FIRST: A Guidelines/Safety Box:

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

Versión en Español   好鄰居–郊狼”   Condensed English version

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


2) MORE LINKS TO COYOTE BEHAVIOR & DOGS:

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

  • CoyoteCoexistence.com for additional coexistence information.

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

More

Aside

*A Quote Worth Pondering (blog follows)

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

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

For more photos, visit UrbanCoyoteSquared: A Gallery.

ACTUAL BLOG WITH LATEST POST BEGINS BELOW

Dispersal: Variations on a Theme

Every dispersal is different, I suppose because each coyote and every family is different. When it’s forced rather than the coyote simply leaving of his/her own accord, I tend to see Moms driving out females, and Dads or even brothers driving out males (though in this latter case, I’ve seen female siblings join-in the driving out process). Some of the youngsters drag their feet or even try to return several times, always without success. I’ve seen “cold turkey” dispersals where youngsters are gone suddenly without apparent warning, I’ve seen gradual dispersals, and I’ve even observed some parents hold on by visiting their dispersed offspring in their new areas. Here in this posting, I’ll describe three very different dispersals.

1) The dispersal of the coyote in the photo below was very gradual and of his own volition. He began leaving for a day at a time to begin with, and then for longer periods of time, returning for increasingly-brief periods which became less frequent over several months, until we no longer saw him again. This happened in the early springtime. He was almost exactly two years old when he left for good. His was a smooth transition: he was not pushed out, but rather was allowed to disperse at his own pace. He had stayed to help with the family’s next litter after him, but was gone right before the following year’s litter arrived. He was a mellow fellow who helped keep order by consoling his siblings when they needed it, and was a stickler for order when things got out of hand between them.

This male dispersed of his own volition at almost exactly 2 years of age (3/5/18)

2) The dispersal that warmed my heart the most was that of this rambunctious yearling male below, who had a testy relationship with an older female sibling, but was always on good terms with his parents and a brother. And then, one day, I saw Dad treat him truly as an equal for the first time. I sensed a huge joy and freedom in this coyote which I had never seen before, and maybe this treatment gave him the confidence to be so. It was as though this were a rite of passage before leaving home. So it was a warm sendoff, almost a goodby party. The “ceremony”, if you will, consisted of an evening of frolicking with Dad as an equal, with Dad instigating the play: they ran together, bucking up, and nipping each others’ ears or heels, and they jumped on each other as equal buddies and friends, liberated from any hierarchy, just playing. The youngster exuded a joy and sense of freedom, along with stature and confidence which he hadn’t displayed before. Two days later he was gone. It was mid-summer. We saw him a few times in a park nearby, but then he was gone from there, too: he was now out making his own way in the world.

Heartwarming sendoff: father and son play a few days before son leaves for good on 5/18 at 14+ months of age. We see him 10 days later in a park nearby, but then never again.

3) The most unusual dispersal is one that happened almost “backwards”.  In this case, a youngster, at the age of a year and a half, was banned to the fringes of her territory by her family which, except for Dad, wouldn’t have much to do with her. She was hounded repeatedly by her brother and her mother. She put up with it and didn’t leave, she just kept her distance. Finally, when she was 2 1/2 years old, the family, which by now consisted of only Mom and Dad, left, leaving her behind on their territory. It was almost like a dispersal in reverse. I never saw Mom again, but Dad came visiting regularly at first, and then less and less.

Below is a series of photos showing one of Dad’s last visits in November. The family bond between him and his daughter had been weakening over time, and compatibility had become rougher and testier with each of Dad’s succeeding visits. She used to experience the same joy as seen above between father and son. The daughter always remained exquisitely happy to see Dad, but Dad became more and more hierarchical and the affectionate part of their bond slowly dissipated.  Although Dad’s treatment of his daughter seems harsh, he was cutting the ties much more gently than if he had simply left for good.

She races enthusiastically to greet Dad when he appears after a long absence.

His look tells her to crouch and approach carefully. She is facing him and keeping down in this photo here.

In the above six photos, she is totally submissive, and he stands above her with hackles up: the hierarchy has little give or affection here. She feels comfortable enough to trot off with him, but is not allowed to do so until she knows her place.

A little later, testiness is the order of the day. This is one of the last visits Dad made to visit her.

In many cases, coyotes are driven off harshly by parents or siblings, and I’ve written about this before. In another case, year after year, a pair of coyote parents has led their youngsters through their fragmented territory, starting when they were about 6 months old: there’s not much stability in this kind of bohemian/gypsy movement, and I suppose the pups eventually tired of this because by 9 months of age, none were around anymore.

I’ve been lucky enough to discover several coyotes I knew as youngsters in their new locations. In one case, I’ve followed a family for 12 years through four generations, and I’m now following that fourth generation in a new location where it appears there may be a fifth generation on the way!

Cuddling, Teasing and Play


Of course pups cuddle, tease and play with each other. And parents do the same with their pups. But in the coyote world, these inter-personal activities are prevalent throughout adulthood between mated pairs: coyotes really like each other (unless they really don’t, which is a different story). They are social, meaning they spend a lot of time together interacting with each other, be it simply through visual communication or more emphatically through physical contact. Their involvement with each other is constant and can be intense.

In this video you’ll see some of that activity between a bonded pair. You’ll see affectionate nudges and teasing, fond provocations, tender mouth clasps or little “kisses” and cuddling. This is what goes on between them when they’re left alone and not having to constantly watch over their shoulders for danger — mostly from dogs. The activity occurs throughout the year, not just during the reproductive season.

Home Alone


Times in many ways have been hard for this young, two-and-a-half-years old female coyote whom I call Sis. Hard, because she was excluded from her family group by her mother and had to live her life apart from them, but within seeing range, for over a year. Only Dad would come over to console her now and then. I was sure she would disperse, but a fellow observer told me that this coyote was strong and would be sticking around. I was surprised that this is, indeed, how it worked out.

Dad visits her

Intruders came through the area several times during this year-long time-frame, and the family drove them out, with this young female right in there helping with that. I felt that she was trying to prove her worthiness to the family, but it didn’t seem to help regain her any acceptance. Eventually, a couple of months ago, the family left the territory entirely, leaving her all alone with one younger pup who now, too, seems to be gone. Dad returned regularly to visit at first, but not often. His visits, too, slowly waned and then ceased.

I often find her alone, as usual, lying on a little knoll with her chin to the ground. I gather that she looks forward to my appearances because she’s always there as though waiting for me. On this day, after the sirens sounded, she responded while lying down — not even bothering to get up! I recorded the entire howl session, her single voice filling the evening. It was just about dark outside causing the video to go out of focus right at the end of the recording.

Wishing All Coyotes, and You, Happiness In the New Year!


Yes, coyotes can be very happy critters. Seeing is believing. “Blissful” only begins to describe this young gal’s elated wallowing on the old tennis ball she has just delighted in playing with for half an hour. May all coyotes, and you, find this much joy in the new year!

Communication: She Calls To Him, He Comes


There was no siren this time — sirens are what often sets off coyote howling in the city, where they usually begin in tandem or pretty close together. This howling reflects their unity as a family, and possibly territorial separateness from any neighboring coyotes. For more about oral communication, see my post on Voicings.

But this time, it was SHE who vocalized alone: she was calling out to him repeatedly. Rather than answering in-kind and right-off, he apparently responded by actually coming. Then, once she was in his line-of-vision, he began his high-pitched, pup-like locutions, and then her calls morphed into the same type of little “hello there” whines and squeals. These are greetings.

These two coyotes are an old, mated pair. Their evening rendezvous, which this is, although joyous in its own way, was more a confirmation of each coyote’s status towards each other. The male is the dominant fellow in many ways, and you can see this when they finally come together: she crouches down and lets him stand over her: it’s their little ritual. But note that she is the one who did the calling. A more “conversational” back-and-forth communication over the distance can be heard here.

After the meeting/greeting they both went off hunting separately, but sticking close by to each other. Coyotes are social and enjoy each others’ company.

Injured Coyote Update

The injured coyote I wrote about in my last posting is doing great even though he does not have full use of his foot yet! He’s walking, running, and kicking up his heels for the fun of it, having a fantastic time with his mate. But it might not have been this way.

Apparently people on NextDoor had contacted a wildlife rehabilitator to actually trap this coyote — I was asked to participate by monitoring the trap. This “plan” came about based solely on visual reports, by well-meaning folks on that forum, that a coyote was injured — subject and situation unseen by the trapper who also didn’t know much about coyotes. I was not too happy about this because it was obvious to me that this was a step which should not be taken. It was almost four weeks after the injury and the animal was improving well on his own.

I explained the situation to them: That this coyote was healing beautifully, was able to run well on three legs, hunted wonderfully and could take care of himself. That he just needed to be left alone: the animal was very mobile and interference was not necessary. That the best thing that could be done for him was to give him space and to keep dogs from chasing him, because this was probably what caused the injury in the first place. The WORST thing in this case would be to “rescue” him — it was a short-sighted plan that neglected to look at the whole picture. This coyote is part of a very happy newly formed family unit, and trapping would absolutely disrupt what he had going for him. Coyotes are resilient and live beautifully in the wild even with huge handicaps. I sent videos to show the improvement over that last month. The day after the injury. Three weeks after the injury. And now, please take a look at the video above, six weeks after the injury.

When the coyote first showed up with a hefty limp, it appeared that the foot might be dislocated or broken. He could not use the leg at all and held it up. But within a day he had learned to run on three legs and continued to hunt well, so I didn’t want to interfere (see addendum below). Nonetheless, to cover all bases, I sent photos and videos to a veterinarian and I contacted Lou, my rancher friend who has had an intimate association with countless wild coyotes for 30 years.

The veterinarian responded, saying that indeed the foot looked either dislocated or broken in some way, which potentially could lead to problems in the long run. She said that there was no really good way to address this in a wild animal other than complete capture and wildlife vet intervention to surgically fuse his ankle. And then likely a wildlife sanctuary life for him. Otherwise, she said, we let nature take its course: allow the foot to self-fuse (self-arthrodesis). Once it is “fused” more weight will be placed on it, but this process can take months. The veterinarian agreed that the best option was to allow the coyote to heal on his own.

San Francisco Animal Care and Control (ACC) agreed that this would be the best course of action, and I also contacted Lou, my rancher friend for his input:

I concur with leaving the injured coyote. A coyote is a finely tuned canine and capture along with captivity, then release surely changes them and likely not for better. Also, most people cannot comprehend how tough canines are, especially wild coyote. Many a coyote has lived long and well with serious, permanent injury or debilitating condition. If a coyote had a choice, he would rather heal slowly or partially in wild then quick in captivity.

Wounded but still wild and healing is how the coyote has developed into such a super canine. They have learned to survive and thrive in a dangerous, painful at times, world.

One of the local coyotes is instantly recognized by his permanent limp, and scarred body. He is unusally banged up and old yet has been a dad and leader for years. A bum leg or foot hasn’t stopped him in the very least.

Although the coyote may not recover to exactly how he was before the injury, I’m told he’ll recover enough to lead as full a life as ever. Capture and confinement, which is what medical aid would entail, would unnecessarily terrorize the coyote and alter his “wildness” forever. We don’t need to do this. And most importantly, the possibility of life in a sanctuary is not an acceptable option for this coyote who is happy with his newfound mate right where he is. There are always tradeoffs, and this time the scales were in favor of leaving the animal in his fantastic social situation to heal on his own over an immediate but disruptive and traumatizing “fix”.

Addendum: Ten years ago I looked on and watched another coyote heal from a much worse upper leg and hip injury — most likely a break. The leg was dragged for months on end. I could see that she was able to take care of herself, so I decided to watch her instead of opting for an immediate fix requiring removal. I’m glad I did, because unbeknownst to anyone, it turned out that she was a single mom with two pups (well hidden, obviously) who would have perished had she been interfered with. Anyway, this taught me that we humans can’t possibly know all contingencies. IF nature CAN heal a wound/injury, I learned, it should be allowed to do so.

Injured Coyote and Altruistic Behavior by His Mate

Leg or paw injuries are very common in urban coyotes — I see them all the time. Most that I’ve seen are the result of dogs chasing them: legs get twisted, pulled, or even dislocated and broken as they try to get away in an urban environment.  I’ve also seen several instances of this resulting from coyote/coyote interactions.

Before I even knew that this coyote was injured, I watched his caring mate investigate the severity of the leg injury. Coyotes apparently investigate through their noses more than their eyes: she sniffed the leg intently. We’ve all seen our canine companions sniff each other to find out about each other, and I’ve read about dogs who can actually sniff a two-degree temperature change in humans (which happens just before an epileptic episode), so this kind of investigative sniffing is very understandable. Their eye-to-eye gaze afterwards, in the photo below, appears to show that each understood what was going on.

Then the female did her best to get the injured male coyote to follow her to a safer area. She tried her darnedest: she poked and prodded and pushed with her paw, her head, and her whole body. He complained and rebelled with a gaping show of teeth, but eventually he gave in a little and went with her, even if only for a short distance. I posted a similar instance of this type of prodding to get a mate to do something, see Coyote Communication: An Example.

Shortly thereafter, always looking out for him, the female noticed active dogs nearby. She immediately hurried over towards the dogs to divert any potential pursuers (that’s her rushing off at the beginning of the video). None came his way. “Altruism, in the biological sense, refers to a behavior performed by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the one performing the behavior.”[Wikipedia] She was clearly placing herself at a greater risk for being pursued while reducing his risk.

Later on there was more intimate contact between the two coyotes, as seen below, but I couldn’t tell if she was still trying to move him away from the area, or simply nuzzling him: this contact lasted only a few seconds, so I think it was simply a nuzzling.

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