*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.'”

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Nine Years Old: Happy Birthday Silver!

He just had his birthday a week ago. I see him less now that he’s older: oldsters appear to become a little bit more guarded about their physical selves than when they were younger. I actually had to go look for him to find him — I wanted to post what a nine-year old coyote male looked like. He’s past his prime and very wise. He knows the ins-and-outs of being an urban coyote: he avoids people and dogs as much as possible, and I know I’ve helped by advising everyone to leash and walk away whenever they see him (or any other coyotes).

I first met this guy, sort of, before he was born, by knowing his mom, by seeing her swell in size and then slim down after his and his brother’s birth. I have the exact date. However, I didn’t meet him physically until he was 4 or 5 months old. This is one of several coyotes I’ve known since birth — and for him it’s been 9 years now! His entire personality has matured over time, as is true of most of the older coyotes I know. They are stellar and stable neighbors!

I watched his puppyhood, and then how his camaraderie with his brother — they were the best of friends — changed into intense sibling rivalry as they vied for a mate. He had his first litter when he was four years old. His mate disappeared after that so he paired up again, and has been having small litters (one pup each) for the last 3 years. He’s a dad again this year, but I won’t know anything about his pups for 4-5 months. He’s a protective mate and a protective dad. It’s important to abide by his wishes and keep away.

Today, I saw him before dawn as he was headed in for the daylight hours — into his daytime resting spot — but he decided to take a short roundabout trek before doing so, the way he always has. He knows me well and allows my presence. He sniffed along the pathway as he walked, assessing *who* (in terms of dogs) had been on the path he was on, and he looked around. I’m sure he knows all of the regular dogs in the park, and their behaviors. He stopped when he reached one of his favorite lookouts, and there he looked around his entire domain. He was on top of the world and he could see everything.

This coyote and his family have *owned* the land since I first met his parents 10 years ago. No other coyotes have been allowed into this territory. There have been several intruders over the years, but they were immediately and unconditionally driven out. His dense and long fur — still thick from the winter — conceals the tell-tale scars of age on his face and body which can be seen in June and July when the fur has all been shed.

At his lookout, he immediately went into alert-mode, I could tell, indicating that there were dogs, even though in the distance, which he did not feel comfortable seeing. He has been chased often by dogs, and sometimes he has stood up for himself. Here, he stood up, and warily and tensely watched some dog/human duos, but when they passed he lay down, and there was a period of relaxation. He must have been tired: he lay his head down, but I’m sure he kept his eyes on things — I couldn’t really tell because I was in back of him.

After this period of surveying his territory, for about half an hour, he decided it was time to head in before more people and dogs appeared in the park. So he got up, stretched, and then sauntered along the same path but in the opposite direction, with me some distance behind. He suddenly stopped: dead still. Two dogs saw him and ran in his direction. They were excited, alert and ready. The coyote’s mood changed quickly from a relaxed, elongated walk, to a compact run, with ears turned back so as to be able to hear everything. He retraced his steps back to his lookout, but to a higher altitude than before: he was anxious.  I asked the owner to please call his dogs, which the owner did. Silver remained standing and watching until the dogs were well out of sight, and then he again retraced his steps “home” again, but this time off the path and along a fenceline.  He was still worked up: he ate some grass and then heaved, with his stomach pumping in-and-out forcefully, until he was able to regurgitate the contents of his anxious/acid tummy.

His pace was now slow again, keeping to the fenceline until he was forced to take the path because of where he was going. He looked around as he now followed the path, stopping repeatedly as he did so. When a runner turned on a path ahead he again became alert; he stopped and waited. He was not seen. When all was clear, he went a little further on the path and then veered off into the tall grasses and then the bushes. So, this was an hour in the life of a nine-year old male, father, mate and territory claimant. Coyotes in captivity can live as long as 14 to 16 years, but in the wild their lives have been estimated to be closer to five years. We’re still learning what their lifespan is in urban settings. Nine-years shows that he’s just as viable, if not more careful, as ever!

Altruism: Helping A Sibling With Ticks On Her Ear

Just as in human families, some coyote siblings squabble, and some are truly altruistic, providing loving and unselfish help where and when needed. Here is a coyote youngster who has spotted a tick on his sibling’s ear. He spent several minutes, ever so carefully removing the tick and then bathing the area with the saliva from his tongue. Saliva has mild antibiotic qualities, so everything he did was helpful!

Let’s Address a Little-Known Law that Promotes Hunters, by Kiley Blackman

As the war of words rages stronger than ever over gun violence and how to deal with it, there is one little-examined contributing factor that needs attention: The role of the overwhelming hunting culture going on all across this country.

Where does it start? All “environmental conservation” agencies, including the Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and APHIS, have a requirement that, by law, only hunters can serve on their advisory boards. These laws, established almost 100 years ago, guarantee a deckstacked, lethal outcome for the wildlife they are intended to protect – by deliberately banning non-hunters from decision-making about wildlife, while encouraging all forms of hunting as the “norm” for wildlife “conservation.”

At a time of calls across the country for gun control, these arbitrary, discriminatory laws that baselessly promote hunting need to be examined, as well. In fact, breaking the hunter/National Rifle Association stranglehold on our laws must be finally be addressed.

Such laws are being challenged all over the country: “Pro-wildlife citizens demand seat at DNR table” (Madison, Wisc.), “Fish and Game commission needs greater diversity” (New Hampshire), “Hunting foes want to snare seats on Vermont’s fish and wildlife board” (Vermont). The public needs to be made aware of these facts – and that there is finally a bill to correct this injustice in New York State: Sen. Tony Avella, champion of several other animal protection issues, has introduced S3327 (companion bill A6519), currently in the Environmental Conservation Committee, which abolishes the unfair “hunters only” requirement of the NYS DEC. We don’t want to take your guns; we just want our right to contribute our voice – yet, hunters vociferously fight such change.

Hunters indignantly insist they are the only ones “qualified” to oversee these directives – and claim their license fees entitle them to a special, exclusive position on the DEC advisory board. But the fact is, “non-consumptive” users of NYS parks (defined as bird watchers, wildlife photographers, etc.) are at a record high, with almost 72 million visitors in 2017, yet they have no voice in DEC policy making. This is an outrageous injustice, with hunters stridently objecting to each and every suggestion for modifying this slanted system.

The DEC homepage states, “One of DEC’s main responsibilities is to protect New York State’s wild animal and plant populations,” yet it’s next to impossible to find anything on their website except pro-hunting advice, lists of wildlife killing contests, where to kill animals, fairs and other public events that are “admission free” for hunters, etc..

As the national movement and demand for gun control and banning assault rifles – both of which hunters fight against passing – steamrolls across the country, the effort to pry their undemocratic monopoly of wildlife management away from them is hard fought, as hunters – who supposedly stand for America, democracy and the Flag – attempt to deny us our rights. Hunting is in decline, and the hunters know it, yet they hold all the cards; their suppression of democracy just adds more taint to this questionable, antiquated and cruel activity.

An innocent woman walking her dogs upstate is dead because of hunters, and it’s not the first time that has happened. With the DEC’s excessively-promoted hunting culture in place, upstate New York residents fear going out to their own backyards during hunting season, and children at the tender age of 12 have been empowered and encouraged by the DEC to slaughter animals for sport. In Syracuse, the DEC confiscated a pet squirrel they deemed “illegal,” but they promote and encourage squirrel killing contests. Despite nationwide marches for gun control, a NYS bill awaits votes that would allow hunting in densely populated cities. Although studies have been done on the strong correlation between animal cruelty and violence toward human beings, a current NYS bill would permanently lower the age for universal hunting licenses from 14 to 12 years old; while Florida officials answer the call for gun safety by raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, our senators and the DEC want to put more guns into the hands of children. The “hunters only” DEC law must change: In 2018, we expect all our voices to be enabled; we expect kindness, respect and saner, more measured input to prevail for all. Until the Avella bill passes, suppression and denial of our civil rights to participation in government process will define the DEC. This is not the American way – and it certainly isn’t democracy.

Kiley Blackman
Founder, Animal Defenders of Westchester
(reprinted with permission)

Continued DNA Study

Continued DNA study of coyotes in San Francisco is proceeding forward!

Professor Ben Sacks of UC Davis initiated the DNA study of San Francisco coyotes when he analyzed DNA from the first coyotes that re-appeared in San Francisco in 2002 after decades of absence from the city. It is his study which showed that these early coyote arrivals in San Francisco came from Mendocino County. Ben had previously discovered that markers differentiated various geographical groups of coyotes, and one of those groups he was able to isolate and identify was Mendocino coyotes. San Francisco coyotes matched these.

The study was expanded in 2008 with more samples (which I collected from throughout the city) whereby Ben Sacks’ graduate student, Katherine Marquez, studied the connectivity of our population to surrounding rural populations (2011).

And now we’re into yet another round of tests from scats I collected over the last four years from throughout the city, with many defecations occuring as I watched, so I know “who” they came from as well as their family relationships, among other things. So we already have a lot of information about these coyotes. Ben has generously and graciously taken on the DNA analysis of this project, which he’ll incorporate into his teaching. The earlier scats will be used as benchmarks.

My two main questions include, “To what extent and how are the coyotes in San Francisco related to one another?” This will show movement within the city, and will show to what extent inbreeding has occurred. And, “Are all or most of our present population descended from the original Mendocino group, or have some trickled in from south of the city?” Stay tuned for the results later on this year.

Note that DNA from scat is a totally non-intrusive, non-invasive way of collecting information about coyotes, beyond dedicated direct-observation which takes a lot of time. A lot of what we find out in this DNA study will be confirming what I already know through hours of observation and documentation, but even more of it will be revealing new information and connections.

Grass

Tall, fresh, green grass. Lots of it. Delicious. After the rain:

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Who Studies Coyotes?

It turns out that coyotes are studied through many more disciplines than one might imagine. We tend to think that biologists are the primary group investigating coyotes, but this is not necessarily so, and when it is so, their studies tend to gravitate towards rather small focused slices of coyote biology and behavior rather than the entire picture. Ecologists are broader in their approach but usually not focused specifically on coyotes. Anthropology is another discipline which investigates coyotes: its ethnology branch studies the interaction of people with their environment, including with the animals in that environment — it has been suggested that I participate in this approach since my own university degree is in Anthropology (see Bio).

One of the more unusual disciplines to address coyotes is political science.  Christian Hunold, a Political Science Professor at Drexel University has just written and presented a paper on “Interurban Inclusivity: Urban Coyotes and the Politics of Wildlife” at the Western Political Science Association Annual Meeting on March 29th. Christian contacted me because of my blog and because of my unique long-term documentary relationship with a coyote population in the city. I’ve been happy to contribute to an understanding about them.

Because of Christian, WPSA academics reached out to me, inviting me to speak at their Environmental Political Theory Workshop, held at the Hyatt on March 28th, saying they, “would be grateful to introduce to this diverse group of mostly academics from a number of disciplines, including political science, philosophy, and environmental studies, your pioneering work on animal communication and human education. We’re also interested in exploring some of the underlying structural issues making life on urban wildlife difficult, and would be interested in framing your work as a type of ecological justice movement, aimed at making cities habitable places for all critters”.

I was honored to do so! I spoke to about 60 attendees with a slide presentation: “Janet Kessler: Zooming-in on Coyotes,” about myself, coyote population behavior and family interactions, dogs and coyotes, and finally the social and political landscape in which all of this is taking place here in San Francisco. There were questions afterwards.

The ultimate purpose of the association workshop was to investigate new political models for looking at the urban landscape which now includes wildlife — so that’s how I fit in. I’ll add the link to Christian’s paper once he finalizes and publishes it.

So thank you Professors Yogi Hendlin, Emily Ray and Christian Hunold for including me in your workshop.

Here are 20 of the 62 slides slides I used as talking points to the group:

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Joy!

The first pups of the season have been born! No, I haven’t seen them and won’t for months to come, but I have seen Mom! Mom had been hidden for about ten days, so I knew it was happening. Yesterday I watched Dad. It was about ten days since Mom had last mingled with the family — something she had been doing less and less recently as due date approached.

On this 10th day since seeing her, Dad waited around, a little at loose ends, lying down at the top of various knolls from where he had a good view of the entire area, and looking around.

Finally he jumped up, jubilantly and ran off towards a coyote in the distance where I observed their greetings of kisses and hugs. At first, because it was dusk and dark, I could not tell who it was that he had so happily greeted, and then I saw it was HER, his mate who was as ever so happy to see him as he was to see her. She exuded the feeling of, “Hey, I did it!” The physical difference between when I last saw her and now was that now she was her sleek self again, but now with tits, which was as tell-tale as it gets.

 

Her entire mood was now different from back then. Back then she was concerned, serious, wary and low-key. Now she was puppy-like: happy, frolicsom, active, and very communicative with her mate, with the usual joyful wiggles and squiggles of an evening meeting. He even groomed her, which I haven’t seen in ages: it’s usually she that grooms him.

Dad is grooming the new Mom here

Young daughter was there, but kept wary, keeping her body close to the ground whenever Mom approached, but there was no antagonism. I’ll keep an eye on what direction that takes.

I know that it won’t be until Summertime that I’ll be seeing any of the youngsters or even how many there are. This is just the first birth that I know about. The other moms I’ve been observing are still pregnant.

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