Pocket Gophers: Staple Chow for Coyotes

Cute gophers are part of the food chain of life. When you think about it, it’s really weird: species eat each other up. We all need the energy from the sun to live, but only plants can eat sunlight — no animals can do this. So some animals eat plants to get this energy and other animals eat those animals, and on it goes up the food chain.

Well, anyway, here’s a cute little gopher. Until eaten, it lives its life mostly underground, digging tunnels and grabbing plants.

HERE ARE SOME FACTS ABOUT THEM:

They get their name, pocket gopher, from their fur-lined cheek pouches, or pockets which they use to carry food. The pockets on a gopher open on the outside and turn inside out for emptying and cleaning.

Adults are 8 inches long, including their 2-inch tail. The males are larger and can weigh up to 2.2 pounds — double the weight of females.  They live from one to three years, with most of the population being young adults.

Gophers are vegetarians. They eat roots, trees, shrubs, grass and plants they encounter while digging underground, and they eat the leaves and stems of plants around their tunnel entrances, sometimes pulling entire plants into their tunnels. Gophers are able to obtain enough moisture from their food, so they don’t need a source of open water.

They build intricate underground tunnel systems using their front legs and long teeth to push dirt out of their tunnels. Gophers like to be alone and only one gopher will be found in a tunnel system.

For their tunneling lifestyle, they are equipped with large-clawed front paws, small eyes and ears, and sensitive whiskers that assist with movement in the dark. Their sparsely haired tails—which also serve as a sensory mechanism—help gophers run backward almost as fast as they can run forward. Their large front teeth are used to loosen soil and rocks while digging, and to cut roots.

Gophers can move about a ton of soil to the surface each year! Their tunnels are built and extended, then gradually fill up with soil as they are abandoned.

They benefit the areas where they live, increasing soil fertility by mixing plant material and fecal wastes into the soil, by aerating or tilling the soil with their tunneling activity, which also brings minerals up to the soils surface, and they serve as food for a variety of animals including owls, coyotes, weasels, and snakes. They prevent erosion because their burrows hold water from heavy rains instead of it running over the surface.

They breed in the springtime, producing one litter of 3-7 pups per year. The nesting chamber is about 10 inches in diameter lined with dried vegetation. The young leave after 5-6 weeks, wandering off above ground to form their own territories. Densities range from 2 to 20 gophers per acre depending on food availability.

Many mammals, large birds, and snakes eat gophers and depend on their tunnels to create safer living conditions. Salamanders, toads, and other creatures seeking cool, moist conditions take refuge in unoccupied gopher burrows. Lizards use abandoned gopher burrows for quick escape cover.

Gophers are captured at their burrow entrances by pets, coyotes, foxes and bobcats. They are cornered IN their burrows by badgers, weasels, skunks, and snakes. They are captured above ground by raptors.

Eagle Owl Lands

Wow! I’m into eagles and owls this week. I tend to like our predators. Here, an Eagle Owl approaches in slow motion and then extends and spreads its incredible talons to grab its perch. I had to share this!! Enjoy!

Our Revered American Bald Eagle Was Once Maligned — and killed — For The Exact Same “Transgressions” As Are Coyotes Today

2013-06-26 Did you know that our now protected American Bald Eagles were at one time vilified as murderers and vermin in the not too distant past? They were imagined to be grave threats to sheep and small livestock and competitors for fish and game birds. Around the turn of the century they and other bird and animal predators were being eradicated. Sounds like a coyote story, doesn’t it?!

bald-eagle_1_600x450“Newspapers printed exaggerated stories of bald eagles attacking small children, blinding, disfiguring or even carrying them away in their claws, like a 3-year-old girl named Nettie in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in 1896. (An older girl was said to have stopped the attack by stabbing the bird in the head with her hatpin.) In 1901, The Los Angeles Times described an eagle seizing a 6-month-old baby. The child’s mother, Emma Goulding, reportedly chased the bird for eight miles on mule-back, then climbed a rocky cliff toward its nest, deflecting attacks from both the eagle and its mate as she ascended, killing both. Eventually, Mrs. Goulding found her baby lying in the eagles’ nest unharmed, then tore her skirt up, fashioned it into a rope, and rappelled them both down to safety.”

“By the 1920s, all this vitriol and killing was pushing the bald eagle toward extinction. Early conservationists, trying to warn the public about the eagle’s predicament, found it challenging to defuse all the hatred that had gathered around the bird. Slowly, of course, public opinion turned in the bald eagle’s favor for a variety of reasons, few of which had anything to do intrinsically with bald eagles. The environmental historian Mark V. Barrow Jr. points out that passage of the first national law to protect eagles, the Bald Eagle Protection Act, in 1940, was partly a byproduct of newly booming patriotism on the cusp of World War II. And in the ’60s, the bird became a sympathetic poster child for the new, pernicious form of damage that the pesticide DDT and other pollutants were leveling on the environment. It was one of the first species listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973.”

Read more about how “we manipulate and manage the world’s wild things to reflect our ideas about what’s right and wrong, about what belongs in nature and what’s an abomination” in Jon Mooallem’s NYT article about “Streaming Eagles”:  http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opinionator/2014/06/20/streaming-eagles/

I wanted to include this article to show that the treatment of eagles was so similar to the way coyotes are being treated in many areas of North America today — and all based, not on truth, but on what folks WANT to believe: Folks seem to WANT to malign them by saddling them with all sorts of untruths. Let’s learn who they are and what they are really like. And let’s stop “managing” our wildlife and just let it be. Nature can manage itself. We need to learn that animals are not bad, they just “are”, and we need to learn to live with it the way it is.

Eats Seeds and Pods from a Field of Wildflowers

2014-04-29 (1)

2014-04-29 (2)

2014-04-29

Coyotes indeed are opportunistic eaters. Here a little fellow is eating seeds and pods from a field of wildflowers, and seemingly savoring his succulent epicurian find! Who would ever have known!

Poisoned Meat Balls Being Investigated Again — In The Sunset District

 
More poisoned meatballs found in the Sunset District on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo

More poisoned meatballs found in the Sunset District on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo

We are getting word that more poisoned meatballs have been spotted in San Francisco neighborhoods in dog walking areas, this time in the Sunset District at 24th Avenue and Ortega: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/More-suspected-poisoned-meatballs-in-S-F-5456894.php .

previously found meatballs looked like this

previously found meatballs looked like this

There have been two previous incidents of poisoned meatballs, both on Twin Peaks, the first at Crestline Drive and Burnett Avenue just before July 4th of last year, and another at 80 Crestline in San Francisco on about February 28th of this year. It seems to be happening again.

The poisoned meatballs injured at least three dogs, and killed a little 7-year old dachshund, Oscar last year.  Strychnine had been inserted into the meatballs — it’s a rat poison. It causes seizures and muscle spasms 10 to 20 minutes after ingestion.
.
The meatballs had all all been hidden in places where they could be sniffed out by pets, such as along curbs and in bushes.
.
Of course, coyotes are also at risk, as are birds of prey such as owls.
.
We need to protect all of these animals. We need to stop this activity. A $23,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to culprit of this sick behavior Any suspicious activity or tips about anyone trying to poison pets should call the SF Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444.

Touching The Wild, With Joe Hutto

I have found a videoed wildlife experience amazingly similar to my own! I can’t seem to embed this beautiful video, so the link will have to do: http://video.pba.org/video/2365224462/. What joy to hear someone who is exactly in the same position, psychologically and physically, as I am! As I watched this video, I had to write down many of the things Joe said — they are words he could have taken straight from my own mouth when I talk about the coyotes I watch.

The main difference between his Mule Deer Experience and my Coyote Experience is that I have never invited, or allowed, a coyote to get close to me. Several coyotes tried several times to approach me, on the same level that the mule deer approached Joe: it was a kind of a “reaching out” and acceptance after having seen me so regularly for many years, but I always walked away, and the coyotes respected that. I was also offered food a couple of times, but I never took it — I hope they didn’t think I was impolite!  

Here are the many things I penned down as I watched the video. Most of what Joe says reflects my own experience and thoughts, and a few things don’t!

  • I’ve been doing this every day for six years — can count the exceptions on one hand [For me, it's been 8 years -- and can count the exceptions on two hands!]
  • One chance encounter would lead to a study that has taken over 7 years of my life
  • What I study is hard to quantify — I’m going beyond science with my observation and connection
  • Joe met a buck (and I met a coyote) who had such a peculiar interest in me — my question to the wild critter was “WHO are you?
  • I made a gesture that must have spoken to him — we stared — and he clearly understood that I was not a threat
  • Day after day I would encounter that same fellow, and the rest of the herd would respond as if to say “Ahhh, it’s that guy”
  • That wild animal was able to see me as an individual and that I granted him his individuality
  • I was not seeing some “thing”, I was seeing some “one”
  • In that moment I realized what potential there was in these animals
  • And I was perfectly placed to study them (In San Francisco, I have many parks within a few minutes drive from my home)
  • My aim was to uncover their private lives
  • And I wanted to be the voice of this extraordinary animal who’s in trouble
  • I don’t just “study” them — I try to zero in enough to get to know the characters of the individual wild animals
  • Joe approached them to be part of them (in my case, I never approached them and didn’t want to be part of them. I wanted to be ignored, as part of the landscape which they could trust not to harm or interfere. My goal was to get to know them without being part of them)
  • One shouldn’t underestimate what is involved here — it does not happen overnight — it took going out there every day for 2 years before they displayed any trust of me
  • A pivotal moment was when they were’t running away  — they were letting me be there
  • Gazes become softer when you are accepted
  • None of the animals pays attention to me, which is the perfect perspective
  • They have distinct faces, personalities and relationships — relationships which are complex; the way each one walks and behaves is different
  • Some are bold & fearless, some are cautious and wary
  • A female was the leader — she would come near, but not close
  • They are wary and elusive of humans — after all, they have been game animals for humans
  • If another human appears, they run from fear, so my presence isn’t “habituating” them — these are still wild animals
  • I’ve had a chance to get to know an animal the way no one else can — to see their world through their eyes
  • They are profoundly intelligent — they have to live by their wits because they live side by side with what always has been their human enemies
  • Their intelligence can be identified by their curiosity
  • Only family members can groom each other
  • Blossom knows her name (this is not true of coyotes — I never use their names and would not ever try calling to them)
  • Deer migrate and spread out in winter. RagTag, Raggedy-Ann’s daughter, stayed that winter (coyotes don’t migrate)
  • Rag Tag led Joe to a secret place — to her fawns (Whereas I have stayed distant from all den areas always, but I have a friend who was led to pups this way once!)
  • Joe says they got to know his voice before they were born so they didn’t develop fear of him (Whereas I think it’s the mom’s comfortable reaction to him/me that youngsters picked up on)
  • There’s a grieving process
  • Raggedy Ann was supported by family members before dying
  • I feel privileged to have known them
  • RagTag gets sick and dies. Three days later her fawn, Molly, is still searching for her (Maeve looked for her mate a long time after he disappeared)
  • They cling to life the way we do. They fear death as we do.
  • Their reactions serve to warn you when you need to be vigilant
  • Joe had to face up to the relationship with humans — hunters (I’ve had to face up to the relationship with humans — their fears and hate)
  • These animals are nervous during hunting season (coyotes are especially nervous when chasing and exploring dogs and dog packs are in their parks)
  • Babe was a friend — there was a relationship of sorts based on mutual knowledge of each other  [and, for me, respect for boundaries]
  • It’s hard to sever the tie

 

“Love the Good Earth”, by Cathy Carey

"Love the Good Earth", 30", by Cathy Carey

“Love the Good Earth”, 30″, by Cathy Carey

Cathy has painted in oil another fabulous coyote in her garden using her amazing signature pallet of bright colors. This one is entitled “Love the Good Earth”. I hope folks recognize “the” coyote on the Coyote Yipps site!

“This oil painting is another from the view I had one morning of a coyote in our upper garden. I thought she looked like the Mother of the pack. I used with permission photos from the “Coyote Yipps” Blog by Janet Kessler. I have been experimenting with adding words to my paintings, and this is the first where I did it purposefully. It was first suggested to me from Karen Lane who saw the word “Joy” in my painting – “Reaching Out”.  I loved the idea of the organic meaning of the painting being part of the foliage and succulents. Look for “Love” under the coyote to the right, and “the Good Earth” on lower right. See it?” To view more of my work online visit:  www.artstudiosandiego.com

Previous Older Entries