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.


2) MORE LINKS TO COYOTE BEHAVIOR & DOGS:

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

Aside

*A Quote Worth Pondering (blog follows)

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

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

For more photos, visit UrbanCoyoteSquared: A Gallery.

ACTUAL BLOG WITH LATEST POST BEGINS BELOW

Feeding Pups

Imagine having to keep up with the nutritional needs not only of yourself — that must be hard enough — but also of FIVE ravenous pups you’ve brought into the world! The nutritional needs of growing pups is tremendous!

This top video shows a mother coyote nursing four of her five 4-week-old pups. She is ever so patient through the frenzy of hungry little stomachs! I timed this feeding: it was done and over in just one minute and forty seconds: that’s how long a nursing session is.

I noted that within just three weeks of their birth, Mom was already bringing in semi-solid food in her stomach which she regurgitated for the pups: her milk just wasn’t enough for them.

In this next video, below, youngsters are poking at Mom’s mouth: that’s where they know solid food comes from. Young pups are ALWAYS hungry and they pester Mom until she delivers! Watching it for any length of time makes you wonder how she copes with it.

In the next few weeks, they will switch entirely to regurgitated food. I’ve seen regurgitated food continued to be brought in — though much less frequently — for up to a year in some families: I wonder if this is a way of just keeping those pups around? Mom and Dad will do this as as they teach their brood to hunt and where to find food. Here is a video showing a different mother last year, regurgitating for her four-month-old pups in August.

Sibling Rupture

[The smaller photos can be enlarged and scrolled through by clicking on any of them]

Fighting between a two-year old older brother and his one year old sister.

I found the 2 year-old male coyote with his nose to the ground, sniffing the area. I walked away and over to the perimeter, but this fella came towards me in a circuitous way to check me out. He projected to me that he was simply wandering around this area, but he was actually getting closer and closer and had his eyes on me. As he wandered over, he slurped up the morning dew from the grass. Then he picked up a dead gopher and tossed it up and caught it several times and then left it, watching me all the time as if to see if I might come and grab it. He must have wondered why I wasn’t interested in it, so then he began coming straight in my direction with squinting eyes. He might have been attempting to intimidate me, or maybe test me. Although I don’t see this family often, he is well aware that my focus has frequently been on him or the other coyotes. Suspicions run exceptionally high during pupping season, which we are smack dab into right now. I was about 100 feet away and squatting against the wheel of a parked truck. Since I diverted my focus and didn’t react in any way, I guess I passed his test because he soon walked away and began to ignore me. He wanted to make sure I didn’t want anything to do with him. Of course I did — I was going to be observing — but I apparently succeeded in hiding that.

Older Brother patrols the fenceline, eyes me with squinty eye, and then slurps up morning dew.

He then hurried over to the fenceline at the other end of the lawn and sniffed along that. I thought he was assessing which dogs had been there earlier — he seemed unhappy with whomever he was detecting through his nose. There were no dogs there now, but he kept looking around as if looking for one as he walked away. This two-year-old male had remained with his birth family, whereas all his littermates — of which there had been two — had dispersed long ago: the age difference conferred a hierarchical advantage over his one-year-old siblings born last year.

Just then one of the one-year-old brothers appeared at the other end of the lawn. This younger fellow lay down and remained there, keeping his eyes on what Older Brother was up to — he seemed not to want to be involved physically but was very absorbed in watching it.

Younger brother watches intently from the distance. In the middle is Li’l Girl eyeing her tormentor. To the right she has jumped up to perform *zoomies* to help dispel the tension.

This is when I noticed the third coyote approaching the fenceline where Older Brother had been searching earlier. Older Brother probably had been looking for this, his one year old sister. When she spotted him, she sat down close to the fence and watched him. I sensed tension between them: Older Brother was prowling around and sniffing, with occasional glances towards her, and the two younger coyotes remained distant without moving or making signs of wanting to approach or interact. They normally would have run enthusiastically towards each other to play and interact, but they were obviously in some kind of a standoff. So something was going on from the first moment when I spotted them this morning.

Li’l Girl is tiny compared to her brothers — a good 1/3 smaller — and not at all demonstrative or assertive. I think because of these *small and mellow* qualities, she has remained in the park rather than venture out — it was the safest place for her, whereas her more robust — more robust in size and personality — brothers were out exploring beyond this place long ago: coyotes mature at different rates. This is where her parents had brought her and her siblings when they were just two months old and she has never left. In recent months, we have been detecting her alone in the area, long after her brothers were on their forays to discover the world, so the area, in a certain way, had become hers.

Li’l Girl was nervous at times this morning as she sat and then lay at the end of the lawn. Every once in a while she got up and raced wildly around in circles, almost uncontrollably, picking up a frisbie and then dropping it and then returning to her previous sitting or lying down position and watching her brother: she appeared to be releasing tension as she performed what in the dog-world are known as *zoomies*. She did this several times, always returning quickly to her lying down or sitting position, and staring at her brother in the distance. His presence was undeniably causing her distress.

As she sat there, scrub jays harassed her. She could have easily caught one if she had wanted to since they walked on the ground only inches from her, but she had other things on her mind. She continued to watch Older Brother and ignored the birds, foregoing a gleeful pursuit if only for the fun of it.

Older Brother continued sniffing the ground, seemingly nonchalantly, slurping up the morning dew and now moving slowly and zig-zaggedly in his little sister’s direction 200 feet away, the way he had towards me earlier. He did not head straight in her direction, but headed there circuitously.

Not until this observation had I noticed negative interactions between these two. It’s true that all her brothers tended to teasingly pick on her — they pulled and poked at her — and she let them without retaliating, and maybe that’s why they continued to do it. I also think that the interacting allowed her to be part of the group — it was better than being left out. She had been one of six pups in the litter — all the rest were boys — and Older Brother remained from last year’s litter. It has been a big family.

Older Brother approaches Li’l Girl directly when he is within 40 feet of her.

So, Bigger Brother wandered casually in Li’l Girl’s direction. I watched as he got half-way there, and then he was 3/4ths of the way there. Finally he stopped and stared at her and then headed in her direction directly with long strides and hackles up and squinty eyes, wrinkling his nose and raising his lips enough to show his teeth. When he reached her, he sniffed her, and stood over her stiffly and threateningly. He was daring her to submit or react.

When he reached her, he snarled his displeasure at her with bared teeth. She used her arm to keep him away and stayed low and on her back, offering no resistance beyond returning a snarl of displeasure.

SHE responded defensively by curling up tightly and keeping down, but she also gaped and bared her teeth with lips pulled back over a clenched jaw, and she thrust nips at him every so often. At times she extended a paw towards him to keep him an arm’s length away. Older Brother’s attacks came in brief spurts: bursts of actual body slams and nips between longer periods of dominant intimidation and then spells where he would walk off. But the pressure of Older Brother’s presence was palpable continually even as he walked away from her. I sat in the distance taking it all in and mesmerized by it all. Occasionally she would run off with her tail tucked under, her back arched protectively and keeping low to the ground. She never went far before lying down again: she seemed to be holding her ground. Another self-protective stance of hers as she was poked at, was to put her head down under herself with her backside up which often resulted in her toppling over in a sort of somersault — she was protecting her face at the expense of her rear.

Here she resists and defensively bites back after he intensified his attack with body slams and bites.

And this interaction repeated itself aver and over again, with Older Brother walking away some distance after each interaction, and Little Sister also moving off some distance and then lying down again, and then Big Brother approaching again. The activity continued for about an hour. She was taunted and bullied like this repeatedly. But she didn’t run off, she just moved out of his range of contact, so the activity continued.

She slinks away, keeping low, with an arched back and ears back.

After an hour, Younger Brother, who had remained in the distance watching, now came forward and joined the interaction. He approached Li’l Girl several times caringly, as if to offer solace. But he also seemed to be conflicted about where he stood in this situation. One moment he stood by her gently consoling her, yet at the same time, he seemed wary that Older Brother might dish out the same treatment to him, and I could see that he was being pulled into Older Brother’s camp. His hackles also went up and he ended up poking Li’l Girl a couple of times — I would say more playfully, but possibly also showing solidarity with Older Brother — this would be for his own self-protection from Big Brother. I’ve seen this *imitate and join* behavior in other coyotes as they either go after another family member to disperse them, or against a predator when they hunt. She, again, got up and ran off a litte distance and then lay down in her low, curled up position. 

More interaction, with Older Brother dominating her space, jumping on or over her. She does her somersault roll, keeping her face out of his reach.

Shortly thereafter, I suppose she had had enough, because she grabbed her chance when both males were at enough of a distance to give her a lead, and she ran off. Both brothers followed her. I was not able to keep up. However, I was informed by another observer that Li’l Girl was seen running back into the area within only a few minutes, followed by the others. She continued through and out of the area, while the two brothers stopped there and remained there. The next day, the two males were seen there, but not Li’l Girl, and we have not seen her there since.

Above you’ll see Younger Brother’s attempt to console her, and below he might have thought of interference, but he seems to have thought better of it and then moved away.

Li’l Girl has not been a threat to either brother, so why was this happening? Did Older Brother not like her claiming the area as hers — if in fact she was doing so? Had she started exhibiting territorial behavior towards him which might have caused him to react? If she had, I never saw it. Then again, I have found that coyotes tend to pick on the weaker individuals in their families (just like they pick on weaker prey), simply because they can get away with it without reprisals.

On the left she tries calming Older Brother, but he won’t have it; in the middle photo he tries mounting her (a domination behavior); whereupon she bares her teeth and moves away from him (right photo above).

I don’t recall another instance of a little girl coyote picked on like this by a brother. The little girl coyotes that I’ve seen seem to become their littermates’ best friends and protectors, and are usually sought after for easy companionship when other brothers might be roughhousing too intensely. It’s usually same-sex littermates who become rivals as far as I have seen. Then again, I have found exceptions to every generality I’ve made or heard about regarding coyotes. They truly are individuals and march to their own individual tunes.

Note the stare of intimidation in the upper left photo. Upper right she hurries away with lowered head. Lower left he bites her leg and then in the center photo stands over her dominantly. She retaliates in the lower right photo as he body slams her.

Growing animosity between siblings often leads to dispersal. Was Older Brother meanly trying to push her out? Then again, it occurs to me that Big Brother’s bullying her may be exactly what she needs to get her exploring the larger world. The worry is that her slow maturing may mean she’s not ready. Anyway, these are some of the images I captured during that hour.

She sits with clenched jaw, not backing down. But then Older Brother comes at her like a bullet (center photo), and she decides it’s time to split, at which point she runs out of the field with brothers at her heels.

Slide Presentation at the Rotary Club, SF, May 17th

I will be giving a much-shortened 20 minute version of my normally 50 minute talk at the Rotary Club of San Francisco on May 17th at noon. You can attend in person and receive a three course lunch (yes, there’s a fee), or you can sign up virtually. Click the link below for more information.

For more information, click here: https://sfrotary.com/event/rotary-luncheon–citizen-coyotes-of-san-francisco–where-they-are–who-they-are–how-to-get-along/

Slim Jim’s Bigger Picture, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet,

I recently mentioned the old nearly blind former pack leader, Slim Jim, and him joining his daughter over 8 miles away from his core area.

The move mystified me because I felt he had it all. Safety in landscape and Bison herds. 

The bigger picture with wild animals is almost really never known. We cannot know every detail, trajectories or reasons. However..I realize more now about Slim Jim with help from others and some analytical thinking. (And it’s still guesswork)

Slim Jim had a very nice area and kept following bison for some months. However. . .2 things changed the Bison scene:

1) The Bison cows are heavily pregnant or giving birth. Their tolerating ANY canine..including elderly Slim, is over with motherhood. At least when calves are tiny 1st couple weeks.

2)The bison are a captive herd. They may have 7,000 acres to range. But they are moved periodically. Early calving season the bison are moved out of hills to watch until all calves are born and birthing season is over. Slim Jim wasn’t about to follow Bison in hemmed in fences. 

Why he didn’t stay in the area when buffalo left is likely a few wolves passed thru. Rolling in bison patties apparently is a wolf pleasure when herds aren’t about. Trotting wolves even distant would likely unsettle the old guy. 

We will never know how Slim Jim made it to Daughter Kinky and her family. Did she fetch him? Did he somehow know where she went and begged admittance? 8 miles is alot when you are blind and not fast. He made it. 

He is now officially pup sitter of 3 pups.Kinky had a tiny litter. (Her being a yearling might be partial reason) 

He is with pups constantly. He likely sees a little and stays very close to the massive cliffs and crevices that are now home. 

He went from green foothills and range to stony highlands. 

I wish his scruffy little body well.

Regards,

Lou

Creating Structure and Keeping Culture, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet, 

As spring and pupping season rockets fwd, a sort of dilemma appears and really goes to the core of who we are. 

My pack and I do am approx 150 miles of ranches bordering vast public lands. It’s a place of many cultures and types of peoples lives. 

The same can be said of the Coyote.

There are people who will indiscriminately kill any coyote they can. There are areas of hard core incessant coyote warfare.

Then there are areas of careful land management. Ranch bisons or wheat farms or LGD premises where dogs control and repel predators naturally.

Hardcore Areas produce hardcore Coyote. Plain and simple. There are coyote that will become nomadic, erratically wild raiders of sheep ranches. They will bankrupt a ranch’s yearly lamb production. Ironically…left alone and allowed to have land of natural hunting (mainly rodents) you get structured packs. You get long bonded pairs. You get strict territoriality among coyote families that develop learned culture. They can be taught…do not go to certain areas. They can be influenced generationally. 

Humans create the local coyote. 

Coexistence and knowledge can create stable coyote, and structured behaviors.

Ceaseless persecution creates legendary canines ready and willing to become the wild erratic hardcore raider that brings financial and personal issues.

Anyhow….many coyote this year never seen. Fire refugees likely.

The Bad Ear Pack

One pack is called Bad Ears. From a ranch hunted ceaselessly. Hemmed in to hold territory in swampy refuge. The bugs in summer bite ears ceaselessly. Hence bad ear pack. The Bad Ears seem to produce hard core behaviors.

Left: Kinky! Right: Kinky saying she sees us.

Wheras Kinky tail and others…rodents and deer killed and lost by hunters are their mainstay with berries and grasshoppers. Kinkys family hasn’t killed livestock in 30 years.

I love all dogs. But I will not allow this pack our knowledge of coyote homes. It’s a locally divisive subject.

A local rancher asked us to help locate the bad ears and others for greyhounds to hunt.

We simply can’t do that. To scatter our local packs will create unstable coyote for many years. So..it kind of reveals who you are and how you feel about coyote, land, and culture. 

Who am I creating or betraying? Going after all Bad Ears means endangering Kinky, Slim Jim and every coyote who never did any livestock wrong. 

We won’t do that. 

Anyway….coexistence. It is our pack mantra. 

Lou

Pups Emerge from their Den

Less than a week ago, on April 28th, these pups emerged for the first time from their den. The timeline is about the same in all the territories here in San Francisco. I wanted to share what the brand new pups look like, taken with a field camera. These are three weeks old and Mom is already regurgitating solid food for them, though they’ll continue nursing for another month.

Stewardship and guidelines for coexistence are easy, but you have to abide by them to keep coyotes, dogs and people happy and safe. The important thing is to keep away from them and their denning areas. They will be extremely protective especially during pupping season: the only thing they own and care about is their families right now.

Dogs are their biggest problem — dogs go after them constantly. As far away from their dens as 1/4 mile and more, they will approach dogs (as they do non-family coyotes) to message them to keep away. This is why it’s much less important for folks to know exactly where a den is than to know that it’s denning season. If you’ve been seeing coyotes in your area, you can pretty much be sure they are pupping and therefore will exhibit protective behavior which extends far beyond the den itself.

If you stay vigilant and keep your dog leashed, and then walk away from a coyote when you see one, you will be protecting both your dog and the coyote. You will probably not run into a coyote that often, so this isn’t a lot to ask. Any dog that isn’t leashed in a coyote area is actually free to chase coyotes: the owner is allowing it. Every chase (but also barking at and lunging at the coyotes while on a leash) sends the message to the coyote that the dog is an attacker — that’s how they see these things. And every such incident erodes the dog/coyote coexistence interface. If the coyotes are chased, they learn that’s what dogs do and they come to expect it and become more ready for it and willing to put up a defense. Respect is granted when it’s earned.

Small dogs and cats are a totally different issue because they can be seen as prey, no different from a rabbit or skunk. When you walk your small dog, please keep it leashed and close to you — not on a long extended leash. And, again, when you see a coyote, shorten that leash even more and walk away. You might have to pick up the small dog as you go if the coyote comes towards you. So please, be safe, keep your dog safely away — far enough away to keep them from reacting to the coyote by barking and lunging in their direction: this is the best way to respect our wildlife and to build respect from them.

Small children have been in the news recently as the result of coyotes approaching and biting them. This is not only rare, it is extremely rare. Humans feeding coyotes may be behind this, but also just the fact that it’s denning season I’m sure is an influencing factor. Again, please stay vigilant and keep small children close to you at all times.

Shot With Paintballs

I found one of the dads I observe this way a few days ago: covered in blue paint. It’s very apparent that he’s been shot with paintballs. This constitutes harassment and abuse of our wildlife and is illegal. If you know, or get whiff of, who is doing this, please report them to ACC. This is in the Lake Merced area.

A paintball gun can cause serious injuries. It’s unlikely that a shooter could actually stop an animal’s heart, I read, but they could cause internal injuries like bleeding that could kill the animal over time. A paintball bullet causes unnecessary pain and suffering for an animal, and more so if one of the more powerful paintball guns out there is being used.

In addition to internal injuries caused by the impact, other common injuries from these guns include traumatic eye injuries, some leading to partial or complete blindness. Blunt forces to the eye can permanently impede the eyes’ ability to create clear images and can lead to cataracts. Knee and ligament injuries also can result from the the blunt force of the paintballs, as can broken bones, all of which, in turn, can lead to Infections: our wild animals are not privy to the medical care we are.

My Run-In with a Coyote (I had a dog with me)

Yes, this happened to me because I had let down my guard.

The background is that most evenings I set up a couple of field cameras where I know coyotes frequent. I usually go alone, but lately I’ve been dog-sitting my *granddog*: my oldest son drops Zak off at our home on days he will be out for a long period of time.

Zak knows my routine and has the choice of staying home with my husband or coming with me. I was actually hoping he might want to stay home, but as he heard me get ready to leave, there he was at my feet, wagging his tail and looking up inquiringly: “May I come?” I’m always impressed with animal communication and I couldn’t stand to let him down, knowing he wanted to accompany me. So I said, “Okay, you can come!” He excitedly went to get his ball and then waited for me ebulliently. When I tell him, “No, not this time,” with no emphasis on any of the words, just speaking like I would to anyone else, he knows exactly what I mean. He walks slowly over to his bed and curls up, offering me a knowing and forlorn look as I thank him for staying home to guard the house.

Zak is a little mostly-beagle-and-hound of some sort, weighing about 45 pounds. At the Peninsula SPCA, it’s this little dog who chose my son, my grown son, by jumping on him repeatedly and almost beseechingly: “I want YOU to take me; please choose ME; we could be BUDDIES”. He communicated his wishes well and endearingly and my son chose him because the dog had chosen him. That was five years ago. I watch the dog when my son is busy for extended periods of time.

I’m writing about this dog, because it’s actually your dog companion who creates all issues with coyotes — not you.

So, Zak came with me. We got in the car and drove to a park where we walked and greeted other dogs. Zak is always on a leash. Then Zak and I headed to a couple of other parks to set up a couple of field cameras. It was dark by the time we entered the last park: 8:30 at night. My field camera was already set up at this place and all I needed to do was change the media card and check the batteries. I hadn’t seen coyotes for quite some time in this place even though the camera showed they were there regularly towards midnight. So my guard was not up for an encounter — I definitely did not have my eyes open for them.

As we reached the camera I was suddenly startled into alertness with a scream point blank under foot — and I’m not exaggerating: it was right at my feet. The field camera in fact caught the scream, so I’m including it here. I pulled Zak closer to me and shone the flashlight into the darkness. And there she was, the alpha female of the territory who I could see (at that time, a month ago) was very pregnant. The coyote had approached us from behind and emitted that unsettling scream as a warning to get us to leave. It was startling and unnerving more than anything else. If there had been enough daylight to see her, I probably would also have seen her in her scary *halloween cat stance*. This is how coyotes *message* dogs when they feel intruded upon. I’m always at a distance, and I’m always without a dog when I observe coyotes: the dog is what upset her and drew her towards us. With the flashlight aimed at her, she moved about 75 feet away from us and sat under a tree, keeping an eye on us — I was able to capture a flashlight shot of her before Zak and I walked away quickly. I won’t be taking Zak with me anymore to that site.

Here is the short several seconds of video — it’s the sudden and startlingly loud scream I want you to hear — it’s a vocalization I haven’t posted before. It’s freaky and scary, especially because it was so close and so unexpected in the quiet of the night — a very effective message telling us to get out of there.

And here is one of the few non-blurry photos I captured of her with my flashlight.

Please remember that dogs and coyotes do not mix — they don’t like each other. A coyote will warn a dog around denning areas, and this can happen as far away, as far as I have seen, as 1/4 mile from the actual den site. It’s always best to abide by the warning: please walk away from it to keep the peace! And avoid the area with your dog for the next little while. In a known coyote area, an encounter can occur when you least expect it — you need to stay alert and should always be prepared to walk away the instant you see a coyote. Keeping your dog leashed allows you to control the dog: to pull the dog towards you and away from the coyote. The leash does not keep a coyote away, which, weirdly, is what some people think.

The Chess of Pupping Season, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet,

Spring is here with erratic weather and wild swings. And locally we are seeing coyote tactics like never before. And more coyote then ever.

The changes are a culmination of 2 years of massive wildfires changing the land, wolf pressure and prey abundance. We really can’t say what this means long term. But we do see coyote have reacted INSTANLTY to changes.

It’s challenging to describe but I will try. The Cascade mountains east of us had all forests lost, right up to the foothills of ranges and ranches. The land there is barren and burnt and open. It’s actually been reseeded, but the saplings wont be forest for decades. It’s hundreds of miles of scorched trunks. 

For the resident wolves…it meant leaving and finding any forests and woods they could. There are only a few packs regionally…so it was relatively easy to find new territory. However, it does mean wolves claim vast areas for denning, hunting and raising pups. This means 0 tolerance for any coyote found by wolf packs.

The coyote flawlessly responded by converging upon these newly barren vast areas. We couldn’t figure out why so many pairs were clearly staking these devasted areas as home until we realized….voles. There are hundreds of thousands of voles filling up every nook and cranny you can think of. The fires destroyed old growth woods but there is an explosion of grasses and plants and the voles are having generations of buffet living. The coyote literally are feasting on a cyclic vole boom. And they have come for miles. 

Wolves pretty much avoid such exposed open country crisscrossed with logging roads. The coyote literally just disappear in the maze of stumps that go to horizon.

In this scenario…Kinky Tail and her new Mate left the foothill ranch and went to a scorched castle of rock nearly 9 stories high and on private land. She pupped in this labyrinth of Rock towers and she and her Mate can see for miles. They forage for voles and stay at the rocks.

As we patrol…we routinely come across coyote. My pack are trained to stay together and literally push through, creating space. Unlike city areas….we have to engage here. But it’s very natural. The coyote give way to the hills and woods on ranchlands in foothills…and we do our fence patrols.

Final observations made on Kinky’s denning strategy. To our shock…Kinky has been joined by the elderly blind Slim Jim her father. Why he left his bison ranch sanctuary and how he made it to his daughter (over 8 miles away) we can never know. Did young Kinky go fetch her Father? Or did he somehow smell her, and want her company? 

Slim Jim, old and blind…is obviously with the den. Kinky is already leaving him to pup sit while she leaves for voles. Her Mate is standoffish but accepts Slim. Slim has also been seen both hunting voles and begging returning daughter. We suspect she feeds him. 

What a denning season. More coyote seen then ever in the Burns. And Slim Jim…with Daughter Kinky Tail…raising pups in a fortress of rock towers. 

For early season dens…its Coyote adaptations and Puppy Chess. And for an ancient Slim…the joy of pups.

Sincerely, 

Lou

PS-the pic of coyote is Kinkys Mate. He followed and glowered at my pack some miles but we have an understanding. We must make our patrols but….we are leaving and powerful and calm. He reads our messages and escorts us..at a distance. This is how my pack travels the ranges and co exists with coyote in mutual..tentative understanding during pup season. 

Moods: Good Days and Bad Days

I don’t think most of us think about wild animals out in their habitats in nature as having ups and downs, good days and bad days similar to our own. We tend to see an animal and possibly what it is doing and move on, and are thrilled at the sighting.

For us humans, things often go smoothly and well, and we have feelings and reactions to these, and sometimes things go badly and we have other reactions and feelings to these. A particular experience or set of experiences might affect us for much longer than the immediate moment of that experience, and these color our behavior and reactions for a while moving forward. Wildlife, too, has good days and bad days and even mood swings — and that includes coyotes!

I’ve seen coyotes in their element: successfully pouncing for gophers, basking comfortably in the sunshine, enjoying the help of rain causing gophers to emerge from their tunnels, being groomed affectionately by a mate, playing ecstatically with siblings. They are obviously feeling good and having a good day. And I’ve seen them out of their element because of an infestation of fleas, a broken ankle caused by a chasing dog, dealing with a constantly bullying sibling, or evading hostile territorial coyotes during dispersal or even dogs during pupping season. I’ve seen a coyote down in the dumps and anxious after being driven viciously from her own territory by an intruder. Coyotes aren’t reacting to things unfeelingly — their emotional states are intense and very obvious when you are watching them.

Here is a video I captured in a field camera that shows the same pair of coyotes on a bad day and then on a good day. On their bad day — it seems to actually be HER bad day — she lunges at him with teeth bared, letting him know exactly how she feels and letting him know to bug off. Then the video flips and you see this same pair, three weeks later, on a good day: here she is overjoyed and jumping ecstatically all over him and even rubbing affectionately against him, while he smiles (yes, smiles — they smile when they’re having fun playing) and seems to enjoy her behavior towards him. Listen also to the two very different vocalizations with each behavior: one upset and angry, and the other contented purrs.

Indiefest: “don’t feed the coyotes” will show at the Roxie in SF on April 14th at 6 pm

This is a documentary film by Nick Stone Schearer. You may get your tickets online by clicking HERE. [PS: I’m in this film!]

The Chronicle wrote a review of the film.

This is the Q&A session afterwards

Pupping Is On!

A seven year old pregnant coyote shortly before giving birth

Out of the 16 territories I’ve mapped here in San Francisco (and I fully assume there are several more that I’ve missed), I’m able to follow six and sometimes seven of the families more closely. The expectant mothers I’m keeping tabs on this year range in age from 5 to 7, 8 and 9. I can only guess the age of two of them, but they appear younger than 4 years old. Of these, four have given birth over the past week, and I haven’t yet been able to confirm the other two, but they are imminent. Pupping season is in full-swing!

An alpha female’s change from pregnant to postpartum last week.

It seems that expectant coyote mothers avoid being out in the open where they can be seen. Since February, my sightings of them have been extremely sparse. I think it’s because they feel more vulnerable — the same as after they’ve sustained an injury, and the same as when they get old, as debilitating deteriorations set in. They keep themselves protected by keeping out of sight. So I have sparse images this year of obviously pregnant coyotes, but my field camera was able to capture the above images of the same alpha female over the last week, showing her change from quite pregnant to postpartum.

Here is a five-year-old nursing mother who recently gave birth. She’s on her 3rd litter this year. She’s still young and takes her mothering duties in stride!
Note the triangle of fur dipping below her abdomen which helps protect and hide the swollen mammary glands of this older mom.

Younger mothers seem able to hide their nursing status much better than older moms, especially as the weeks go by. The abdomens of all nursing moms becomes bald — the better to feed the youngsters — but a triangle of fur sometimes hangs down and conceals what’s going on unless you know what to look for.

. . . like an island in an ocean of grass
Here is an exhausted older mom who I found resting in the sun, far away from any pups.

Nine years old apparently is not too old to have pups as confirmed by one of the mothers I’m keeping my eyes on. However, it appears that giving birth is particularly taxing on older moms, and raising the youngsters I’m sure won’t be as easy as it was when they were younger. The above eight-year-old mother looked absolutely exhausted and even depressed to me following her birthing ordeal when I spotted her in the distance as a bump on the vast golf green: when she finally noticed me, she moved only her eyelids to look at me and then closed them again. She was soaking in the heat of the sun a good 1/4 mile from the general area where I know her den is. I won’t know how many pups were born to any of the families until June at the earliest, if then — most coyote parents are very protective of their pups and often don’t even like them to be seen, and they’ll move them if they think you might be interested in them. I usually get a glimpse of some of them in June as they begin exploring further afield.

Not all coyote territorial mated pairs produce litters, or possibly, they produce them but the pups don’t always survive. Last year, we saw a 4-year-old female who had been bulging at the sides and was initially lactating but no pups were ever seen by anyone, so we assume they all perished. Pup survival rate is notoriously low for coyotes. This would have been that female’s first litter, even though the previous year the conditions were right for her — she had a territory and a mate and she was over two years old — but a litter never materialized. Other territorial mated pairs I observed never showed any signs at all that they were expecting or birthing, and there were no pups ever seen, even though the pairs had been together for over a year at least.

In one family this year — the same as occurred last year to a different family — there is a mother and daughter, BOTH of whom had been very pregnant on one territory. Last year, the daughter and her pups disappeared soon after the birth, and I’m wondering if they even survived. That mother had developed a 12 inch square gaping and angry red wound on her side which may have led to her end. Possibly her surviving pups, if there were any, were adopted and incorporated into the other family — hopefully the DNA we’ve collected will reveal all that. We’ll have to wait and see what the outcome is for the double motherhood on a territory this year: it’s an unusual situation and seems to come from less than stable or solid alpha pair relationships.

Dad guards the birthing area — and waits and waits. Birthing is occurring right now in San Francisco.

Another sign of what’s going on right now is that dads have been hanging out and guarding near their den sites. For years I used to look for the *birthing rock* where one of SF’s father coyotes hung out while Mom gave birth. After I realized why he was hanging out there, I would always look for him at this time of year, and always found him there during this short birthing period, year after year, until last year. That father passed away last year, but other dads have been doing the same thing: finding a lookout post close to their mates’ birthing dens where they stand sentry, guarding the precious new litter while Mom is unable to do so, still recovering from birthing.

How Coyote the Trickster Sneaks in and Twists a Story, by K.M. del Mara

Always lurking behind the scenes in my new book, Twist a Rope of Sand, is Coyote the Trickster. You may not notice him nosing amongst boulders, but he’s there, observing all comings and goings, never missing a thing, not even the Chopin nocturnes someone practices daily. Music does soothe the savage beast, they say, and Coyote knows those nocturnes to the last note.

Although Coyote Trickster turned out to be essential to this book, it was not my intention to feature him in any way. Granted, the previous book in this mini-series, Vagabond Wind, also had a trickster figure who put mischievous ideas into peoples’ heads, or brought unlikely loners together. But I thought I was finished with merry pranksters when I closed that book.

That tricksy character, though, had other ideas. Somehow he transformed, grew fur and ears, and popped out from behind a rock. Scared me half to death, too, if I own the truth, having only seen a coyote once in my life. But as this new story settled itself into the high desert of the southwest, I realized, even as I tried to ignore him, he would not go away. Then, wandering around online, I tripped over Janet Kessler’s wonderful site. I am learning a lot reading her posts, but the thing that first drew me in was a remarkable image she captured, of Coyote and Raven in the very midst of an altercation. How Janet ever caught such an interchange on camera is beyond me, but that image wrote the first chapter of the book. And, spoiler alert, more besides.

They say authors succumb to writer’s block when their imaginary friends stop talking to them. This coyote, though, will not keep quiet. He still whispers in my ear even though I’ve closed the cover on that book. I’m thinking that, if I can pass him along to a few readers, maybe he’ll leave me alone. But I warn you, beware! If he puts his nose over your doorsill, you never know what will happen. And so, allow me to offer you a chance to meet Señor Coyote. But watch yourself carefully if he’s around. That guy is not to be trusted.

Twist a Rope of Sand, by K.M. del Mara

It’s available from Amazon here.

Visit me at www.kmdelmara.com

Say ‘hello’ on Facebook


PS: [Raven/Coyote story can be found here]

Nine

Have you ever wondered how a coyote ages, or even thought about it? It’s similar to us. Most of the changes occur during early-life growth and then during old-age and decline. In-between these more obvious changes, there are slower and more subtle changes as the animal continues to mature and evolve, weathering the elements and bearing the tatters and tears of everyday life. No different from your dog’s. No different from us.

Chert just turned nine years old — Happy Birthday Chert. I’ve known her her entire life and witnessed the changes she’s gone through. She was born into a litter of a three surviving pups. She herself had her first litter — a singleton pup — at the age of two, and she’s not done yet! It appears that she’s having another litter this year! Go Chert! And she still has four just-turned-yearlings at home who have not dispersed out of a litter of five born last year, one of whom has dispersed. I know Chert’s ancestors going back to before 2009 and several two generations of descendants in the city.

In this posting I’m concentrating on ever so subtle changes of facial features through the years. A coyote’s face is covered with fur which hides many things, but you can see some of her *history* in the visible scars on her face. They are pretty minor: Chert has lived a fairly easy life. A big change in her appearance surfaced at about the age of 5. No one recognized her after she had been absent for many weeks, and even I had to see her face-on before I could tell it was her.

Of course, there are huge physical and psychological changes that also occur through a lifetime, beginning with drastic seasonal fur changes. On a longer time scale in the physical realm, old age will bring loss of hearing, difficulty with vision, arthritis, and more. In other words, life will become more difficult if it hasn’t already. I’ve seen a number of coyotes live to be 12 years old here in San Francisco.

Psychological changes also occur as new and different situations are confronted and dealt with throughout a coyote’s life: Coyotes, as we, are constantly learning and becoming wiser as they age.

One thing I’ve notice the most about aging coyotes is that they are less out in the open, less visible, the same as after injuries earlier in life. I imagine it’s because they feel more vulnerable and are less willing to take the risks they took earlier in life. One of the big risks of being visible is dogs chasing them.

9 years old (March, 2022)
7½ years old
almost 6 years old
5 years old
3 years old
Two years
7 months old
2½ months old

The Many Faces of Dispersal

I hope this posting clarifies rather than confuses or convolutes what goes into dispersal. I think I’ve covered enough examples to enlighted, but not too many so as to confuse! I’ve included plenty of links to YouTube videos and previous postings of mine.

Dispersal is not a simple cut-and-dry process that occurs on a set schedule: it occurs at any time of the year and has a variety of causes pushing and pulling it. I’m sure we all can appreciate that it’s always safer to have a territory and remain on one than not: coyotes are familiar with existing dangers and food sources on their own territories whereas they are not outside of that area. From what I’ve seen, the majority of coyote deaths occur during dispersal, away from their territories, most of those in urban areas by cars, though of course younger and inexperienced coyotes aren’t much safer from cars within their own territories. So that’s an important factor involved in dispersal.

Video of youngsters playing

Another factor is the changing quality of play over time. Initially, coyote littermates learn by playing innocently with each other — it’s great to have a bunch of companions! They learn invaluable and nuanced social skills (how to get along and how not to!), communication skills, hierarchy assessment, etc. They learn their limits, and they learn the limits of their siblings: they learn when they’ve gone too far. Most play is on the level of horsing around, teasing, provoking, and competitive. It includes chase-me, keep-away, wrestling, tug-of-war, pouncing, stealing, grabbing, etc. Very little of it is cooperative, except that they are engaging with each other and learning the rules together and through each other, learning to apologize in order to keep a game going, etc. Even so, I’ve seen plenty of cuddling and grooming, and the growth of very special sibling bonds as seen in the two photos below. Above is a video of siblings playing, showing how rough and tumble it is.

opposite-sex youngster siblings grooming each other affectionately
Youngsters love to play, with increasing challenges as time moves along, until one day it becomes cut-throat rivalry
Sweet Face wasn’t interested in rough play

Roughhousing can escalate: if they want to play with a sibling who doesn’t like the roughness, they learn to tone it down. Those individuals who withdraw from rougher play either can’t keep up, don’t like it, or are innately less socially interactive than their siblings: innate personalities which they are born with are always a part of the equation. They may prefer sitting to the side and watching, or going off on their own. This little girl to the right remained aloof of rough play, but the little girl in the video above resigned herself to being batted around rather than be excluded.

These photos above are of brother siblings whose playing has turned more serious: more of, “Take that, and I mean it.” One youngster still wanted to get along, but the other wanted brother gone.

Unwelcome teasing, bullying, one-upmanship, all of which are involved in establishing a hierarchy or challenging it, can segue into visceral dislike and antagonism, and ultimately avoidance of a sibling. OR their internal clock begins telling them to exclude others of the same sex, especially the males. For females, growing antagonism appears to be more often on a mother-daughter level as far as I’ve seen. After all, coyotes live pretty much in long-lasting monogamous pairs, so this is ultimately what they are programmed for: reproductive rivals must be excluded. They are *nuclear family* animals as opposed to *pack* animals.

This video above shows sibling rivalry between an older sister and a younger brother: I haven’t seen as much male/female sibling rivalry, but here are two examples. 1) The young male in the video has taken on their mother’s attitude towards his sister. Mother had been regularly attacking the sister in an attempt to get her to disperse. Sister sulked but didn’t leave. The mother’s repeated negative treatment of Sister seems to have given license to this brother to ceaselessly taunt her and egg her on as in this video. Note the purposeful teasing and body slams for no other reason than to annoy her and cause a reaction. And here is more brother/sister “Friction Between Almost Two-Year-Old Siblings”. Sometimes the differences are worked out, keeping the family intact a little longer, but soon there are departures.

In the photos below, you see on the right, bowing submission to the hackles-up guy who could no longer stand his brother’s presence: the kowtowing brother was soon driven out forcefully at 1.5 years of age. He desperately wanted to stay, hanging on as long as he could — he and his mother shared a lot of affectionate interactions and grooming — but the onslaught of his domineering brother become a daily affair. Biting resulting in visible skin wounds and squeals of pain preceded his departure as seen in the photo to the left.

Most of the time, according to what I’ve seen, parents allow youngsters to work out their own interpersonal differences without interfering. But this has not always been the case as when a parent develops a special attachment to one of the youngsters, in which case the parent may discipline the aggressor or soothe the youngster they want to stick around: the aggressive sibling begins to think twice about bullying if the parent is around.

In one very convoluted and complicated case, Mom, repeatedly groomed her two-year old son, Scowl, obviously inviting him to stay on the territory and be her mate. Her long-term mate (the pair was together 9 years) had died of old age the year before, and a new alpha male intruder had come into the picture and even fathered her last litter. But no one in the family liked him as could be seen by their behavior towards him, and Mom kept paying particular attention to Scowl, to the exclusion of that fellow. Scowl was the apple of her eye, and within the new pups’ 4-month birthday, that outsider male left. Now Scowl, at three years of age, rules the roost with his mom, which is what they all wanted ever since Mom’s previous mate passed away. And they are all now apparently very happy!

Antagonism and negativity aren’t always the instigators of dispersals. At some point, some yearlings just pick up and go — negativity or not. However, others stay on, even with growing negativity and battling because there’s usually something else attracting them to the area. Such was the case with Gumnut several years ago. His dad kept attacking him, but Gumnut always submitted and slunk away, skirting the dispersal issue. He and his sister were inseparable best buddies. Mom had died, so Dad actually had his eye on his daughter as his future mate, and at two years of age, through domination, he indeed took her over. (Yes, there’s lots of inbreeding in coyote families). Gumnut stayed around until the single pup who was born to Dad and Sis turned 7 months old, braving it through repeated attacks from his father, and then, suddenly one day, at 2 1/2 years of age, after hearing a particularly painful long-lasting squeal from him which I gathered indicated he was bitten, we never saw him again. That he put up with the severe put-downs and blows handed out by his Dad for so long was amazing to me. Gumnut had been undeterred because something more important was drawing him in: his best buddy and sister. I’m sure they would have become a mated pair had Dad not intervened.

Mothers may start harsh discipline of daughters early on: I’ve speculated that it’s because of reproductive rivalry. I haven’t seen it often, but I have two video examples of it: 1) Maeve beating up her seven-month old daughter: this dominant and aggressive treatment might also ensure rank is established early on, making dispersal that much easier. Might this daughter have been exhibiting a dominance streak, or even cozying up to her dad?? Again, this is speculation. 2) Here are two brothers vying for sister’s affection: notice the second brother repeatedly inserts himself between his brother and sister. Three is a crowd, so one will eventually leave. Interestingly, in this particular case, the female ditched both related males and paired up with an outsider. 3) And here is another instance of Mom, Maya, attacking her yearling daughter Sissy. On the flip side, I’ve also seen a daughter who stayed and ended up den-sharing with her mother. As I say, there is nothing cut-and-dry about dispersal.

Mom beginning harsh discipline suddenly at 7 months of age — establishing this harsh relationship early on makes dispersal easier. This is the earliest case of this I’ve ever seen of mother/daughter harshness.

Here is more on Beating and rank issues leading to dispersal. And here is a mother roughly disciplining her son as the father watches: rank issues are kept alive right from the start which makes dispersal issues that much easier.

Hawkeye teases and frolics with his dad on this day before his dispersal at 14 months of age. There was no antagonism leading up to the even, except his own towards his sister who avoided him.

Another several examples of dispersal behavior, and behaviors leading up to dispersals can be found in THIS posting. Here, I describe three dispersals from the same family, beginning with a very friendly send-off by a Dad, Ivan, to his son, Hawkeye, who was 14 months old. I got the sad impression that both father and son were very aware of the mites and bugs infesting the son’s coat, meaning his immune system was down. Possibly they both knew son wouldn’t make it even though he would try. Again, this is simply my interpretation. After this sendoff, I never saw Son again. Another son of Ivan’s began distancing himself from the rest of the family by keeping to the fringes of the territory at a great distance from the rest of the family, and then one day he simply left — he was ready to go at 1.5 years of age. The last instance in the above posting is a father’s, Ivan’s, return to check on his daughter, Sissy, on a territory he and his mate had abandoned, possibly due to its being the end of their reproductive years, leaving daughter on that territory. Had they ceded the territory to her? He seems to be checking on her, and even saying goodby. He never came back after this visit. Ivan was the most benevolent of fathers — I never saw him attack or discipline any of his children (though he did so to intruders), rather he always parted on good terms: he was the epitome of a leader, whereas you have seen from some of these videos that that is not always the case.

That’s Sparks to the right, with the sister he originally dispersed with. She returned to her birthplace.

And my final example is of Sparks. He preferred not dealing with a brother who began trying to dominate. He initially left with his sister, the one in the video linked below, but she returned to her birthplace whereas he continued on and found a permanent place to live on the edge of another family’s territory. I have not seen him with another mate, though I’m hoping this situation might come about. His present status, at 3 years of age, is sort of an interloper with a fairly permanent and defined territory (which is a contradiction). Sparks: A Happy Springtime Update. Sparks came from a litter that had formed incredible caring bonds with each other, and here is a video showing his sister’s concern and care for him. In the video, Sparks was the coyote youngster with the injury.

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