FIRST: A Guidelines/Safety Box:

1) A VIDEO ON COYOTE BEHAVIORS, GUIDELINES & DOGS: a one-stop video, by me, on urban coyote behavior and how to coexist with them, how to handle encounters, and why culling doesn’t solve issues:

Versión en Español   好鄰居–郊狼”   Condensed English version

*A protocol clarification for when walking a dog  (not addressed in the video): Your safest option always is flat-out, absolute AVOIDANCE: Whether you see a coyote in the distance, approaching you, or at close range, leash your dog and walk away from it, thus minimizing any potential dog/coyote confrontation or engagement. If you choose to shoo it away, follow the guidelines in the videos, but know that what’s safest is proactive, preventative unmitigated avoidance: i.e., walk away.


2) MORE LINKS TO COYOTE BEHAVIOR & DOGS:

citizencoyote-by-janetkesslerPress on image above for another introductory video on coyotes

  • CoyoteCoexistence.com for additional coexistence information.

  • Take a SHORT “Coyote Experiences and Opinion” Survey! images

More

Aside

*A Quote Worth Pondering (blog follows)

“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other.  If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear.  What one fears one destroys.”      Chief Dan George

Charles Wood, a frequent contributor to Coyote Yipps, adds: “I want to try and express Chief Dan George’s words a little differently, though I believe the meaning is the same: ‘If you talk to the animals they will talk to you and you will come to know them. When you come to know them, you will love them, with respect, without fear. What one fears one destroys. What one loves one defends.'”

For more photos, visit UrbanCoyoteSquared: A Gallery.

ACTUAL BLOG WITH LATEST POST BEGINS BELOW

Anxious and Scared for HIS Safety

The first part of this video is a rehash of what I’ve posted before. In this video, I’m standing right next to the dog, so you will experience most of the first section as if you were the dog. Also, this recording occurred many months ago when this coyote had just become part of a “pair” of coyotes — it is out of synch with the reality of today. But it has a telling display of one coyote’s concern and worry for another coyote in the last 30 seconds of the video.

For those who are unfamiliar with this coyote, a little background: There is only one dog which this coyote reacts to with such focused intensity as you’ll see in the video: The coyote’s hackles go up, her back arches, her head is lowered, she snarls and kicks dirt ferociously and angrily, and she emits distressful barks.  More often than not, she bouncingly follows the owner and dog for some distance maintaining this scary “Halloween cat” posture and continuing the barking. At a certain point, she’ll stop and watch them fade into the distance. After about 20 minutes, she knows exactly where and when they will reappear for the last leg of their walk, so she sits on a little knoll overlooking the spot until dog and owner come into view, at which point she’ll begin her distressed and anxious behavior again until they disappear down a neighborhood street for good for the day.

The coyote’s behavior, although territorial at its core, also has an aspect of “personal” animosity involving one-upmanship. The dog is a female six-year-old whose owner — he is always very respectful of the coyote and always walks away from her — attempted promoting peace between his dog and the coyote three years ago by squatting down close to the coyote and speaking gently to her to show how harmless he and the dog were. Only the dog was not giving off the same friendly vibes and messages, as revealed by the dog’s behaviors when she slipped her collar a number of times, ending up chasing the coyote, and even running up to this coyote’s favorite lookout posts and peeing there: “take that”. The coyote, of course, runs lickety-split from the dog, but always circles back to keep an eye on the dog after the dog is re-leashed. The coyote’s reaction to this dog is not just a random now-and-then occurrence: it has been going on almost every morning for three years: this coyote’s fear and anxiety towards the dog is major in her life, and given that the dog is three times her size, I think she’s very brave to confront her fears and anxieties so regularly and so directly.

The owner finally tired of this behavior and began taking an alternative route, but on the day of the video, the coyote caught a glimpse of the dog, and her behavior recommenced. Circumstances had changed for the coyote by this time: she had a new companion, a one-and-a-half year old male coyote who had joined her only a couple of months earlier. These two coyotes were becoming best friends. The female coyote had become particularly guardful of the new fellow after his leg injury a month earlier so that when any dogs came around, she frequently ran interference by running in front of them to take them off of his trail.

So on the day of the video, the female coyote saw the dog that had become her nemesis and began her distressed behavior as she had so often done before. I went up to speak to the owner and then stood by his dog as I videoed. The male coyote was not around when the female coyote first began her tirade, but at 1:33 into the video, just as the dog re-emerges for the last leg of her walk, the coyote spots her male companion and she runs off to divert his direction away from the “fearsome” white dog. In the last 30 seconds of the video, the female coyote is terrified and frazzled: she is beside herself with out-of-control anxiety and fear for her male coyote friend and she’s trying to communicate this to the younger male who seems not to get it: he remains calm and unfazed.

When the dog owner sees the coyotes, he quickly move down the street and away from them, and the dog was leashed anyway, so there was no danger of a chase. But the intensity of the little female coyote’s emotions and efforts are on full display in these last 30 seconds — she is beside herself in fear for her new friend and is trying to “save” him by trying to get him to move. 1112

Terrifyingly Noisy Parrots

San Francisco is home to a number of wild parrot flocks. They are an amazingly noisy bunch as they fly by, louder than most I’ve heard here in San Francisco, and definitely noisier than geese and ducks who also fly in noisy flocks.

Today I was watching a coyote casually hunting when the sounds of the parrots flying overhead reached my ear. I pointed my camera up to catch them in flight as they passed by, took a few shots, and then turned back to what had been a fairly relaxed coyote who now was freaking out. She was darting quickly and anxiously back and forth as she looked at the flock passing high overhead.

I’ve seen this coyote become “playful” with some ravens who seem to interact with her every so often, and with a Sharp Shinned Hawk who teases her now and then. Neither of these two birds vocalized as they flew and neither was in a flock: she jumped UP and frolicked a few paces with them, almost trying to reach them. It always appears to be a game of one-upmanship from both sides.

This time, with the noise, which could easily have been mistaken for alarmist shrieks or warning calls, it was very different: the coyote actually DUCKED DOWN into the grasses, hugged the ground, and displayed the same kind of extremely anxious, uncontrolled fear as when she once wanted to protect another coyote from a dog she so tremendously feared. This was the first time I had seen her react to the flock.  I’m wondering if it reminded her of a previous terror, or if it was just something new for her, or if the pitch of the parrot sounds was instinctively alarmist to her. Her distress was intense, but it was short-lived as the birds moved on and their noise faded, and life continued on as before, with her unscathed — maybe to her surprise! This coyote has endured some harsh treatment over the past 7 months, so her reaction might be related to something that happened during that time period.

We have several different wild parrot flocks here in the city. One of these roosts in the Presidio, and another on Telegraph Hill. Those that reside on Telegraph Hill had a book written about them by Mark Bittner, and then a movie based on that book by Judy Irving, both entitled “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”. Author and movie-maker are now married! Chance encounters and experiences can end up in magic!

Vying For Her

This family unit consists of a male and a female litter-mates, and a male who appears to be an older sibling. The two littermates are yearlings born in 2018, and the older sibling was probably born the year before. This older guy now is clearly dominant over the younger male, though I remember when there was more equality between them.

Both males have always catered to the female who seems to have a special position in the family apparently just because she’s a female. I’ve seen this special status given to other lone females in families. These three spend most of their time together.

Above is a video of one of their recent evening rendezvous. It begins with the younger male watching from the distance and very interested in the interactions of the other two. He clearly is apprehensive about joining them. However, even for coyotes, the heart is often stronger than the mind.

He suddenly decides to join them, running towards them. Upon reaching them, he immediately throws himself into a lower “small” submissive stance towards the other male — they appear to have worked out their ranks — but his aim appears to be to get past that male to the female in order to exchange warm greetings with her. Each male, then, makes an effort to continuously wedge himself between the other male and the female. This wedging behavior has been going on for months, as seen below in its incipient stage, when the two males were more on an equal footing: this equal footing has now changed. Now it is more obvious that there is a triangle involving jealousy, control, and ownership. You can probably guess how this will end up.


Several months ago, the play sessions between the three of them were intense: they’d romp, hop over, nuzzle, fall to the ground in a heap, lick, play chase. There was a whole lot of carefree fun. You can see that the snout-clasping was pretty evenly divided between them — there was no definite hierarchy yet between the males.

But even back then, each of the males was very tuned-into the interactions of the other with the female, and each worked on creating a wedge between his brother and sister. The female interacted less, preferring to look on, and sometimes snarled or grabbed the snouts of the others — she appeared to know what was going on. Even in humans, “friendly” play often has a competitive component (sports, board games): it can “measure” where you stand in relation to another individual. In coyotes, this play was a sort of litmus-test for for their eventual ranks in the real world.

Interestingly, I’ve seen this exact same behavior within a family consisting of a male and female sibling and their father after the alpha-mother’s disappearance left a vacancy for that family position. In this case, the father used himself as a wedge to keep brother away from sister, and it was for very selfish reasons: HE obviously wanted to possess her: Adroit At Keeping Two Mutually Attracted Coyotes Apart.

FOOD: The Behavior Shaper

I’ve written this posting to clear up the difference between food-conditioning and simple acclimation — there seems to be confusion about these terms. 

This coyote pictured here has been listlessly hanging around, within five feet of a path in a park, where he dozes and waits for food to be tossed to him. Food is tossed to him off and on, so he is being rewarded for his efforts.  He has a family he could be with — a pup, a yearling and a mate — but food trumps that for this coyote. He should be hunting — but then again, why would he do that when food will just come his way if he simply lies here? In fact, I have not seen him hunt in a while.

There’s a person who feels he is “protecting” the coyote by letting people know he is not dangerous: “Look, I can go right up to him and he does nothing,”  he tells people multiple times, daily. I tried convincing him that his constant approaching the coyote is not helping matters. This guy also feels the coyote needs to be fed: “He’s hungry, right? or he wouldn’t be there begging for food.” Other people approach to look or photograph him with their iPhones, getting as close as 5-10 feet away: few people carry a good zoom lens which would allow them to keep their distance. And further: they then post the coyote’s location on their social media which draws in even more people to approach or feed and iPhotograph. The feeding incidents take a mere second: it’s hard to catch beforehand even if you are standing right there constantly, so the “no feeding” ordinance is hard to enforce.

I’ve been here educating, but I can’t be here all the time, so I’ve been soliciting as many people as possible to be ambassadors to help others in the area understand that feeding by humans and friendliness — which encourages coyotes to view us as potential feeders — are actually “faux amis”: they are robbing the coyote of his independence and survival skills, and encouraging him to lie around within 5 feet of heavy human pedestrian traffic all day. It’s heart-wrenching to watch if you know coyotes.

Some people have even asked me, “What’s wrong with that, after all, he’s not hurting anyone.” But others are more in-tuned and ask if he is sick, or even dead when he’s dozing off. A handful of people have admitted to me that they had been feeding the coyote regularly — they hadn’t known better — but now they do: they thanked me for the clear signs. The signs I recently put out seem to be yielding some results.

Contrary to what many people have been led to believe, the problem here is not caused by the coyote’s having become acclimated to humans. I know lots of coyotes who have become acclimated to our presence without ending up in our midst or as “problems”. In fact, coyotes throughout the city, in any urban area, are all acclimated to humans by definition: they get used to us because we amicably share the same environment, including in the parks. Be that as it may, almost all remain wary and keep their distance: coyotes don’t just up and start mingling with us simply because they’re in the habit of seeing us or no longer see us as fearsome. Why would they — what would be the draw? Nor is there any “progression” in this acclimatization behavior whereby they eventually come ever closer, and then even become assertive or even threatening towards humans. Yet some people promote this as a truth, using the word “habituation”. It’s a concept causing people to fear the presence coyotes unnecessarily. These people are actually confounding “acclimation” with “food-conditioning”. The two are not the same and have to be kept apart.

“Food conditioning”, when it occurs, on the other hand, especially over time, indeed becomes a problem, and that is what is going on here with this coyote. This coyote’s behavior was not caused by simple acclimation to human presence. The rest of his family does not behave as he does. It was caused by the consistent and persistent proffering of food by friendly humans, so that he now associates humans as a friendly food source. Also keep in mind that every coyote is different, so innate personality plays a role.



Words and their meanings. Exact word meanings are important when talking about such an emotionally charged subject as coyotes, where everyone has a strong pre-conceived opinion. Without using exact language you cannot convey what is really going on or how to deal with it, and this seems to be the case where the meaning of the word “habituation” which is supposed to mean “the diminishing of a physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus”, has been expanded to include food-conditioned behaviors: wouldn’t that then be the “increasing of a physiological or emotional response”?  This confounding, then, attributes incorrect causes to certain behaviors. I’ll avoid the word in order to avoid tapping into anyone’s pre-conceived misunderstanding of the term. We need to understand these as two separate phenomenon: “food-conditioning” vs. simple adaptation to humans. I’ll use the word “acclimation” instead.

“Acclimation” is defined as the “the process or result of becoming accustomed to something new.” In this case it means simple “accommodation” and nothing more: the definition is congruent with the italicized definition given above.  Its effect has been noted in all animals including us. So, for instance, by living in the city, we humans learn to ignore and even screen out noises so that we need not waste energy worrying or reacting to something that isn’t going to harm us: these non-threatening sounds include sirens, a blown-out tire, fire-works, or even a rock band in the park.  Acclimation does not cause us to increase our reaction to those non-dangerous things we become accustomed to, it diminishes our need to react.

This is also true of coyotes. When coyotes become used to humans by adapting to our habitual presence — accommodating us — they ignore us because they realize that we are not a danger, that we are simply part of the environment that’s out there. They do not come towards us or beg for food or become aggressive towards us just because they have become used to us. Think about it: why would they? Getting to know humans and our behavior as we go about our normal and separate lives — without trying to intimidate or scare them all the time — actually creates calmer and, yes, LESS reactive coyotes! But scare them all the time and they’re bound to start showing their teeth self-protectively. Walkaboutlou has noted that if you treat coyotes harshly, they’ll become hard coyotes.

Watch the process as it develops to know what is going on: I have been watching specifically this for over 12 years — for coyote reactions over long periods of time from birth to people and our behaviors [dogs and pets are a different issue which I will cover later].

Wariness and keeping distant are actually built into coyote behavior naturally as you can see by the aversive behavior of all youngsters. But this can be trained out of them by humans: food is this behavior shaper. This coyote here is hanging around unnaturally close to human activity: this was not caused by his becoming acclimated to us. What led to this behavior is humans breaching the natural divide by INTERACTING with him first and foremost through friendly feeding. This, then, coupled with befriending, attempting to communicate, approaching, and even prolonged mutual visual contact exacerbated the problem by making all humans potential feeders. These, interactive behaviors by humans, and not simply human presence, are what alter the behavior of coyotes so that they may hang around close to human activity and even follow people in an attempt to get more food: for them, it’s an easier thing to do than hunting. Coyotes are opportunistic and towards that end are constantly pushing their boundaries to their advantage: if it is advantageous for them, they will change their behaviors.

And BTW, I have never seen feeding lead to aggressiveness. In fact the feeding that I’ve observed over time — and it’s always very friendly feeding — results in very docile, meek, and almost tame coyotes who hang around listlessly waiting for food to be tossed their way. They become nuisances more than anything else, and the situation becomes circular and perpetual. Most importantly, this situation could lead to more negative consequences in that this “proximity” could provide opportunities for these animals to grab a kid’s sandwich or even react to a hyperactive small child. My wildlife animal behaviorist contact says that “feeding changes the relationship between a wild animal and humans, putting them on a more equal footing with us, which, if the animal were to become desperate enough it might, potentially, ‘demand’ food from a human. This is not something that is a regular occurrence, but it has happened.” By feeding we are training the animal — shaping the animal’s behavior (talk to any dog owner to find out how food is used to train an animal) to hang around, which could possibly lead to demanding or intrusive behavior. Food is the behavior shaper. Friendliness abets the process.

IN SUM, ALL of the URBAN coyotes that I know are acclimated, and this is due to the urban situation and by definition: they become used to us because we are there –we are ever-present in the parks we share with them. Nevertheless, they naturally keep their distance and only occasionally cross paths with us. They learn to ignore us because we are not a danger to them. We are simply a part of the environment “out there.” This should not be a problem.

But SOME coyotes have been encouraged by people beyond acclimation, to INTERACT on some level with us and become absorbed into our world. Again, every coyote is different, so innate personality will also play a role here. THIS interaction then, is what is unhealthy for everyone: it breaks down the natural safety barriers that were innately in place. It is occurring more frequently due to a pendulum swing from too much fear towards coyotes, to too much love, primarily through feeding, compounded with befriending, interacting with, approaching,. . . . etc.

People need to understand that they are hurting the coyote by interacting — they are shaping the coyote behavior away from its natural state.. Please, always walk away from a coyote, not for your own safety necessarily, though for that too, but for the well-being of the coyotes. Understanding this process is helping many people change their too-friendly behaviors towards coyotes. However, when this education is ignored, maybe it needs to be backed up by enforcement with fines.

Coyotes, too, have attempted to initiate interactions with some dogs as we walk them — it’s a way they use for finding out about these dogs who they see as “intruders” in “their” territories. Coyotes and dogs generally do not like each other, and small pets, of course, can be vulnerable as prey. I’ll get into this in another posting, but it’s important to prevent engagement by simply walking the other way, away from a coyote. If a coyote has approached your dog too closely as you are trying to move away from it, this is when you’ll need to react more pro-actively with anger and intimidation. More on this soon.

Note 1: One of the rationales that has been tossed at me is that feeding coyotes will keep them from grabbing pets. I read where a neighborhood in Los Angeles put out dog food which apparently cut down on disappearing cats. But in fact, you may just be encouraging the coyote to hang around closer to where s/he CAN indeed grab a pet. Even in this case, you would still need to leash your pet to keep it safe especially from chasing the coyote, so why not just start here in the first place and work on keeping away from coyotes?

Note 2: I hope you noticed that this coyote’s ears are hanging low — almost “floppy ears”. I’ve noticed its persistence in fed coyotes. It has been noted by a Russian scientist that this trait grows, and eventually is inherited, as wild dogs, specifically foxes, become tamer. See the famous red fox study about this.

Mountain Lion in San Francisco!


Mountain lions in San Francisco? Well, they don’t really live here, but we have had about one a year wander through the city in the last three years. Here’s one that was caught on a security/trap camera last night close to Lake Merced, at the very southern end of the city. If they don’t leave quickly and they appear lost, our Animal Care and Control, along with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, will tranquilize the animal and remove it both for its own good and that of the public. These animals could pose a potential threat. The last one that was taken out of the city two years ago was a young female weighing 92 pounds. That’s about my size: I wouldn’t want to tangle with one. Coyotes, on the other hand, weigh a mere 30 to 35 pounds and are not a threat to humans. Nevertheless, we need to keep our distance from them, less for our own safety than for the wellbeing of the coyote.

End of Summer Ranch Observations, by Walkaboutlou

Here are some amazing end-of-the-summer observations I wanted to share. There’s so much information here, lots of detail, and incredible insight, beautifully woven together into a letter. Enjoy and learn! Janet

Hi Janet,

Lou here. Summer is ending and I’m piecing together local coyote snippets and news and ranch situations. All told, very consistent with local human behaviors.

On the ranches where no coyote are hunted, (and livestock are cattle) everything seems very “stable” to minimal. Small litters of 2-5. Predictable vocalizations. The usual subtle background living Coyotes seem to enjoy. The scat in these areas is full of plum and apricot seeds, deer hair, tons of blackberries, and overwhelmingly rodents.

Overall, of course each coyote is a fluid and distinctive individual, subject to rapid change and stages.

But if my summer scouting had a theme, it would be the contrast of Coyotes behavior even in similar regions.

For example, non hunted coyote in cattle ranches (4000 acres or more) seem to develop small, stable packs and territory. The food and ecosystem are abundant in large ranches. If the cattle can range, grass grows leaving vast regions of insects, and rodents. The pups learn early to forage on grasshoppers, mice. Very predictable quiet patterns. Often seen in distance in diurnal behaviors. By Fall, usually 2-3 pups remain. (accidents and natural predators curb litter survival) Pups seem to want to hang with pack a year or 2. Also, prey is scavenged until gone. A deer dying from being hit by car (running off to die in brush) or fawns harvested are eaten and visited until gone. Nothing is wasted.

The contrast again in ranches that hunt coyote hard is almost shocking. I have determined large, sheep operations are very challenging for Coyotes to coexist peacefully. If it’s large, LGD can only be in so many places. Also, large herds of sheep graze the land intensely. The cropped grass becomes a giant short lawn, unsuitable habitat for rodents, insects etc..if sheep are grazing long, you’ll notice hardly any sounds of crickets etc…and blackberry bushes are cut by ranchers because sheep get entangled. So the lack of forage, food and cover changes the setting. Add to this intense human hunting. Very intense. The coyote often become nocturnal. The closely cropped land and human hunters do not favor open, relaxed foraging. There are minimal rodents. So the coyote tend to hole up all day and hunt far and wide very hard at night with time as a factor. And pressure. Another complication-large herds of sheep especially isolated always have old, sick, hurt or dead. Or a scattering of lambs in all directions. The coyote scavenge dead sheep, or prey on lambs. Their pups are weaned on sheep. The smell becomes embedded as food-and a cycle is created.

Other reactions caused by human pressure-non hunted coyote females pick a mate around 2nd year. Hunted female coyote often pair bond as yearlings. So daughter’s breed earlier and with larger litters in answer to hunting pressure.

The social ramifications are evident. Many ranchers will hunt and leave a coyote as a magnet for surviving pack members to investigate, becoming targets themselves. Only this doesn’t work long. Hunted Coyotes learn to truly leave the dead behind. Some mothers will not check out a deceased pup or mate. This detachment of survival to me is amazing but sad too.

Also, such hard living Coyotes show other behaviors. They quickly, hurriedly hunt. And more readily raid any livestock or pets that opportunities give. They often do not return to a carcass after one feed. They’ve learned hunters, greyhounds or snares are sometimes waiting.

Pups scatter and really practice independence by Fall. The long puppyhood of stable packs is absent in hunted coyote.

All in all, stable coyote packs and hunted coyote are vastly different. And unfortunately, the unpredictability of hunted coyote makes them unwelcome even among stable packs. They really are different. And bring behaviors that can influence others.

I wish I could just make everyone leave coyote alone. They would still be amazing. But we would see and learn so much more without ignorance or outright war. Coyote are definetly mirrors of the local humans. If I want to know about people’s culture/lifestyle/knowledge or lack of, the local dogs and coyote will inform me.

Keep Studying and Coexisting.

Lou🐾


Hi Janet-I did forget to add one element to my summer coyote scouting.

This pic off internet sums it up well.

In areas where packs of coyote live more or less normally, you’ll find more or less the usual range in size and color of coyote. Especially in West. However, where coyote are hard hunted and scattered year round, you will find some that obviously have more then coyote genetics. This goes in hand with younger females (yearlings) breeding and also lower coyote numbers. If they are hit hard locally, surviving coyote have no hesitation breeding with dogs, especially free roaming ranch dogs (often kelpie/cattle dog/collie types).

This, in turn, can create more variety in local subspecies of coyote-and no doubt affects some. Larger size or bolder demeanor are often traits of 1st generation crosses. They tend to be absolved back into wild populations. But are another aspect of hard hunted coyote.
In laymans words-if you take away a coyote’s mate and think she’s beat, she’ll just recruit your dog as her next husband. And the pups won’t be Lassie. Either way, coyote will turn the dice of man’s efforts into a win.

Lou🐾

Night Vision Snippets: Peeks at Pup Feedings

Here, I’ve consolidated several very short video clips from over a month ago which I caught on a trail camera: pup feedings. You’ll see a mother coyote regurgitating food for a very hungry and excited pup who can’t wait to eat. Then you’ll see the same youngster happily carrying a small rodent off to a quiet place where she can enjoy it. Thirdly, you’ll see Dad on his way to deliver food to his brood at 3am in the morning: you have to wonder how many trips he must make to feed four young mouths. Next, a youngster runs excitedly after Mom and yanks away the prey which she has brought home for the pup. Finally, a pup, now several weeks older than before, carries something large which I can’t really make out in the infrared light. It’s either prey that has been given to her by a parent, or a toy which she has found and is treating as prey.

Previous Older Entries