most importantly, it moved slowly or stood absolutely still — walkers and runners would go by without noticing the coyote at all.

Of course, this is not always the case. Sometimes a coyote gets unlucky and is seen — and people like to tell others what they have seen so word spreads.  But also I have seen coyotes who allow themselves to be very conspicuous at times — seemingly on purpose. They do so most often by picking a dog-walking time for an excursion or to check things out. And then there is always the surprise encounter when someone suddenly appears on the path ahead. If there is a dog involved, a coyote will stop its activity and look at the dog until it passes, and then continue with whatever it had been doing and wherever it had been going.

“Mighty Aggressive” is simply not what is going on.

I advised some dog walkers that a coyote was around a bend. They ignored me until the coyote was at the top of the hill and could actually be seen. One of the women turned to me and said “mighty aggressive I would say”. I asked why she thought this — the coyote was just standing on the same path as she was.

I had been watching the coyote hunt, and it just happened to be headed in the direction of the walkers. It couldn’t possibly have seen the walkers to avoid them, just as the walkers could not possibly have seen the coyote. The woman turned to me and said that the coyote was obviously after them — if he hadn’t seen them, he surely could have HEARD them, and, weren’t coyotes SUPPOSED to be afraid of us? Didn’t that constitute aggression?

No, that does not constitute aggression.

And no, coyotes are not necessarily fearful of people — rather, it would be more accurate to say that coyotes are WARY of people. They will do their utmost to avoid people. But closer encounters in a park will happen now and then. The coyote may look at you, and may even study you for a moment — that is not aggression — that is curiosity, or even surprise. And then he will move away. Coyotes are not at all interested in people. In this case, the coyote came within about 50 feet of the woman and her dog which was leashed.  Both parties gazed at each other for a moment and then the coyote ran off the path.

Recap of dog/coyote behavior:  Though not frequent, instances of dog/coyote encounters have occurred. A short leash and walking on can prevent an incident. Coyotes have shown an interest in some dogs — dogs and coyotes, after all, are very similar in appearance. Young coyotes have expressed degrees of curiosity about dogs, and even attempted friendly play — but they remain skittish and ready to flee at the slightest startle.

However, parents tend to be defensive of their territories and their young, and they prefer greater distances between themselves and dogs. If your dog comes too close, the coyote — especially if it is an alpha — may feel threatened and act accordingly, with definite and clear MESSAGES to your dog. These messages progress from a very cat-like defensive posture: arched back and snarly face, to a short charge-and-retreat sequence, and, ultimately, it may attempt to nip the dog at his haunches — trying to herd it away, in the same fashion that cattle dogs do. When they do so, they are not attempting to do anything more than TELL the dog something in the only way they can: ” go away”, “give me space”. Keeping your dog on a short leash and moving on helps guard against this type of coyote reaction in an unexpected encounter. You may have to go so far as to flail your arms and yell at the coyote to back off.

Your dog may want to chase or play with a coyote it sees, or may even feel a need to protect you against a wild animal it is not sure about. It is important to keep your dog next to you and calm, and to walk away quickly before there is time for a possible antagonistic communication to escalate if it has already begun. By doing this, you are messaging your own disinterest in the coyote. But do not run because running might be interpreted as an invitation for the coyote to chase you.

Coyotes have run after some dogs, seemingly unprovoked by the dog himself, and exhibited the messaging behaviors I mentioned above. As far as I have seen, this always occurs when there has been previous chasing by the dog or antagonistic communication between the two — a communication few humans are aware of. Dogs and coyotes communicate exceeding effectively through eye contact and body language. In addition, highly spirited dogs — as many small dogs are — seem to raise the ire of some coyotes: Coyotes seem to want the dogs passing through their territories to be fairly calm, wanting the same respect they get from transient or interloper coyotes. The oddest behavior of a coyote towards a dog that I’ve seen was a coyote who slowly followed a dog which was trailing behind its owner — stretching to reach the dog’s tail as if it were “daring” itself to do so. The owner turned around just as the coyote reached the dog and simply said “go away”, and the coyote did so!

So, please keep your dog next to you and walk on when you see a coyote! And if you need to tell a coyote not to come closer, you can do so by flailing your arms to make yourself appear larger, making sharp loud noises, or tossing pebbles in the coyote’s direction — not at him — to warn him off. Both people and coyotes want the same thing: space!  We need to understand their methods, and we need to know what methods will work for ourselves.

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