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 crash course on coyotes

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

Photography Equipment May be Hazardous to your Life, by Andrew Bland

photo credit (cropped): Benjamin Sander Bergum

I’m reposting, with permission, from Andrew Bland from his Facebook page:

Robbery in Golden Gate Park: On Thursday evening, I was witness to and nearly a victim of an aggressive robbery near the bison paddock on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. I was photographing great horned owls. Around 8:10PM, I was packing up equipment and putting it in my car. Another photographer was doing the same further down the road behind me. As this person got in their car, I saw a small white car pull up and abruptly stop right next to it. A masked man jumped out and began smashing in the rear window of the other photographer’s car.

By the time I got my wits about me and managed to get into my car and start the engine – no more than 10 seconds – they had finished robbing the other person and had now pulled up alongside me. The passenger-side door opened and the masked assailant began to step out, ready to smash his way into my car. With only a few seconds to spare, I stepped on the gas and pulled away, fully expecting that they would give up and flee. But they chased me, and pulled up alongside me, either trying to run me off the road or cut me off and stop me. I sped up and got ahead of them.

Probably going 50MPH with the assailants’ car right behind me, we ran through two stop signs and barreled over speed bumps for nearly a mile before they slowed down, made a U-turn, and disappeared out the 30th Ave gate. (Keep in mind, I bike this road nearly every day and am very respectful of more vulnerable road users when in my car. I gave the few cyclists that happened to be out a wide berth as we passed.)

I circled back and by then the cops were there. I gave a statement, along with the other victim and two witnesses. Nobody saw their faces or license plate. They were fast, prepared, and extremely aggressive.

The officer explained that these smash-and-grabs are merely considered property crimes and are NOT considered violent crimes (yes, you read that correctly) so they don’t really pursue them, and if they did hypothetically make an arrest, the judge would just let them go, including repeat offenders. He even said if police were to witness one of these incidents occur, they would NOT chase the culprits. He also informed me that if one were to fight back and injure (or worse) one of these thieves during a robbery, then that person would likely be charged with assault for using violence against a “non-violent” criminal. Unbelievable. So scary and so very frustrating.

So be careful out there. I am finished shooting pictures and video in the park. Way too dangerous, and the police are not going to be there when you need them. And even if they were, they wouldn’t help you anyway. I’m sharing this story as a reminder to others to stay in groups, and always be aware of your surroundings.

All for now.


photo credit (cropped): Alex Azabache

Two years ago I myself witnessed, only 50 feet from where I myself stood photographing, a small white van speed by another photographer, swerving towards her, and grabbing her long-lensed camera in broad daylight in the middle of the day. She struggled and screamed, but they got away with the camera. It was an absolutely stunning event.


There have been several murders here in SF for cameras, and several months ago thieves entered my garage and took an entire metal lockbox, cable-locked to the car, with camera equipment from my car, at the same time smashing up the car. And here’s another recent one: TikTok star robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco


And today, October 23rd from Jennifer (reprinted with permission): After a lovely day of birding most of the day, I decided to walk over to Fort Mason, where I bird frequently.  I am really sad to say I was robbed at gunpoint shortly after I arrived.  It was only 4pm, and I was on the sidewalk in front of the row of homes leading to the Battery, but not even close to the Battery. I did not have my camera out, but I think they saw me take photos a few minutes earlier in front of the Community Garden and followed me. They pushed me to the ground and kicked me to get my camera bag/sling off me, I really held on to my binocular — which is crazy cause they had gun and were really trying to get that too. But people came out of the houses and the guy ran to the getaway car waiting for him.

I know everyone knows this is something we have to look out for while birding – and hope this reminder helps people stay vigilant – I always keep this possibility in mind and look around but he ran at me from behind really quickly and shoved the gun in my face.

Please BE AWARE, and STAY VIGILANT.

Calling Forth the Troops at Dusk

Mom slept out in the field all alone — this is something she does frequently as evening sets in. After a while she propped herself up and began grooming herself. After that I could tell she was waiting. She kept looking over the hill to where she knew the rest of the family was and she kept staring in that direction for some time. She seemed to be expecting someone or something.

After a while, she must have become impatient. She got up and stretched in all direction and then began howling, seemingly calling forth the troops — her family. There had been no sirens to set her off. She yipped and barked, but there was no response except for an irritating dog who barked the whole time — three minutes worth — which rendered the recording of her unusable.

She began to vocalize – calling her family together. But they didn’t respond.

After another short while, she must have given up, because she trotted off into the direction she had been looking. I had heard my howl and thought I wouldn’t be seeing any more coyotes as it became dark outside, so I began heading out of the park. Just then, howling began — the responses. They came from three directions with one youngster visible as a silhouette against the sky. The family consists of the two alphas and three pups born this year who are now six months old. The silhouette belongs to one of these pups. Here is the video and recording I captured.

Tragedy Strikes an Urban Coyote Family: Goodbye Mouse; but Good News: Hello Hunter**

THIS REPLACES THE POST I SENT OUT LAST NIGHT, which suddenly had a drastic change.

[For those who know Scout and her story, and for those who have inquired about what happened to her first companion of two years ago, his continuing story is included].

It’s only the middle of October, and we’ve already had 20 coyote car deaths this year in San Francisco — usually we count about 10 a year. Two coyotes were brought in by ACC on July 1 from the same area, one was identified as a four-year-old male and the other as a yearling. It’s about at that time that the four-year-old alpha male of the West Portal family disappeared and was not seen for three months. I assumed one of the dead coyotes was him — until he showed up yesterday on a trap camera — three months later — almost causing my eyes to pop out: yes, it’s definitely him. That’s the good news. But the tragedy of the car deaths isn’t lessened because it’s not him or by not knowing who the killed individual coyote was or his story. Thinking it was Hunter, I wrote up and posted his story yesterday, which I’ve revised as an update, rather than as the obituary I thought it was. Mark Twain’s famous quote came to mind: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. But please remember that the killed four-year-old also had an individual story of his own which was probably as interesting as Hunter’s, so I’m penning down Hunter’s story instead. It’s this individuality, and the many dimensions involved in their lives that I want to convey.

Then, still within the summer months, only two weeks ago and almost three months after those deaths, Mouse, who was Hunter’s mate, was also struck by a car and killed: she was an alpha in the prime of her life, with a yearling still in her family group and three pups born this year — another of her youngsters was the other coyote killed on July 1st of this summer. Maybe these are just statistics to most people, but to me they are individuals: they have histories, families, habits, territories and personalities, many of which I know and follow. I am unable to identify the killed four-year-old, but I have known Hunter since his birth in North Beach, and Mouse since about the same time, though she was older. It’s a good time to jot down a short recap/synopsis of them, and remembering that the killed male four-year-old has his own version of such a story.

That individual coyotes are very similar to us on a number of levels is confirmed constantly by my observations of various individuals over extended periods of time. They are not like our dogs whose lives are directed and helped by their human caretakers: in a way, dogs are like perpetual children who never grow up and become independent. These coyotes, on the other hand, are in charge of themselves and must rely on their own ingenuity and intelligence to achieve their own survival: and they are wonderful survivalists, without any of the societal supports we humans can count on, except for their families. Like us, they work and play and have emotions including joy, anger, jealousies, rivalries, and very different relationships with each individual in their families. They are extremely social, family minded, communicative, and are always interacting. I see different character and personality traits in each: they are individuals. When the time comes, like in our own families, coyote yearlings either leave their birth-families on their own or are pushed out. Many then remain “loners” for awhile, until that special “other someone” comes along. Walkaboutlou tells a wonderful story about how Chica, between two suitors, chose the one who gifted her a rabbit. It doesn’t sound so different from us, does it? Sometimes catastrophes occur, and sometimes life is smooth sailing for many years. Eventually they get old with all of its attendant problems: they become hard of hearing, hard of seeing, arthritic and tired, and may be forced out of their homes by younger more robust coyotes who need the territory for their own families, or they just seem to fade away and never appear again. In my view, they live parallel lives to our own, similar to the “hobbits” living “over there” in the shire, with their own culture (culture is learned behavior that is passed on), goals, needs, and with the intelligence needed to direct their own lives as successfully (or unsuccessfully) as we direct ours. Each life is very different — and I enjoy discovering them and writing about them for everyone to know about.

HUNTER: Born April 2, 2017

It turns out he was not the guy hit by the car. I’m sure the killed guy had a story as rich as Hunter’s, which is why I’m including Hunter’s story here. Each coyote killed by a car has a story, even though we might not know it.

Hunter
Hunter as a pup is in the middle

Hunter was one of four surviving pups out of seven born in April of 2017 in North Beach to Cai and Yote who had been the long-term mated claimants to that fragmented territory. The four included 3 males and one female. The female was quieter, but the “guys” played roly-poly pell-mell interminably, roughhousing, chasing, playing keep away, etc., things all littermates do. They remained together for over a year and a half which is when signs of friction between the male siblings took a turn.

The first to disperse was Hunter. Hunter was mild and easy going. It’s his brothers who carried most of the energy, and maybe that’s why they picked on him.  He was driven out by his own two brothers in a fight on August 1, 2018 at 16 months of age: there was biting and tail-pulling and growling. I happened to be there to record it.

Razor sharp eye contact!

I lost track of him for a while, until he appeared on the territory of a lone female in 2018 about five miles from his birthplace. His dispersal travels may have taken him throughout the city before he found this place. Most coyotes, by the way end up moving south and out of the city with only a few being incorporated into existing territories within the city. Here, then, the camaraderie and togetherness between that loner and Hunter was eye-opening in an amazing way. It was absolutely obvious how smitten they each were with the other. They would walk along gazing in each others eyes — often with little hops and skips of excitement as they went along. Their play also was enchanting beyond words: joyful and caring. And here is a video of them playing and cuddling. This coziness went on for about six months, until a territorial challenger came into the scene. Both the female and Hunter fled in opposite directions.

A few months later, I found Hunter again, now hanging out with a cute coyote gal on HER territory about 3 miles away. They had obviously become a devoted pair, even if they didn’t show the intense camaraderie he had had with his previous companion. They settled down and had a litter of three in someone’s backyard, and Hunter spent every evening during the early part of that pupping season at his lookout post on a closeby lawn. His need to protect only came to fruition when dogs intruded into his space, or cast evil-eyes of some sort in his direction (this is how all dogs and coyotes communicate and it’s almost always well below our radar). It’s why I tell folks to keep their dogs far away from coyotes.

Hunter on sentry duty outside his denning area

Coyotes simply want dogs to leave them and their areas alone. Above is an image of him guarding the den area of this first litter — he’s on the front lawn with that wall you see right at the edge of the sidewalk. Those youngsters became yearlings and could sometimes be seen in person or on security cameras in the neighborhood. That den area became unusable the next year when the owner put up a fence, so Hunter and his mate moved to an expansive fenced-in community where no dogs were allowed: what a perfect setup! Two of the three youngsters remained to help tend the new litter of three which is now six months old: they are almost full-sized, but not at all grown up yet.

We thought this was Hunter hit by a car, but it turned out to be another coyote.

At first I didn’t miss Hunter. He had always been much less omnipresent than the others, appearing only at regular intervals which is how I kept track of him. I stopped seeing him altogether about three months ago and wondered WHY: was he ill — ill coyotes tend to make themselves less conspicuous, or had he abandoned the family to join another — I’ve seen a couple of instances of this now, or was he hit by a car? Then, I was given this photo, left, by Akio Kawai with the date and location of the image. It turns out that ACC had picked up this coyote which was identified as a four-year-old male. Coyotes have no idea how deadly cars are. I had seen Hunter trot through the neighborhoods and knew he did so regularly, where he seemed to have an ongoing oneupmanship relationship with one of the unkindnesses of ravens: A little fun with some alarmist ravens. My thought when I was given this photo was that possibly a routine had made him become careless. BUT, it turns out that killed coyote was not Hunter, though it easily could have been him. Rather it was another coyote with his own story which I was not able to capture.

MOUSE: ~2015 to September 30, 2021

Mouse

I did not know Mouse as a pup, so I don’t know where she came from, though the DNA I’ve collected will give us a clue. She had a harrowing and dramatic story of her own.

ACC tried saving two of the pups who died anyway.

Mouse first caught my attention when neighbors were complaining about “hostile” coyotes in their neighborhood in 2017. She and her then-mate were of course protecting their pups from dogs. I don’t think it was understood by everyone that they needed to keep their dogs away from any coyotes –FAR away from them, especially during the long pupping season. The next year the situation with the neighbors apparently worsened. And that’s when one of the neighbors decided to exclude the coyotes who had been coming around to his home. He sealed up the area under his porch to keep them out, not knowing that pups had already been born there. The parents were frantic and tried communicating their distress for about a week, but of course, no human understood until it was too late. The pups did not survive. It must have been an absolutely tortuous ordeal for these coyote parents — their pups are the most important thing to them. I don’t know what happened to that mate — he disappeared, and may have done so because of no youngsters: his job had been to guard those pups, but he failed.

That’s when Hunter appeared on the scene and paired up with Mouse. They ended up producing two years of litters together. I only knew two of the yearlings born last year, two males who, the next year, helped feed, discipline, play with, and babysit the younger litter born this year. This family for the most part kept itself below human radar during daylight hours, but could be seen in neighbors’ security cameras as they trekked through the neighborhood at night.

Surveillance cameras capture them trekking at night (courtesy Jon Guggenheimer)

Below are photos of the two yearlings who remained to take care of this years’ pups, and a photo of the pups born this year which I only ever saw on a field camera. Mouse was TINY but could appear ferocious when guarding her pups: that’s her in the posting I linked above about pupping behavior. Routine family life for them involved quiet daylight hours, and then the youngsters would play intensely at night while the oldsters went out hunting and marking their territories to keep other coyotes out. Being social, they interacted incessantly with each other, and had different relationships among themselves based on their personalities and position in the family.

When Hunter no longer appeared, Mouse was more omnipresent in the denning area of her territory — she felt secure there — no dogs were allowed in the area. The disappearance of a mate has huge consequences for a coyote. Without a mate, the territory is harder if not impossible to defend. And if she were to lose her territory, well, life without a territory becomes much, much more precarious: having a territory creates a lot of security and stability for coyotes. Within six weeks of Hunter’s disappearance, a new pair of coyotes had moved into an adjacent fragment of their territory. Hunter was no longer marking the area, and the new coyotes would have sensed the male’s absence. Mouse was tiny and alone with her pups and now only one male yearling who probably would not have been able to fight off the newcomers. I wonder if Mouse understood this situation as such.

Then, starting on September 30th, she herself no longer appeared at all where I had seen her multiple times daily. With Mouse’s tragic death, all exuberant play by the youngsters ceased, and instead, over the last two weeks they appeared pacing and waiting and sniffing. We’ll have to see how the story unfolds.

Please drive carefully. Cars kill many dispersing yearlings, but they Please drive carefully. Cars kill many dispersing yearlings, but they also have killed a bunch of alphas I had followed, including Myca in 2007, Maeve in 2013, the Unknown Four-Year-Old Male in 2021, Mouse in 2021, Bonnie in 2019. This year has been a big one for cars killing coyotes.

One last interesting point: Within six weeks of Hunter’s disappearance, a new pair of coyotes had moved into an adjacent portion of their territory. Hunter was no longer marking the area, and the new coyotes would have sensed the male’s absence. Mouse was tiny and alone with her pups and one male yearling who probably would not have been able to fight off the newcomers. I wonder if Mouse knew this. I’ve even wondered if Mouse didn’t put in the effort to get away from the killer car. Her mate was gone, and it takes two coyotes to defend a territory. Animals, too, become depressed — and yes, coyotes have intense emotions.

Kinky Tail, by Walkaboutlou

This is the continuing saga of a ranch family Lou is following. Lou, as I, zeroes in on an individual family, their relationships, and ordeals — all of which will help you get to know coyotes, not as statistics, but as very individual beings with very full lives and challenges of their own. Use the blog’s search box for Walkaboutlou’s earlier stories, and the last update of this family which is here.

Hi Janet,

Well..it’s October. Fires are nearly out. Mornings are foggy. Rains are starting. Better times. 

I’m able to go out more with my patrolling dog pack. You’ll remember Coyote Slim Jim, his daughter Janet, Big Brother, and the 3 surviving pups of 11 pup combined litter. Dominant female his mate Chica and all other pups fell to local wolves. 

Well…the pack moves on in flux as do territorial changes. [Here are] pics of us in Kinky Tails lands. 

Kinky Tail, the large bold female pup, has literally taken over with her Grandpa Slim Jim. Or is he her elderly Father? We don’t know.

What we do know by their constant ranch family watchers is…

Kinky is extremely close to Slim Jim and shadowed him all summer. As he recovered from injuries likely received from wolves..Slim Jim taught Kinky all about staying close to ranch bison herds and hunting rodents. He also fed off abundant wild plums, turkey, jackrabbit and scavenged deer that were hit by cars on country road but hobble off to die. The road caused deer mortalities were MAJOR feasts and boons to Kinky, Slim Jim, Janet, Brother, and Kinky’s 2 siblings..Batman and Robin. 

Also..they showed big shifts in relationships. Kinky..despite her puppy youth…was a real “bitch” to her sibling brothers at deer carcasses. Such antagonistic behaviors at food sources meant they ate and left fast with Big Brother. Mom..or older stepsister Janet was even less welcome.

Janet wasn’t one for conflict. By August..she found a great big strapping admirer (we thought they only found “partners” in winter.) Janet shifted ranges with her new male pal…and has not returned at all it seems. Big Brother returned to old ranges and his little brothers Batman and Robin followed him. Together they are a young bachelor band Brother of 2 and half years and 2 male pups. 

Kinky and Slim Jim have opted Bison herd areas.

Kinky is marking and calling and patrolling with Slim Jim way ahead of her puppy stage age. She has matured way more rapidly. We feel the wolves killing Chica and most pups…caused an incredibly increased rate of maturation in Kinky Tail. She went from bouncy pup to very intense young groomed princess to be Queen…quick. Months. 

Now…we will wait and see. 

Come winter…will Slim Jim seek a mate in his advanced age, or just try to eke out some more days? Will Kinky Tail become Territorial Female as a Yearling ? Or young mother??? Big brother surely will take a mate at years. Will he opt for old home range? And what will Batman and Robin do? It seems best they stay long as they can with Big Brother. When they “visit” Kinky she drives them away. But if she’s out patrolling..Slim Jim is very sweet to his….sons/grandsons. 

Kinky seems at the Helm. Slim Jim is Hale and Hearty but Old.
Big Brother and little Brothers Batman and Robin fine on old range.
Janet….moved on. Too much drama!

Take care human Janet, Lou

A Calm Rendezvous at Dusk: Family Life

Family members usually hang low during daylight hours, often resting and sleeping in very different locations, and then come together in the evening to begin their activity with their rendezvous which is a very social event where there is a lot of physical contact and grooming, and social interactions such as play and reaffirmation of rankings. Usually the entire family is involved — it might be the one time you are able to see the whole family together.

Alpha female and male greet each other after having spent the daylight hours apart, quietly resting

In the video, Mom, the alpha female, is already out in the open grooming herself when the alpha male joins her at a short distance in the grasses. These two had already greeted each other with nose touches and minor grooming about 200 yards away about ten minutes before this. They spend their time here grooming themselves and biting at gnats or mosquitoes.

Soon one of the youngsters arrives and flops on his back for a long and thorough grooming, mostly to his belly. Grooming serves not only to rid them of all sorts of bugs, such as ticks, but it’s a bonding mechanism as well, and also a control measure: the youngster, as far as I have seen, is required to put up with it whether he/she likes it or not. After the long period of grooming where the youngster lies perfectly still, the two other youngsters arrive. This is a family of five. These youngsters are almost six months old now. They look smaller than they really are because they are keeping low as required.

The controlling adult snarls and snout-clamps, and the pups remaining low to the ground and even crawling on their bellies are how the strong hierarchy, and therefore order, is maintained. When the youngsters start resisting this order is when it’s time for them to go.

As rendezvous go, this one is very calm. I’ve seen them where the youngsters are rearing to go and hardly able to contain themselves in anticipation of the family activity after a daytime of quiet. Parents will be leading them to new places and new adventures — all of it a learning experience for them.

Domestic Friction Between Alpha Female and Alpha Male

Well, disputes occur between members within all social species. Interaction — which is what being social is about — involves and runs the gamut from simple communication, to camaraderie, play, friendship, and agreement, to disagreement, oneupmanship, disputes, fights, and becoming enemies. It happens in human families, and it happens within families of other social species as well, and here it happens between coyotes.

I put out a field camera next to picnic tables a few nights ago. I’ve put it out here before — it’s a good spot because animals regularly come by — mostly raccoons and a skunk. The camera amazingly captured an intense fight between the alpha male and alpha female of a coyote family I’m following: yikes, a family fight! In the video, it’s the alpha male who charges in and angrily confronts the female. She stands up for herself and fights back angrily. Make sure to have your audio on, as the sounds are impressive. These are mature coyotes who only recently have become a pair in a sort of reconfigured family. Each had been part of different families before their changed circumstances (for instance, death of one of their mates) caused them to come together. It could be that the fight in this video is them still working out the hierarchy between themselves. Then again, maybe it’s just a little squabble, or something bigger going on. I don’t know.

When coyotes communicate, be it to our dogs or each other, they are intense about it so that there is no uncertainty, misinterpretation or misunderstanding about what they are trying to get across. Here is a video of a mother coyote communicating to a dog in no uncertain terms: it is intense, insistent and persistent which sometimes makes it very scary to us civilized humans. And here is a photo of a snarly communication by an older sibling to a youngster: notice the surley face, angry eyes, wrinkled nose, gaping mouth, and teeth showing, and this occurred right after the youngster had extended a very warm greeting to that older brother. As I say, coyote communication is intense. This, along with deep growling or grunting is how they communicate with each other, and if that doesn’t work, they can get physical, as in this video.

Ruminations by Claire Gilchrist on the Eve of the publication date for her new book: Lost Shadow

We  can  be  ethical  only  in  relation  to  something we  can  see,  feel,  understand,  love,  or  otherwise have  faith in. – Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac

Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC, is a busy city park full of locals and tourists.  On any given summer day, you’ll see a family picnicking, surrounded by beautiful old trees and friendly wildlife.  It’s a magical place.  But at the moment, it’s also a warzone.

Starting this summer, coyotes in Stanley Park began to nip at adult joggers.  First at night, then in the day.  Then a toddler was bitten.  People understandably panicked.  Coyotes were shot and killed, but the biting continued.  The decision was made to euthanize all coyotes in the park.

lostshadow2.21I’ve been following this story closely because I’ve been putting the finishing touches on Lost Shadow, the second book in the Song Dog series about the lives of two urban coyotes displaced by human housing.  In Lost Shadow, one of the major themes is food.  Pica and Scruff, now older and becoming more independent, argue about whether or not to eat food from humans.  When I read about the coyote problem in Stanley Park, I see it through the eyes of my coyote characters, and recognize it as more than just an animal problem – it’s a problem that can’t be understood without considering the role of humans.

From a coyote perspective, Stanley Park is an incredible place.  At the time of this conflict, garbage cans weren’t animal proof.  Picnicking families were giving out free sandwiches.  There were no multilingual or visual signs warning people to stay away from coyotes, so many people would try to approach and feed coyotes.  If I was a coyote, and I discovered this magical Shangri-La, I would never leave.  I would stop trying so hard to catch rats, and instead start following humans around, waiting for something easier and more delicious.

This kind of situation comes up in several different ways in Lost Shadow, such as when one coyote character becomes very habituated to handouts from a kind human who she calls ‘Friend’.  It is all fine until Friend disappears, and the coyote has no idea what to do.  Her behaviour has been fundamentally changed, and she no longer wants to source food the hard way.  She becomes a coyote problem, but the problem is, at its heart, a human problem.

In writing Lost Shadow and in digesting the news from Stanley Park, I keep coming back to the quote above, from Aldo Leopold in his Sand County Almanac.  As humans, we share our cities with many animals, big and small.  It is impossible to rid the cities of these animals, and so whether we love them, hate them, or feel ambivalent, it is critical that we understand them so that we don’t create problems like the one in Stanley Park.  Most ‘animal’ problems in urban environments are actually human problems – problems caused when we don’t fully understand that we share a complex environment with capable and determined creatures who find a way to survive in our midst no matter what we do.  Everything we as humans do has a ripple effect on all the things that live alongside us.  And eventually, those ripples can become waves that come back and affect us.To act ethically begins with this understanding, and a recognition that being ‘kind’ to wild animals means understanding what they need.  They don’t need free food – they need to maintain their wild instincts, and their fear of humans.  With Lost Shadow, I want readers to be drawn into the page-turning adventure and as they move through the story, to begin empathetically experiencing the familiar landscapes of cities through new eyes.  Ultimately, I hope that they can leave with a deeper understanding of how their lives are inextricably linked with all the other living beings around them.  And hopefully, we can continue to move to a better understanding of how to co-exist with coyotes in our cities, to avoid any future tragedies similar to the one in Stanley Park.

Claire’s website: clairegilchrist.com

Order from any major bookseller, or here: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781459748255

Screening: “don’t feed the coyotes”, a film by Nick Stone Schearer

September 27th update: This particular one-time screening is over. There will be more screenings (and I’ll post those) before the film will be put on the site which currently does have the trailer: dontfeedthecoyotes.com. The questions and answers which occurred right after the film, however, may be seen here.

Death at Dawn

I’m entitling this posting, “Death at Dawn”. Of course, I have no idea exactly what time of day this coyote died, but I chose to say “dawn” because really, it appears to have died at the dawn of its life, not at its sunset: it appears to be a juvenile, judging by the length of its snout. Death is of course part of life and something we all come to. When we are worn out, we come to it easily — see Walkaboutlou’s posting: The Story of one of my Oldest Coyotes, but most of us fight it to the end — our instinct is to live — and we have to deal with the myriad of circumstances which can snuff us out.

I was called by a friend, Susan, about a dead coyote at Fort Funston. Susan’s friend, Cassarra along with another friend Emily and their dogs, generously lead me out along the trails of Fort Funston to pick up this coyote. It had first been spotted almost a month earlier by dog walkers, yet still remained intact on the cliffs of the beach. I document coyote family lives which, naturally, includes their deaths, and I gather samples for DNA analysis at UC Davis for further information.

We headed out on the sand trails and slid down deep sandy crevices, through California coastal scrub, and up steep inclines of iceplants, led by Cassarra, a veteran dog walker who knows every inch of the terrain. We wound up and down and around for about 1/4 mile and finally could see the coyote’s white remains way up the cliff, close to the top where the scrub forest began. We headed up. As we got closer, I thought to myself: OMG, this coyote is much bigger than what I expected, how am I going to carry it back? And it looked bigger and bigger looming above us as we approached it . . . . maybe it was the lighting, maybe just the way it stood out perched on the cliff on the iceplants. When we finally reached it and actually stood over it, we could see its true size: it was tiny, and pretty dessicated.

By just seeing the body, we can gather a lot of information: usually age can be determined by looking at the teeth, sex, possibly why the coyote died. We gather DNA from samples to determine even more information about the individual and his/her family clan.

Cassarra led the expedition: she knows every inch of Fort Funston through her dog walking

This coyote was approaching being a mummy — he/she was dried-out to the extent that I could not sex her/him. There were few whiskers, but I got some. Saved a good portion of the ear in ethanol. Got a handful of fur from his/her back which I put in a baggie and labeled, all per instructions of UC graduate student Tali Caspi: all of these samples are for DNA analysis so we can know more about his/her family group and who else in the city she/he is related to which will lead us to its dispersal history, hopefully. I got pictures of the teeth. Small size, especially of the head and length of the snout, led me to believe it was a youngster, but wear on the lower front teeth may tell a different story.

The most interesting thing was that, although from a distance he/she looked so peaceful lying on the brightly colored ice-plant carpet, this coyote was found with an expression of agony on its face, jaw agape and something stuck in its throat or windpipe. We are left with the impression that he/she died because of this, trying to get it out: the young coyote had choked to death. Had he or she found something, been tossing it in the air and caught it incorrectly, when it became the deadly suffocant? We don’t know, but it looked like this is what happened. These kinds of freak accidents happen in nature. I remember seeing a photo of a fox hanging on a limb by its back legs. Apparently it had leaped up and in the process the back legs became crossed and hooked on that limb, and that’s the way the little fox died — hanging there with an inability to do anything about it.

After gathering the samples, I bagged the coyote. As I said, he/she had been there a month and therefore was dried out and partly mummified, so he/she was extremely light — I weighed it when I got home: it turned out to be a mere 4 pounds. We’ll have to wait several months for the DNA testing results. I’ll give her/him a proper burial.

Twist a Rope of Sand, A Paradox, by Karen del Mara

          Sometimes, when you need something, it just falls into your lap. That happened while I was looking for images of coyotes recently. I am writing a story about three kids who visit Bandelier, New Mexico during the Depression and shortly before the Civilian Conservation Corps arrives to develop it into a national monument. The book will be a sequel to Vagabond Wind, the Adventures of Anya and Corax. In the new book, before the kids take center stage, I needed to call upon those mythic characters, Coyote and Raven, to help fill in the background story of Frijoles Canyon.

        By chance I tripped over a photo that perfectly illustrates the encounter of these two rivals. It led me to Coyoteyipps, Janet Kessler’s wonderful site. Janet has very kindly allowed me to use this amazing image in this, a sample from Twist a Rope of Sand, More Adventures of Anya and Corax. If you’d like to be occasionally updated about the progress of this book, you can e-mail me at kmdelmara dot com, or check www.kmdelmara dot com.

20200530- size

TWIST A ROPE OF SAND
There has always been a Trickster.
Since the Time of Beginnings, the Old Ones knew him as
a symbol uniting opposites:
Transformer and Destroyer, Joker and Truth-Teller.
He is contradiction and paradox,
because everything in our world is balanced by its opposite.
We may complain that nothing ever changes,
but if that Trickster puts his nose over the doorsill
our life can turn in the space of one pawprint.
And herein lies a tale.

A PARADOX
Circa 1050 C.E.
Near Frijoles Canyon, New Mexico

          She rides the hot thermals with barely a flap of her wings. High she soars, impenetrably black against the sky.  That is how Raven is the first to see what is coming, one day while she circles lazily over the sweltering Parajito Plateau.

          Out there, far away across the mesa. Something unfamiliar.

          But this distraction is forgotten a moment later when she spies her enemy. Coyote! That enemy she so loves to hate. It’s that old trickster Coyote himself, creeping along the rim of the canyon, slinking among the boulders, probably stalking a marmot or a pica.

          Haha, Senor Coyote! No pica for you today, Raven croaks to herself.

          Coyote, glimpsing the shadow of Raven hovering above him, crouches low and prepares to lunge at her. With a scream, Raven dives and swoops past him, nearly clipping his ear and hoping to alert any prey to Coyote’s presence.  Coyote rears up, snapping his ferocious jaws but catching only the odor of Raven’s dirty feet. So intent on Coyote is she, that she nearly collides with a branch of a pinon tree.

          As so often happens for Coyote, though, the encounter works in his favor. Raven’s attack alerts him to another danger. Out there, what is that he sees? Anxiety sharpens his perception. Vague, indistinct forms, rippling in the shimmering heat of the plateau, the oddest band of creatures he has ever seen. He sits up and watches them, yipping small panicked cries, ears alert, nose scenting. What are those strange animals? There are many of them, definitely coming his way. Alarmed, Coyote turns, disappears over the rim of the canyon, and threads his way down the cliff.

          He and his extended family have made homes in this canyon for time out of mind. What would happen if those strange creatures discover this beautiful place? Would they want to stay? He fears that, in a blink of his yellow eyes, his life could be upended, his home dislocated, his children endangered, the prey he hunts no longer in their customary haunts. Everything would change.

          Ah, Senor Coyote, you are right to be afraid. Yes, even you, with your breed’s superior ability to adapt. Your old habits, old comforts may have to be left behind, and it may happen that you are allowed only a sliver of time in which to move on. Things can change just that quickly, and suddenly the dark angel of fear is standing at your shoulder.

          But you, Senor, you best of all, realize that you must release this dark angel, as you have needed to do, time and again. Because then and only then do the archangels enter; you discover what is waiting for you. And Time spins loose from the eddy that snagged it, and flows on to its secret destination.

          Meanwhile, …. [press here to read more]

Coyote Denning Behavior 101

The main point to understand about coyote denning behavior is that it is *protective territorial messaging behavior* and should not be equated with *unprovoked aggression*, which indeed is how it might look. Our Officials need to learn about these behaviors and help the public understand them: the outcome of not doing so, as seen here in San Francisco, has been the death of a coyote who was not *read* properly by authorities.

Coyotes have ONE precious thing they own: their pups.

Their whole social system and territoriality are geared for successful raising of their litters. There is just one family on any territory. They keep other coyotes out of their almost two square mile exclusive territory: this is what their territorial behavior is geared for. That territory provides the food they need to sustain themselves, and the area they need to raise their young safely. They are pretty successful at keeping other coyotes out, however wolves, mountain lions, and even dogs and their owners are constant problems for them. And it’s dog owners who often walk their dogs into coyote areas in the first place, knowingly or unknowingly. Please learn what to expect and what to do if you encounter a protective denning coyote.

Dens may be dug from scratch, or pre-existing burrows from other animals under tree trunks or rocks, and may even be found under our porches!

Dens and Den areas.

We have just about 20 coyote territories here in San Francisco, each with ONE alpha male/female pair of coyotes who may or may not have produced a litter of pups in any particular year. Please see the territorial map I researched and made to get a sense of these territories.

The actual den is used only temporarily for the pupping season. Then — just like bird nests or our own bassinets — these are soon outgrown and abandoned, to sleep out in the open, usually in hidden places.  Dens might consist of openings under trees or rocks (which could be expansions of pre-existing burrows of other animals), or they dig their own dens from scratch, or they’ve even denned under our porches

Coyote pairs usually dig several dens in their territories — not just one — which mostly may never be used. Pups may be moved between dens several times in the first few months of life, usually for safety reasons or possibly due to a flea infestation. I’ve seen pups rotated between dens at one month after birth, at 6 weeks and again at 3 months of age. One of the families I know gave birth within one of the water reservoirs, but within 6 weeks those pups were moved out of there. Why? Turns out the holes under the fence which they used for access were being closed-off/plugged-up by the Water Department and the parents must have feared eventual complete blockage of their escape routes. After about four months of age, coyotes seem to shuffle through wider and wider areas constantly, and of course, the pups are roaming and exploring more and more as time moves on. By four months of age I’ve spotted some as far away as a mile from their birthplaces.

It’s important to understand that coyote *den protecting behavior* extends FAR beyond the immediate den itself — the protected area is not just the immediate area around the den. It covers a large playing field within the territory where the pups will eventually be exploring and hunting — half a mile to a mile from an actual den is not an exaggeration.

WHO might the coyotes target with their protective den behavior?

ANY dog may become a target for being messaged, no matter what its size. These fellas are smart and self protective: I’ve seen them more frequently approach the more mellow dogs such as labradoodles, even without provocation, “just as a precaution”, whereas they might more often keep their distance from larger or more powerful dogs. Coyotes feel more comfortable approaching any being their size or smaller. Unfortunately, small children fall into this category — they also are seen by coyotes as smaller, unthreatening and mellow, and therefore they could be, and have been approached. Coyotes approach to message their warning to “get away” and “be aware of me”. Please supervise small children closely in coyote areas. Small children, of course, need to be protected constantly from many dangers including right in and around the home: from dogs, from traffic, from pools and even ponds which they could fall into, from cleaning poisons in the house, even from some foods which might be harmful to them: this is why they can’t be left alone and must be supervised constantly. And beware that very small pets — mostly cats — have been grabbed by coyotes. Coyote nutritional needs skyrocket during pupping season, so they may grab what opportunistically appears in their pathway: a coyote has no idea who is your pet and who isn’t.

A coyote may follow or try “escorting” your dog out and away from areas they want to protect.
Screaming his anger from a distance

What the behavior entails:

Below is a video of a mother coyote dealing with a dog who came into her immediate denning area. You’ll notice in the video that, not only is this mother jumping around angrily with hackles up and a snarly face, images of which you’ll see in the gallery above, but she is also screaming piercingly and angrily. The screaming doesn’t occur as often as the posturing behavior seen in the still images, but growling can occur, and ultimately, if the message is not heeded, short charges towards and a nip to the dog’s back legs or haunches may result, cattle-dog-fashion, to get the dog to leave. The behavior, of necessity, is intense, persistent and insistent because that is what gets a response — we humans are actually scared into action by this behavior, whereas we probably would not be to anything less. The behavior can occur at very close range to the dog, which of course intensifies the message and its scariness. Dogs tend not to take the message too seriously and usually go chasing after the coyote, often returning with a nip to their haunches. I want to emphasize that the intensity, persistence and insistence are SCARY to us humans. I’ve been watching this behavior in multiple den areas every single year for the last 14 years: it is absolutely normal denning behavior, even when it involves children, and has nothing to do with a particular coyote “having become aggressive due to feeding”. Coyotes don’t become aggressive when they are fed, they become mellow and docile — they lose their concern and wariness . . . until they are under pressure, such as during pupping season.

Along with this posturing seen in the video, beware that coyotes usually sneak up from behind (NextDoor posting) to deliver their scary message, often with short bursts of darting-in and retreating towards the pet they are worried about. However, if you turn and face them, they are bound to stop in their tracks — until you turn your back on them again. They do not want to risk injury to themselves, and so they avoid approaching the front of a dog — where the teeth are — and a human gaze.

Another important point to make is that you are not very likely to ever encounter this behavior — it’s simply not a constant occurrence, especially where there is good signage. But having said that, you really need to know about it just in case you do come across it: please educate yourself about it and be prepared.

What can you do?

Remember that the pupping season lasts a good part of the year: February through the Fall. First, know WHERE denning areas are and try to keep away from them. If you find yourself within a denning area, keep vigilant, especially if you have a child or dog with you. Be prepared for a coyote suddenly appearing and making a beeline towards your dog or child. The minute you see a coyote, please pick up a small child or small dog and walk away from it. Larger dogs or children should always be led away or be taught to walk away from the coyote and should keep going away from it, even if the coyote follows. Although coyotes may follow a dog out of simple curiosity at most times of the year, during pupping season, the following could be “escorting” behavior, i.e., making sure you leave the area. It’s easy to walk away, so just do it: most importantly, GET AWAY from the coyote. And please know it is protecting something it cherishes and considers very precious.

I’ve asked myself WHY it is that people, who KNOW of denning areas and of coyote behavior, persist in taking their pets through these areas.  I think the issue is that people don’t really want to change their habits, and I understand this. We’ve all worked out the easiest way of doing things for ourselves and we like sticking to our routines. The coyotes have thrown an extra step in our way and it’s simply inconvenient. I think you have to like the coyotes to willingly make changes, but, of course, many people do not.

What needs to be done by our city authorities?

It is really important for authorities to educate themselves and the public about what is going on and what to expect. The City of San Francisco recently killed a coyote for its very normal denning “messaging” behavior. If there had been better signage, if there had been flyers explaining what to expect, if there had been a docent on hand, it might have helped. The people who complained to me didn’t fault the coyote at all, they faulted the city for not getting out proper, useful and timely information. People need to know *what to expect*, *what to watch for*, and *what to do* during denning season. Plenty of good signage can go a long way in fulfilling these needs, and a handout would be awesome.

For the love of . . .

One of my sons told me that my message needed to be more directly to the point with as few words as possible. I think this will work now. Please don’t feed coyotes. Please spread the word.

Mom Brings in the Grub and Helps Eat It

Many species regurgitate food for their youngsters, including wolves, wild-dogs, gulls, bats and apes.

For coyotes, regurgitated food is a kind of pablum or baby food which is fed to them as the milk-weaning period ends at about 6 weeks of age. And regurgitated food usually ends as the parents begin bringing in more and more whole prey, and as the youngsters become proficient at hunting for themselves.

In this video, Mom rushes in to feed her brood and they know what’s coming: two of her three four-month-old pups dance with excitement around her, barely able to contain themselves, one emitting little vocalizations of anticipation. As the youngsters close-in excitedly towards Mom’s mouth, she has to weave herself through them to find space where she is able to regurgitate the large quantity of food which she has brought to them in her belly. Before it’s even all out, they dig in. . . . and she partakes in the banquet! Soon the third pup appears. There is sibling competitiveness, and in the end Mom begins to groom one of the pups.

It’s really cool that this occurred right in front of my field camera!

The “Abandoned” Family

Old alpha female guarding her pups from atop a knoll overlooking the area, and snoozing at the same time, always with one eye open!
Here she is barking at a dog lingering too close to her denning area.

What’s happening in the family Rookie abandoned, and why might he have left?

You’ll recall from my posting that Rookie was actually an unwelcome intruder to begin with within the family he joined and then left. He had moved in on that family which had lost its long-time alpha male to old age, and he moved in right during the short breeding period. The scent of hormones called and he filled that role. But I don’t think Rookie was ever totally accepted. I continued to see the original family grooming each other ever so affectionately — in Rookie’s presence — but he himself, Rookie, appeared to be groomed less often and more out of a sense of duty than anything else.

The remaining yearling male in that family, a two-year-old who might otherwise have been encouraged to disperse, was obviously being encouraged by his mom and remaining sibling to stick around — something I could see through the family’s greetings, grooming and interactions. Well, he’s still there, and with Rookie gone, he appears to be in the process of moving into that alpha male position if he hasn’t already done so.

I get the impression that both Rookie and his abandoned family are happier and better off with the change. Rookie has been warmly and openly accepted by his new mate in a new territory, whereas I don’t think he had ever been totally integrated into the family he left — he always remained “the outsider”. This may be the reason he left. From what I’ve seen in coyote families, interpersonal dynamics and feelings run very much parallel to our own, the big difference being that they seem to move on quickly with the challenges and changes that confront them: with an attitude of, “it is what it is”. And this “abandoned” family is doing just fine — even better — without him. Several generations before this, by the way, within this same family, the family existed and thrived without an alpha male — that male had been killed by rat poison. Over time, one of that alpha’s male offspring ended up moving into that alpha position. This family is quite an inbred one.

How has the abandoned family adjusted to Rookie’s departure? The old alpha female is now the sole overseer and guardian of the family — she had been very much under the thumb of her previous old mate — the one who died of old age — she was always “second” to him in command. But that has now changed. She can be seen guarding and messaging intrusive dogs. Her vigilance keeps her more out in the open, and takes her to knolls with vistas where she perches herself for snoozes, always with one eye open. And she is raising her pups born this year. She still keeps them well hidden, and disciplines them severely for breaking her rules. A couple of days ago I heard intense angry growling, and then the response: the high-pitched complaining yelps of a pup being disciplined. I tried recording it, but did not catch enough of it to post it.

I have not seen the alpha female’s two-year old daughter lately — this is a littermate of the remaining male yearling. Remember that she also and unusually, for being in the same territory, became a mother this year. The last time I saw her she had a horrible huge (6″x 12″) raw, red, inflamed wound on her side. I got the impression it was some kind of mite. I hope she’s healing and I hope she’s still around. I’ll keep my eyes open for her. [UPDATE: Good news! I saw the two-year-old daughter one day after I posted this writeup: she was hunting alone in a field and her hotspot seems to have resolved itself!]

Two-year-old male son of the alpha female is acting as the ipso facto alpha male now. He obviously feels very relaxed at the way things are now.
Alpha mom grooms her yearling male son, creating a tighter bond and promoting him as the territorial male.

And her son grooms her in return just as affectionately.

And off this pair goes, for their evening trek together, probably very happy that Rookie left.

© All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share, with permission and with properly displayed credit: ©janetkessler/coyoteyipps.com.

Family Update, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet.

I hope all is well. We are enduring the heat and various smoke levels and life moves on. I wanted to update you on the coyote pack I’ve told you about. Short history: Chica was Top Female and Mom. Slim Jim her elderly Mate. Big Brother their Son. Daughter Janet who had left returned when her mate was killed. Chica and Janet denned together creating an 11 pup litter. It was a challenging denning season. An eagle likely got 2 pups. And later a wolf pack decimated the coyotes. Chica and 6 of the 9 pups were lost. Slim Jim badly injured. Janet, 3 pups, Big Brother all followed old Slim Jim to new part of area. And took refuge among Cottonwood stands and Bison herd. [See: Nature, by Walkaboutlou]

How are they now? Thriving actually.

It’s very easy to emotionally become involved and feel the happenings of “my” known coyotes. The rancher family that knows and follows the local coyote really know their lives. It’s hard to be open minded when a pack is decimated. But then you become amazed at the recovery too.

Slim Jim has healed very well despite the graphic injury to neck and back. We thought his old body would surely give out. He is bald on part of back. And has no fur over middle throat. But he has healed and is mobile. He does seem faded in some ways. But his advanced age, incredible exertions of season and his loss of mate and many pups all tell. Still..he is remarkable.

Mom Janet is Lean, and looking better, less ragged. She has weaned her pups and keeps more food for herself by the week. She also has picked up a “mate” it seems. She is seen regularly alone trotting with a young male in another area. He then heads off when her brother and Slim Jim show. Obviously…..they both seem to be developing some sort of friendship.

Big Brother is really a great help. He fed his father Slim Jim for weeks. And the pups as well. He is a hero to the 2 male pups.

The pups which were part of an 11 member litter are now 3 very distinct and VERY well fed and large pups. We wonder if the sheer number of 11 pups would have meant nutritional challenges. Whatever the case, these 3 are truly thriving.The male pups are called Batman and Robin. Always in a caper. And Robin the smaller pup is always in a pickle and looking for Bigger Batman to help him.

This image is not of Kinky Tail, but it’s the size I imagine Kinky Tail might be right now — still a young pup, but old enough to be developing who she is.

Kinky Tail is the 3rd pup. She is VERY big for a female. And a coyote. She is VERY bossy to her brothers. She is rather severe in her play and is top pup for sure. She dominates adult Big Brother. Only her Mother and Slim Jim are exempt. She follows Slim Jim almost constantly. She does not stay with her brothers. Kinky also is no longer fed. She doesn’t ask or beg the adults for food. She hunts her rodents and grasshoppers and was seen eating a young jackrabbit. 

Kinky forays with Slim Jim and Big Brother at times. She is very alert and immediately hides hearing distant ranch dogs or sheep herds etc…she seems very very keen for such a young one. I think the tragedies of loss and even decimation are at same time….for coyote..refiners. When you see a super pup developing from a tough time, you are seeing what made coyote thrive when Maga Fauna fell. Coyote thrive after hardships. They ARE NOT diminished or weakened as many other beings can be. It’s hard to see this unless you literally experience it.

Also…Kinky pup…she may be hard to brothers…but..she loves her Grandpa. Robin caught a vole. And as he proudly trotted…Batman took it. And even more proudly displayed it. Kinky ran in from some hidden spot and put the smackdown on both brothers. As the dynamic duo fled tail between legs, Kinky trotted off…fat vole gripped tight, and went to sleeping Slim Jim. She dropped the vole in front of his awakening bleary eyes..and watched him gulp it happily. Then he groomed her a few minutes. You could see her beaming under the doting grandpa.I think…it’s a good chance…Kinky will claim her spot in the future. I think she is the kind of coyote nature creates…to keep her kind the AMAZING canines they are.
Lou

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