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

Has Spermatogenesis Kicked In?

In this short video clip, you’ll see a 4½ year old female (and two-time mother) coyote exhibiting a keen interest in her long-time mate’s urine odors. Might this kind of behavior have to do with reproduction and, although I don’t know this for sure, would her interest be tied to odors emanating from spermatogenesis in the male? Whether this is the case or not, this is a good time to address the phenomenon of spermatogenesis in coyotes.

Spermatogenesis is the process of producing sperm. For coyotes, unusually and fascinatingly, it kicks in heavily during just the winter months starting about now and coincides pretty exclusively with female ovulation, wherein there occurs just a ten-day window of opportunity for fertilization to occur. The production itself apparently takes about two-months. I decided to read up some more about it in three scientific papers, but I’m sorry I did. I was able to confirm my information above which I already knew, but I didn’t find out anything else about the process. And I was awakened to upsetting scientific methods.

Science often is not as concerned with the well-being of the animals as much as it is with the information that is sought. For one of these studies, captive animals *kept* by our Department of Agriculture were used — animals that had not been allowed to live their natural lives. In another study, animals were captured and removed from their family environments, which in itself is inhumane because these animals are integral parts of long-term family units and are very tied to their territories in an *ownership* type of way. Removing them disrupts not only the family, but the territorial dynamics which have been established. The coyotes were kept in small kennels for 6 months before the actual study even began. Coyotes wander great distances of several miles every single night, so this confinement must have been excruciating for them. They were anesthetized before probes were inserted through their anuses for *electroejaculation* for the purpose of obtaining semen for sperm counts and hormone levels. Only the third study extracted information from post-mortem animals: I’m pretty sure that the 441 animals involved weren’t expressly killed for this study. Might simply watching their behaviors (mating at only one time of year), and using roadkill have provided the sought-after information more humanely and respectfully?

I asked myself, “why do scientists want this information in the first place?” The answer given in the papers was to possibly regulate their numbers: i.e., birth control. BUT, coyotes control their own populations naturally through territoriality: they themselves limit the population in any given area to just one family and they keep other coyotes out. And they also limit their family numbers through behavior: younger females below the alpha mother remain “behaviorally sterile” as long as they remain on their parents’ territory. I read long ago where birth control does not work in coyotes, even with TEN times the amount given other animals.

For me, the welfare of the individual animals comes first, but then again, I’m not a degreed scientist. The population study I’m collaborating on through UC Davis is hands-off and non-invasive. We use visual recognition of the coyotes, and then scat to confirm and expand on those findings. The study also involves diet analysis through DNA found in their scat — again, this is a hands-off and non-invasive study.

I think more and more people are coming to realize that the wildlife around us needs to have their rights protected. I’ve just bought a book, one of a growing number on the subject, that addresses my concerns: The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World by Boyd, David R. which states that, “a growing body of law around the world supports the idea that humans are not the only species with rights; and if nature has rights, then humans have responsibilities.” Apparently *forests* are another group of species that are being viewed as having legal rights. I think this is highly interesting, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Photo Essay: Unwelcome Greetings

Mom was napping in the brown grasses in the late afternoon which is something she routinely does before the evening rendezvous: it was peaceful and calm as the day wore down. “Ahhh, this is life” could have been a thought coming from her head just then. She held her head up every few minutes and looked around and then let it fall back down and closed her eyes. As it got darker, she slowly began to move more and more, and finally she got up and stretched and ambled ever so slowly to I don’t think it mattered where, and then she stopped short.

My camera was focused on her, so at first I didn’t see what was going on outside the area of focus, but her stopping and staring told me that something had grabbed her attention.

Two of her seven-month-old youngsters — I would not call them pups anymore since they are close to full-sized coyotes — appeared. She watched as they greeted each other according to the ranking they had established between themselves. Suddenly my expectation turned to the wiggles and squiggles and ever- so-happy greetings I’ve seen so often at these greetings.

But no. She apparently wanted at that moment to have nothing to do with them, and possibly to continue in the calm space she was in. Communication between coyotes is very definite and precise — much more so than human words which, as we all know, can be very imprecise: facial expressions and body language leave no room for misinterpretation. She was facing away from me, but I knew exactly what was going on with the little I could see: she opened her snout threateningly, wrinkled her nose, pulled back her lips and displayed her teeth: “Hey kids, leave me alone!”

And the youngsters, of course, knew exactly what she meant. They had been approaching her in low crouched positions, carefully and gingerly, showing their respect and subservience — they had obviously encountered her unwelcoming side before. Mom apparently was not in a mood to deal with them. She stood there, keeping them at bay through her snarls and body language.

They move away from her

The youngsters were nervous and turned to interacting calmly with each other: grabbing the other’s snout, falling to the ground, hugging against each other as if for self-protection, etc. They then slowly approached Mom — they felt compelled to greet her — it’s their innate etiquette to do so — even if just to allow her to grab their snouts in a show of solidarity with their respective relationships. After that, and with the continued snarling, they moved on slowly and Mom lay down again in the grasses — the rendezvous and interactions would have to wait until SHE was ready.

These stills are of that interaction, taken in bursts, and at late dusk when there was little light, which is why they are blurry. I could have taken a video, but you would have missed the nuances of what was going on, which requires stopping the action, to see, interpret, and reflect on the behaviors.

Accumulating Stuff

I regularly see coyotes pass through this passageway, usually rather uneventfully, but over a period of about a month I noticed that one of them seemed to accumulate things — including wood, bottles, a cap, a bag, a cloth scrap, a raccoon, and a blanket: as far as I have seen, most coyotes don’t hoard like this. It goes to show that each coyote is unique, both their faces and their personalities, and each family is also different. And yes, I’ve included the cat that was brought in: please, everyone, don’t allow your cats to roam free: cats are much more likely to be grabbed than any of the other stuff you see in this video.

And, by the way, just as every coyote and coyote family is unique, so is every cat, and here is a video of a fairly unique cat chasing away a coyote. I myself have known several coyotes who run from cats, so it’s probably less unique than we think.

Scout and her Family’s Story Continues: Captain is killed, likely by Rat Poison

The above photo was taken on October 23rd. That’s the last day we saw *Captain* alive. By the 25th he was no longer appearing. Captain was an almost seven-month old pup of Scout’s. We found his body deep within some brambles, only a couple of feet off of a small footpath. I wish we had found him sooner: a necropsy could not be performed because the body was not fresh enough: it was already covered with bugs and smelled foul.

The body was found in a park, far from where a car could have hit him: he was not killed by a car — there was no such trauma to the body. Note the same scar on his forehead in life above and death below. I normally would not be able to identify a dead coyote since I use their open eyes and expressions to identify them, but with an obvious mark of this type, I was able to.

The obvious conclusion is that he died of rat poisoning. In my last posting I talked about his mother, Scout’s, recent absence for almost two weeks. We feared that a coyote hit by a car in the area might have been her, but it was her yearling son. She finally re-appeared for several days, but exhibiting slowed-down behavior. She continues to appear irregularly and in much more inconspicuous locations than in the past. Might she, too, have ingested a less-than-lethal dose of rat poison? This kind of lethargy is a symptom of rat-poisoning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her. By the way two cats in the neighborhood died of rat-poison at the same time as did Captain. Please talk to your neighbors about not using rat-poison. WildCare in San Rafael can talk to you about much safer and more effective ways to control rats: Please Don’t Use Rat Poisons.

Zoom Talk for El Cerrito Garden Club: 11/11@11 am

“If you have been seeing news articles and reading posts in NextDoor, you would think we’re under attack from coyotes in a new and terrifying way. It’s true that coyote sightings are increasing, and members of the El Cerrito Garden Club are talking about this phenomenon of daylight sightings, mangled cat carcasses, and general worry by hikers, parents and dog walkers.

Since we’ve made room for deer, gophers, and other mammals in our neighborhoods, willingly or reluctantly, why are coyotes so feared and hated? And why do they seem to be proliferating all over the East Bay, especially in the hills? All we have to do is notice just how many rats have made their homes around our properties, nesting in vegetation and under houses, and providing a rich diet for predators, including owls and coyotes. If you know that poisoning the rats is dangerous to pets, to owls and others who feed on rats, and you choose not to use the baits, be aware that coyotes are a big part of keeping the balance in our urban/wildlife corridor.

Come and watch Janet Kessler, naturalist and researcher with 14 years of experience with the coyotes in San Francisco, explain their population and behavior, how to accept these amazingly social animals, and how we can keep our pets and children safe while easily coexisting with them.”

This talk is part of the El Cerrito Garden Club’s *speakers series* that will begin after their monthly business meeting. It will include the same information as Janet’s previous talks, so if you’ve missed them all and wanted to hear one, you are welcome to ZOOM into this one. For the link and access code, contact Janet@coyoteyipps.com. After the 50 minute slide presentation, there will be a Q&A period. Here is the recording.

Scout’s Continuing Story: Domestic Life and a Recent Scare

Scout reappears after an absence of eleven days after ACC reported they picked up a coyote killed by a car in the area.

A recent scare:

I was given a report that a coyote was picked up, DOA, from 101 at Cesar Chavez on September 27th. That’s Scout’s territory. For eleven days after that I did not see her, nor did most of the folks who know her, and we were coming to the conclusion that we might have lost her: the scare has always been that she would be hit by a car. She often is gone for several days, but not for almost two weeks, except the one time she was driven away by a territorial challenger. As I stated in a previous posting, Deb Campbell, spokesperson for ACC, said that 20 coyotes have been picked up this year hit by cars — more than ever before — and the year isn’t even over yet — and there are probably others that have not been reported to ACC. But Scout finally re-appeared on October 8th, so all is well. . . . for now. . . maybe. The coyote who was killed turns out to have been one of her yearlings who we have not seen since that time. Life can be brutally short for some coyotes, be it in urban setting with cars, or in the wild-wild where they are subject to guns. I’ve seen coyotes live to be 12 years old here in the city, but I’ve also seen lives cut short by cars at 4, 5 and 6 years of age. In captivity, a coyote’s natural lifespan is 14 to 16 years.

I say “maybe” about all being well for Scout, because she was absent for a reason. There is always a reason for any change in behavior. When I finally did see her, she moved slower than usual, with her weight heavy on her bones rather than tightly strung. She looked on the worn, stiff, and older side of things. She walked a little, then lay down in the sun and closed her eyes. Hopefully, whatever is affecting her will pass quickly. Her mate and another yearling son stayed with her as I watched her. This isn’t to say that she didn’t engage in some energetic protective behavior when it was needed that day. She in fact tried repelling a dog who has chased her in the past: she started by approaching and sitting on a path nearby to where the dog and owner were. The owner was exercising. This didn’t produce any results so she began slowly pacing towards the dog, who then chased her, as has happened before. She fled and howled in distress afterwards — so some things never change in spite of other adversities. This is pupping season and coyotes are very protective of their turf and their pups. And in this instance, she was being proactively protective. It’s always best to walk away from them to keep the peace, especially if you have a dog.

So, why might she have been absent for eleven days? I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what happened, but we do know that something happened or is still going on: maybe she had a mild scrape with a car or other physical trauma; maybe she became ill due to parasites or something else. Maybe her infamous feeder has lured her to another spot? Or maybe she’s just not feeling up to par. I’ve noted that coyotes keep themselves hidden when they feel unwell or unfit and vulnerable.

So that is her very latest news. But how has she been doing previous to this, since she met her new companion in early 2020 when I last wrote about her? I’ve put together an update from that point to the present below, and will soon write a short synopsis of her earlier life for those who haven’t followed her story on my blog here.

Update since she met her new companion:

Scout’s six month exile during the first half of 2019 involved her evading the territorial challenger who pursued her relentlessly throughout the city as she, Scout, attempted over and over again to return to HER hill. That territorial challenger eventually found greener pastures elsewhere and that’s when Scout was finally able to return and re-occupy her territory in June of 2019. But the companion who had produced so much joy for her, Hunter, did not return: during her tumultuous exile, he had moved on to a life without her which can be read about here. Scout remained a loner for months, picking up where she had left off six months earlier, except that her short-lived male companion was no longer around.

Then, in the late fall, I could sense from her sudden renewed energy that something new was brewing. A change in behavior is always caused by *something*: she was more alert and aware than she had been for a while, more ready to *jump-to*. Towards the end of the year I fleetingly glimpsed another coyote several times. Oh, no! Might this be another challenger? She didn’t deserve another such ordeal. OR, might it be a newcomer male who was working his way into this territorial situation and possibly into Scout’s trust? Whoever it was, that coyote was being very secretive.

In February of 2020, I saw Scout run off excitedly and enthusiastically to something that was attracting her again. I thought, here we go again, someone is feeding her: people feeding her has been one of the biggest problems that has impacted her behavior. But, no. She returned in only a few minutes, and a minute after that there appeared a new guy coyote in her wake! She obviously was smitten with him and seemed to be showing him off. As we watched, she went up and groomed him warmly and affectionately, as if introducing him: “this is my new fella”, while he warily took in the situation surrounding himself and then fled the scene quickly. Scooter became her mate. Scout never displayed the same intense camaraderie towards Scooter as she had shown for her first *love*, Hunter, but, hey, she was older and been through the wringer which caused her to grow up substantially from the carefree, happy-go-lucky spirit she had been earlier.

Scout and Scooter

Scooter stuck around for Scout, and they had their first litter that Spring — that was last year, in 2020.

I stayed away from the pupping area, but did capture the following time-lapse video showing a feeding situation; and here, at 11 weeks, the pups are preparing to move out of their birthing den area: Out of the Playpen.

Initially I counted four pups. The den was hidden in a highway right-of-way behind a fence — my camera was placed on that fence-line. It was an extremely noisy — at times deafening with the roaring sound of the traffic — location, but it was not an area visited by dogs or people, and that’s what coyotes want. Soon, only three pups appeared in the field camera: coyote pup survival rate is notoriously low. So three survived to become full sized coyotes. The youngsters have fortunately been more wary and elusive than Scout, as has their dad, her mate. Two of the male youngsters remained in the family, but as of the end of September one had been killed by a car so now only one remains as part of the family.

I became less concerned with Scout once she had a family because suddenly she had something to occupy her time. She began minding her own business rather than engaging people for food, chasing cars, or seeking human attention with her play. Over time, she reverted to some of these previous behaviors, but generally she found her niche in her family.

Issues from the past continued with dogs constantly chasing her and her family, and people feeding her which drew her into the street. To these behaviors, we can add her new protectiveness towards her pups, which increased issues with dogs. Please leash your dog and walk away from the coyotes which works superbly for preventing negative encounters.

This year in April, Scout gave birth again, and again it was behind a fence where dogs could not go, this time at a reservoir. Within weeks though, the Water Department went around blocking most of the under-fence openings that the coyotes used — this is because of the school nearby — so at six weeks of age, on June 1st, the pups were moved to another location only a few blocks away where they have remained ever since.

At this point in time, the pups are six months old, and size-wise could be mistaken for adults, but their behaviors are still very juvenile. Each pup is unique, with her/her own personality. Some are shy, some bolder, some are more solitary while the others are gregarious and competitive, some are more exploratory, whereas others are more careful. All the youngsters like picking on Sister. They are all curious. The two yearling brothers born last year spent a lot of time feeding, babysitting, disciplining and playing with the younger ones: raising youngsters is a family effort. As I said, one of those yearlings was killed by the car on September 27th.

Since a photo is worth a thousand words, here is a gallery of them, showing snippets of what’s been going on with Scout and her family over the last two years. You can click on any of the square photos to enlarge them and then scroll through them all. There have been lots of changes in Scout’s life, but there also have been some defining constants, and these include her steadfast determination and her intense psychological involvement which she now directs towards her family, as depicted in this first photo showing her adoration for one of her pups. Another constant, an unfortunate one imposed by her human neighbors as seen in the photo at the bottom of the page, is people feeding the coyotes, especially along the streets, which causes the coyotes to hang around and beg for more, chase cars, approach people, approach pets.

Mother Scout adoring one of her pups
Older brother and two siblings gang up on Sister — and she’s loving the attention!

Please know that these youngsters living on this almost two-square mile territory will eventually disperse if they survive the car traffic and other hazards of city life, including rat poison, and the territory will remain in the hands of the two alpha-parents until they either die or are no longer able to defend it from a younger pair of challenger coyotes. Before Scout arrived in 2016, the land had been owned by a family whose last member was killed by a car. In 2019 a dispersing female almost took over the territory. We’ll have to wait and write Scout’s continuing history as it happens.

The story of coyotes is incomplete without saying something about the humans and our unique psychologies who interface with them. People have very strong feelings about them: some are fearful of them and want them gone, whereas others have a need to love and “help” them without realizing the harm they are actually causing. We really need to leave them alone. People can be educated to help them cope with their fears, be they real or imagined, and they can be educated to know about the detriments of feeding, which cause coyotes to hang around, including in the streets where the food is often tossed, chase cars, stop cars, and approach people. their hanging around also creates more potential for conflict with dogs. We humans are behind what the coyotes become.

The saddest development is to see Pepper, a six-month old pup of Scout’s now hanging around the street and slurping up food behind a guardrail where it was left for him and his family. These coyotes would be better off hunting than hanging around or searching for food on the shoulder of roadways:

The saddest development is the following: This 6-month-old, Pepper, one of Scout’s pups, has been lured into the streets by folks putting out food for him and his family. This youngster was so focused on the food left for him behind the railing that he was hardly aware of me: I had driven up to the edge of the sidewalk and took this image from my car window, less than 8 feet away..

I’ll soon write a synopsis of Scout’s life for those who haven’t been following her story here.

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 practically unusable: I salvaged what I could in the recording below.

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.

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