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

Spring Madness, by Walkaboutlou

4-4 jpg

Hello Janet!

I hope Spring finds you well. As I make some ranch rounds and visits, I’m preparing for hip replacement (ugh) and am just waiting for clearance and schedule. The hospitals are still lining up surgerys, backlogged months.

I visited the ranch where Slim Jim, an older coyote I shared with you, resides. He and his mate Chica are denned and raising this years pups. Goodness knows how old Slim Jim is. Anywhere from minimal 9 years to 13 years. A very old rare coyote. His mate Chica is still young, around 3 or 4.

But spring madness has reared its head for them.

They have descendants scattered all about, some near. Some far. It appears a daughter has returned….but she was pregnant and seems to have denned with Mom. We don’t know for sure. All we know (and I’m filled in by the landowner…he watches them for months) is that Slim Jim, Chica, and a yearling son seemed settled for pupping when a begging, pregnant, young female came begging. Chica bit her…then relented.

A few days later, Chica and Young female were in and out den area, both deflated and having milk.

We have thought a lot. Studied and scouted and think of possibilities.

It’s very possible she’s a departed daughter whose mate was killed by wolves or Staghound hunting pack. At the outskirts of this non hunting ranch property, wolves and Staghounds have hunted coyote hard along Cascade edges. We know of at least 6 dispatched this way.

A young female. Mate killed. Wolves or Staghound hunters patrolling. Very bad for a single mom facing pup season. We think in desperation she came home..and was grudgingly allowed back. Either way…a desperate pregnant young female came…and was admitted.

Slim Jim is often along a ridge. Watchful..but so old. His yearling son is already feeding both moms with Slim Jim. There are elk and deer carcasses nearby as well as thousands of voles and mice. 4 adult coyote..who knows how many pups. They will be hard pressed…but food is abundant.

SO MUCH NOT KNOWN. BUT SO AMAZING. COYOTE HAVE INCREDIBLY FASCINATING TIMES AS THEY ALL DIFFER BUT SHARE THE THEME OF FAMILY AND SURVIVAL.

Their area and den are anonymous and will stay this way. And they will remain isolated and watched. I hope the best for all of them. C’mon Slim Jim….you can make this season.

Take care Janet

Lou


Hi Lou! FASCINATING! I’ve seen a few instances where it appears outsider coyotes have been “admitted” into established families!

Warmly! Janet


Hi Janet, I think coyote have social plasticity we haven’t even dreamed of at times. Anything is possible.

Angel: A Melanistic Coyote Consigned to Permanent Rehab, by Kathy

Preamble by Janet:Although my primary work and the heart of my investigations are in San Francisco, this posting here carries us out of San Francisco and to Florida. Whereas the coyotes I document are all wild and free — and we want to keep them that way, the one in this posting is in a very different situation and dependent on humans for care and social interactions. The posting is about a small melanistic (black) coyote named Angel. We don’t have black coyotes out here in the West, it’s an Eastern Coyote phenomenon, and even rare there.

Black coyotes are not common at all and rarely seen in Florida— although hunters occasionally post their photos of melanistic coyotes they have killed, photos of live black coyotes are extremely rare: These two were photographed on a Wildlife Management Area in Florida see: http://wildflorida.com/articles/Black_Coyotes_in_Florida.php

A Stanford University team has studied the genetics of melanism (black color morph) in wolves, coyotes and dogs. This study reveals that the genetic mutation for melanism first arose in dogs some 50,000 years ago and was afterwards passed on to wolves and coyotes.

There must be some positive adaptive purpose—but no one knows exactly what the positive purpose is. We know that the protein beta-defensin 3, which regulates melanism in canids is involved in providing immunity to viral and bacterial skin infections.


A little background on me, Kathy:  I have no formal education or training when it comes to animals – strictly a love for them.  I am a volunteer at a reserve for exotics that no one wants anymore.  I fell in love with Angel when she arrived and have been pretty much her sole caretaker. I got involved with this volunteer work after going on a tour of this rescue facility.  It’s less than 5 miles from my house & I was retired.  Wasn’t sure they would want me because of my age, but lo and behold they said yes.  (I was 67 when I started there – now 73!!!)

The coyotes weren’t there when I started.  I found myself being drawn to the animals that other volunteers weren’t spending a lot of time with. (Everyone wants to spend time with big cats & wolves). Consequently, my first 2 special kids were the two female hyenas.  There is no one there who loves them more than I do!  We have a fantastic bond.

Then I decided Osiris, the African Serval, who was someone’s pet for 14 years, needed some human time. African Servals are crazy and very moody. I still love him though. When Angel came along, I waited awhile, but no one stepped up to the plate. Therefore, she’s my baby and everyone knows it. I’m so happy to work with her even though she has become my biggest challenge.

Angel’s backstory:  She was hit by a car in Florida when she was 3 months old.  A woman picked her up thinking she was a puppy and took her to her vet.  She had a broken leg & a broken pelvis. The vet identified her as a melanistic coyote and did not give her back to the woman who found her.  She then went to a rehab facility for 3 months.  In fixing her pelvis, the birth canal was narrowed so she couldn’t be released back into the wild – pregnancy would have killed her, consequently she came to us.

Angel’s behaviors:  I have been working with her for almost 5 years now.  In the beginning she was terrified of everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING.  With [wildlife animal behaviorist] Debbie’s help, I have been trying to get her to trust me more and have been somewhat successful.

When she first came there she would hide during the tours.  She still won’t come out when the group is in front of her enclosure; however, she will come out when they wind back around and are several feet from her home.  So the group does get to see her now & hear her story. Recently she has decided it’s perfectly okay to come out when very small groups are by her cage. She will come out when volunteers are near now. This is a big improvement from when she first arrived at our facility.

When I first started working with her and needed to give her flea meds I was never sure if she had ingested them or not. She didn’t want me watching her eat. After several long months, she now will take her treat & eat it, looking at me while I stand about 20 feet from her cage.  She still doesn’t want me to watch her eat anything else.  She has a log with holes drilled in it so I can put treats in there.  Have never seen her take anything out, but it’s always empty by the end of the day.

We got hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and that was traumatic for her.  Not only because of the storm, but because of the cleanup afterwards.  For quite some time we had tree specialists coming in and cutting down our larger trees so they don’t fall on cages during a heavy storm.  Shortly after the storm and when the trees guys were there a few days a week, she would eat & then vomit all of it up.  She was so scared.  When she didn’t stop this, I started feeding her whole rabbits or chickens & late in the afternoon when everyone was gone.  After a few months, I put her back on her regular diet & feeding in the morning.  Thought she was cured.  However, the other day we had 3 brand new volunteers working two enclosures down & I found her food regurgitated when I went in to clean. I have to pay particular attention to what is happening in her vicinity and change her feeding schedule accordingly.

She will now let me sit in her enclosure with her, but not too close.  She comes down from her elevated den box & will run laps while I sit there.  She is getting better about that & now will sometimes walk instead of run.  Sometimes she will come down to see what I am doing when I am outside her enclosure filing her water pail and splash tub. She lets me know when she’s had enough of me by going up to her den box & lying down.

She loves her stuffed animals & protects them like babies.  Takes them in when it rains so they don’t get wet.  So cute!

For quite some time we weren’t sure if Angel would join in with the wolves & coyotes when they did a group howl.  If has been confirmed by some volunteers who have seen and heard her that she is joining in.  That’s  good news.  She feels comfortable to join them, but not when we humans are within sight!

I can now approach her when she is on her platform without her freaking out.  She lets me get to the edge of the platform before she backs into the den box.  Whenever she is fearful, she will pull her ears back & flatten them.  Of course, I stop whatever I am doing at that point.

I could probably go on and on, but this will give you some idea of how she acts.

By the way, we have 6 other coyotes, who exhibit similar skittishness, but not to the extent that Angel displays. As for these other coyotes, I share the responsibility with a couple of people.  There are 3 pairs and they don’t get along – hence we have plywood between the cages blocking their access to each other.  I prepare the diets 3 days/week & clean their cages 3 days/week.  One of the other volunteers had calmed Sundance down to the point where she will allow a couple of us to pet her, mostly from the outside of the cage.  She has now become very used to me and will let me pet her while I am in her enclosure.  The other day she actually rolled over and let me pet her belly.  What a trusting gesture that was!!Only one of them is aggressive – Cheyenne, a female, who has bitten (lightly) two volunteers on the butt.  Hasn’t tried it with me yet!

Sparks: A Happy Springtime Update

Update: My own smile extended from ear to ear this morning as I spotted the coyote I’ve labeled as “Sparks” — all my coyotes have pronounceable labels instead of numbers to make them easier to remember — sauntering along a path with his easy, bouncing little trot, contented and happy as as a lark, with a huge grin on his own face! See photo below. Life is good for him now: more stable and settled, more predictable and secure, than it was 6 months ago and before. He paused, looked at me, sat down to scratch, and then continued comfortably on his way. 

Interestingly, another coyote family lives here in the Presidio, where he seems to have ended up his dispersal journey: they are a mated pair — territorial claimants here for over a year — who share the same pathways with this guy — I haven’t seen a shared territorial arrangement before here in San Francisco. The Presidio is the largest of the territories I’ve documented here in SF: there has been basically just one family in that park, but maybe there’s actually room for two — or at least one family and one additional single guy. I have seen no sign of a mate with Sparks, and as far as I have seen here in SF, males wait until they are 3 or 4 years old before settling down with a mate and starting a family.

Maybe there’s a truce or pact, or some kind of understanding between these coyotes. OR, might it be that Sparks has been adopted into the breeding pair’s family in a distant sort of way? He had been allowed to remain on another family’s territory for several weeks during an earlier part of his dispersal peregrinations — he was actually welcomed and interacted with warmly by the alpha female, the mother, in that family: I thought of it as an adoption, even though it lasted only several weeks. Possibly he was allowed to stay there, and here at the Presidio, on account of his leg injury, or because he is a youngster, or both!  I myself have not seen him interact with the Presidio family pair, or even seen them together, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. I’ve heard a number of reports of him having been chased (chased out?) angrily by one of the resident alphas, starting in mid-January, but then he always turns up again, so maybe that’s not what was really going on. Or maybe he’s become a very savvy and successful interloper, living on the fringes of the alphas’ territory where they repeatedly try driving him off: Chicago, according to a graduate student I’m working with, is apparently full of this category of coyotes, but not San Francisco . . . . yet. Then again, maybe these two entities simply avoid each other. Until I see them interact, I can only offer speculations about what might be going on. At any rate, the important point is that they’ve been seen in the same areas and on the same paths over the last 6 months. So this is Sparks’ situation now.

I’ll repeat Sparks’ dispersal history here (I’ve posted this before). Being able to keep up with a coyote’s journey after leaving home is very exciting, and that’s what I’ve been able to do in more and more cases. Sparks just turned two: I’ve known him since his birth in 2019. He was one of a litter of five that year: two females and three males. That’s the largest litter his parents had produced — all previous litters, and the one after that one, numbered one to three (and even none during a couple of years). He dispersed from his home a year ago at almost exactly one year of age, having been the second in his litter to do so. A sister left a couple of months before him at 9 months of age and I’ve been able to follow her as well. A brother just recently left at almost two years of age, and two of his siblings — now two years old — still remain at their birthplace and in what remains of their birth family.

When Sparks first dispersed, a year ago, he hippity-hopped to various locations in the city, remaining at each for several weeks before moving on. During the summer he managed to severely break a foreleg — so there were tumultuations during his early roving adventures. As it happens, previous to that, he had severely sprained the other front leg, and recovered over time. With this new break, he hobbled around for months, unable to put much weight, if any at all, on it. The pain must have been horrific because he ended up painfully retracing his steps back to one of the safer areas he had been through earlier on. Here, he remained in someone’s protected backyard where he spent many hours sleeping over a 3 weeks period. It took a long time to heal, but it eventually did with the help of the neighbors who made sure he was not disturbed in any way.

These concerned neighbors indeed sought outside help, but were told they should leave the animal alone. I totally agree with this policy. In my 14 years of observations, I’ve seen a substantial number of debilitating injuries in coyotes: among them, two broken legs and a broken ankle, and I’ve also known these coyotes’ individual intense social situations and how much they stood to lose were they to have been removed for rehabilitation by humans. It’s hard to go back to your previous situation once you’ve been removed and assumed dead. Nature is an excellent healer, and all of these animals healed on their own by leaving them alone.

Sparks’ human “guardian angels” allowed him to heal on his own. He then left his human protectors’ yard when he himself felt ready to go, which surprisingly occurred before he was completely healed. But he must have felt ready because he left. He continued with a limp for a long time after that, but some weight could be put on that leg by then: he was much more actively mobile after 3 weeks. And now he’s make the Presidio his home.

The bottom photo shows how that foreleg, above the wrist, is somewhat thickened: coyotes wear their histories as bumps and scars on their bodies! I should point out that probably no one else would notice this slightly deformed foreleg. Anyway, he obviously feels very at ease and at home where he has now been for over half a year, and it looks like he’ll stay. At two years of age, he’s still, from all appearances, a loner and a bachelor, and a happy one at that! What will come next? . . . to be continued!

As I beamed with joy at seeing this coyote and took a few photos (I’m not in the Presidio very often), a runner stopped to ask me if the coyote was dangerous. “Nah,” I replied.  I reminded her that all she had to do was keep her distance and walk away without running. Also important: never feed or try to interact with them by trying to become their “friend”. These are wild animals and should be respected as such, even though they are citizen coyotes. Definition of citizen: a resident of a city or town; a native, inhabitant, or denizen of any place.

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

 

Reindeer Cyclone (from Twitter)

Every once in awhile I post something unrelated to coyotes. This is super-fascinating, so I had to post it. I had not seen or heard about this before. Enjoy! :))

Pupping Is Happening Now

Well, finally our coyote pups are being born, and the reason I know this is because suddenly coyotes are not around: I’m seeing them less than before. They’ve gone “underground” into hiding, which is what they do during pupping. This is a self-protective measure during a period of time when they are most vulnerable: during birthing and into the early pupping rearing time through lactation, which ends in early June. Not only must they protect themselves, but now they will have a family dependent on them: they are needed to nurture and keep their youngsters alive. Therefore, as I see it, they aren’t out taking any unnecessary chances. When I do see them during this time frame, especially the lactating females are usually further off hunting focusedly, and usually during the darker hours when they are harder to see, or they are slithering by quickly carrying food in their mouths for their litters. This is also when I see them more in “protective” mode where they will stand guarding the turf around their den areas, or even the space around themselves, and messaging any dog that even looks like he might come close.

Restating guidelines: The important thing for everyone to know is that it’s best to always walk away from any coyote you see, especially if you have a dog. By doing so, you are showing a disinterest in them, and that’s what they want: they want to be left alone. They are less likely to react to a dog if we give them the space they need to feel comfortable. We want them to think of dogs as “ho, hum” objects, rather than constantly being ready to defend themselves. Around their dens, coyotes will actively make an effort to message dog. Please walk away and then stay away from this area.

A word about coyote visibility. It’s really interesting all the “news” we hear about coyotes suddenly becoming more visible, always with some sort of explanation given, be it “mating season”, “mate-searching season”, “dispersal season”, even “the pandemic“, and now “pupping-season defined as mid-March through mid-June”. In fact, from my observations, I would say that pupping season lasts through to Winter. From now through mid-June I see less of the coyotes, not more.

Yikes! All the talk I’ve read and heard about coyotes becoming more visible at certain times is perplexing. It would mean that coyotes are more out now than the last time you were likely to see them out more only a couple of months ago, and the month before that, and the month before that, all times when you were supposed to see them out more than before? Again, from my observations in San Francisco — and I admit that all my research is limited to this one 49 square mile area, so maybe SF is different — coyotes become less visible, if anything, during the time frame after new pups are born. My thoughts are that parents won’t make themselves too visible (i.e., vulnerable) by exposing themselves more during this critical time when pups need them the most: a mishap causing the death of an adult could mean the death of the entire family. In fact, during pupping seasons gone by, I tend to get shorter glimpses of them as they slither away much more readily than normally when they know they’ve been spotted. It’s the same thing that occurs after they are injured in any way: they are more vulnerable with their injury and they know it, so they keep more out of harm’s way, less visible for a time.

Human Interference/Interactions with Coyotes

The Moraga/Lafayette coyote (or see PDF) we’ve all heard about and which is still on many people’s minds, should be seen as a strange anomaly: a single coyote apparently inflicting five bites over an 8 month period — something of this dimension has has not been heard of before. More than likely, there was human involvement in the way of hand-feeding and friendly interactions which may be at the core of what went on. A handful of innocent coyotes were put down before the “culprit” was identified. In other words, innocent animals were condemned. But also, even the “culprit” was simply following through on a trajectory initiated by humans.

I was sent the photographs below, along with a note from the photographer, in February of 2009 but I never published them because I found them very disturbing. Now might be the time to finally get them out there. And here is a video of a human playfully taunting and encouraging interaction with a coyote — the author calls it, “Coyote Attack: Best Footage Ever,” — he obviously published this video for its effect. You just have to look at it to see the coyote isn’t attacking at all so much as being incited by the human doing the videoing — the coyote is not snarling nor in attack mode. The videoer is almost playing tug-of-war-with the coyote as he extends out his foot. When I recently heard of a coyote going up, grabbing and then pulling on an individual’s pant leg, these are the things I thought about. You have to ask yourself, why ever would a coyote do that unless he had been incited by someone to do that?

Interactions with humans are what may lead to what happened at Moraga/Lafayette. This along with an innate higher feistiness of a particular coyote. Please don’t hand-feed or interact with coyotes for their sake as well as for ours. Although it might seem as though these interactions are benign, and most of the time they are innocent, there’s a lot more going on than that initial interaction, and in the end, it’s not good for anyone involved: coyote or human.

click on the photos to enlarge them and scroll through them

Coyotes in Whistler, BC
I happened onto your site. I have had a few interactions with the critters and have a series of photos of one of them. Here is a description of the episode.
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Coyotes at pit. My hand was attached to the fingers in the pic. This process took about 4 meetings. Only one was curious enough to get close, the other would only take a biscuit if I tossed it 30 feet from me. The curious one would come up (I had to be crouched, otherwise it would not come close) get close, sniff me and walk right around me.
_____________________________

Hi ‘Coyotes in Whistler, BC’ —

Thanks for sharing your photos with me.

You know, I’m an advocate of coyotes and want people to know how to get along with them. One of the issues which comes up is feeding coyotes — especially hand-feeding them. This may cause them to eventually approach other people who are actually afraid of them. It could cause demand behavior.” Those people end up reporting “aggressive” and “dangerous” coyotes to the authorities, who then go out with guns to shoot them. So in fact, this kind of activity is discouraged by those of us who really like the animals.

I would love to post your photos and story on the blog, but it would be with the above advice, and that it is at the expense of the coyote that a person might engage in feeding them.

Please let me know if you would allow this. Thanks!! Janet

________________________
Hi Janet —

I appreciate your advice and admonition.If you want to publish them as a bad example and it helps you get your point across, go ahead, it is a good cause.

Proclaiming

The previous day an unleashed dog had seen the coyote hunting in a field about 300 feet away. The dog took the opportunity to leave the beaten path where his owner was walking with him, and dashed after the coyote into the field, into what has been a safe-haven area for the coyote family. Most dogs are restrained to keep them from going after the coyotes here. Coyotes do not like being intruded upon or chased: they simply want to be left alone. The coyote fled, but stopped short. This intrusion was cause for the coyote to react. She turned around and paid that dog back in kind, pursuing him right at his heels. She may have tried to nip the dog’s heels, though the dog remained uninjured. The message from the coyote to the dog was clear: “leave me and my area alone.”

The very next day in the same area, another large dog, this time one that was leashed, caught sight of the same coyote  an 8-year-old mother, and her 2-year-old son. The dog tugged hard on its leash and lunged as best as he could towards the two coyotes. The owner struggled to contain the unwieldy dog, but anyone watching could see that the more the owner remained in that spot, the more frenzied the dog became.  The dog’s struggle to go after the coyotes went on for way too long when it could have been stopped immediately by the owner just by heading in the opposite direction and thus diverting the dog’s attention and containing his energy. The 2 coyotes reacted to the frenzied dog by going into a long, 13 minute BARKING and screeching session. They were proclaiming their anger, and proclaiming that this area was theirs, warning the dog away. The owner finally heeded the advice given to her: she turned around and left. I’ve seen often that dogs, even simply messaging their intent to go after coyotes in their territories create reactive coyotes — on-edge and readier to respond defensively — rather than coyotes who remain calm because they are left alone.

Here is a video-clip of the barking from that day. I videoed the whole 13 minutes, but have cut that down to about four minutes. Barking (as opposed to howling and yipping) is an angry response — a warning. For comparison, watch and listen to the smaller video below: that one involves two coyotes calling out to each other in upbeat yips and howls.

Airplaned Ears

Like dogs, coyotes may lower their ears, plastering them tightly against their heads when they are nervous or fearful, even as they approach another coyote seemingly happily to interact. It’s a very submissive approach used around parents, or even towards a more dominant or bullying sibling. This photo is of a youngster listening to his mother’s distressed howling after seeing a dog chase her: the youngster is anxious and frightened.

On a different plane are lowered ears which are not actually pinned back against the head. I call these, “airplaned ears”. These lowered ears seem to mean that they aren’t going to rock the boat or challenge the established hierarchy in any way. One of the ways coyotes communicate is with their ears. Lowered ears are an indicator and a communication of their mental state: harmless/unthreatening/accepting/no-contest. You might see a relaxed and contented coyote off in a field holding his/her ears this way.

Around humans, coyotes have customarily been wary, alert, but also at times curious and investigative. Around humans, their ears are normally alert and up in order to acutely capture sounds and attitudes that would warn them of danger. In areas where humans actually exploit coyotes, these traits are strong — it’s a clear-cut life and death matter for them to stay aware and alert, even at the furthest distances from humans. However, over more recent years here in San Francisco, and in many urban environments, this is different. Here, although coyotes remain wary of humans, humans are not seen so much as enemy killers, but simply as creatures to stay away from, out of caution, for the sake of coexistence.

Recently here in San Francisco, I’ve been seeing a number of coyotes assume an airplaned ear stance around humans. People and coyotes cross paths regularly in urban areas, and almost all of these encounters are without incident: the biggest negative reactions tend to be frightened humans. And over the last several years, a lot more humans are out in the parks here in San Francisco than there were 15 years ago during which time the park department has cleared out a huge quantity of underbrush so that coyotes are more visible, and there are some more coyotes, all of which translate into more sightings and encounters with humans than ever, with more non-negative encounters and more positive interactions between people and coyotes — including, unfortunately, approaching, feeding and befriending them by humans. As a result, some of these animals are responding in a more docile manner to humans: instead of fleeing to out-of-sight areas, they are simply moving off a little distance — maybe just a few feet — which is the opportunistic distance at which they know they will be safe.

Once they learn that our species can actually be of benefit to them, being the opportunists that they are, some have taken advantage of the situation by hanging around human-frequented areas and assumed the non-threatening posture of lowered ears. I’ve seen several of these guys even casually approach people and look directly at that person with a look of expectation for any signs that the person might offer food: these coyotes are the most blatant examples of airplaned ears: I’ve watched the whole development take place in several instances.  I think of these animals, sadly, as having had their wariness robbed from them. Not all coyotes, of course, respond this way to humans, but some do. The bottom row of photos in the gallery below are of adult coyotes who have been regularly hand-fed by humans and assume that “fallen ears” posture around people.

The rest of these photos in this posting, including the two larger ones, are of a youngster, taken before he was even a year old, and before he had time to develop the airplaned ears from human interactions. He seems to have learned from his parents to behave this way around humans when they are watching him close-by or when they approach. Coyotes in fact have “culture”: parental knowledge is passed on to the youngsters of that family. I wonder if their natural strong self-protective instincts (high strung readiness, defensive biting) are also waning/diminishing as people close in on them, enticing them into tameness — or at least the appearance of tameness — with their airplaned ears. I wonder: will airplaned ears over the course of the next few generations become floppy?

I’ve listed a couple of books about the taming of foxes below, where their genes were actually spontaneously self-altered as they became more and more tamed: the ears fell and eventually became floppy: they became “cuter” to humans. I have no idea if this same process might apply to coyotes, but the fox study is fascinating. It’s food for thought.

See: Urban Foxes may be self-domesticating in our midst, by Virginia Morell, Science June 2, 2020; and “How to Tame a Fox” by L.A. Dugatkin and L.Trut, UC Press, 2017.

Addendum 3/19: The coyote caretaker at St. Augustine Wild Reserve (animals that are unable to be released) noted that she has never seen these airplaned ears in her captive animals, who are fed at close range by humans. The behaviorist I’m in touch with says, “I like thinking about how and why some animals develop the behavior. Scientifically we know that any behavior that is reinforced will increase. Perhaps the wild ones developed the behavior purposefully because more people fed them when their ears were in that position. The other thought is that it is a superstitious behavior. Maybe they approached people with their ears in that position and think it is part of the criteria for being fed. I think as far as the sanctuary coyotes go, they get food daily regardless of their behavior and ear position so they may be less likely to develop the behavior.” Below is a short video clip by Kathy Lally showing a coyote being enriched through lunch in a box. Of interest is that the ears are not airplaned.

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

Father/Son Greetings

You might think that when a coyote father comes upon his one year old son out in the field alone, he might exude joy and recognition. But the answer is a firm, nope! There is protocol which must be followed. Parents must be in charge, and youngsters must at all times accept their lower status in a family pack which resides on a territory which is exclusively theirs.

This series of photos shows a typical greeting between an almost one-year-old son and his father.

Upon first seeing each other, Dad stares hard and coldly at his son, almost challengingly: he obviously is communicating to his son what is required of him. Coyotes communicate mostly silently and visually, through eye contact, facial expressions, and body language. They can communicate and read subtleties way beyond what we humans are able to. Here, Son reads the message instantaneously and hits the ground submissively the minute he sees Dad approaching and Dad’s “look”. Dad then approaches son slowly and carefully, and with a continuing glaringly hard look. The greeting is serious business in the coyote world, where rank matters above all else. Affection and fun can only come after the stage is set or confirmed for who is boss. Notice Dad’s hackles are up most of the time during this interaction.

When Dad stops approaching, son gets up part way and crawls towards Dad, submissively, keeping as low as possible. When he reaches Dad, he circles down, with head bowed down, and Dad comes over to sniff him and stand over him. They hold their positions for a moment (six photos above).

When Dad’s focus is diverted and broken by some distraction in the distance, son takes the opportunity to slither out from under Dad, but wait a minute! Dad doesn’t appear to be ready yet to let go of his psychological hold. Keeping himself low, Son  extends his snout for approval but decides it’s best to hit the ground again. This seems to satisfy Dad, because then son hops back up, and the two go trotting off together. Son will end up enticing Dad to play, which I’ll post coming up.

Responding

Most coyote activity usually begins after dark, but sometimes some family members are ready to begin their evening activities well before then. Yesterday, by late afternoon I found this young, almost-two-year-old female lying down in a field in the shadow of some bushes. She was very well concealed, but visible if you actually knew what you were looking for. She kept her eye on the passers-by in the distance, keeping her focus mostly on unleashed active dogs running energetically all over the place, but none came in her direction. Soon, grooming herself became her focus of activity –the bugs were bugging her!

She began getting up to better reach some of the irritating rascals on her body, then she lay back down. After several of these getting-up and then lying-down again cycles, she sat up, stretched, and slowly began to wander off.

She probably had been waiting there for the rest of her family. It’s a place they have met up frequently before heading out together in the evening, but today she was probably tired of waiting and decided to jump-start her activities. Even coyotes can get bored!

leaping after a sound she heard, but coming up empty handed

She walked calmly along, following the line of the bushes, and stopped sporadically at whatever movements caught her eye. A couple of times she bounced fast and high over tall grasses, a little like a jackrabbit, towards something that caught her interest, but the prospective meal never panned out. So she continued on.

She stops to listen

Everything seemed quiet when she suddenly stopped, turned around, and looked into the distance. She listened intently, and then she began calling out. In between her calling out, during the silences, far, far into the distance, I could barely hear two other coyotes calling out (you will also hear a couple of domestic dogs barking). Our young female was responding. This video covers her responding. Her sporadic vocalizations went on for a couple of minutes (this video is the entirety of it) even after the others had ceased their end of the communication. When she was through, she trotted off in their direction. They would meet and greet, as I’ve seen them so often do, and then head out together on their evening trekking expedition, sticking together for a while as a family, splitting apart at time, and then coming together throughout the evening and until dawn.

Each coyote’s voice and pattern of sounds is identifiable and distinguishable by the other coyotes — not dissimilar to the way you recognize voices over the telephone. I myself am able to identify some of the coyotes by their vocalizations. 

Friction Between Almost Two-Year-Old Siblings

They’re looking around as a siren blasts, waiting anxiously for family members to respond to it. There is no response from anyone this time, which might have left them a little worked up.

This posting is about twenty-month-old siblings (observed two months ago): a brother and a sister. There is another brother who appears to be best friends with this sister — unlike the brother in this posting, he’s gentle and doesn’t try to dominate: see tokens of respect and generosity are proffered and acknowledged in the coyote world. Coyotes get along with some of their siblings more than others, and it appears to be based on how they are treated. Friction can either grow and lead to a coyote’s dispersal — I’ve witnessed this a number of times — or it can mellow out again.

He approaches her provokingly and dominatingly. She snarls defensively.

Sister’s interactions today were with the brother who has had a tendency/predisposition to dominate. Today he tried putting her down — standing over her — dominating.. But she didn’t like it and wouldn’t have it. Coyotes actually choose who they want to submit to — they always have the choice of leaving. So, for instance, just the previous day, Mom stood over this daughter dominatingly, as you would expect — that’s her job — and Daughter patiently and willingly accepted and tolerated it: you don’t mess with Mom unless you want to lose your good standing in the family, and that good standing counts for a lot, such as ability to remain on the territory. And besides, Daughter appears to really like Mom and wants to be agreeable towards her: peaceful families require Mom and Dad to be strong, no-nonsense leaders whose authority is not questioned. They can only know they have this control if the youngsters submit to them willingly.

She ends up lunging at him, snapping at his snout (maybe even trying to grab it) and then moving off

Brothers are different, and especially this brother. He, too, kowtows easily to his parents. But not towards either of his siblings — and they don’t expect this of him. However, he does (has) of them. He constantly puts down the other brother, and the other brother (the sister’s favorite) tolerates it probably because he doesn’t want to rock the boat: if he stood up to the brother and lost, one can imagine that he might be forced to leave both the territory and his sister, whom he obviously cares for very much as revealed in his behavior towards her.

She lies down closeby and snarls at him as he approaches again. Then she walks off and he watches her go.

Dispersal is not something a youngster takes on lightly. It is a dangerous time due to the unfamiliar territory they would have to navigate, traffic, and hostile coyote territorial owners who would drive them away, and due to simply being young and inexperienced. Dispersal means taking on the unknown. So there’s a lot at stake in these squabbles. It’s interesting to watch which way it will go: the intolerable grudges lead to dispersals, and others dissipate if the bullying stops.

After the incidents of the day — him trying to put her down, and her resisting and “telling him off” with a lunge towards his face and a toothy and vocal snarl — I didn’t see them together for a couple of weeks. When I finally did see them together, from all appearances, it looked as though this pattern of behavior had continued, because Sister was keeping her distance and avoiding any contact with that brother (see photo below).

Two weeks later they still weren’t getting close to each other, but kept an eye on each other from a distance (see photo above). Sounds a little like human behavior, doesn’t it?? AND, two weeks after this photo, they are friends again, as if nothing had ever gone wrong!!

As of this posting, at 22 months of age, these two yearlings still remain a part of the family they grew up in: they seem to have overcome their friction and are perfectly mellow towards each other at this stage. Maybe Sis taught him a thing or two about coexistence among themselves!!

I should note that the sequence of behaviors I describe in the photos of this posting began after both coyotes listened and waited for other family members to respond to very loud sirens, but no one did. The tensions resulting from this anticipation were palpable, and may have been what set off the male coyote’s actions towards his sister.

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

Playtime and Fun For a Coyote Mated Pair

At the crack of dawn (with no light, I’m surprised these photos are even readable), this mated coyote pair, which has been together for a year now,  broke out into into a giggle-wiggle play session: they chased each other, lept over and onto each other, sparred playfully, and smiled a lot. They knew how to enjoy themselves thoroughly in and in-between-the-raindrops that fell that day. This is an almost 4-year old male and an almost 3 year old female who really like each other. They may be incorporating this intense play into their current courting behavior, but truth-be-told, they’ve been playing like this for the entire year-and-a-half they’ve been together! Coyotes know how to have fun! This video along with these photos were taken a month ago, at the beginning of January.

Winter Pawprints at Dawn


When I think of coyote footprints in the winter, I think of those left in crisp white snow. But we don’t have snow here in San Francisco (though we did 20 years ago: we all went out to take photos of it to use in our Season’s Greetings cards!). Their footprints can also be seen in mud. Wet footprints on pavement work just as well, as you can see here. These are one coyote’s footprints, though there were two coyotes trotting alongside each other at a hard-to-keep-up-with pace — they had direction and purpose to their gait, without seeming to actually hurry. I tried catching up but didn’t. They began their trot after howling first in response to each other — probably locating one another — and then continuing their howling in response to sirens (listen below). That’s how I knew where they were. They slithered by quickly, trying not to draw attention and were pretty successful — I just happened to be keeping my eye open for them after I heard them. I tried to record the quick glimpse I got of them (did a tree fall in the forest if none saw it?) — I caught only a blur of them scurrying over the meadow. They were already far and away by the time I reached the pavement where I last saw them.

I looked down and saw that, where they had been, had been imprinted as footprints on the pavement I now stood on — the female had remained walking on the grass, so these were the male’s. So I took a couple of photos of this dissipating record left behind by them and marveled at how evenly and symmetrically the front and back paws hit the ground — the back prints almost falling into the front prints, with just enough offset to create two clear prints. The prints were under 2 inches long. On soft ground, the two front claws would have imprinted, but not here on this hard pavement. On soft ground the back foot pad only creates a partial print — that was also hard to distinguish here. Each pair of prints must have been about a foot apart, though I didn’t measure, but should have. The footprints would soon also dissipate and disappear, but they remained for now, long enough for me to record them with my camera, even though the coyotes themselves were long gone — like a soft whisper, and unlike the cacophony that began this observation (apologies for the sound of my footsteps in the recording):

Mated pair communicate at dawn. This is only TWO coyotes!

It’s Mating Season, and things don’t always work

Right now it’s mating season for coyotes.  This is a once-a-year event, and actually distinguishes coyotes from dogs who have a twice-a-year reproductive cycle. Here is a short summary of the process.

An unattached female usually has several suitors, and it’s the female who then chooses among them: see Coyote Courtship by Walkaboutlou — in this story, the fella who brings her a gift of a rabbit is the one who wins her!! Then, usually, the pair remain together for life, but not always! See “Till Death Do Us Part?“.

In most instances, when the female is in heat, the male will closely and carefully guard her and stay with her. The earliest I’ve seen females reproduce is 2 years of age. The earliest I’ve seen males reproduce is 3 years of age. I’ve heard of them reproducing at a younger age, but I have never seen it myself.

Interestingly, coyote males only produce sperm at this one time of year. Producing that sperm is a two-month long process called spermatogenesis. They, too, become fertile at the same time the females do, and have only a very short window of opportunity in which to ‘perform’. It doesn’t appear that this “system” has limited the number of coyotes around!

Mating in coyotes involves a “tie”, which is how you know that it didn’t happen in the above video — the process was not completed in this video. The tie is where both coyotes become “locked” together for as long as 20 minutes — back end to back end. You can imagine that they are extremely vulnerable during these 20 minutes. In the video above, the male mounts the female, but obviously something isn’t right. He turns around to examine the problem or fix it, then they move out of the range of the camera.

As the time of birth approaches, the female will dig a den or find an appropriate alternative (expand another critter’s hole, find harborage under a rock or fallen tree trunk, etc.). During birth, she’ll want to be left alone, so the male waits or guards the area outside where birthing is taking place — I’ve seen males guard like this for about a week. See The Birthing Rock. During this time, the male often brings food to the female. Then, I’ve seen coyote mothers first emerge from their dens anywhere from one day to almost a week after they give birth.

Pups are born after a 63 day gestation period. I’ve seen as few as one and as many as seven pups born, with an average of 3 or 4. Of that larger litter, only four survived to disperse or move on. Survival rate can be as low as 20% in the wild, but it appears to be higher in urban areas. Pups are raised by both parents.  Lactation occurs until about June. As the pups are being weaned they are introduced to regurgitated food from their parents which eventually will be replaced with more and more solid food in the form of dead rodents and then live ones until the pups get the knack of hunting for themselves. However, I have seen a father coyote still regurgitating for his fully yearling pups!!

Pups are kept well hidden and as “secret” as possible until they attain some ability to take care of themselves.  Then they hunt together in twos or threes and eventually the youngsters will head off on hunting and explorational forays of their own. They disperse sometime between one and two years of age, usually. In the meantime, for the 1-2 years before dispersal, they live very full and rich family lives, with interactions between them, along with feelings that rival our own.

Evasive Action, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet,

I was saving this for a while as it’s in some ways hard to hear but it also shows how incredibly intelligent and resourceful coyote are.

Locally, coyote aren’t truly abundant. They are common, but usually not seen by day. Often hunted, our regional coyote lay low in most areas.

A few years ago a local pack of staghounds/greyhound types were started to periodically sweep through various areas and hunt coyote. These weren’t for “problem” coyotes in conflict with livestock or community. It was in essence, any coyote anywhere at anytime.

At 1st, the pack succeeded in catching a few from what I heard. But within months, a pattern developed that seems to show how fast coyote react to stress.

1st of all, the coyote now know instantly what a staghound type of dog looks like and what it’s for. They scatter and hide in the landscape.

Also, if they are flushed, they consistently run for dangerous areas. Cliffs, rivers, etc. They know exactly how to run full bore through deadly terrain. Most dogs have to stop.

Another evasive action-in one area, they beeline for areas where no hunting is allowed. And in same area go to sheep, and right to the LGD dogs. 2 staghounds were seriously mauled literally running straight toward the enormous guards.

And the coyote was allegedly seen watching from hillside before escaping.

Lastly, same tactic…but other coyote make a run for a local bison herd. As the coyote runs among them, they stare, and then literally the hounds have had to run for their life. Bison don’t enjoy pack of canines running among them. And incredibly, they can keep pace with greyhound. No hunting there!

Are cliffs, rivers, LGD or Bison all coincidence? I leave that for people to decide. The hunters have decided to take their dogs elsewhere. Here, coyotes it seems, utilize the local conditions in evasive actions.

Again and again and again I have seen coyote always respond instantly to a new danger or situation.

The local coyote won this situation. And the hounds literally created very fit and hardened coyote quickly.

At any rate, you can interpret that as you wish.

I do think running to Bison or LGD was intentionally done. Both are pretty grumpy about space and noise.

Lou🐾


Hi Lou!  Another great story! Thank you!! Yes, these guys are incredibly, what’s the word, innovative, at staying alive — brilliant survivors — and your story shows this superbly. Their intelligence is just amazing, but even more amazing is how so few humans know or accept this.

Yes…I agree. One of the greatest human weaknesses is most don’t “see” or accept that other beings are just as alive and feeling as they are. Coyote..especially, are vigorously, vibrantly, vehemently, alive. And they will instantly and constantly adapt to remain so.
Personally, I look at them as supreme examples of living, in so many ways.
Lou🐾

Rough terrain

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