Coyote Connect, by Monique

I have lived near coyotes my whole life, but a few days ago, I saw something that I have no explanation for, perhaps you can watch this short video I did and give me your feedback.  I have my theory.

Please note that from our kitchen window we watched this coyote hunting for mice, when 2 of my 3 dogs came down the hill from their morning wander on the crown land behind our place, the coyote looked for cover and hid until they went by, I was at first concerned for my dogs, but once I could see he was not hunting I put my dogs in the house and went out to film, what you see is exactly as it happened.

Towards the end of the first clip you can hear my husband saying “Sarge (3rd dog) is coming up behind.” Indeed he was , he had stopped and watched the coyote from about 70 feet behind him.  The coyote was unaware of the dogs presence until my husband said something and then he stopped playing ( 1st clip end ) he was listening to my husbands voice and still did not see Sarge until I said something to Sarge sparking him to move, the coyote then turned around and saw him and fled.

The coyote’s actions were directed at me, you can see he is at first nervous of me, then I say “it’s okay” and everything changes.  I wont spoil the surprise, :-)   cheers M

It’s a beautiful video, and it does seem quite magical with the snow and your added piano! The coyote’s movements come across as a beautiful dance!

As for what is going on, it’s a little more mundane. Coyotes do this often when they are excited and frightened at the same time, especially young coyotes. See this one:  http://youtu.be/4aYW7oE_KqI .  I have seen it often when a dog or a human is approaching them, even from a substantial distance. They are very curious. They don’t quite want to flee due to curiosity, and they don’t quite want to approach any closer due to fear: they are caught between the two, so their energy causes them to bounce up and down a little — it’s charming and endearing. The bouncing also gives them a clearer view over a distance. This was an absolutely beautiful “coyote connect!” What a gorgeous video! Thank you, Monique, for sharing this magical moment!

Hi Janet, thanks so much for your feedback. I film wildlife when ever I can, as it is my passion.  I have had pretty good luck with catching things on camera, this included. I really should learn more about behaviours, so I appreciate your feedback. I have had plenty of encounters with coyotes, but none like this.  It is good to understand him/her more.  I hope to film this coyote some more, providing he/she is willing…lol… You absolutely can post on your blog.

Night Eyes, by Charles Wood

Here in the LA area yesterday evening I took this video of a coyote. It was too dark for me to actually see the coyote. I used a couple of flashlights to track its movement. All I could see was reflection from the coyote’s eyes. Was it a coyote?

We can tell it was from how it walked around, looked around and then dropped its head in canine fashion to investigate an odor. Also, I had arrived a little earlier when the light was a bit better and could still make it out. It was a coyote. It vanished, as you can see in the video, so I went home.

At home much later, I heard barking from a distance of a few houses away. After several minutes I recognized it as the bark of a coyote. The bark had short and high dog-like bursts, several times repeated and concluding with a song. The song was a quick “yaaw yaaw yaaw yaaw yaaw”. Dogs don’t sing that way so I knew it was a coyote or a very very strange dog. The coyote kept barking and some of its barks did not end with the song. Without the song, its bark sounded like a dog with an insistent and high voice.

I went to investigate. I walked past houses as I looked around for the coyote, heading for the park at the end of my street. Passing by about half a dozen or so houses, from inside the house closest to the park I heard someone yell “OH SHUT UP!” That was how I felt after about ten minutes of that barking.

Arriving at the park, I could hear the coyote but couldn’t see it. I found it by using my flashlight, light reflecting back from the coyote’s eyes. I got a good look at a nondescript coyote. It looked like it was barking at something near or in a tree. I smiled to myself, recognizing typically pointless canine behavior. Upon seeing me and being under my light, the coyote ran off. I yelled at it for good measure. Once I got home the coyote’s barking started up again. By the time I called my neighbor to go back down there with me, the barking had stopped.

Malicious Poisoning on SF’s Twin Peaks

photo of the poisoned meat balls found on Twin Peaks

photo of the poisoned meat balls found on Twin Peaks

There are people in the city who don’t like coyotes. Were coyotes the intended target of this malicious poisoning act?  So far, two poisoned dogs have been reported and treated by the Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services and the SPCA.

One of the owners found baited meatballs in her neighborhood and it has been confirmed that they are what the dogs ate. This was in the Twin Peaks/Diamond Heights area, on Crestline and Burnett Streets especially.

The dog owner has gathered all the meatballs she could find — about 50 of them, but there is no way to know if she got them all.

It appears that the poison is strychnine. Dogs and coyotes exposed to strychnine show agitation, tremors, seizures, hyperthermia and trouble breathing. Strychnine is a poison that afffects the action of glycine in the brain. Glycine acts to turn down activity in the brain, without which a brain becomes too excitable, producing hyper-excitability and seizures. If caught soon, dogs can recover with medical attention. A coyote will just die a horrible death.
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We’ve been told that occasionally individuals will lace meatballs with strychnine in a misguided attempt to control wildlife populations, including skunks, gophers and COYOTES. Hopefully this is an isolated incident.
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http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_23597722/?source=inthenews
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Kiah is a victim

Kiah is a victim

UPDATE: I met Kiah on a walk today. She is one of the victims of the meatball poisoning — she ate two of them before anyone had any knowledge about what was going on. She’s under medical care and her outlook is good. The meatballs have now been found in Cole Valley, Hayes Valley and the Bernal Heights neighborhoods, and it appears that the target of this hideous crime is dogs:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/poisonous-meatballs-sickening-dogs-in-twin-peaks/Content?oid=2497582
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News: Happy Ending!

lucky little gal

lucky little gal

Story sent from Canada:

I received a call from Animal Care and Control today.  They had picked up a coyote that had been caught in a leg-hold trap.

The guy at ACC said that he just couldn’t put her down.  So, I met him out at the rehabilitation center where the coyote is now in one of our outdoor enclosures.

Although the coyote would rather be free, at least she is still alive.  She doesn’t look as though she was hurt by the leg hold trap and she appears to be healthy.

I gave her a nice dinner for her stressful day.  Since she doesn’t appear hurt, we’ll release her soon as soon as we find a good place for her.  The bad news is that we can’t release her back to where she came from.

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How nice that they called you! It gives me hope to know that there are good people out there. I wonder what the story was and why the trapper didn’t get her.

I hope there is a good place for her to be released.

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Of course it is her home which she is tied to: her family and territory. The ones released by Stan Gehrt tried to make it back to their homes. They all died in the process. If released too far from home, there are more obstacles — people and cars — that the coyote has to deal with.

Not only that – in her desperate search for food she could get into trouble with people and their pets!!!

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Someone called ACC to say that they had seen her in the leg-hold trap.  So there is another good person out there.

We do have places to release coyotes.  Unfortunately it won’t be with her family or in her own territory.  And, they don’t all make it when they are released in a new place.  I hate this, but at least we are giving her a chance.

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Couldn’t it be done at night – who would know?  The whole experience will be aversive enough to keep her from going into the area where she was trapped.

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Unfortunately, I do not know where she was found.  They don’t want me putting her back in the same area.

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The attached is not a good photo, but a photo none the less of our latest visitor at the rehabilitation center.  She is curled up in front of a heat lamp on a drizzly day.  She ate all of her kibble last night but neither of the rats that I left for her.  I guess she doesn’t like them if they are not alive and running from her.  She will get more kibble, rats, insects and other goodies tonight.

I am still working on getting the location of the spot where she was found.  It may take me a few more days.  Once I find out where she was found, I’ll get her released close by.

I know that she is not keen on where she is and she is afraid.  However, she is warm, has food and shelter and it is temporary.  We will get her back where she belongs soon.

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It’s a great picture! And you are an angel!!!

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I found out where the coyote was found.  I am working on a clandestine release within a couple of blocks.  Will keep you posted.

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Yay!!!

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Just wanted you to know that the coyote brought in for rehabilitation was returned to her neighborhood on Wednesday night about 11:30 pm.  I wasn’t there, but here is what was relayed to me.  She was at the back of the kennel during the drive until she got close to her neighborhood when she could tell that she was almost home.  Once the door was opened, she bolted out.  About halfway to the tree line, she turned around and looked at the person who released her.  Then she went on her way to find her family.

We all just love a happy ending.

eRATicator

2013-02-26Coyotes keep the rat population down. Here is a coyote with a freshly caught, huge rat. Good for her!

The bad thing is that people in urban neighborhoods use rat poisoning. In one of the parks here in San Francisco, an owl was found dead due to having eaten poisoned rats. The necropsy showed that the poison had infiltrated his entire body. I’ve seen dead rats lying around, bleeding from the mouth or hemorrhaging through the skin — these are signs of rat poisoning. And I’ve seen rats in such pain that they can barely walk. The poisoned rats are easy prey since they move so slowly. They become easy food for raptors and other animals, including coyotes — and up the food chain go the poisons.

Most all rodent eating animals are carrying rodenticide poison loads. An overload can cause lethargy and other debilitating conditions. If you see a coyote that fits this description, please call Animal Care and Control — there are treatments for rodenticide poisoning.

Shooing Off a Coyote: A Primer*


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RELEVANT BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Normal Behavior

Although coyotes for the most part stick to the shadows, it is not unusual to see one out during the daytime, on park trails, or on the streets.  They like grassy fields where they can hunt, and they like woodsy areas where they can take refuge.  At times they may pass through our backyards. These are within the range of normal coyote behavior. We might ask, “Don’t they know they should stay in a park and out of sight?” But how could they possibly know OUR boundaries?  Remember that humans delineate their “boundaries” very differently from coyotes: we use physical and visual boundaries which have meaning for us, such as fences and streets, whereas coyotes use olfactory ones which they create by “marking” or “urinating” along their territory’s periphery. Most of the time when you see a coyote, it will be hunting in a field for gophers, or just passing through. Most of the time, when a coyote sees you, it will flee or keep far away.  If a coyote is minding its own business, we try to leave them alone.

Eliminate Attractants

What attracts coyotes to many areas is food of any type. Coyotes are known as “opportunistic” eaters — they eat what is available. You will be inviting them into your yard if you leave out any kind of food, including pet food. They also eat small rodents such as raccoons and skunks or anything that looks like them. You will be contributing to the food chain if you leave your small pet outside and unattended. It is best to remove all attractants from your yard — this is passive medicine.

Shooing Off a Coyote In A Chance Encounter or From Your Yard

If a coyote comes within 30-50 feet of you, it will most likely be just an unexpected chance encounter, with both of you wanting to avoid each other. Coyotes are curious and may stop to observe.  Most of the time yelling or stamping your foot is enough to make the coyote hurry away — this works most of the time with most coyotes. Tossing a small stone in the coyote’s direction — but not directly at it so as to injure it — will also cause the coyote to distance itself. Do remember that coyotes seldom if ever approach people: you are bigger and brighter than they are and they know this. It is only a chance encounter which might bring you closer than expected. Conflict with you is something they do not want to engage in. However, if you have a dog with you, the situation changes — coyotes and dogs generally don’t like each other because they are competitors for the territory.

SHOOING ‘EM OFF MORE FIRMLY

How to Shoo Off A Coyote More Firmly From Your Dog

There might come a time when you’ll want to shoo away a coyote immediately and unconditionally. If possible, you should always try walking away from an adversarial or potential adversarial situation — but don’t run as this might incite a chase.  This should be your option of choice for many reasons, especially during pupping season or when there are pups around. It is best not to confront a coyote during these times because, like all parents, it will defend its young. However, you should shoo off a coyote if it is decisively approaching your dog, or if it has come into your yard where you have pets. The presence of the human alpha around any pet is important for keeping coyotes away from your pet.

My Preferred Method

One of the best ways to show a coyote that his proximity is not welcome is a multi-sensory one: take a folded newspaper and slam it aggressively, repeatedly and dramatically on your thigh as you walk decisively towards the coyote, locking your gaze on his, and yelling “Shoo! Off With You!”. The combination of the aggressively wide and big slapping movements, the loud slapping noise, your angry voice, the locked gaze, and walking decisively towards the coyote will show him 1) that you are directing this “attack” towards him and 2) you mean what you say. There is a caveat here: you MUST make the coyote move back substantially — in other words, you must “win”, otherwise the coyote could become resistant over time and he will think that you are just crying wolf. It may take a couple of repeats for a coyote to “get it”, but they do remember and will start fleeing upon seeing you. A periodic, but milder, reminder of your ferociousness will help maintain what you have taught. In any particular area, it will be the same coyotes which you encounter — they are strongly tied to their territories, and milder “reinforcement” might be needed occasionally in the future.

Technique Pointers for Firmly Shooing Off a Coyote Needs Practice & Repetition

Your “intervention” should be no-nonsense and appear confrontational. If you want the coyote to remember, you’re going to have to make the event memorable for him: throw a real conniption. Coyotes read body language. It’s all about bluffing — your bluff must be bigger than theirs. And it’s a mind set: you want to turn the tables from defense to offense mode. We all need to practice being adversarial/aggressive a little to become effective: it might help to watch someone do it to give you the swing of it. Knowledge and practice of this technique will give you confidence even if you never may have to use it.

Quick Summary For Shooing Off Coyotes

  • Use only if walking away isn’t working and
  • Don’t use during pupping season, March-August, when parent MUST defend their young.
  • DO use if a coyote is decisively approaching your dog.
  • Be as OFFENSIVE as possible
  1. slap a newspaper on your thigh loudly and dramatically
  2. walk decisively towards the coyote
  3. fixing your gaze on the coyote’s eyes — so that he’ll know it’s no mistake but him you are targetting
  4. angrily raise your voice and shout “Scat!” “Shoo!” “Off With You!”
  5. Make sure to force the coyote to move back — to claim you’ve won

[Downloadable and Printable version: Shooing Off A Coyote]

Perceived Size of Coyotes

 

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.

I’m Pretty Sure There’s A Coyote Den In My Backyard! An Email Exchange

Hi Janet — Late this morning, I am positive that I heard 2-3 coyote pups signing to each other behind our yard and the neighbors. Either way, this feels a little bit too close for comfort. They sounded maybe 50 or 75 yards away. It was definitely not the sound of average puppies… the only way I could describe it was like warbly singing, with crying yips.

Also, when I took my dog out back earlier this morning, I found fresh dog urine right next to the house — I was perplexed at the time because our yard isn’t accessible from the street, only from the back of the hill. But now after hearing the puppies, I think that one of them was in our yard.

I appreciate the majesty of coyotes, but I wonder if it’s safe to be outside with a den so close. And I worry about my dog, too, even though he is never ever unattended in the yard. My dog is large and old, but he’s still quite fiesty with other big dogs. I’m not sure how aggressive things might get with coyotes around.

I also have a large vegetable garden that goes straight up toward where I heard the pups. The garden is watered at night and morning — is it safe for me to be out there during puppy season? The top of our garden is really only about 15 yards away from where I heard them.

Sorry for the long note, but wildlife is not my expertise. My boyfriend chuckles because I run away when the trio of raccoons comes into the yard. I’m starting to feel a little trapped in the house…

Do you have any advice on safety? I would be grateful if you do…
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Hi  –

I don’t think there is a den there. I know the coyotes that roam that area and they did not have pups. Coyotes, when they greet each other, have a very high pitched, puppy-sounding squeal — what you describe as “warbly singing with crying yips” — which often is mistaken for puppies. Please listen to recordings #2 and #5 on the Urbanwildness.com site: http://www.urbanwildness.com/urbanwildness.com/Coyote_Howling.html. There are more recordings on CoyoteYipps.com.

Please know that you are totally safe — coyotes do not care to deal with humans: you are bigger and smarter than they are, and they know it. Dogs are sometimes another story: coyotes are very territorial towards dogs, the same as they are with non-resident, interloper coyotes. If your dog is always attended out of doors, there should be no problem. If you, for any reason, need to scare a coyote away, make noise and throw a threatening caniption to let the coyote know that you really mean that you don’t want him around. If you want hands-on help to show you how to feel safe around coyotes, let me know. And feel free to contact me about any coyote issues which you are worried about. Please let me know if this has been at all helpful. Sincerely, Janet

PS: If it does happen to be a den area, I would be extremely surprised. It would mean that coyotes are there within another coyote’s territory. There is a female I’ve been following — an interloper — but I have not seen her with a male companion — she seems to be a loner. Whenever she is detected by the area’s resident coyotes, they drive her out. And, if there indeed is a den, you would continue to hear these coyote puppy sounds very frequently — probably every night. Please keep me posted! Janet
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Thanks, Janet! Your letter makes me feel better already. So helpful!

I was on your site for hours after I wrote you. Your photography is incredibly special. One of my housemates also heard the ‘song’ this morning and so together we listened to your amazing sound clips! We agreed that what we heard was a little different, so we found a clip on youtube that sounded most like what we had in the back yard, but our visitors sounded a little bit slower and more like they were calling to each other yard-to-yard. Here it is: http://youtu.be/xsQRNBm4_z4.

Really it was an amazing experience hearing that this morning, and if I wasn’t such a nervous-nellie then I probably would’ve thought to get my iphone memo recorder out (Next time I will record it, if there is a next time. . .)

Just thinking of it now — but there have been a couple nights in the last two weeks when it sounded like the raccoons might be fighting with a dog outside — there was that wet-snarly sound, growling, and a lot of screeching on the part of the raccoons. I wonder if that’s your area’s interloper?

I have to say, I have such respect for the wild life up here…to me, all dogs are angels on this earth, including and especially our native coyote friends. I will definitely write to you again if I hear or see anything. I’ll keep a journal, too. My desk faces the steep slope of our yard and I’ve got a great view on both sides — if I see anything you will be the first to know.

Very best!  Jo

PS: About your breath-taking video of Myca trying to play with your dog…you raised the most patient, loving, and well behaved dog that ever walked the earth. What a special day that must have been!

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Hi Jo –

Thank you for this wonderful email! Glad you liked the sites, but I’m especially happy that you are thrilled about your visitors!!

The coyotes may be in the area in hopes of snagging one of the young raccoons that you’ve been seeing. The growling you heard may have been a coyote confronting the mom raccoon — that may be why the coyotes are hanging around. It’s part of nature, even if it results in heartbreak. Yes, please keep a journal!  Janet

PS: On the you-tube video, those are not puppies, they are adults — that is what they sound like. Janet

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They just came back to sing! It’s a kind of quiet recording because my volume was a little low, I will try to do better next time. I can’t believe they are here again!!! Same spot, too!  High pitched greeting could be mistaken for puppies

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Hi Jo –

Yep, that’s the greeting! Very exciting!! Thank you so much for sending this to me!  Their behavior is quite different lately and I’m trying to figure out why. Also, if you do get a photo, let me know. I’ll probably be able to identify them if you get a face-on shot — their faces are as different as humans once you get to know them. If you want, I can give you a brief biography of them!

I would love it if you could keep me posted on your “coyote adventure”. And, would it be all right if I posted this on the blog? Let me know! And I look forward to hearing more!  Janet

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Janet,

I am SO sorry to bombard you with emails today, but I realize the audio recording I sent you earlier was from another email account and I didn’t even sign my name. I am just so excited to have heard the coyotes again that I’m bumbling on simple social graces.

I am re-attaching the audio so I can be sure you receive it, and also attaching  a photo of the garden with notations of where the coyotes seemed to be when they sang.

I am feeling a little protective over them now, just thinking that there might be a den — I hope the neighbors choose to leave them be, as I am. They are one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever heard in my life! Thank you for writing to me earlier, and for sharing your experiences on your website. I feel so much more at ease about my new ‘neighbors’. Because of you, Janet, I am officially in AWE of these animals! I will keep a journal of their howling schedule for your reference, too.  Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with me. Maybe we will have a chance to meet sometime depending on whether I continue to hear them singing! I think you might have some new coyotes in this area to photograph!

Jo

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Hi Jo –

You are not bombarding me, I’m thrilled about this, too! Please don’t get exciting about pups — I don’t think there are any. Coyotes would never den in a garden where you work. I think they’re there because they’ve found the raccoon. That is my hunch. But let’s see how it plays out. And yes, if it does turn out to be a den, I would not tell anyone — that’s the safest thing to do, and I will keep your secret! And, yes, hope to meet you sometime!  Janet

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Hi Janet, The coyote experience has been incredible today! Young and old…they are magnificent. I hope it continues! You’re wonderful, Janet,

Jo

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Hi Jo –

If I post your stuff I would not specify where it is — best to keep location vague. Notice that none of my postings specify place. The point is the story: that you were a little apprehensive, that you thought it might be pups and finally that you were thrilled and even got a recording. Thanks, Jo!  Janet

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The strangest thing happened yesterday…our wildlife ‘regulars’ returned to the yard. I realize I didn’t tell you that many of them had been m.i.a for a week, including the three raccoons. I truly thought my beloved Scrub Jays had been eaten by the raccoons. The Jays had been nesting in our yard, and since last week, I saw only one just hopping from high-spot to high-spot looking for the others. One day it even flew directly into my window! This is extremely bizarre behavior for our Jays, and I was totally horrified to see it distressed. BUT…late yesterday afternoon, the Jays came back AND in broad daylight one of the raccoons wandered through the yard…also very unusual. The raccoon might have been limping, but hard to tell. I do worry about the other two raccoons now…they were thick as thieves. I also hate to think of any creature alone in the world.

I bet you were right to say that it has been hunting (not a den) that brought the coyotes here.

Meantime, I’ve still got my audio recorder on the desk, just in case….

Jo

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.

A Magical Moment

I was observing a coyote in the distance when a fellow suddenly appeared where there had been no fellow before. I wondered how he got there since I had not seen him approach and there was no path where he stood. He was leaning over, packing his backpack. Ahhh, I now remembered the brightly colored object I had seen earlier hidden in the grasses. That must have been a sleeping bag which he was tucked into.  He finished packing and began to walk off, when he caught sight of the coyote right there only a short distance away, just sitting in the grass and watching him.  The fellow seemed overtaken with amazement. Everything became still. The coyote looked at him and then look away, so as not to threaten. The young man did the same. There seemed to be a mutual appreciation and respect — two different species crossing paths in the early morning. This little encounter lasted two full minutes. Then the fellow decided to move on very slowly, without any sudden movements.

When the fellow got to where I was, I said “that must have been a pretty fantastic moment for you.” He agreed that he would never forget the amazement and wonder he felt as he stood there: it was a magical moment with a glimmer of something that most of us have lost touch with because of our highly-civilized world — a stirring of something which was new and exciting — a connection and mutual understanding, if only brief, to something wild and untamed, yet gentle and accommodating.  I have had various people tell me about their special coyote encounters, their touch with the wild. This one was particularly nice. I’m sure the coyote had been very aware of the presence of this fellow all night in its habitat, and might have been curious to watch the fellow get up and take off.

The Plight Of Some Of Our Urban Coyotes

Hi Janet,

I’ve been meaning to write you these last few days, but you beat me to it!  I have been thinking about those coyotes in the Presidio [where we took our walk -- but now where trees and habitat are being removed because of Doyle Drive renovation work and because of non-native tree removal], and also have been worried that all that change is driving them into the city.  I really hope that the increase in activity won’t hurt their campaign to be seen as good neighbors!

But the reason I have been thinking of writing you is with very sad news.  We have a family of coyotes here in my new neighborhood in Sausalito, and sometimes they are even in my back yard at night, singing.  My house is about 1000 feet from the freeway, though a thick grove of eucalyptus makes it feel further away.  I have made a few attempts to find routes the coyotes must be using to cross to get out to open space of the Marin Headlands on the other side, but so far I have found only small drainage culverts that are only 36″ in diameter.  Then there is the spencer underpass about a mile from here.

Anyway, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.  Friday morning I found a yearling male who had been struck trying to cross from our side. He was still warm when I pulled him from the second outer lane at about 6:30 am.  His death was instant, I’m sure.  But I am deeply saddened, as it feels like losing a neighbor’s kid.  We talk about how the youngsters get killed when trying to leave for new territory, but it’s different when you experience it in person. I thought of you when it happened, and knew you had experienced similar heartbreak.

The irony of this is that just yesterday I nearly hit a youngster bobcat that ran full speed in front of me out in the Marin headlands, but my antilock breaks saved the day.  We really need to work on this problem as a society — as it is such a terrible waste to kill so many animals.  We could prevent this simply with better planning, and putting in larger drainage culverts under roads with the idea that both water and animals could use them to travel from one side to another. And across freeways, the deliberate location of gaps every few thousand feet so animals who find themselves on roads can get off them safely.  I see even salamanders and snakes killed by cars on driveways, but it is so easy to use small pipes to act as tunnels under the asphalt. We have a lot of work to do!  And thanks for all your hard work on Coyote Yipps.  You are the human voice of those coyotes, and they really need it.  Jennifer

UPDATE

On  the coyote — I made some mistakes in my assumptions.  It’s worse than I had thought.  I don’t know my pack here as well as you know yours, but I now suspect the coyote I found last week was the alpha male. I had assumed a young male, given his small stature  and the fact that he had been inexperienced enough to be hit. But I did an autopsy to learn more about him, and found he was not young, but old enough to have several benign tumors, some of them quite sizable.  He also had some wearing on the teeth that make me think he was several years old.  But the shocker was when I recovered two 22-caliber bullets lodged in his shoulder.

Last year my neighbor told me he had been awakened by the coyotes singing, but then someone had fired shots and then my neighbor had heard one of them whimpering (in the city limits!)  It makes me wonder if this is the one who was shot then.  He also had some tapeworms, though no heart worms. All in all, he appears to have been quite healthy.  A real tragedy.  (You might wonder how I came to know enough to do an autopsy, but remember I was on my way to being a wildlife vet before discovering my passion for botany.) So my neighbors lost a father and mate last week.  I don’t know if they have pups this year. Not sure how this info effects your idea to post, but you are welcome to share this with your audience.   Jennifer

“In Shifts”, by Charlotte Hildebrand

I don’t know why I’m afraid to talk to my neighbor Thea about the commotion next door; perhaps because I talked to her last year about feeding the feral cats and skunks and raccoons and nothing came of it. My fear comes, too, from the fact that an old woman can be sharp edged as a knife, dangerous as a steel trap and unyielding to the point of chicanery.

Don’t get me wrong; my neighbor is a wonderful woman, but the busy schedule of the comings and goings of various animals has gotten out of hand. Something has to be done:

7 a.m.: Breakfast, Coyote, table set for one
7:30-8 a.m.: breakfast, seven skunks
noon-3: brunch, six rowdy crows
5 p.m.: supper again for the coyote, although in this part of the country I think you call it dinner.
5:30 p.m.-until dark: skunks in shifts, the occasional possum and raccoon

Note to self: The point of my argument (to make her stop setting out food) must be in the interest of the wildlife she’s feeding.

Who will get to the bowl first?

I’ll start out by saying, “Thea, you’re not helping the animals; you’re making them dependent on the food you give them. What will happen when you’re not here?”

Why would I not be here? she’ll ask.

Pause. Am I to say, at your age you’re headed for the big ballpark in the sky; anything could happen? But I can’t say that; it would be too cruel.

Well, what if you get sick, I’ll say. What will the animals do? The coyote might become aggressive and attack some unsuspecting child or small pet; maybe jump over the fence and bite me for interfering with its supper.

She’ll shake her head like last time and say she doesn’t agree with my assessment.

I’ll say, Okay, you win; let the skunks fill up the afternoon air with stink, let the coyote become a stalker, let the crows caw to their hearts content. I give up, I give up.

But it didn’t go like that. When I called her at noon to talk about the problem, she was all good graces; she said she had wondered herself if she was doing the right thing. As a child during the war, she lived on the edge of a forest, and it was only natural to feed the animals during winter. I gently reminded her, that here in sunny CA, an abundant harvest is always available; there’s enough little voles and moles to fill up Dodger Stadium. So, she agreed to stop. If she couldn’t feed one, she wouldn’t feed any. She promised, no more food.

But I feel a little guilty that she won’t have the animals to feed. She’s lonely up here on this hill since her husband died five years ago; her daughter lives in Pennsylvania and comes out only a few times a year. It must give her pleasure to take care of so many small creatures. I wonder if I’ve done more harm than good.

P.S. Woke up this morning and noticed three bowls in her yard, and a possum lurking about. What the…??

This posting follows from Charlotte’s posting on June 8: HOWL. For more of her writing, please visit her website: http://charlottehildebrand.blogspot.com/

Dad and His Two Daughters, by Charles Wood

Before sunset today, as I stood on the river bank that borders my Los Angeles coyotes’ field, three of them went by. The bold daughter came first. Three minutes later I saw a park ranger’s car driving in the area where the coyotes were headed. A minute later Dad stopped to stare before following the bold daughter. Three minutes after that the shy daughter went by.

I didn’t see Mom today, nor did I see any puppies. It is significant to me to have confirmed that two siblings remain with their parents, both about a year old. Mom is lactating and there are new puppies in that field. Getting a look at them is another matter. The park ranger said he was looking in the field for two boys. The boys had been fishing where they shouldn’t have been. Today I was where I should have been: on the road.

The park ranger said delightedly that he had just seen a fox hunting, pouncing on prey. I said there were coyotes in the field. He said he knew what a fox looked like and that it was a fox. I asked him if there was anyone in the neighboring nature area who was familiar with the coyote groups there. He said that he didn’t pay any attention to coyotes. If he doesn’t pay attention to coyotes, can he distinguish between a fox and a puppy coyote? Do four adult coyotes let a fox live in their home range? Has my desire to see the puppies affected my ability to properly reason?

The park ranger didn’t stay around long enough to catch the two boys that I later saw leaving the field with a bucket. The boys walked along the field’s roads without encountering a coyote. Yet just a few minutes before, three had gone to the area in which the boys were hiding. The coyotes had a lot to keep track of before sunset: a man, the man’s companion, the man’s dog, his companion’s dog, a man in a car, two young boys and an unknown number of puppies. And don’t forget the fox, maybe.

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.

Dad, Five People and a Dog, by Charles Wood

Dad on hold

As I left my coyotes’ field at twilight I met, under the bridge, four adolescent women hanging out and taking pictures of themselves in front of graffiti.  At just that moment, Dad appeared.  He stopped farther away than usual as he assessed five people and a dog.  One of the young women asked excitedly if that was a coyote.  I said it was.  As Dad trotted away she said that was “so cool and random.”  I agreed.  We talked more and I told them of the four adult coyotes with puppies.  One of the young women said, “So they are more territorial now?”  Exactly.  They said they hadn’t been advised on how to deal with an approaching coyote.  So I told them to not run and asked them what else to do.  One said, as she raised herself up and held out her arms:  “Make yourself big.”  Another said she would yell and make a lot of noise.  I was satisfied that they knew exactly how to handle an approaching coyote and I added that in the field it is a good idea to scan 360 degrees as you take your walk.

I haven’t seen the puppies yet.  In the sand, I want to think that the little tracks next to the larger coyote tracks are puppy tracks, yet I don’t know.  I want to think that the smaller droppings are from puppies, yet I don’t know.

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.

Lost Alpha Status?

I’ve followed a female coyote for several years now — I’ll call her “mom”.  She had puppies the first year and the second year — they all grew up and eventually dispersed. But the third year and this year there were no puppies. Why? We are told that only “alpha” coyotes reproduce. So, might no puppies be due to her having lost her “alpha” status and might this also have something to do with the possibility that a new family group of coyotes might now be using this same territory?

Coyotes form nuclear family groups which exclude other coyotes from their groups and from their territories. I’ve watched this mother coyote raise her various families. Never have we seen other coyote faces within her family group, or other coyotes in her territory.

The theory of lost status occurred to me due to a rumor — unsubstantiated at this point — that a new coyote group, including juveniles, might have been spotted recently, passing through what has been her territory. I have not seen a new group at all. Coyote rumors are rampant in this area: they often spin into a life of their own. So my theory is speculative, at the moment, and will have to remain that way until we verify what we have heard through the grapevine. But I wanted to explore this possibility of loss of alpha status, even if it exists only as a theoretical possibility. I have noticed changes in behavior that might be explained by a loss of alpha status.

Coyote groups are always family groups: genetically-related individuals with the same parents. They are not like dog packs, where unrelated individual dogs form groups for survival purposes. If a new group of coyotes was seen that included juveniles, the young ones would have had to have been born last year, when our mother had no pups. They would have been born to another alpha since only alphas breed.

The presence of another family might also explain why our mom coyote’s forays into the larger part of a park have dwindled, if not totally ceased — she has been limiting her outings to a smaller area now, and I’ve seen her eyeing the adjacent area where the new coyotes were purportedly spotted.

Why might she have lost her alpha status? Could this have happened when her mate was killed? We are assuming it was her mate who was found poisoned two years ago, right at about the time her second set of puppies was born. We assumed this because we never saw a male in her territory after that event. We only saw her and her growing pups. Was her status tied to his status, and then lost when he died?  Or could she have lost her status because there was no male, whatever his status? Or might she have lost it by another means — for instance, she was badly injured by a car two years ago, which might have compromised her ability to remain an alpha?

Then again, she might be too old now for pups, or she might have sustained internal injuries from that car accident that prevent her from having more puppies. One theory brought up in the literature is that coyotes self-regulate their population sizes. If an area has all the coyotes it can support, coyotes will have very tiny litters, or none at all.

So, no puppies, and the possible sighting of another family group including juveniles makes me think of the possibility of lost alpha status. In addition, the previous bolder behavior which suggested an alpha is no longer what I am seeing in our mom. We will never know the answer to the “whys”. But we do know that this very proud, aware and responsible mother coyote has stopped having pups altogether for the past couple of years and she has retreated to a smaller territorial area where she has been less visible than she used to be. Time will tell how long this situation will last — it might be very temporary, or it could be long-term.

Habitat destruction could be driving coyotes out of their previous homes and into new areas.

Habitat Destruction. Habitat destruction is the single most harmful human activity to wild animals. Many of us are upset at the very short-sighted policies causing this habitat destruction which lead to displacement of our wild animals. The “native plant programs” is a case in point: dense animal habitat is being removed in order to plant native plants which offer little if any habitat value — these are mostly dune-type plants. Animal habitat consists of dense areas of growth, brambles and underbrush which are impenetrable to humans and dogs — this is what makes it a safe habitat for animals. In San Francisco we have vast areas of our Presidio which are now being cleared of their forested areas for the benefit of native plants — this means lost habitat. In addition, the remodeling of Doyle Drive, and its attendant habitat destruction, may be driving coyotes out of their original homes close to the periphery of the city, and causing them to move deeper into the heart of the city to find new places to live. If new groups of coyotes are being seen in some areas, this is the strongest explanation.

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