*FIRST: Coyote Coexistence Guidelines and Safety Information

A VIDEO ON COYOTE BEHAVIORS, GUIDELINES & DOGS:

A ONE-STOP INFORMATION VIDEO on urban coyotes: coyote behavior and how to coexist with them, how to handle encounters, and why killing them does not solve issues.  Press https://youtu.be/euG7R11aXq0 to go directly to YouTube. [Condensed version: http://youtu.be/1Kxl31nX0rc]

Para la versión en Español, haz clic aquí: http://youtu.be/FjVGKwLiYG4;

In Mandarin Chinese 普通话: http://youtu.be/aFWyegSrNHw

*Please note our protocol change (not in our video) for when walking a dog: The best policy is TOTAL AVOIDANCE: Whether you see a coyote in the distance, approaching you, or at close range, leash your dog and walk away from it, avoiding any kind of confrontation or engagement. This will minimize the potential for dog/coyote interactions. If you feel inclined to shoo it away — following the guidelines in the videos,  you may try this, but our preferred approach now is TOTAL AVOIDANCE.



LINKS TO UNDERSTANDING COYOTE BEHAVIOR + DOGS:

citizencoyote-by-janetkessler

*A Quote Worth Pondering

“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.'”

ACTUAL BLOG WITH LATEST POST BEGINS BELOW

On Being Alone: My Observations

Summary/Abstract: Coyotes are highly social. They mate for life and have families. Interacting, including playing with each other, is a mainstay of their existence. But when they disperse they may find themselves alone in the world with no one (of their own species) to socialize with. They become bored and lonely. Here one rekindles some fun and interactions for herself. 

Coyotes are very social animals: they have an intense family life and interact constantly with one another within their families. But youngsters grow up and must leave home due to their territorial imperative, so they either *disperse* on their own, or are *dispersed* by the parents. This keeps the population down in any particular area, ensuring that there are enough resources for those who remain — for the mated pair who claim that territory and for their future offspring.

So dispersed individuals head off on their own: they may remain *loners* for a while. Dispersal can be a treacherous time for them. Some have made it all the way to Los Gatos from San Francisco, as discovered by Ecologist Jonathan Young, but many if not most get killed by cars. A few have been able to find vacated territorial niches right here in the city. In my ten years of observations, I’ve only seen two youngsters, whose birth locations I knew, find locations in the city, including this one. Others, of course, must have, but I don’t know which of the parks they dispersed from. The previous coyote who lived where this one now lives, remained a loner for many years until he was killed by a car. It is his vacated territorial niche which this coyote now occupies. Will she ever find a mate, will she ever move on? Each coyote is a unique individual, so we’ll only find out with time.

Being the social animals that they are, but without a social group to interact with, loner coyotes can become excruciatingly bored and lonely. I say this based on my own observations and based on comments from other people who have observed the same coyotes. The time normally directed at family interactions — including playing or hunting together, figuring out and maintaining their relationships and hierarchy in the family, and even the sheer entertainment of living in a family unit — are simply not there for the loner. They must figure out how to fill in with some substitute activities. Each coyote is a unique individual with a unique personality: not all coyotes will follow the patterns of behavior I’m describing here. In fact, I’ll describe quite a contrasting loner coyote in a future posting.

Boredom: To fill their time, these loner coyotes often engage in innovative play using their creative imaginations. This is no different from the youngsters I’ve watched who are still connected to their families. I’ve watched this little gal play with a ball and with many other objects, including poop-bags, crackling water-bottles or boxes, sticks, torn-up shrubbery, almost anything! I’ve seen her pester bees and then chase them around trying to catch them and interact with them. I’ve seen her run away from a cat she approached in a playful manner — the cat rejected her advances by hissing at her, and the coyote ran off. Her play can be very intense, as though she’s battling some dangerous prey, or very mild, as when she just rolls a ball around and rubs on it caressingly — small prey is often treated this way.

Stressed out? Turid Rugaas wrote me about her observations of wildlife when I sent her several videos of this coyote playing exuberantly, which a dog-walker, based on her own knowledge of dogs, claimed showed the coyote displaying “displacement behavior”. Turid disagreed with the dog-walker. She said that in the USA (as opposed to other places where she has taught), there is a high demand for a dog’s obedience and following commands, rather than letting the dogs do anything by themselves.

“So among dogs in USA I will agree that doing these things might often be a result of stress and nervousness, simply because they are never allowed to be natural. But start observing wild animals and learn how they behave – and their natural curiosity will, when there is nothing more interesting to do, come out in creative playing and doing other things. And because they develop naturally, they also become very smart and creative. 

Of course the coyotes play ! and wolves – and dogs – and all animals – they will find things to do for fun, and especially if they have no big family they live together with they will activate themselves, – they do not need to be nervous to do that ! They need an outlet for their curiosity and active brain, which is so important . Observing wild animals could teach the trainers something instead of getting hung up in theoretical and scientific blabbering.

Playing means activating the brain, and getting mental stimulation, and that is completely necessary for humans and animals for the development of the brain. It creates curiosity which is necessary, and the mental stimulation makes the growth of new brain cells, which in its turn helps them cope with problems and difficult situations in daily life.”

A 40-year-veteran wildlife behaviorist from one of the large wildlife organizations here in the city also confirmed that *fight or flight* still rules supreme, and a little coyote will not put herself into a stressful situation if she can avoid it. According to Turid, dogs’ nervousness and anxiety (the displacement behavior) is caused by them being forced to do something unnatural — there is no escape from the demands of their owners for them — so they calm themselves with repeat behaviors that don’t fit the situation. Coyotes are not constrained by the same circumstances of needing to please an owner. Certainly an urban environment will create stresses for a little coyote — it does for all of us. I’m suggesting that this coyote’s behavior is driven much more by being lonely and bored than by stresses from the urban environment, based on my observations.

Loneliness: In addition, coyotes often watch the world around them — maybe it’s entertaining: to sit in the distance and just watch. They get used to the goings-on, and to the dogs and people seen daily — habituated to it all — and then, again because loners are social animal who crave action and interaction, they may attempt to actually *participate* on some level, seemingly seeking human attention by *performing*, or maybe approaching a dog simply to get noticed and to get a reaction.  It must be very frustrating for them to be alone. These coyotes may feel a push-pull towards, and away from *the madding crowd*.

It is often hard for folks to stand back from such a situation, as has happened to this coyote. For a while, when she first appeared in the neighborhood, some dogs were allowed to interact with her, some people approached closer and closer, and some even fed her — some even throwing food from their car windows so that this coyote grew attracted to cars and to chasing cars in the street in hopes for a handout. By educating everyone about the need to stay aloof and apart — to *love her wildness* at a distance — and by stopping the feeding, we lessened these interactions immeasurably. But it takes a village, and not everyone is on-board.

A period of increased energy. Last week, this little coyote’s playful activity suddenly picked-up. Her bouts of play with objects increased, she approached more dogs either with her play-bows or by dashing in-and-out around them. Chasing birds became a regular activity. And her chasing cars increased to several times a day (up from *zero to up-to at-most a couple of times a week*).  Her activity often begins with her excited pogo-stick-like leaping and then she takes off after a car, or towards a dog. Dog owners were asked to simply keep walking on, and, if needed, to toss a small stone angrily towards her (not at her). It should be emphasized that everyone has noted that this coyote is not at all aggressive — she is just plain playful. In the case of the cars, she mostly has been running parallel to the road and not on it, but also she has been in the street, even reaching for the cars’ tires as if to bite them. A couple of onlookers informed me that chasing cars is seen commonly in South America by stray dogs and by dogs on farms, who also are bored and looking for entertainment — they do it for thrills. They suggested that this might be an explanation for why the coyote was re-engaging with cars suddenly after she had stopped for a while — for the fun and thrill of it due to boredom! It’s worth considering.

This coyote also has been engaging in more bouts of what we call *the zoomies*. Anyone who has a dog knows this crazy behavior: the dog races around, sometimes jumping on the furniture and sometimes in circles, full of energy, defiantly, daringly, a bit naughtily, as though testing you. Well, coyotes do this, too. I’ve repeatedly observed youngster coyotes do it towards their parents, exactly the way dogs do it towards their owners! In the case of the lonely coyote, it was happening in-between other high energy activities, be it car chases, attempts to engage dogs, or high energy play.

Coincidentally, during this sudden phase of increased playful and exuberant activity, a new coyote was sighted in the neighborhood — the first new coyote seen since our loner coyote appeared there over a year-and-a-half ago. Are these two things related? Let’s see! It could just be a coincidence. Another explanation comes from my wildlife behaviorist contact who told me that if you stop reinforcing a behavior with food, or ignore the behavior, the behavior will eventually extinguish, but that *extinction bursts* may occur before behaviors are totally extinguished — this is when the animal will try a little harder to get the reward she’s been given in the past by, say, running more after cars, or play-bowing more intensely to get the attention of dogs. Could this be the explanation?

This increased activity level lasted several days, and then it plummeted during the next three days of almost full-time hunting, which pleased all of us no end. We’ll just have to keep a watch to see how this story develops. It might be of interest to everyone that her scat these days is loaded with fur (indicating she’s hunting) and/or liquidy-dark (indicating high protein) and/or seeds (indicating she’s eating fruit). And I’ve documented her with apples, dead lizards, mice, gophers, a bird (yes, she even caught a bird and ate it) and even an opossum! Yay! Last November, when she spent most of her time panhandling, we almost never saw her hunt, and her scat was grainy and dog-like, instead of twisted and rope-like and full of fur as it is these days!

Generally: Generally, in all the parks where I observe here in San Francisco, be they loners or family groups, the coyotes are doing well. There was a fearful reaction to a coyote in the Presidio recently that was in the news. Trails were closed around the den where the incident happened to all dogs for the remainder of the pupping season: this protects coyotes, dogs, and people from having to deal with an encounter: a perfect solution!

But people are, on the whole, are finally learning about our coyotes. They are learning to live with, and to accept, them — and, best of all, to love them. My request to everyone is to love them at a distance — love their *wildness*. Don’t ever feed them, don’t be overtly friendly towards them, don’t approach them, and please keep your dogs away from them. If a coyote approaches you and your dog, simply tighten your leash and keep walking away without running — and keep walking away, dragging your dog if you have to. If needed, you should pick up a small stone and heave it angrily towards (again, not AT) the coyote to dissuade it from continuing to approach. It’s pupping season, and they have a job to do as family protectors. Their method of choice, if you’ve encroached on their space, is through *messaging*. Their message towards your dog could become very insistent: standing their ground and displaying a menacing-looking Halloween-Cat pose — indeed scary looking — or even nipping your dog’s haunches to get it to leave. Please, just heed the message and move away from them quickly without running.

For additional pertinent information, please see the presentation video, Coyotes As Neighbors:  And visit other postings on this blog — it is full of information about coyote behavior here in San Francisco.

[*My postings are based on my own dedicated observations, as stated in the introduction to my blog].

Friendly Coyote Video, by John Cremer

It started when I was playing with Minnie when the Coyote appeared. She watched for a bit, and then started romping around as I threw the ball to Minnie. I tried to remain quiet and still and eventually she came down near us. I did not encourage any contact, and broke off play with Minnie and the coyote moved along.

At no time did I feel threatened, same goes for our dog, who basically ignored the coyote.

HELLO Kitty, from a Neighborhood Friend

Gallery

Why Are Coyotes Sighted Regularly in The Neighborhoods?

Summary/Abstract: Coyotes have been seen repeatedly in the parks’ surrounding neighborhoods and beyond ever since they first appeared in San Francisco. Their trekking is a build-in part of their behavior and occurs mostly during the darker hours. These sightings are not so anomalous as we’ve been told they are.*

Sightings. The following was posted on the Golden Gate Heights *Nextdoor* site here in San Francisco yesterday morning: “I now have seen Coyotes in many unexpected places in SF This time a block from where I live. this one was a pretty small, healthy looking, probably female. I hope she eats the 15th Ave Skunks!” On the same day, in another *Nextdoor* site, Westwood Park, this was posted: “Saw a young coyote walking down Colon Ave about 10am this morning. Please watch your cats to be sure they are safe.”

Many similar postings on social media, and many more by word of mouth, reach me regularly, be these from Filbert Street, Cow Hollow, Park Merced, Diamond Heights, Mission Street, etc.  Sightings of coyotes in neighborhoods have been noted since I started documenting San Francisco coyotes over ten years ago, though more people now know about them due to the social media. Coyotes have been seen trotting down my own street in the late mornings, infrequently but repeatedly for some time — nowhere near a park.

Some of my neighbors are thrilled and accept this in stride; others worry for themselves and their small pets, or they say it’s “wrong”. The sightings are usually in the very early morning or in the evenings, but not always — coyotes are not nocturnal animals, though they do tend mostly to avoid human activity times and areas.

When coyotes are seen in neighborhoods — trotting down a street or standing at an intersection, passing through yards or resting there — it is still reported with a bit of surprise because it’s not where people expect to see coyotes and it’s where, purportedly, “they should not be.”

Backdrop: Coyotes are native only to America where their range has expanded considerably over the last 100 years or so from the southwestern part of the continent to all over. More recently, over the last 20 years or so, they have been moving into most urban areas. It’s a relatively new development which is being studied all over the US and Canada: Chicago has 2000 of them, Los Angeles reports 5000 of them. They are in Central Park in New York City, in Atlanta, in Westchester, NY. There are multiple dozens here in San Francisco — but not hundreds and hundreds of them — we are a small peninsula, and territoriality limits their numbers in any particular area.

Various reasons and explanations have been given for coyote sightings in neighborhoods or outside the parks. For instance, we have been told that adverse weather conditions — say, our recent 4-year drought — was a factor in neighborhood sightings — that coyotes were expanding their hunting range into neighborhoods and increasing their time there to compensate for the diminished food supply in the parks — therefore, the sightings there.

Weather may be a contributing factor, but it is not the sole nor the primary factor for their being in the neighborhoods, otherwise I simply wouldn’t have been seeing them outside of the parks so regularly, in some cases daily, over the last ten years, well before the recent drought and when their population was sparser, and even now after the rains this winter.

An explanation for increased coyote sightings within the parks at certain times is when pups begin venturing further from their dens, or when parents can be seen patrolling and protecting den areas — they suddenly appear from nowhere. Throughout the year dispersing individuals (juveniles who leave home) may turn up in unexpected places until they eventually find their own niches, which may lead them miles outside of the city. All of these explanations — all valid — are offered as anomalies to the norm (the norm being that they aren’t in the neighborhoods), and they all add a little more to our understanding of coyote movements in an urban area, but they miss the bigger picture which I have been seeing.

The bigger picture. Each coyote requires about a square mile to sustain itself, though it has been found that smaller areas sometimes can support them: need for the resources on the land is what drives their territorial behavior. To this end families claim areas and drive out non-family coyotes in order to preserve the resources there for themselves and their youngsters. This is how territoriality works in the parks and open spaces. It helps keep the population down in those places.

But these same coyotes who often claim some of the largest and lushest parks (with streams of water, grasslands and plenty of thickets as resources), have been seen trekking through neighborhoods routinely. Why don’t they stick to the parks and hide out just there? Why are we seeing them in the neighborhoods? It appears to be because of that same territorial imperative — an instinct built into their behavior through years of evolution — causing them to reach out to know the wider area, to confirm or redefine their boundaries, to know what is going on there and check it out, to push the envelope or be pushed back, to move into unclaimed or vacated areas, to search for a mate.

It is because of this behavior that they came to most of our cities, and then city parks in the first place. And it is because of this behavior that they are seen outside of the parks, not only close to the park peripheries but in the neighborhoods even further out. Truth be told, trekking through the ‘hoods and outside of park boundaries is part-and-parcel of urban coyote behavior: It’s what coyotes do. It’s a function of their daily territorial behavior. If and when they linger in any particular area, it is because of some attractant. These are my observations, supported by the reported observations of others in the city throughout many years.

In addition, coyotes who claim smaller parks as their territories may occupy several natural open spaces — their territories are fragmented and they must move between them, crossing through neighborhood areas to do so. So neighborhoods are not excluded from their ranging areas.

Several years ago I was able to follow along on a number of early evening coyote treks which I wrote up. I went along to find out where they went and what they did — it was a real honor that they allowed this. Here is an example of one of their shorter treks: Mapping Trekking Behavior.  Other posts about coyotes in neighborhoods include Coyotes in Neighborhoods, and In The ‘Hood.

What to do. So, seeing coyotes in neighborhoods is something that does occur regularly, whether or not the weather has impacted their food supply, or whether or not they are dispersing. What can be done? Is there an issue to be resolved? Not really, except to please just be aware of it so that you won’t be startled by one. Also, please don’t allow pets to be out-of-doors without supervision: even though coyotes avoid humans (unless they have been taught to approach by food-conditioned) coyotes don’t have the same aversion towards pets. If you are walking your dog and see a coyote, please tighten your leash and continue walking away from that coyote, dragging your pet if you have to.

If coyotes begin hanging around your home and you don’t want them there, please remove all attractants, including bird-seed and compost which attract small rodents which, in turn, attract the coyotes. If you need help with diverting a regular trekking pattern away from your yard, please send me a comment which I will reply to privately: I can put you in touch with the right hands.

For an introductory summary of what to know and what to do about coyotes in the city, please see Coyotes As Neighbors or see the list of resources listed on this website on the first page, at the top. [*All my postings are based on my own dedicated observations, as stated in the introduction to my blog]

Gravity

I first noticed this coyote when I saw her slipping down the hill as she tried hunting: she appeared not to have too much trouble in her battle against gravity, but I thought I would videotape it. Then she found a ball and discovered that she could use this gravity to help her play ball! She had a great time and put on an excellent show!

To combat their loneliness and boredom, *loner* coyotes — those that have dispersed from their families and no longer have a social group with whom to be social or play — often create amazingly imaginative play and games. Doing so not only helps fill the time with fun, it also stimulates their growing bodies and minds and helps them grow into more innovative problem-solvers. Most coyotes that I know are happy critters.

The video is a little long and becomes repetitive — I did not cut it because I wanted everyone to see how involved a little coyote could become in a game she herself invented.

Friendly Coyote Tags Along


Coyotes are social critters. They mostly live in families and do things together. But when they are dispersed from their birth territories, they leave behind their intense social life for a while. They remain alone for a period of time as loners, transients or interlopers. During this time, they have no one from their own species to socialize with or to play with. Yet they are young, and we all know that youngsters need to, and like to, play. Observers have commented that there appears to be boredom and loneliness in their lives, and indeed I’ve observed the same thing. Coyotes are extremely intelligent and learn to fill their empty time with activities born of their active imaginations, be it play, or a *pretend* social life.

Coyotes, like humans, play a good deal of the time. Their *play* is often *innovative* and may include playing, be it mildly or intensely, with found objects and sometimes treating them as prey. It may involve battling a stick alone because there is no one to play tug-of-war with — coyotes play among themselves this way all the time. It may involve curling up into a little ball and rolling down a hill clenching a ball or even its tail. It may involve caressing a ball and rolling with it on the ground.

The need to socialize also continues. So*stand-ins* are found for *companionship*. The bill may be filled by simply watching dogs play with other dogs and their owners. It could involve approaching dogs playfully in the hopes of engaging on some level with them, if only to get a reaction. It may involve friendly *following* of a dog walker for a short distance.

This video was taken by Jeff Garner who has two large dogs (100 pounds) which he walks daily. The coyote in the video, a young loner, knows them, and they know her: each knows the other’s moods and capabilities due to watching and some unexpected *chasing* when the coyote first came here. In this short video, the coyote tags along on a short section of the walk after approaching playfully. Notice that when something more interesting catches the coyote’s eye — movement in the grasses — she hurries over to examine what it is. She is not focused on the dogs as either threats to her, or to message them to leave her alone. No, she is following for nothing more than entertainment and company.

I’ve seen other loner coyotes who play with a few selected and trusted dogs — something I wouldn’t have believed, except that I’ve seen it many times now. In all cases, the activity began by chance. Owners have reported to me repeatedly that the coyote was seeking company, and indeed, this appears to be so. Dog and coyote don’t ever really become trusted *buddies* for one another, rather it is a very short but friendly interaction. *The civilized and the wild* (or, should I say, *the civilized* and *the becoming civilized*), both sharing an urban environment, touch each other tangentially for a few moments before moving back to parallel worlds whose dictates keep them apart.

Be this as it may, we counsel everyone to please not allow interaction. A coyote could very well end up nipping a dog — on the tail is not unusual. If a coyote approaches, leash your dog and keep walking away, as Jeff is doing in this video. Coyotes are wild animals, they can be unpredictable. Also, allowing your dog, who gets along with the coyote, to interact with a coyote may encourage that coyote to approach a dog who may not have the same feelings towards the coyote that your dog has. We’re trying to keep everyone safe, and feeling safe.

Coyote Battles A Crackling Water Bottle

Coyotes are happy critters. Each has a very different family situation, history and personality, so no two coyotes will ever be alike. Here is a playful *loner* coyote. She was *dispersed* from her territory and family a year-and-a-half ago and has not teamed up with a mate, so she is alone.

Since coyotes are very social, what do they do when there is no one to socialize with — no family? How do loners spend their time? Many folks have commented to me that they see *boredom* and *loneliness* as driving some of their behaviors. Here is a video showing a loner coyote entertaining herself with a crackling water bottle. She treats it as though it’s dangerous prey.  She seems to really *get into it*. I have watched this same coyote play with balls, dead branches, clods of dirt, tossed packaging. I have seen other coyotes play with these same things and also pieces of human clothing or dropped children’s toys. It’s always thrilling to watch and somewhat infectious!

Many folks have told me that they feel as though the coyote was actually *performing* for the various onlookers, all of whom showed and expressed their delight at the coyote’s antics. Coyotes are superb at reading this kind of reaction, and may be spurred on in their play by it.

Dogs pass close by through *her* park shortly before the bottle battle began

Others see this play as *displacement behavior* of a very anxious coyote. Living in an urban environment creates continual stresses which may cause coyotes to *act out* some of their frustrations. In which cases are one and not the other going on? Or are there always degrees of both?  Whichever the case is, we’re trying to create the conditions that make our urban environments as hospitable as possible for coyotes so that survival is not a chore for them. Please follow the guidelines by reviewing the video, Coyotes As Neighbors.

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