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:
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

Wallowing, Wiggling & Warping: Photo Sequence

There are 22 slides in this gallery:

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I videoed the very end of this wiggle-and-scratch session:

I’ve been observing and documenting coyotes and their behavior for over 11 years now. Watching and hearing them is always thrilling, no matter that I see them almost every single day. I try to post photos and information that people can appreciate, enjoy and relate to so that they will be more willing to embrace these very maligned, but truly interesting and very family minded small canids. In this series here, you have a male coyote who is attempting to relieve his bug itches. It made me smile, and hopefully it will make you do the same.

The Runt

The runt in a litter, when there is one, is the smallest and sometimes the weakest pup. Their biggest disadvantage is that, because all the other pups are larger than them, they have a harder time competing for Mom’s milk. It turns out that getting one’s fair share of milk during the first 48 hours after birth is very important: only that very initial supply of milk contains colostrum which is loaded with antibodies which primes the pups’ immune systems, without which they could be more vulnerable to illnesses.

Indulged by Dad

In domestic dogs the runt may be ignored by the mother who focuses more on her healthier looking pups — it’s a form of natural selection. There is no reason to believe this is any different for coyotes, whose infant mortality rate is often 70% and more.

Like father, like son! Size and age don’t matter when you itch!

According to Dr. Margaret V. Root Kustritz, a veterinary theriogenologist (specializing in animal reproduction) the smaller size is due to their placement in the uterine horn during gestation — theirs is a poor implantation site. She says that small size is not due to being premature: all pups in a litter are fertilized at the same moment in time.

The littlest guy plays alone here. He’s energetic and very focused

So here is a little coyote runt whose small size compared to the rest of the litter really surprised me at first. It is about 2/3 the size of the others — a litter of all males! Cool! As I watched, this one was the only pup indulged by Dad — and he loved the attention when it came.

He’s the littlest guy in these photos

As it turned out, none of the other pups — size notwithstanding — had anything over this particular runt. Although small, scrawny and with obvious skin issues, this one is the most active, most focused, most inquisitive of the bunch, and the only one, as I watched, who spent a great deal of time alone, honing his hunting skills, possibly imitating what he saw his parents do. It will be interesting to watch his development in relation to his siblings as they grow up.

The littlest is off to the left

The larger siblings

The whole pup clan lined up for me!

Coyote Mums May Be Very Scrawny Right Now

A hollow, indented abdomen

This is a particularly hard time for coyote mothers whose nutritional needs have skyrocketed. This mother, photographed here, is one who has not been able to keep up with her nutritional needs. She has to find enough food to sustain herself and to provide the milk for the five 2-month-old pups she is still suckling. The pups have begun eating regurgitated semi-solid food brought by Dad and their yearling sister, but they are still suckling from Mom who is stunningly gaunt, emaciated and skeletal looking.

The suckling period of a growing litter of pups coincides with the season for shedding fur, so many coyotes look much thinner right now (and scraggly because of fur loss), even though they in fact may not be, and even though they are not lactating. But Mums indeed ARE thinner, and some are much more so than others, and you can see it, including in their faces and jaws where the skull bones are revealed right through the skin and fur. Moms I’ve known have always gained their weight back over time once the demands of providing milk end, but until then, it’s a strain on the body.

This mum still has her winter fur on her neck which helps hide her scrawniness

You can see the round shape of the femur bone through the skin in her leg and an indented thigh (taken at dusk which makes her look even wispier)

 

A Panoply of Howling From St. Augustine Wild Reserve

Have you ever heard howling from a bunch of different critters all at once? Kathy Lally, who works at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve in Florida, hears this sort of thing often: the animals do this howling routine several times a day, she says.

“Our critters never hear sirens, so that isn’t what sets them off [as it does in urban areas]. Instead, a wolf will start the howling, which I understand is a contact call, and then other wolves will respond until they are all talking to each other. The coyotes then join in with their yipping — it’s a full chorus of howls and yips from them. Sometimes, but not always, the lions and tigers actually participate. It’s all quite amazing!”

“Got this video today but the coyotes didn’t yip, they were barking instead. I was in a coyote cage at the time so the video is of one of our lions across the way. The lions nor the tigers joined in this time. And, interestingly, the one loner coyote at the reserve never participates in this communication, even though coyote mated pairs always do.”

These are the participants in this recorded howling session:

Adult wolves: Magic, Kashmir, Chaska & Nakai
Year old wolf puppies: Merlin, Spirit, Tonka, Eyota, Raven, Indigo, Nova, Luna, Kachina &Wachiwi
Coyotes: Lakota, Apache, Sundance, Yosemite, Cheyenne & Durango

Here is the same howling a couple of days later, but this time with the camera directed towards the wolves in the rain:

Leg Injuries

When I arrived on the field, I noted that this coyote preferred being off to the side by himself and not interacting with any of the other members of his family. The rest of the family was in the distance, galavanting around together as usual at their evening rendezvous. This made sense a little later on when I saw him follow the others from afar with a very heavy limp. It was his front left paw or wrist which was affected. Staying apart showed the others that he needed a buffer zone for protection and could not interact in their normal roughhousing way.

He was mobile, and that is the factor for deciding if intervention is appropriate: it’s important never to intervene unless absolutely necessary: any kind of capture is extremely traumatic for a wild animal — they become terrified for their lives, as relayed to me by a wildlife rehabilitator, but also removing a coyote from his family would be stressful for the entire group. As it turned out, within a couple of days he was back to normal. I’m supposing that he picked up a thorn which became embedded in his paw, or he twisted his wrist on uneven ground, but I’ll never know for sure what happened.

The other coyotes seemed to understand what an injury was all about — they respected his need, looking over at him occasionally. Only Dad, several times, trotted back to make sure his yearling son was okay, to be with him, and to comfort him with some affection and grooming, as you can see in the photos below. It was sweet to watch. I’m convinced that there is an awareness in coyotes beyond what most humans are willing to accept. And this particular Dad is more apparently concerned with looking out for the welfare of each member of his family than most.

Injuries to legs are not uncommon for coyotes. They have very light bones and joints, and sinewy builds, which constitute the perfect architecture for their needs: quick movements, speed, sustained movement. At the same time, the light, thin bones are more susceptible to injury and twists. That’s the tradeoff and it’s why you’ll see leg injuries in this species. Nonetheless, it’s always upsetting to see an injury in a coyote — the initial reaction is to wonder which way it might go, in addition to wondering exactly how the injury came about.

Pups

I literally stumbled upon a family greeting/meeting during my evening walk a couple of days ago. I had been photographing a youngster female who was mozeying along a trail, minding her own business, pouncing for gophers of which she caught several which she wolfed down, when she diverted into a pathless forested area.

I peeked over a hedge in her direction, only to find what appeared to be Mom and a pup — pups here in San Francisco are about 6 weeks old now — who had emerged to greet the yearling. The yearling approached the older coyote in a crouched position, which messaged her subordinate status. I took a couple of quick photos (which revealed the pup to be a male), and immediately began retracing my steps out of the area. These coyotes guardedly withdrew into the bushes due to my presence.

As I was distancing myself, Dad appeared, and he wasn’t too happy about what he knew to be the discovery of his family’s hiding place. Dads spend much of their time protecting their den areas and scaring off trespassers. They hope that their mere presence will serve as a deterrent, and indeed, that should be enough. I continued distancing myself, keeping my eye on Dad. Dad messaged me his concern with a few grunts, in addition to his presence, as he watched me leave.

The gophers caught by the yearling might have been for the pup. Yearlings are older siblings to the new pups — they are from the previous, and even previous to that, year’s litter, so they are either one or two years old. They are the “aunties” and help provide for the new litter. Only one or two yearlings, if any, normally stick around like this, the rest of the youngsters from those previous litters “disperse” out of the area to make their own way in the world. A number of San Francisco’s dispersed youngsters last year were tracked as far south as Los Gatos — that’s 60 miles south — all of these were eventually killed by cars. Cars are the primary killers of dispersing coyotes: these coyotes are young and have had very little experience with the extreme dangers of automobiles.


Now might be a good time to review etiquette for coyote encounters, especially during pupping season:

The Golden Standard, and the safest and most effective option, especially when walking your dog, is simple and complete avoidance. Whether you see a coyote in the distance, at mid-distance, approaching you, or if you are surprised by the sudden appearance of one at close-range, shorten your leash and walk away from it to minimize any potential dog/coyote confrontation or engagement — and continue walking away. IF you make a personal decision to shoo it away, please follow the guidelines in the video, How to Shoo Off A Coyote”, but know that this is engagement. What’s safest is simple and complete avoidance.

Coyotes are territorial. Coyotes are possessive. This is no different from you in your home: you don’t allow outsiders to come wandering through, and if you see someone suspicious in the neighborhood you may follow that someone to make sure he/she leaves. This is what coyotes do in the only effective way they can: they repulse with their scary “Halloween cat like stance”, they may follow an intruder out of their area, or or they may nip the haunches of the dog they want to move on and away. They want you to leave, so why not do it?! For more information, see How To Handle A Coyote Encounter: A Primer.

This is how pint-size coyote pups look right now, mid-May, at 4 to 6 weeks of age.

These Yearlings: Still Being Brought Food By Dad

Dad expels food for yearling youngsters — Dad is to the left in all these photos

Coyote pups were born at the end of March and the beginning of April this year here in San Francisco, so they are now four to six weeks old. To begin with, all pups are fed with their mother’s milk. Depending on the mother coyote and her age, this is either obvious or not so much so, as you can see in these photos.

Lactating mothers

As the pups grow, soft food is introduced into the youngsters’ diet. Regurgitated food is what young coyotes are fed as they are weaned off of their early milk diet. Eventually more solid forms of food are introduced: first, parts of and then whole dead rodents, then incapacitated prey, and finally live prey is brought home for the youngsters to learn to deal with and eat.

The youngsters depicted in these photos here were born last year. They appear to still be enjoying an extended puppyhood, even as their mother has gone off to give birth to a new litter. Uninhibited play and fun are still the order of the day for them. Interestingly, they are still receiving presents in the way of food from Dad.

A yearling youngster elicits the regurgitation reflex in his father before a sibling joins him as Dad watches

Upon seeing Dad, the most exuberant and active youngster of the litter runs to greet Dad and thrusts his snout into Dad’s mouth which elicits a regurgitation response. I don’t know if the regurgitation is actually voluntary or an involuntary response. This sort of feeding and being fed keeps everyone in their same states of dependence (for the youngsters) or leadership (for Dad), and is a strong solidifier of bonds and affection.

This particular family was a large one, with seven youngsters being born last year. This is the largest litter I have ever seen here in the city, with most litters being one, two, or three youngsters. But this litter is now down to four. One youngster was killed by a car, and two more were found dead. Although I haven’t found out what those two died of, I can pretty safely assume it was rat-poison or less likely, a natural disease. Coyote pup survival rate is only 20-30%, which, by the way, is actually higher than some human infant survival rates in Africa today where infant mortality is 92% in some villages.

A little about this family: of the four youngsters who survive, there are three rough-and-tumble youngsters — a female and two males — who throw themselves fully into their interactions and play. One of the males is the outstanding activist in the family. Then there is a smaller gal, a loner, who doesn’t appear to like the rough play of the others, nor the competition. And I’ve noticed that she doesn’t hurry over to partake in the regurgitated food her father proffers. In fact, that might be why she is comparatively smaller than the others. Coyotes have innate and very individual personalities which, just like with us humans, are further developed through each coyote’s individual place in the family and the feedback they constantly receive.

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