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:

Original Coyote Coexistence Presentation, Condensed version: How to Shoo Off a Coyote

Charla en Español     好鄰居–郊狼”    English: How to Shoo Off a Coyote

*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.


citizencoyote-by-janetkesslerPress on image above for another crash course on coyotes


*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.


Death Forensics, with Patti Palmer & Walkaboutlou

I was so interested in your answer here (“Do Coyotes Kill Each Other“). A month or so ago, I found what appeared to be a newly killed/largely eaten coyote just off trail in a regional park. My first thought was it was a mountain lion attack. In that event, I reported it to park rangers. They checked it out, but didn’t close the trail or post warning signs, so I figured maybe they saw something I didn’t. A fellow iNaturalist user suggested it may have been a territorial dispute between two male coyotes. I was skeptical, but there did not appear to be a good explanation. Your post offers clarity, but now I’m back to the larger predator theory…

(I’m a huge coyote fan and your blog is wonderful.)

Hi Patti — All we can go by is what we’ve seen. What I wrote was what I’ve seen; and Lou — based on his own observations for many year — confirmed this. If you happen to see something different, by all means, it needs to be added to our information. So far, your evidence isn’t conclusive. Dogs also may have maul and killed the coyote, and then another predator could have scavenged the body. OR, even a car could have killed the coyote and it could have been dragged to where you found it. In that case, I would think the predator might have been a mountain lion. If you find out anything new, please keep me/us posted here. Thank you for your input! Janet

Hi, Janet, thank you so much for the response. The only other piece of information that was interesting was this death coincided with the injury of a regular coyote I’d been “following” for the past several months. The day I found the cadaver, the coyote I’d been following had blood on his back leg and what appeared to be a small spot of blood on his head. The next day, he was limping. After that, he disappeared (approximately two months ago). The site of the cadaver showed quite a bit of trampled vegetation and tufts of fur. (I have photos, but I won’t forward them unless you’re interested.) Ultimately, you’re right–I don’t have anything conclusive, and, to my great frustration, this will likely remain one of nature’s mysteries.

Hi Patti — Very interesting! It’s like a puzzle, isn’t it? Yes, I’d be very interested in the photos. Would you please send them to Raccoons can also kill coyotes, especially if the coyote is compromised in some way. Thank you! Janet

Good morning, Janet,

Here are the photos. For background, I took them in conjunction with an app I’ve been using the past few months, iNaturalist. During my hikes, I take photos of anything interesting and add them to my iNaturalist page. I’ve found coyotes are among my favorite subjects—all of the circumstances of their lives and deaths, hence the photos. I’m going to share all of the details of what I saw/know about the incident at hand, so you have the full picture, and you can choose as much or as little of the information as is helpful.

I found the cadaver in a Regional Park, Orange/Orange County, California on 14 February 2023 around 11am. It was just off a Nature Trail, a 700-ish-foot long “interpretive” trail that loops around. The relatively small area is enclosed by a tall chain-link fence. The trail is narrow and the vegetation is a little thicker than other trails in the park. Theoretically, dogs aren’t allowed. There are two openings to the fenced area—from the back, there is a chain-link door that can be locked. The main entry is from a controlled access road (no cars allowed). I’ve never regarded it as a widely-used trail, but people do stumble across it.

The cadaver was just off the trail. In addition to the body, the vegetation was trampled and there were pieces of what appeared to be fur all around. The exposed meat was pink and there was no smell of death. Photo 1 is the scene as I first encountered it from one side of the trail. Photo 2 is from the other side of the trail. You can’t see it well, but there was a trail of trampled grass leading to the scene (the clearing where the cadaver was shows just at the top/middle of the second photo). [NOTE: These first two photo I’ve not included in the post since they really don’t show much].

Here was the cadaver itself. It had rained lightly that morning and the area was damp, but it was also fairly protected overhead by tree canopies, so not much sun. It appeared to me the body had saliva on parts of the fur, but it may have come from the rain. I got as many photos as I could, but I was really uncomfortable on the trail. It’s relatively isolated and the kill looked fresh. I was convinced the predator was still in the vicinity. 

When I finished my hike, I reported the find to the park rangers because my first impression was it was a mountain lion attack. They said they were interested and intended to check it out. The next day, I went back and found they had not closed the trail or posted warning signs, so I thought I may have been jumping to conclusions about a potential mountain lion in the area. After I posted the photos to iNaturalist, a fellow coyote enthusiast suggested the possibility of a fight between two coyotes. This death was in the general territory of the solo male I’d been following for a while (see below), and I thought the trampled ground and fur could just as easily have indicated a territorial fight. One further piece of information: I saw a bobcat very nearby the next day. I’m not sure he contributed to the death (or maybe he did), but he may have helped consume the body. 

As I mentioned, I found the cadaver around 11am. This second circumstance coincided with that find.

Earlier that day, around 8am, I encountered one of two coyotes I’d been “following” for a few months. This one had been traveling solo since his partner disappeared a few weeks earlier. He was moving a little slowly. Eventually, he wandered through a brushy area off trail and then laid down (photo 3). It began raining hard enough that I took cover beneath a nearby tree. He continued laying down throughout the rain. I never saw him get back up or leave the area. Later, when I got home, I looked at my photos and saw he appeared to have blood on his back, left leg (photos 1 and 2), and a possible smear across his forehead (photo 1). 

I saw him one more time, 15 February 2023. He was favoring the same back, left leg. I haven’t seen him since. (For context, up to that time, I had been seeing him solo and/or traveling with his mate, at least once a week for several months.) 

I’ve been so curious about what might have happened that I began two e-mails to you, but discarded them both. When I saw your piece about whether coyotes might kill each other, I finally took the opportunity to reach out. 

I hope I’ve given you enough information. In the event that you need more detail/clarifications, let me know. Otherwise, I wish you continued luck with your important work. Thank you for being there for these wonderful creatures. 


Hi Patti —

Wow! Thank you so much for sending. You are as detailed in your documentation as I am — don’t know many people like us! Most people report a sighting, and that’s it. It’s very interesting. And, of course, the bobcat could easily have been involved — though felines apparently don’t scavenge. If the coyote were already compromised, I’m wondering if a bobcat could have won a fight. However, I tend to think it was a dog: that would help explain why the other coyote also had injuries. :( May I forward this on to a friend who knows coyotes well and may have some insights? 


Hi, Janet, 

You’re welcome to forward any/all info.

I’m glad you, too, are detail-oriented. I’m one of those people who believes having too much information never hurts, but having too little can!


Hi Lou —
Hope you and your canine family are enjoying the rain! Wow, what a change from the fires caused by the drought. We’re really swinging back and forth with the weather!

Someone wrote me, trying to figure out how a coyote might have been killed — if indeed he was killed. She found my post on “Do coyotes kill each other” and thought I would be interested in this. Someone had suggested to her that there might have been a territorial fight between two coyotes, which is why she contacted me. Initially, she thought it might have been killed by a mountain lion, so she reported it to the rangers. But since the rangers didn’t close the trail or put up signs, she decided that the rangers didn’t think it was a mountain lion. Of course, at this point we’ll probably never KNOW, but I think we can paint possible scenarios. I suggested that it could have been a dog who killed the coyote. In your last comment to me it seemed as though this was a possibility. I didn’t think another coyote would have engaged in a territorial fight to the death. As for a bobcat, my thought is that if the coyote were at all compromised in any way, a bobcat could (maybe?) take down a coyote, but I’ve read that felines don’t scavenge. 

Might you have any thoughts about it — about this situation she describes here?

At least I thought you might be interested. She said she could provide clearer photos if that might help analyze the situation.


Hi Janet,

Interesting stuff. It’s hard to really develop a clear picture via pics because the land often will tell you alot as well.

I would say either it’s a cougar kill OR someone shot it or it died naturally and turkey vultures scavenged it.

Turkey Vultures definetly trample grass and leave tuft of fur all over. Ironically so do cougar. If there were chewed bones bingo. Cougar. If bones were intact vultures. It looks very well picked. Very hungry cat or..vultures.

Bobcat I would rule out except in case of pups. Dogs are always suspect. I know in some areas here, coyote, ranch dogs and wolves all will feed on each other. But that’s here.

I’ve never heard of or experienced coyote killing each other. I’ve seen them in heated battle and seen some with terrible scars. But with each other they seem to have that switch and scuttling off is always an option. Unlike their enemies of dogs and wolves.

I just was examining an eaten skunk. Somebody was really hungry.

Take care stay safe,


Hi Patti —

Well, here you go (above): more input.  If you examine your larger-file photos really closely, might you be able to tell if the bones have been chewed? Do you have vultures in your area? We don’t regularly have them here in San Francisco, neither do we have cougars, but they do come by on occasion. At any rate, it does not sound like it was a coyote/coyote thing.  Janet

Janet, That was wonderful insight, simply put and helpful: bones intact-turkey vulture; bones chewed: mountain lion. 

If your source wants a closer examination of the area for his own edification, I’m just going to forward this one shot and hope it’s not too big. It’s easier to see what’s going on. There are two bones that appear chewed: one is next to his tail; the other is the foreleg that is draping over his skull (or what is left of it). The latter looks a little shattered. So much is gone–I just don’t see a lot of bone structure left behind at all. This appears to indicate mountain lion.

But yes, we definitely have turkey vultures and I have seen them pick a body clean. I didn’t see any in the area around this time, or the next couple of days, but that’s not to say they didn’t show up at a time I wasn’t there. 

Regardless, it looks like consensus is being reached on the original question, which is whether another coyote was responsible. The lingering question is what happened to the other park coyote, but it could have been a completely unrelated injury that ultimately turned deadly. I was so devastated to lose him. I hope new ones show up soon. Patti  

Hi Patti — Yes! It looks like that: a mountain lion, which, interestingly, is what you originally thought — at least involved in eating some of the remains (we can’t know how he died)!  As for the other coyote, you know, if this one was its mate, that one may have moved on in order to avoid the same fate. Coyotes have more strength when they are in pairs, less so when alone. That one will now have to look for another mate. And that coyote may have been involved in the brawl and been injured, and gotten away. Just speculating, but this sounds reasonable, don’t you think? Thank you for this photo and your further assessment. 

Would it be okay with you if I posted the whole thread — I’m just thinking about it? I would take out the exact location, and use your name only if you wanted me to. Let me know. It was really interesting!


Janet — Of course you can use whatever material you’d like of our interaction (masking the location at your discretion; using my name is fine). It’s the least I can do for all of the help you’ve given me! Again, many thanks for your attention to this. The overall incident upset me, although, ultimately, it was a good lesson in the “nature of nature.” But dealing with you has been such a pleasure! Patti

Hmmm. . . Strictly Monogamous?

Well, these three coyotes were not just “frolicking and playing” as some people thought! By the way, coyotes are known to mate for life, mates are usually extremely loyal to one another, and both parents raise the young: it usually is a real “family unit” in the sense that our families are. But, as in our families, variations and exceptions take many forms.

Mom was there with her two-year-old Daughter, along with a new-to-the-area four-year-old Male. Dad (Mom’s long-time mate) had disappeared two months ago, so there was no male scent-marking in the area which might have warned off this male. Mom appeared not to like new Male and kept snarling at him. Daughter I think was conflicted: she joined her Mom in some of the snarling, at the same time, from all appearances, she appeared to love this new focused attention from the visitor: she had his undivided attention and she probably never felt so special before! She let him lick her under the tail and allowed, and even encouraged, him to mount her.

The visiting Male already had a mate on the adjacent territory where he had pups last year. That mate happened to be his mother. Inbreeding is not uncommon for coyotes, and I’ve seen a lot of it here in San Francisco. In spite of Male’s stable family situation and claim to a prime territory in the city, here he was romancing Daughter in the next territory over. It occurred to me that maybe his mother’s/mate’s hormones and reproductive odors might be waning with age (she’s ten) and therefore possibly less attractive to him? I don’t know this, it’s just something that occurred to me without knowing the science.

And the story is actually more convoluted than that: Unbeknownst to either Mom or new Male (at least I think it’s unknown to them): Male and Mom are actually full siblings born in what is now the Male’s territory. They were born in two different litters, four years apart. Daughter then would be Male’s niece. [Captions appear below each set of photos]

Oh, so you’re interested in my daughter?” [Mom and Daughter face visiting Male]

Mom seems to be saying: “Well, you don’t pass mustard: I don’t like you. Get OUT!” [But we all know that parents have little say in these matters]. Mom is snarling at and chasing Male.

Above, Mom is interacting with and communicating with Daughter. Mom seems to be warning Daughter that he’s just a scoundrel — I got the impression that Mom wanted Daughter to join her in chasing the fellow out. But Daughter didn’t seem to be on board.

Daughter becomes giddy with excitement — this type of attention was all new to her. It happens to us all, doesn’t it? Something new and probably inexplicable was happening to her and it was energizing her with excitement. It looked like she was having her first coming-of-age experience. She’s two years old and just about ready for this.

Well, this is what happened, in spite of Mom. However, there was no “tie”, so mating didn’t actually take place — but they did go through the motions: He mounted her half a dozen times. At this point, four weeks later, it appears that they ran off together — they “eloped”. I haven’t seen either of them for a month now, either here or on his territory. Hopefully there will be another installment of this soap opera! I want to add, that Male’s abandoned mate called to him repeatedly, with no response. She now doesn’t not have a mate around to help her defend her territory.

The New Watch Dogs! by Topsy Farms

Reposted with permission from TopsyFarms. Press on the image above to continue reading the story in the comments.

Body “Twirls”

Well, this isn’t quite a hip slam or body blow, but it’s a variation on the theme. Here, it would more appropriately be called a “body twirl”: the move is the same move as a body slam or body blow, but without making contact. The movement involves a coyote planting her front paws on the ground as a kind of pivot and then heaving or throwing her body around that pivot, energetically. In most cases, contact would have been made, but this case there was just a change in the direction she’s facing.

All behavior has to be read in context to understand its meaning or purpose. If this movement had been accompanied with body contact, and depending on the intensity of that contact and what was going on before and after the twirl, it could have a totally different meaning.

What you see in these photos is a young female using the move in front of a newly arrived male — an apparent suitor. So here her movements are playful and flirty: she’s trying to impress him with how cute she is. She doesn’t touch him. She allows her back side to come right up to him. It’s not only her “safe side” — no teeth are present — but in this case, it’s a very enticing move since it’s mating season. During my observation, she was very excited to see him. Then, after she calmed down, she back up to him several times, pushing her tail over to the side, whereupon he sniffed and licked her, and then mounted her, but for just a moment. There was no actual mating. Actual mating always includes a “tie” which keeps them bound together for several moments: this didn’t happen.

Interestingly, this particular visiting male already has a mate and family. Whoa! Was he drawn to this adjacent territory by the female’s hormone odors, revealing that she “she was ready”? If a male had been present on her territory he would have been leaving his scent markings on that territory, and the male visitor would not have entered the area, but there was no resident male. Her mother and father used to visit regularly until the father disappeared, so “he”Dad” was no longer around to “mark” and therefore “claim” the area. By the way, the visitor male seems to have returned to his own family and territory. The lesson to be learned: Yikes, coyotes play around!!

By the way, the body-slam or hip-blow, where body impact does occur, are part and parcel of highly physical and rough play style.

Again, depending on the purpose which can usually be read in context, these physical blows can be used to taunt and tease, as in this video below:

Yearling Taunts Older Sister As He Practices Body Blows.

Do Coyotes Kill Each Other?

Hi Janet, I have been looking at your website and very interesting blog—love the YouTube videos of coyote vocalizations.

I live on Whidbey Island and am fortunate to have coyotes around me on my 5-acre property–even last summer having a litter of 4 pups born on my property who used to frolic in my heath and heather near the house.

Yesterday, I found two large incisors that might possibly be from a coyote.  Last week, there were at least a couple yipping it up and barking just outside my home in the landscaped area around the house.  I also found a tuft of coarse grayish hair that looks to be the color of one of the pups that lives in or near my property.  My question:  do coyotes attack and kill each other?  I am hoping that nothing has happened to either the mom or one of her pups that regularly hunt on my property.

A little about me:  I have a Master’s in Psychology, with an emphasis on animal behavior.  Hence, my interest in coyote behavior.

I love having the animals around me and as I work in my landscape, they sometimes will sit and watch me or as with the pup, lie down with their legs outstretched and watch me for a brief time.  I think they are as fascinated with me as I am with them!

Thanks for championing their protection.  They have a vital place in the environment and they help keep the rabbit population in my area slightly reduced.


Battle wounds from territorial conflicts

Hi Cindy!

Thanks for contacting me. So glad you are enjoying, and hopefully learning from, the blog and videos! And so glad you are a supporter of the wildlife, especially the coyotes, around where you live. Lucky you to have the acreage that can include a coyote family!!  :))

My knowledge of coyotes killing one another is limited. I have never seen it happen.

I have seen vicious fighting: and

I’ve seen tail-pulling which definitely would yank some of the fur off — in this case, when two siblings were driving out a third sibling:

And I’ve heard of two instances where angry coyote rivals on adjacent territories and probably vying for expansion into the other’s territory,  have killed the pups of their adversaries, but I have no way of confirming this — these “stories” were of “intruding” coyotes doing the harm, which is pretty unheard of — except these two unconfirmed stories I’m telling you about.

I believe a coyote will fight another coyote if that other coyote puts up continued resistance to leaving a territory, but in almost all instances, after a very initial encounter (with minimal damage inflicted) and due to reading each other’s body language, both parties know who will win the battle, and the weaker individual flees the situation rather than endanger his/her life through intense engagement.

I wrote a friend, Lou, to get his insights on your question — he’s out with coyotes constantly in his ranching work. He says,

“I personally have never seen or heard of a coyote killing another. I suspect there are occasionally intense maulings. Usually, the loser quickly runs, or appeases and creates safety/space.

I have also seen where coyote pairs seem to have lost pups to wolves and definitely dogs. Perhaps a dominant coyote pair may kill intruding pups, but I’ve never seen this either. Could it happen? Likely. But my impressions of coyote is they have moments of fierceness but it’s [just] moments. They flee quickly when they lose a fight and they are usually quick to stop attacking when a submissive signal is given.

If it would be rare. The situation would be unique and unusual.  PS-that being said, I have seen coyote with tremendously scarred faces indicating big battles. Whether it came from wolf or dog or coyote i couldn’t say. But as you’ve seen they can fight fiercely.

My impression is wolves and dogs quite often kill each other. Coyote quite often fight but then one runs and it’s over. (Usually is always my go to. Coyote always surprise)”

Dogs can and do easily kill coyotes, and it’s very possible that a dog came through your area.  :((

Right now it’s mating season. Males indeed are guarding/protecting their mates. Those hormones are powerful incite-ors (I made up that word, but I think it makes sense), as can be seen by watching videos of the animal kingdom. At the same time, territorial ownership is being confirmed and even challenged.

Please let me know if this helps at all. Also, if you have any stories you’d like to share on my blog, I would love to post them! It helps round-out the picture to have more people in different situations writing about them. Please let me know!  :))


An Intruder Elicits Reactions: revealed in a field camera

The most interesting thing about this video is the vocalizations which appear at 1:45 as the family heads out. They are in a hurry and have purpose: I’m certain they are after the Intruder, based on all the rest of their behavior in this video. There are also high-pitched squeaky vocalizations at the end of the video clip. Otherwise, the rest of the video is silent.

The cast consists of Dad, Mom and two youngsters, in addition to a mature Intruder. The scene opens with Dad kicking dirt angrily and urinating: he does not like what he finds out which is that an intruder — one he’s known about for the last little while — has been by. At about :28 his mate joins. She enters their fence hole at :32 followed by him after he angrily kicks dirt again.

One of their youngsters is with them: he does not go through the hole in the fence, but follows the fenceline a short distance and then returns and slithers through the hole at :59.

At 1:03 Dad is back scratching at the earth and then slithers through the hole again; Youngster then appears and seems perplexed at what he’s smelling — he seems to stand back and think about it before passing through the fence hole at 1:41 and a second youngster slithers through at 1:53.

At 1:45 are the vocalizations. They have been vocally quiet until now, but at 1:45 either Mom or Dad vocalizes loudly — it sounds like a bugle-like call to action — as all four head out together quickly and purposefully.

At 2:00 a youngster returns and sniffs the area intently again before passing through the hole at 2:34. At 2:40 the same coyote is back sniffing and passes thru the fence hole again at 2:55.

At the 2:58 mark, Mom returns to look around and then passes thru the hole at 3:13. That’s then Dad going thru at the 3:21 mark. Youngster follows at 3:36 and then another youngster at 3:37, followed almost immediately by second Youngster at 3:38.

The reactive actions occurred all during a six and a half hour window of time at night; by the next evening no family members were sniffing for the intruder’s presence.

At 3:44, the Intruder sits in front of the camera in daylight and you can get a very clear picture of who he is. He is not part of the family, but has been hanging around the periphery of the this territory.

At 4:23 there is a fast chase several hundred feet from the previous scenes. The camera was not fast enough to catch the first guy which would have been the intruder, and then the two alpha parents (Mom and Dad) going after him. At 4:49 they return making very high pitched squeaking noises, and then at 4:41 they seem to celebrate their success with body and muzzle rubs and wagging tails as they rejoin a youngster who did not accompany them on the chase..

Sharing my Instagram Valentine Here

Anxiously Awaiting: a family’s cursory rendezvous

Each rendezvous is different in the details, though the purpose remains the same: a family coming together before their family trekking activities at dusk. I’m posting this to show how different these get-togethers can be. My previous rendezvous posting (a different family) included Mom and Dad and two 9 month old pups and two youngsters didn’t show up: from Dad there was discipline, growling, baring of teeth, hierarchy demands. Mom wanted to be left alone. Breeding season being right around the bend probably had something to do with their behavior. That family lingered around for about half an hour before taking off, but not this one.

Mom appeared suddenly and was all business: she was searching for family members.

This one began with Mom suddenly showing up alone in the waning daylight hours. She was edgy and highly alert and purposeful, looking around searchingly for the appearance of other family members, all the while keeping her eyes on the waning activity of people and dogs. At first she walked around a very small area, above, then, below, she stood in one spot where she eventually lay down, turning her head continually from side to side searchingly.

After a few minutes of walking around, she posted herself in one spot and kept looking around, then she stretched, continuing to look around, but now from a laying down position.

After she departed for her another walkaround (below) — waiting and waiting, searching and searching — a yearling abruptly appeared on the hill without me having seen where he came from. Mom immediately returned to where he was and approached him with a quick greeting: nose touches and there was warmth: no snarling at the youngsters as you saw in the previous posting. Then again, this yearling is a full year older than the pups in my last posting.

She got up to search further than what from where she had perched herself, stretching and then returning to her post.

More than any other coyote I’ve ever seen, this alpha mom appears to feel responsible for the safety of all her family members — she exudes this, even years ago, before she had her first family, when she acquired her very first companion after being a loner for four years: Anxious and Concerned for HIS Safety. Maybe all coyotes feel this way, but this coyote puts it on full display.

This time, when she returned to her post, a yearling son was there who she warmly greeted. He must have been one of the individuals she had been looking for and awaiting. Mom is the smaller and wiser coyote on the right.

Mom continued in her anxious state: again she hurried away a few feet, apparently looking for another family member and the yearling followed part way. Suddenly I could see Mom relax — she must of spotted whoever else she had been looking for. I caught only a short focused video (below) (between long stretches when the camera wouldn’t autofocus because of lack of light), of the two of them trotting happily up a hill, wiggling, rubbing against each other and the pup reaching for her and almost embracing her.

The three of them were ready to go, and they headed off together, the same as the other family had. Once out of view, within a few minutes, from behind the bushes, they began a howling session: it was a cacophony of vocalizations which sounded like many more than probably the 5 that were there — it sounded as though the rest of the family, two others: a pup and Dad, had joined them, even though they had never come into view for me. What stood out here was Mom’s anxious awaiting: once the two yearlings appeared in rapid succession, the family was off, joined, it sounded like, by two other family members. I recorded the howling, but the wind absolutely messed it up, so I’m not going to post it.

ASIDE: A happy rendezvous does not necessarily signify that all is running smoothly. Ups and downs come and go. Over the last week or so, a friend reported that there have been intense fighting noises going on at 5 am — repeatedly in this area. What might this mean? It could be two brothers going at it. It could be Dad working to disperse the male yearlings. And then again, it could be a non-family, territorial battle between this family and the coyote family which used to occupy the area but has been moved over: both families hurry through borderline sections of their distinct territories, and they may be establishing more definite boundaries.

Rendezvous, Mid-January

The Rendezvous is a recurring nightly coming-together of coyote family members. It usually happens at about dusk, right before taking off together or separately on their treks to mark their territories and hunt and otherwise be together. It’s a highly social event with interactions occurring between each individual: there are greetings following rank protocols, and there’s usually play and teasing between the different individuals.

These rendezvous are always interesting to me — great for learning about individual and family dynamics. Each rendezvous is different, with different seasons revealing different priorities and seasonal stages. Their individual personalities pop open when they’re together, as well as their stages of development — things you don’t always see when you see individuals alone, or see them only very occasionally, or without knowing who each individual is, including teasing, affection, disciplinary level, etc. Because they aren’t just hurrying away or hunting, certain things become more obvious: statuses, injuries, courting behavior, changes in relationships such as burgeoning rivalry between brothers, who is missing (because of death or dispersal). If dogs interfere, then their reaction comes into view.

Rendezvous usually occur at dusk, so the waning light makes observing, and even more so, “capturing” the observation, more difficult. Towards the end of this session, I was literally guessing where the coyotes were as my camera captured the blackness, which I was then able to edit into readable, even if extremely substandard images. So here are a few sequences that had meaning for me. I’m sure there was a lot I missed in-between these, but these will give you an idea of how full those get-togethers are. I believe you all can see more through still images, rather than a video where you might actually miss what is going on. But also, videos take up a lot of space and, for me, are harder to edit down. Nevertheless, I have included two short video sequences here and inserted them where they fit in chronologically.

1 & 2 pup cowers as dad approaches; 3 & 4 pup reaches up to dad with snout and paw

This rendezvous, from when the first coyotes appeared, until they departed the area, lasted exactly half an hour. As I said, by the time it ended, I could not see anything clearly. It began with a youngster appearing and looking around. He soon cowered submissively asa snarly Dad approached him. After cowering acceptably to Dad’s satisfaction, the youngster — 9 months old at this point — still keeping himself low to the ground, stretched up his snout and then his paw in a submissively accepting gesture to Dad. But the status routine apparently wasn’t settled yet, because the youngster, see second group of photos below, attempted following Dad, and was repelled by Dad’s snarly glare — communication is very clear to every coyote. The youngster again cowered and went the other way. Within a few minutes after this, Dad was happy with the respect shown him, and allowed the youngster to relax close by (last of the 8 first photos).

5, 6 & 7 pup follows dad but is repulsed by dad’s expression; 8 finally the two relax proximately to each other [each galleries can be clicked for a larger view, and then scrolled through]

Most observers aren’t able to break apart these different interactions as they observe. More is going on here than mere greetings, statuses and interactions. It’s pre-mating season, so mating time is going to commence soon, if it hasn’t already.

Then, Mom arrives. Mom arrives and vocalizes, and the rest of the family joins in as she hurries over to them (video below)

Above video: Mom arrives and vocalizes, and the two other family members join in.

Above, 1) Mom arrives and begins howling. #2 Dad responds as does the one youngster there. #3 Mom hurries over to them and sniffs around. #4 Mom urinates. #5 Her urine is full of hormones at this time of year and Dad, you can see, is keenly interested in their levels. #6 Dad lets youngster know he’s in the way with a snarl: pup pulls his mouth back in a grimace and sits back to allow Dad plenty of room

#1) Second pup arrived on the scene and Dad gave him the same treatment his brother got. #2) Brother takes in that family interaction — they all can and do read minute nuances in each other’s interactions and know the meaning of it all. #3) Dad is heading the youngsters away from Mom who you see to the right. I don’t know what her intent here is, but you’ll see her later reaching out to say hello to this male pup of hers. #4 Mom heads away from them and eats grass: she’s nervous, while #5) Dad dozes nearby. At this point, #6 it’s the youngster who heads towards Mom, possibly indicating that he’s ready to get going.

Two other family youngsters were not present. One yearling may have dispersed, but the other youngster is probably still around. Not all family members are always present for these rendezvous. After the last photo above, all family members got up and interacted as you see here in the video below.

Video shows a few moments of the interactions: Dad wove himself between his mate and the youngsters — he didn’t want to give them the opportunity to become interested in her other than as a mom. Mating season is about to begin, so he has to keep this kind of order.

#1) Mom stretches and then leads the family pack out, but then she waits for them all to catch up and she #2) brings up the rear. #3) Note that her interest is first and foremost Dad: they touch noses as she reaches them, with the youngsters knowing to wait their turn. #4) Mom seems to be intent on saying hello to the youngster she was unable to greet earlier (because of Dad’s interference). The last two photos #5) and #6) show them four of them just before they disappeared, with Dad reaching out to touch one of the youngsters at the end there. I’ve included a small photo here showing how dark it actually was out there for these last images. Photo editing is amazing these days: that is the same unedited photo as #6 above.

Eluding: Coyote Behavior

Walking up 6 blocks in the middle of the street — few people saw her.

I was able to observe this three-time-mom coyote over a half-hour stretch of time as I concentrated on her eluding tactics. Coyotes really don’t want to be seen by humans; they are the opposite of “in your face” for the most part: reclusive and almost deferential. IF they feel they’ve been seen, they might tolerate it for a short while at a distance, but most will slither into the bushes rather than expose themselves to humans or dogs for too long. If they have to travel — say through the streets to get to where they need to go — they’ll take the safest and most direct route possible: notice in the first photo, she’s traveling right in the middle of the street — she did so for six blocks. There were no gaps between houses, so this was her safest route, and also, in the middle of the street she could see pretty far in all directions, giving her plenty of time and space to escape sudden potential danger. And actually, she was somewhat inconspicuous in that vast sea of concrete where I had to point her out for some people to even see her,

Skedaddling by as quickly as possible where people had their eyes on her.

Of course, some coyotes do hunt or relax with people around in the distance — it’s inevitable in an urban situation where almost all the coyotes have become used to seeing people. And if there are very few (or no) people around, a coyote is more likely to approach a dog to let that dog know that the territory is taken: coyotes don’t allow non-family coyote members into their territories, so it’s natural that they would feel the same way towards dogs. During pupping season coyotes become fiercely protective against dogs who could easily harm any pups. So their elusiveness is cast aside for this more important purpose.

In addition, coyotes have different individual personalities — not unlike humans — with some being born less fearful than others and some learning to tolerate human omnipresence at a closer range. Making generalization from these few would be incorrect because even these coyotes avoid us. Another factor: our parks used to have many more dense and impenetrable wild areas where coyotes could remain unseen, but these have been hugely cleared over the last 15 years.

What alters this general state of wariness and elusiveness is people offering them food.

She kept herself hidden in the foliage whenever possible.

Here are some photos of that 1/2 hour. She covered about a 1/2 mile distance in that time. For part of that distance she had purpose and direction to her gait; for the rest she was meandering more than anything else, assessing the minimal human and dog activity in the area. You’ll see that her elusiveness is a constant — it is built into a coyote’s behavior.

When she was visible, she was casual about it, seeming not to have a purpose or destination in her movements.

More out in the open: scratching herself nonchalantly, marking, observing but moving away from a dog intent on avoiding her.

There was only one dog walker out during my 1/2 hour timeframe. She kept a close eye on the leashed dog from the distance. The owner was aware of her and simply turned and walked away when he saw her. Yay! That’s the right thing to do, and exactly what she wanted. She, too, did the same thing: walked away from them.

This sequence above shows her relaxing by a tree until loud walkers approach. She can only hear them at first, but she keeps looking in their direction and around her, and as they come into view, she hugs herself around the tree and slithers invisibly into the shade of the grove where no one can see her.

In another instance, two loud and animated people (no dogs) were coming down the path where she was relaxing after ducking away from a couple of other walkers. Above are the shots of her avoiding their detection. She was really good at this! They never had any clue that she was practically underfoot, which is what the coyote wanted. I can see why coyotes are sometimes called Ghost Dogs

I want to point out that this particular coyote was fed relentlessly and mercilessly in her early years which trained her to hang around visibly, daily, at feeding spots for many years — it changed her nature. Fortunately, over time, and helped by the fact that she moved and became focused on her family, much of her wariness and evasiveness returned.

At one point during this observation period, she emerged from the bushes and sat down as she saw a car coming, making herself purposefully visible. I watched as she carefully approached the car when it stopped. Enough food has been tossed to her from cars so that she still sometimes waits expectantly for it. She was hoping, but the driver saw me with my camera aimed at his car and he moved on. Yay! Most people now know that feeding coyotes is highly frowned on — it’s actually illegal.

She did not evade the car — in fact, that’s when her visibility became purposeful.

Coyote elusiveness is what keeps many people from seeing them for anymore than a few minutes at a time. The increased sightings we’ve been reading about on NextDoor are usually not caused by the mating season, dispersal season, birthing, pupping, a purported increased population or anything else that you’ve heard. More sightings are more likely due simply to us humans. Over the last few years, especially since COVID, more people have been out in the parks where coyotes might be spotted. Social media spreads sightings like wildfire which causes people to think there are many more coyotes than there actually are. More people are using night security cameras because of higher crime in the city which reveal their presence. San Franciscans have more dogs than ever — dogs often bring coyotes out into the open — coyotes react to dogs — with resultant increased sightings and encounters.

After 1/2 hour she wandered off and I had to go.

What can you do to prevent negative encounters? Do pretty much what the fella with the dog did in this posting: the minute you see a coyote, walk away from it, and keep your dog from engaging on any level, visually, or allowing antagonistic barking which could cause a coyote to react. Every coyote is different, personality-wise, so it’s best just to get away from them always.

Alpha Mom’s Return Visit

The alpha-pair of one of the families I follow extended their old territory last year. Not just did they extend it, they moved predominantly to that extension’s edge where their next litter was born (April, 2022) and this is where they spend the bulk of their time now. Yet, they maintain a foothold in their old territorial hub, trekking the mile distance regularly at night, but less often than they did a year ago when they first moved. At that time the treks back and forth were nightly, whereas now they are weekly or less.

When they moved the hub of their location and activity, they took with them just one of the youngsters born in 2021 — at that time, he was not yet a yearling. I don’t know if he or his parents made the choice to have him move with them. Neither do I know why the rest of his siblings remained behind — whether it was the choice of the individual youngsters or of their parents. But several of those pups remained behind. Over the course of the year, dispersal and death has taken all of them except one — the little girl. In November, friends found part of an old coyote skeleton and skin — the animal must have perished several months before that because the bones were clean of flesh, falling apart, and full of dirt. Those bones hold the secret to a story we can’t tell. Most wildlife holds these secrets: I’ve been able to barely scratch the surface with my observations, but there’s a wealth more that none of us will ever know about [Photo: Liz Rumsey].

I should point out that most of the territories I’ve studied — in fact, all except one — have retained fairly stable boundaries, so this situation stands out in my experience (16 years worth) as rather unusual. I’m thinking that this seems to be less of a quintessential “fragmented territory” than two separate territories claimed, for the moment, by the same alpha pair — if that’s possible.

There’s a mile-length of residential neighborhoods — houses on 25 x 100-foot lots — and even a freeway, separating what constituted their previous territorial hub and this present one. The old hub was used exclusively for 6 years and is where these alphas had their first two litters. At that earlier time, there was another entirely separate family occupying what is now our family’s “extended” territory.

That separate family is still around, but further south. The two families don’t appear to cross the “line” that separates them, and there’s even a sort of buffer zone which both respect.The alpha male of THAT family is getting up in years, and his mate is very small and young-looking — I’m wondering if these might have been factors involved in the “takeover”? I was not able to capture the process by which the change occurred: Had there been a fight for it? Or did it involve a gradual and accepted “pushing of the envelope” — i.e., pushing the other family over. Or a withdrawal by one family and simple filling-the-void by our family? OR, might our alpha male be an offspring of that family (I’m waiting for the DNA to confirm this or not) and been allowed to take it over by having it “ceded” to him willingly and amicably? I’ve seen this situation happen before. There are lots of questions which aren’t answered and might never be.

Above: Before dawn, I spotted the alpha pair headed towards their old hub.

A few days ago I was able to observe the alpha female’s activities upon one of her regular returns to her old hub. Initially I spotted her with her mate, the alpha-pair together, as they traversed that old haunt of theirs, but the male, who is much more wary and shy than she is, soon disappeared from view and that was the last I saw of him during this observation. The female remained visible and her trajectory was easy for me to follow. She was there to scrutinize the area: to find out what had been going on.

Sniffing (above 5 images): every inch of this swath of her territory was examined thoroughly for what the smells would reveal.

Visuals of course are important. But most of her “sizing-up” was done through her nose. She must have been figuring out WHO had been there and WHAT they were there for? WHAT were their tell-tale characteristics: such as male, female, age, testosterone level, etc. The “who” refers to coyotes and dogs.

Marking (above 4 images). Note the first oblong photo in this series: she’s both marking AND sniffing at the same time!

These are some of the photos I took. Alpha-mom thoroughly examined an entire swath of the area, keeping her nose to the ground while she was processing all the data she sniffed in. She frequently marked, as if she were “responding” to the information she was absorbing. In the 75 minutes I was able to observe her, she spent most of that time criss-crossing a 100-square-foot swath of field, marking and sizing up whatever had transpired there before she arrived. I don’t know how long back she’s able to whiff information, but I assume several days worth if not longer.

She found the food she had apparently buried here on a previous occasion — I saw her dig it up and wolf it down — no hunting was involved (above 3 images).

At one point she began digging. It was obviously a place where she had buried some prey — cached it away for a rainy day — because she was able to unbury it and eat it up without a hunt. After spending several minutes filling up, she marked the area several times before continuing her zig-zagging investigation. Shortly after that she disappeared around a bend, but I quickly found her again: she had met up with her yearling daughter and I caught them eating a chicken-pot-pie someone must have just left for them, because it was not there earlier: I could see that mom ceded the treasure to the youngster.

I lost alpha mom for a few minutes, only to spot her through the bushes, next to her daughter with a chicken pot pie, which daughter was allowed to have.

Then she explored further afield than the 100 square foot swath which had preoccupied her initially.

Yearling daughter appeared a couple of times during this observation.

As an aside I want to mention that the presence of an alpha-pair and their continual markings keeps intruders out of a family owned territory. Without the continual marking — such as when either of the alpha’s is absent — the potential for intrusion by another coyote becomes likely. I wonder how long this family will be able to hold onto this area since they aren’t there all the time? Interestingly, this morning I saw the alpha male from the next territory over cruising the peripheral edges of this, his neighbor’s now less-used area. Was this just a reconnaissance trek with no other purpose than just that, or might he be harboring incipient plans to expand into the minimally marked area? So, although I’ve seen a lot of stability in most territories, fluidity is opened by absence of either of the territorial alphas. I’ll keep my eye open for this fella’s potential expansion into that area. This fella, below, by the way, is the full brother of the alpha mom I’ve been describing in this post: he never knew her, being born four years after her, but I wonder if they know, through scent, that they are siblings, or at least related on some level.

Full-brother, four years her junior, is the alpha male on the next territory over. I saw him encroach on what was the old hub of the coyote pair that moved. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Tracker, by Courtney Quirin

My friend, Courtney Quirin, Biologist, Journalist, Documentarian, Artist, All-American Runner, in addition to being a high-energy, intrepid adventurer, is putting together an exciting documentary on animal tracking: “Tracker”! She’s actually attending the year long tracking course at the Tracker Academy in South Africa, so she has immersed herself in the subject and the process. The subject is dear to my heart as I’ve always been against tagging and radio-collaring of wildlife, intrusive gadgets these trackers never use. It turns out that 90% of traditional tracking skills have been lost over the last 40 years in South Africa. The tracking academy aims to bring these back to use in modern conservation. Watch the exciting trailer above to get more of a feel for the exciting endeavor! A second sizzle can be found here.

The film follows eight students over a year as they cultivate the tracker mindset and learn to read the language of nature. Along the way they learn that tracking is far more than identifying tracks; it is a compass for life.

  • Website:
  • Instagram site: @tracker_the_film
  • Indiegogo link:
  • Donations: can be made through January 4th, through Indiegogo or their fiscal sponsor, The Center for Independent Documentary, and are tax deductible. The funds will be used to cover costs of filming for the rest of the school year AND will help preserve an ancient African practice and incorporate it into modern conservation. Ten percent of net proceeds of this documentary will go towards funding a scholarship for students to attend Tracker Academy.

Scout Winter Solstice Catch-Up

I went to see Scout a few days ago for a year-end catch up session. I hadn’t been to see her in months. Although Scout’s story is unique to her, in a certain way, hers reflects the lives of coyotes generally, particularly urban coyotes.

Philosophy: Each coyote has her/his own story with many of the same elements, or variations of those elements. Coyotes are all dealing with both the joys and challenges of life and survival, each in a slightly different situation — not so different from the different situations we humans ourselves find ourselves in: we’re born into different circumstances and inherit different traits, and then make the most of what there is around us to live as well as we can. I’m pointing this out because I think that seeing these parallels helps us understand and relate to them more fully. Circumstances dictate so much of who we are: if we have one or two parents, how many siblings we have, where we fit in AND our relationships with those siblings, whether we have a house or are required to continually move. Whether our parents were able to provide for us: some of us begin with big inheritances (some coyotes inherit their territories) and some of us don’t, some of us have good and useful educations and some do not. Personality counts for a lot. Finding the right partner counts for a lot. Making a living is important for survival: coyotes hunt and protect their territories; we work at different things and pay for others to hunt or raise food for us and buy locks. The twain (humans and coyotes) love family life and indulge ourselves in play and games, though family life can reach a point of negativity at times with certain individuals. On and on: it’s really the same for coyotes as for humans. Neither of us chose to be here, but since we’re here, we’re making the best of it for ourselves. Some people tell me it’s not the same, I say they are wrong, and it’s only one’s anthropocentrism that’s preventing them from seeing this.

For those who haven’t followed her story: Scout is in what I would call a Fifth Iteration of her life. The first was growing up with her parents in her birth territory — she was a singleton pup who was left alone a lot. The second was her dispersal and life as a loner, consumed by her interest in human activity for 4 years — during this time she sought human attention and food, and she chased cars because folks were tossing her food from cars. In her third phase, she found a companion, but within months, her territory was taken from her by a more powerful female coyote and she was driven away, and in the process she lost her companion: this period of her life lasted six months. In her fourth phase she finally met up and formed a pair-bond with a lasting companion who she is still with: during this time she transitioned from a human-oriented coyote, to one who became absorbed in her own coyote family life. And now, her fifth phase, she’s absolutely absorbed in her own coyote family life along with a new, expanded territory, having moved away from the intense visibility she had experienced in her fourth phase. By putting “Scout” into the search box of my blog, you can access many of these stories.

The family. Scout’s immediate “nuclear” family (above) these days consists of her seven-and-a-half-year-old self, her mate Scooter, her one surviving pup out of three born this year, that’s Xiomar (an infant died early on and a young female pup was hit by a car at 6 months of age), and one yearling out of six born last year, Cyrano. They live for the most part in the newly expanded extension of their territory, but return and visit the area they used to use as their main hub where two of her yearlings remain in charge (see two photos below, one year and two years of age)). It’s almost as though these two yearlings have now become Scout’s “extended” family, and that she has ceded that part of her old domain to them. YET, she appears to remain in charge even here as a sort of super-alpha, visiting them regularly.

So, what I saw during my visit was really heartwarming. When I first spotted them, the family was joyfully playing chase and running through a field during their morning trekking session. The wind was overwhelming, so much so that I could hardly stand up, much less hold a camera still. That gale wind intoxicated the coyotes with energy and joy. I only got a few “catch-up” shots that day because of the wind, but I returned over the next few days. Below are some images I captured of the family in mid-December, 2022.

Play (above)

Upon my return over the next two days, I was able to capture Scout trekking with her family at dawn — I would find them singly, in pairs (any of two paired up), and as a whole family — that’s what I mostly saw them doing together though I’ve again caught her exuberantly playing chase and catch me with the rest of them: it’s always exhilarating to watch the family’s joyful interactions. Doing things together such as trekking together to mark their territories or hunt strengthens bonds, as does playtime — same as with humans.

Trekking over fields, paths, and yes, crossing streets (above)

As they trekked, there was grooming, relaxing, wallowing, stretching, avoiding ravens, hunting (above)

Issues. By the way, if you think these coyotes live cushy lives, that’s not totally so: ravens, dogs, cars, people, feeding, rat poison, not finding food, coyote intruders: these are stressors and hazards that are ever present in an urban coyote’s life.

For Scout, as for other coyote families, there were and will always be dog issues during the pupping season unless folks keep their dogs leashed and as far away as possible from all coyotes and their denning areas; dog issues have subsided substantially since the pupping season. Folks have learned to leash and walk away from them — possibly because of the signs I had put out during the pupping season, but also just spreading the word by mouth on a daily basis. And there are still human issues: people continue to feed and trying to entice coyotes towards their cars with food. But she’s much more wary of approaching cars than she used to be, and I’ve not seen her actually chase any cars in a long time. These are issues that exist at almost all of our parks, not just Scout’s. Please know that coyotes don’t need to be fed, and that you are simply creating issues for them and everyone else by doing so.

Dogs chasing, ignoring, or protecting themselves from coyotes! Dad marks to let them know what he thinks of them. Last photo is a recent intruder coyote in Scout’s territory : another headache for her and her family.

And then there are intruder coyotes, and I saw one only a few weeks ago in Scout’s territory: such coyotes are always a problem for the resident family because they just could be thinking of challenging the current family for the area. It happened before to Scout once before, bigtime! This being said, Scout has expanded her territorial boundary tremendously over the past year, pushing another family closer to the edge. I tend to believe that her mate, Scooter, was born into that pushed-away family, but we’ll have to wait for the long awaited DNA results to confirm.

So that pretty much sums up Scout’s current situation. Above is a rare photo I caught of her at her old haunt several months ago — she still appears to keep her toe in the doorway there, even though she’s ensconced in the newer area of her expanded territory.

Canid Conversation, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet, 

That was a great post about the coyote incident with child. I hope it furthers awareness. It’s really a matter of common sense and safety. Certain cities will have coyote populations. Forever. The sooner people live coyote aware the better for all. Children included.

A different but fascinating account on sheep ranch is something I received this morning.

I usually dont patrol sheep properties. Not a fan and they can be problematic in big areas for our style of checks.

This operation is pretty well run. The owners discovered long ago a 3 prong approach for coyote and sheep ranching. A large pack of LGD is used on rotation in the herds. Allowing conforming (don’t raid sheep) coyote pairs to become established and see off nomadic and less predictable coyote. And in back of property, away from herds, road kill is left. It’s legal here to collect/harvest roadkill. Deer are collected by ranchers family and taken to a consistent spot complete with cameras. The local territorial coyote are well fed on voles and periodic road killed deer. They are very content and don’t raid sheep.

The cameras on property also give them sight into ongoing behaviors. 

Originally…they thought an established coyote was changing into unwanted behavior. These coyote and LGD come to know each other at distance and by scent marks. There is a sort of truce…the coyote know death waits if they come in. But that the dogs won’t chase if they stay back. 

Trail and pasture cams show a male coyote well known coming to dogs and acting agitated. The dogs shouldering up together and slowly getting aroused..then setting off for a round. The coyote fades back to trails and woods and disappears.

But other trails show other developments.

The coyote runs down common sheep and ranch trails…but avoids the wooded hill sections. Literally same time coyote is trotting toward LGD areas, traveling wolves are moving through wooded property. They aren’t staying. They use this land to travel to elk herds and Cascade destinations. But they travel through foothills and ranches and the heart of coyote turf.

When they pass through..its seems a pattern has developed the local coyote vocalize at the wolves..but one male runs to LGD areas in some sort of alarm call. The LGD actually respond…pack up and 4 or 5 of them go to edge of foothills and woods, and mark extensively. It seems the wolves..who were moving anyway..glide away and disappear. So far..the LGD pack holds sway. 

Is it possible that this coyote has tenuously connected his alarm with wolves to alerting LGD? It seems far fetched…until we many dogs in towns and cities bark in chains of alerts and joining in. 

It is now at point if there are alot of coyote “rackets” and run arounds…the LGD can be seen trotting out..and the woods cams show a wolf…or several..moving through.

I asked if they were going to put coyote on ranch payroll. No comment.


PS-This Canid Conversation is also under study by a couple of biology students. One Question was…Do the Road kill Deer attract wolves and raise issues? So far…the answer is no. The structure of the spot and lay of land deer kill is left is a funnel shaped area purposely designed for camera shots. They want to see who feeds in this area far from sheep herds. It seems to spook wolves…the funnel and cameras. Coyote have no qualms. Neither do cougar, bobcat, badger, raccoons, weasels, mink, or possums. Bears are an issue only because..they often destroy cameras. Bears have a very specific way they treat cameras. And often the camera don’t survive.

But so far 7 years of pics…not a single wolf has entered to funnel shaped spot. 


Addressing a Coyote’s Attack on a Toddler, with Walkaboutlou

I’ve been sent this disturbing video by a number of people who wanted my input about it: within the few seconds a 2 year old toddler is left unattended, a coyote walks by and grabs her by the leg and drags her a short distance.

We need to understand this disturbing coyote behavior in order to deal with it properly.

Right off the bat, I want to point out that this coyote behavior is not caused by “coyotes multiplying and wandering all over the city who need to be managed”, as I’ve recently read on NextDoor. Such an interaction could have occurred had there been only ONE coyote in the entire city. But, to address coyote numbers: Coyotes manage their own numbers: see Territories and Population in San Francisco. Any attempt at population management — i.e., reducing their numbers — could actually result in an increase in their population. The reason is that killing them disrupts their very organized social system whereby only the alpha parents on any one territory reproduce. Without that stable system, all females may end up breeding until a new order is reached. It’s their territoriality which keeps their numbers in check, with youngsters apparently dispersing south and out of the city — at least those who have not been killed by cars, of which there were over 24 in 2021. Since Covid restrictions were instituted several years ago, many more people have been out than ever before, seeing coyotes, often for the first time. With more eyes out to see them, more are reported on NextDoor, with people therefore claiming a huge increase in their numbers. So for example, that someone saw coyotes out on Greenwich Street for the first time was reported in the news during the Covid lockdown, but in fact, coyotes have been traveling that street every night since I started documenting them many years ago. There have also been many, many more dogs who were adopted during Covid, leading to more dog/coyote encounters. So that’s the population situation. As I said, with only a single coyote in the city, the incident in the above video could have happened.

About the coyote’s behavior. Several things appear to be going on. First of all, that this coyote came so close to humans in the first place may indicate that he has been fed, or that he’s used enough to people to not feel threatened by them. It’s important not to draw them in through friendliness or feeding because this increases their comfort level around us. Secondly, and more importantly, coyotes are wild animals, and no matter how “sweet” or “harmless” they look, there is always the “potential” for a negative interaction. What you see in this video is extremely rare, but that doesn’t change the “potential” for this kind of interaction. Why? Look at coyote behavior in the wild. Coyotes — and many dogs, by the way — are instinctively and magnetically drawn to small wobbly youngsters of all species, be they newborn lambs, horses, deer, cattle. It’s why so many children are injured or even killed by dogs. Please know that there have only ever been recorded two human fatalities from a coyote — that’s how rare it is. However scratches and a puncture wound could result to a child.

The “management” that has to be done by the City is educating the public, but the City, through ACC and RPD, has failed miserably in getting information out, either through effective signs — many of theirs are faded and dilapidated with ineffective information — or through talking to individuals — which they seem to engage in minimally if at all. One of ACC’s duties is “care” for the animals, which I laud, but posting photos of officers cuddling a coyote sends the wrong message and is counterproductive given the goals they want to achieve.

Bottom line from Lou and myself: Children grabbed in this manner is unacceptable. But knowing how this can actually happen is the key. A wobbly small unattended small child, or animal, can attract a trigger. For coyote:  Do not encourage familiarity. Do not feed. Do not trust any wild animal or strange dog around small children. Besides keeping your distance from coyotes, please never leave your young child unattended — something could happen in the blink of an eye. We hope no other kids are grabbed and the child in the video will be ok. Please read my exchange below with Walkaboutlou who is a keen first-hand observer of coyotes and their behaviors on ranches.

Hello. Lou here. Someone just sent me this as proof coyote aren’t trustworthy around children.
I answered no wild animals are trustworthy around children.
Also…while I admit this is unacceptable..I also say this is a result of humans feeding a wild animal.
If you feed a bear in your yard for periods of time acclimating it to human activity..then allow tiny children to be around bear…there is a danger in that.
When people feed wild animals..especially doesn’t change their nature or hunting instincts. can suppress or remove instincts of fear and avoidance..and tragically lead to situations like this.
I don’t have all the answers and again..find this unacceptable. However..this isn’t the norm. And is a conditioned response by multiple behavior

Sessions of behavior modification. Feeding. Human Feeding.

Hi Lou — I was sent this same video. I’ve seen a number of fed coyotes. Feeding makes them hang around closer to human activity and lose much of their wariness of us, but it doesn’t make them aggressive. From what I’ve seen, feeding makes them mellow and docile. So I question that feeding is the culprit — at least not the sole culprit — except that the coyote was more comfortable initially approaching the human situation. I’ve now seen several videos of coyotes approaching young children rather aggressively like in this video. I believe there’s some kind of instinct working here . . . it’s almost as though they (coyotes) see children in the same way they see dogs: they don’t like them and they don’t trust them. So there’s more involved than just feeding, and it has to do with childrens’ size. Maybe with their vulnerability? I’m thinking out loud. Yes, it’s unacceptable coyote behavior, and it hurts efforts to help folks accept them. :(

You know, it’s like the doe you saw them go after: they somehow can read who is vulnerable and unlikely to retaliate in a life-or-death way.

Lou: That makes sense yes. I think there is a way too familiar vibe there..(hence my thought of feeding) but you know it better there. Not blaming that man..but he allowed a toddler to waddle out alone..I’ve seen it with coyote. They will actually approach newborn bison…not because they are ready for mom…but the helplessness. That makes sense! I know coyotes here have nailed new helpless calves, horse foals, lambs, puppies, IF unattended. They will definitely check out wobbly unattended babes.

Coyote for about 2-3 days can handle fawn deer or elk calves. If they see wobbly teetering babes they rush in almost as if magnetized. And…if someone witnesses that..they often want to kill every coyote. It’s hard to accept. But its context. From cars to unstable human predators to canines of ALL sorts..toddlers need protecting. How many dogs jump unattended children? Many.

Small children need guarding. And unfortunately…it can mean on occasion…a triggered coyote.

I see your observation as accurate. Triggered.

Jan: Yes, somehow “triggered”. Feeding draws coyotes in closer, but it’s more than just that from what I’ve seen. It doesn’t happen all that often, but, nevertheless, it happens. I tell folks to stay far away from coyotes. But that coyote in the video seemed to come out of the blue and grabbed the child in that split second when she was left unattended. The thing is, kids need to be attended every second — tragedy can happen in just one second, be it from a coyote or anything else: people need to understand this. I can rattle off a lot of tragedies that happened in a split second. For example the child who in the blink of an eye slipped between the sidewalk and the road pavement of the Golden Gate Bridge as her dad was filming her. He couldn’t understand how she had disappeared into thin air and of course she hadn’t — she had slipped underneath the bridge. A little girl was kidnapped by a FedEx delivery man when no one was watching her for a few minutes. Kids have to be watched ALWAYS. A childhood friend of mine drowned in the split second she was unattended — they couldn’t find her until it was too late — at the bottom of a shallow pool of water. In the split second of inattendance, a preschool schoolmate of my kids’ had grabbed the toxic cleaner on the table and ingested it, burning and destroying his esophagus and vocal chords forever. It only takes a second. You never expect these things, and then they happen. My friend Melina keeps her dogs far away from all kids: the “potential” for harm is there, she says.

Lou: That’s what it amounts to. I think for me…it’s shocking obviously because it was a toddler child…but I’m still not used to the ease city coyote have. The coyote I’ve known..even the “bold” ones have almost always been extremely fearful or respectful of actual human personally. What I’m seeing is classic predation of wobbly young and distracted parent..but its not a new elk calf or fawn in the video. And it’s jarring yes. I can remember when my kids were tiny them playing hide and seek in park. We looked up to see my daughter, 4 “hiding” behind tree..with 2 bear cubs other side peeking! I ran did mother bear..we both collected our young, both fearful and growling. I’ll never forget that. Yes…the children MUST be guarded and watched every moment.
I also hate this to happen not only for child..but whenever a coyote here “acts up” it puts all the coyote in danger from retribution a long time.

Jan: Exactly. Very upsetting that a human toddler was targeted — though understandable from a wild animal behavior perspective — which few city people understand, and anyway, they won’t tolerate it. My fear is the knee-jerk danger it puts the coyotes in from human retribution, as you say. I can only hope that those in authority keep a level head about it. These attacks are extremely rare, but they happen. They are avoidable if people know about it — but it hurts coyotes’ reputation. :( Yikes, you don’t want to mess with mama bears!! Glad your kid was okay! I’m wondering if I should post the video and our discussion on my blog? Any thoughts? Janet

Hi Janet…that’s up to you. At any case…I think people need to be aware…it’s not about being able to “trust” coyote or that they are starving etc…they are premiere OPPORTUNISTS. And while the vast majority wont grab kids..there are some that will trigger and will. A doddering fawn, calf, lamb, small dog or child will magnetize certain coyote just like we talked about some..not all..taking on deer if a trigger is hit.

Anyone who feels a wild animal needs to be trustworthy isnt really realizing Nature or animals

And living with or among any animal…livestock..dogs..or coyote…means who especially watch and guard our little ones. Just like parents do in nature.

Hi Lou — The message needs to get out there, as you say, that coyotes are opportunists and wild, and distance and vigilance are needed needed. Kids need to be supervised closely at all times.

Lou: Yes..I think it’s important for people to realize…coyote usually don’t grab kids…however..the potential is there. Dogs, Coyote, Cougar, Bear, Moose, Elk, Horses, all have triggers. Some coyote…not all..are triggered by weakness in others not usually seen as prey. Some coyote will tackle weakened deer etc…but irregardless, the triggers can be there. A wobbly toddler alone is definitely a trigger, I believe most coyote chose to ignore. But obviously not all.

BTW–I’ve witnessed moose, feral horse, otter, Deer, feral dog, etc etc incidents and every time…the human or pet involved gave the situation to trigger the actions. It’s really key to know common sense principles. Distance. Awareness. And being aware of real triggers with pets or kids.

Jan: Yes, TRIGGERS: people need to know this, and it involves the young of any species: that it’s perfectly natural coyote behavior that can be prevented by being vigilant and staying away and supervising a child every second.

Lou: Exactly yes. Triggers. Triggers give us clarity and also reduce bad choices. I know my dogs will be wounded or worse if I allow them certain behaviors around wolves and coyote and LGD. Knowing triggers and maintaining vigilance are really skills needed out in ranges or in cities or anywhere.

So please, everyone, the way to stay clear of this kind of interaction is to stay vigilant and constantly supervise your small children when out of doors in a coyote area! By the way, an author and observer of the situation in Los Angeles, Lisa Febre, wrote me that, “The good thing is that on the Facebook posting of this story (by the tv station) the comments are very pro-coyote. People around this side of Los Angeles — in the “outskirts” of the San Fernando Valley, against the wild hills to the west and north — live with coyotes and seem very fascinated by them rather than afraid. These people REALLY defend them. All my neighbors here love them, and talk about coyote choruses they’ve heard, and share security camera footage of backyard sightings. Even when my dog was attacked, the other neighbors were worried “you’re not going to report it, ARE YOU?!” No freaking way!! I felt AWFUL for my dog, but so much worse for the coyotes if anyone had reported the attack. Although, it worries me that people leave out food “for feral cats” which they don’t realize is related to enticing coyotes to their property! More cats, fatter coyotes.”

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