What Is Natural Coyote Behavior Towards Humans?

2015-05-07Malcolm Margolin’s book, The Ohlone Way, has a brief description of the setting in San Francisco, including the vast number of animals that inhabited the land before the European settlers moved in, and the behavior of these animals towards humans. I am reprinting this excerpt from pages 9 and 11 of his book. It goes a long way to explain the very natural behavior seen in this video between a bobcat and a coyote who are caught in their own very natural interaction with humans standing close by being ignored by the two animals. It is the ignoring of humans which is of prime interest in this posting, though the interaction between the bobcat and coyote is fascinating. I’ve seen the same kind of interaction between a skunk and a coyote:  https://www.facebook.com/jon.snow.56481/videos/vb.25318743/10101407149702764/?type=2&theater.

“The environment of the Bay Area has changed drastically in the last 200 years. Some of the birds and animals are no longer to be found here, and many others have vastly diminished in number. Even those that have survived have (surprisingly enough) altered their habits and characters. The animals of today do not behave the same way they did two centuries ago; for when the Europeans first arrived they found, much to their amazement, that the animals of the Bay Area were relatively unafraid of people.”

“Foxes, which are now very secretive, were virtually underfoot. Mountain lions and bobcats were prominent and visible. Sea otters, which now spend almost their entire lives in the water, were then readily captured on land. The coyote, according to one visitor, was “so daring and dexterous, that it makes no scruple of entering human habitation in the night, and rarely fails to appropriate whatever happens to suit it.”

“Animals seem to have lost their fear and become familiar with man,” noted Captain Beechey. As one read the old journals and diaries, one finds the same observation repeated by one visitor after another. Quail, said Beechey, were “so tame that they would often not start from a stone directed at them.” Rabbits “can sometimes be caught with the hand,” claimed a Spanish ship captain, Geese, according to another visitor, were “so impudent that they can scarcely be frightened away by firing upon them.”

“Suddenly everything changed. Into this land of plenty, this land of “inexpressible fertility” as Captain la Perouse called it, arrived the European and the rifle. For a few years the hunting was easy — so easy (in the words of Frederick Beechey) “as soon to lessen the desire of pursuit.” But the advantages of the gun were short-lived. Within a few generations some birds and animals had been totally exterminated, while others survived by greatly increasing the distance between themselves and people.”

“Today we are the heirs of that distance, and we take it entirely for granted that animals are naturally secretive and afraid of our presence. But for the Indians who lived here before us this was simply not the case. Animals and humans inhabited the very same world, and the distance between them was not very great.

“The Ohlones depended upon animals for food and skins. As hunters they had an intense interest in animals and an intimate knowledge of their behavior. A large part of man’s life was spent learning the ways of animals.

“But their intimate knowledge of animals did not lead to conquest, nor did their familiarity breed contempt. The Ohlones lived in a world where people were few and animals were many, where the bow and arrow were the height of technology, where a deer who was not approached in the proper manner could easily escape and a bear might conceivably  attack — indeed, they lived in a world where the animal kingdom had not yet fallen under the domination of the human race and where (how difficult it is for us to fully grasp the implications of this!) people did not yet see themselves as the undisputed lords of all creation. The Ohlones, like hunting people everywhere, worshipped animal spirits as gods, imitated animal motions in their dances, sought animal powers in their dreams, and even saw themselves belonging to clans with animals as their ancestors. The powerful, graceful animal life of the Bay Area not only filled their world, but filled their minds as well.” 2015-05-09Note that if the humans in the video had approached the coyote, the coyote would have moved away immediately, and yelling or throwing a small pebble at the coyote would have caused it to move away even quicker.

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*


2013-01-01

RELEVANT BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Normal Behavior

Although coyotes for the most part stick to the darker hours, 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, as you walk towards the coyote, 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

  • DO NOT use during pupping season, March-August, when parent MUST defend their young.
  • DO use if a coyote is decisively approaching your leashed larger dog.
  1. slap a newspaper on your thigh loudly and dramatically, being as OFFENSIVE as possible
  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 targeting
  4. angrily raise your voice and shout “Scat!” “Shoo!” “Off With You!”
  5. If the coyote doesn’t move, don’t press it. Just calmly leave the area
  6. Always pick up a small dog and walk away calmly

[Downloadable and Printable version: Shooing Off A Coyote]

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