FIRST: A Guidelines/Safety Box:

1) A VIDEO ON COYOTE BEHAVIORS, GUIDELINES & DOGS: a one-stop video, by me, on urban coyote behavior and how to coexist with them, how to handle encounters, and why culling doesn’t solve issues:

Versión en Español   好鄰居–郊狼”   Condensed English version

*A protocol clarification for when walking a dog  (not addressed in the video): Your safest option always is flat-out, absolute AVOIDANCE: Whether you see a coyote in the distance, approaching you, or at close range, leash your dog and walk away from it, thus minimizing any potential dog/coyote confrontation or engagement. If you choose to shoo it away, follow the guidelines in the videos, but know that what’s safest is proactive, preventative unmitigated avoidance: i.e., walk away.


2) MORE LINKS TO COYOTE BEHAVIOR & DOGS:

citizencoyote-by-janetkesslerPress on image above for another introductory video on coyotes

  • CoyoteCoexistence.com for additional coexistence information.

  • Take a SHORT “Coyote Experiences and Opinion” Survey! images

More

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

A Territorial Changeover

Although I know territories which have been in the same coyote families for over 12 years, I also know territories with coyote ownership turnover. One dynasty ends, usually because the tenants can no longer defend their turf in the face of aggressive or continued intruders, be it due to old age, death of a mate, or even dispersal of youngsters who might have helped defend the area: youngsters can be forced out by parents who want room for their next litters, or they move on due to their own inner drives. Or maybe the territory just no longer has the resources necessary to support a coyote family.

Although I’ve seen coyotes move on to greener pastures and thrive after leaving a long-term territorial occupation, here is a case where the move did not bode well for the coyotes who left: within two months, we saw the departed pair wandering around the fringes of a shopping center, looking ragged, thin, angry and snarly. Their health had plummeted and and we feared their lives were coming to an abrupt end. We haven’t seen them again.

What happened to the territory of this departed pair? In this case, a female daughter and her younger brother were left behind — I’ve written about them before. After several months of seeing no one else there, two new males arrived and befriended the almost-3 year old female. It appeared that the female and stronger male might be bonding: both went off together for several months and we thought their life-long partnership was sealed. We saw younger brother a few times while she was gone but then he, too, left.

Female daughter before heading off with her beau

But then the female daughter returned, looking anxious and desperate, with constant darting glances of fear — her behavior was very different from what it had been previously. The two new male coyotes were with her, but it certainly didn’t look anymore like she was part of a “pair”. And then one day after a number of weeks, this female appeared no more.

The two males remain here and so, now, does their shy sister. These three are related — either two younger and one older sibling, or even a father and his two offspring: the two younger ones always move out of the way for the older one who seems to be a bit of a tyrant — from a territory only about half a mile away. I had been struck by the strong family resemblance between them and coyotes I had seen on the next territory over. Yes, family resemblances are amazing in some coyote families and have been the first “link” in leading me to further identify where certain coyotes came from and family connections! Reviewing my photos from that territory, I found these coyotes to be one and the same as those. I haven’t been back to their old territory to find out what’s going on there. These three would have abandoned their territory for the same reasons I listed above.

That they all came over together from one place is interesting. So they are still all “family” members, it’s just that there is no mated pair among them. Let’s see how their story develops over time!

 

Inbreeding: An Example in San Francisco

I’ve been documenting this family, on the same territory, for over eleven years now.

When this fella turned four, he and his mother (her first mate having been killed by rat poison several years before) produced four pups, three of whom survived to adulthood. By fall of that year, his mother-turned-mate disappeared, possibly killed by a car. So their one daughter then became the fella’s mate the following year: i.e., this mated pair are 1/2 siblings sharing the same mother, and he is her father. Yikes! Of the four litters they have produced over the last four years, only one female has survived to full adulthood. You might want to read about inbreeding depression. The consequences of inbreeding include lower fertility, higher infant mortality, higher susceptibility to diseases and parasites, and generally weakened systems.

Coyotes returned to San Francisco in 2002. There were only a handful of coyotes early on. It is very likely there may have been inbreeding in the population here prior to the time I began documenting this family.


Photos of the evolving inbred family

In 2008 the territorial family consisted of Mom, Dad, and one pup who I simply called “Yearling”. This was the first family unit I ever documented. A year later, this same mated pair had a second litter.


Mom and Dad’s second litter consisted of two males. Within weeks of their birth, Dad was killed by rat poison, leaving Mom single. She and her two male pups, Bruno and Silver, formed a tight-knit family which always did things together, but the male siblings who began as best friends eventually turned into arch-enemies, with the stronger-willed Silver driving his brother out: it appeared they were rivals and jealous for their mother’s attention and affection. If their father had been around, both males would have been driven out, preventing what then happened.

Mom


When Silver turned four years of age in 2013, he and Mom produced four offspring: mother and son had become a mated pair. This was the first inbred litter I documented.

One of their pups died as an infant leaving three. Then one male, Acorn was harshly dispersed at 9 months of age. That left two offspring, Chert [female] and Gumnut [male] who remained with their parents until one day in early November in the year of their birth, Mom suddenly vanished, possibly hit by a car. So now these two youngsters, Chert and Gumnut, began living with only their father Silver, (who was also their 1/2 brother), on the territory.

Siblings Chert and Gumnut became BFF — extreme buddies who played together and groomed each other constantly — from all appearances, they were destined to become a pair.

But Chert was the only female around and her father decided she would be his next mate. For months he tried driving off Gumnut who wouldn’t leave. And Chert was definitely bonded to Gumnut, making Silver’s task extremely difficult.


Silver (right) is Chert’s 1/2 brother and her father. Their reproductive success has been very low.

Silver and Chert (who is Silver’s daughter and 1/2 sister) become a pair. When Chert is two years old, she produces a litter: now the close inbreeding has been doubled. There is only one pup, Scout.

In the summer after Scout was born, Silver finally forces Gumnut (his son and 1/2 brother) to leave. [There actually is a chance that Gumnut could have fathered Scout. Scout adored Gumnut and vice-versa, but Silver’s domination and put downs would have been hard to get around — Silver perpetually physically placed himself between Scout and Gumnut to keep them apart. Scat DNA, which is all we have, is only able to identify the maternal lines.]

Litters have been born every year for four years to Silver and Chert, but no pups ever survived except Scout from their first litter. Scout is the only one.


I hope the genealogy is clear here. If you have questions, please send them in a comment (can be kept private). For a couple of short easy-to-read articles about inbreeding see these two articles: https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/101201_panthers and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4231599/

Magic Experience With A Coyote Pup, by James Romano

Good morning!

I have to relate an experience I had with a coyote pup that was apparently separated from his family.

I am a tanker (fire bomber) pilot. I am currently based in Lancaster, CA on Tanker 107. On Tuesday morning, I was walking across the ramp from my aircraft to the crew shack and I saw a very young coyote pup sitting on the taxiway between me and the shack. I am guessing he was about 4 weeks old, +/-. He was all alone. I walked around him and sat down on the ground about 10 feet away from him. He was very calm, but was looking around – I assumed for his family. He was very weak on his feet, but otherwise looked healthy. He was absolutely adorable – cute and sweet as can be.

I am not a fan of making contact with wild animals because I believe it ultimately leads to their destruction at the hands of humans down the road, but this guy needed help. As I sat there, I invited him to come to me. After a short time, he did just that. He was only mildly cautious as he approached, continuing to stop and look around. I felt he knew he needed help, and seemed to be comfortable with my energy. He would start briefly as I moved my hand slowly, but immediately relaxed as he continued his movement closer to me while looking around.

Finally, he came to me and leaned against my right thigh. He allowed me to pet him immediately, and was calm and gentle as can be. He never opened his mouth or let out a sound. I gently pet him as I removed the fox tails from his coat. It was cold and windy that day, and I think he appreciated the warmth of my body and the protection from the wind. After a short time, I picked him up and placed him in my lap where I continued to caress and groom him. His coat looked good, but he was very thin. Pretty unstable on his feet.

After a time, a woman from the fire station came out to see why I had been sitting in the dirt for the last 20 or so minutes. When I showed her the coyote, she told me there was a vet tech inside that works on the base part time. I handed the pup over to her. He was very content to go with her.

The short story is the tech took him to Fish and Game. The plan is to get him healthy again and then release him in the same area. I am happy he gets another chance. I just hope my experience with him and his experience with the Fish and Game people do not lead him to be less cautious of humans.

It was a blessing to me to have this experience with this beautiful creature. It was a very spiritual moment, for which I am very grateful. The little soul had messages for me, which I believe I received. My hope is that he does not suffer in the future for delivering them.

I have some videos I took on my phone. If you are interested in seeing them, I will forward them.

Blessings,

James

Recovery and A Transformed Life

I no longer see our banished coyote in her old territory, but I have been seeing her, if only infrequently, not terribly far away. It’s of course great to see that she’s still alive: she’s a survivor. Her situation a month after receiving her wounds can be seen in the video below: she endured an infection in the torn up part of her neck which then began to drain — the video below depicts this. Today, two months after this video was captured, she is fully recovered from the infection.

Showing the draining infection from a territorial fight as it appeared about a month after the wounds were sustained. She has recovered. (Trap camera in friend’s backyard).

But her life has changed drastically from what it had been before the intruder drove her out from what had been her paradisal three-year home — she has had to change gears. She is now an outsider, a sort of outcast. She has become an interloper without a territory and belongs nowhere, except out of the path of other coyotes. She’s living on the edges and in-between other coyotes’ territories.  This changed situation must be hard enough on her, after having been queen of her very own territory previously. But having no territory is just part of her new hardship.

A field camera has caught the entire situation. I seldom use these cameras because they are intrusive to the animal to the point of changing their behaviors and startling them. More on that in a future posting. It is in the vicinity of a friend’s home that I began regularly spotting the banished and recuperating coyote. Then, the week before last, the radio-collared coyote suddenly appeared on the screen of an automatic camera on my friend’s property. Yikes! That radio-collared coyote appears to be pursuing the banished coyote beyond the territory she fought for and won to drive her even further away. The banished gal has strong ties to her old home, having lived there for so long. She keeps her distance from there, but not a great distance.

As my friend Lou stated in a previous post, canids and canines “can literally be everywhere by scent, sound and sight.” It’s how the radio-collared coyote found the banished coyote’s new retreat, and how the banished coyote became aware of the radio-collared gal’s appearance at that place — though they probably have not actually “seen” each other. This has caused our pursued coyote to pretty much leave that retreat, returning only a couple of times during midday hours over the following two weeks, while the more stealthy radio-collared coyote has been passing through fairly regularly at midnight.

Taken to the streets: I found the banished one trekking across town before dawn this morning, right in the middle of the street. She stood right in front of the car with headlights shining brightly on her. I jumped out of the car and took this photo.

And there’s even another level to the story. The area these two female coyotes have been passing through appears to “belong” to a mated pair of coyotes who I’ve known many years. I didn’t know this until they began appearing sporadically in the trap camera. I apparently have placed the camera in a perfect cross-roads spot — it’s Central Station there! The camera has been catching the pair together, or more recently the male alone, coming by, if infrequently, and sniffing for the last several weeks, as seen in the third section of the video below: I’m sure these territorial owners know exactly what is going on through their noses and what Lou said above: they are very aware of the two coyotes, and may even be aware that one is pursuing the other. . . . in THEIR territory. Hmmm. What’s going to happen? As you can see in the video, the male marks the area as he passes through.

Three different unrelated coyotes at separate times passing through the same location. 

Meanwhile, back at the Okay Corral (disputed homestead), I’ve seen the new radio-collared coyote regularly — her instincts are intact and she tries to keep out of view — in diametrical contrast to the first coyote. And she makes forays into what was our coyote’s new retreat. The displaced coyote is no longer seen in her old territory, and, it appears, she’s being forced away from her new retreat.

The radio-collared coyote keeping a low profile at her won territory.

As I’ve said before, there’s lots going on in the coyote world which is below our radar: this is what coyote lives are like; these are things they have to contend with.

Coyotes Dig a Den, by Susan

Hi Janet,

I hope you are well, it has been a long time since we corresponded! I wanted to give you an update on the coyote den i found two years ago in my back yard. First, we took your advice and built a catio for our cats. They still get to go outside occasionally, but now it’s less of a desperation on their part, and they accept my suggestion when i point them to the catio when they are not allowed to go outside. This gives us more choices to keep them indoors when needed.

Such an occasion to keep them indoors has come up: the coyote family appears to be back, and renovating their old den! I got one of those fancy wildlife cams, and have attached a few videos taken last night. Mama spent quite a bit of time enlarging the hole to the point where she could go inside. She had been working on it over the past few weeks, digging a little bit here and there. I had thought she would be giving birth to her pups in here again, but she appears to have already given birth to the pups in these videos, because she looks really skinny and appears to have lactating teats. What do you think?

My hypothesis is that she might be looking for an alternate den to relocate her pups to eventually. We’ll see… Dad is also pretty busy helping her and making sure everything is safe. There appears to be a third coyote, i assume some part of the family, who has a hurt front leg, but accompanies the hole-digging activities nonetheless. As you can see from the time stamps, the digging took all night, and mom looks so proud and pleased with her den at 4am! They did the digging in 3 distinct spurts – some at 11:30, then they left and came back an hour later (maybe left to feed the pups?), then came back again in the late 3am hour to finish the job.

I hope you enjoy these videos.

Cheers!
Susan

Six short night-camera video clips: Looks like a lactating mom – Mom digging – Graceful entry – Success!! – Mom & Dad check on the hole – Coyote with a missing paw

 

The Birthing Rock

Every year, soon-to-be-dads wait out the birthing event. Their job is to stay away and to keep a lookout not far from the den area to ensure that everything remains safe for the birthing mother and pups. Birthing, of course, is a vulnerable time for all of us, and the male, in this manner, puts extra effort into his mate’s and offspring’s protection and security, and goes the extra mile for their needs, including bringing home food. For me, this activity has always served as a sort of secret “birth announcement”!

Of particular interest is the fellow above on the rock. For years now, when the time comes, he hangs out on the same rock regularly for up to a couple of hours a day for several days as his mate gives birth. Because of this, I call it “the birthing rock”. Several days ago, I decided, “it’s time”: I had seen these two mate a couple of months earlier.  I began visiting the rock daily. When you can predict coyote behavior, there’s a feeling that maybe you’ve “arrived”: that you know coyotes as well as it is possible to know them. For several years now, I’ve been able to predict a bunch of behaviors, which always impresses those I’m talking to as much as it impresses me myself! :))  I’ll state what is about to happen, and then it happens! So I knew this guy would imminently be on the birthing rock, and within a few days of looking for him, there he was!

So pups are either being born or have already been born here in San Francisco. Another tell-tale sign will be lactating mothers, if you can find one: behaviorally, most coyote mothers I know generally keep themselves more secluded and hidden when their pups are very young: maybe this is a security precaution — keeping themselves out of danger’s way — to make sure they are around to nurture and take care of their growing and dependent pups. In many coyote moms, their condition is pretty much concealed, especially in younger moms, but in others, especially older mothers, their maternal state is more obvious, as seen below. They will be lactating through the beginning of June when regurgitated and then solid food begin taking over.

Mark Twain’s Description of a Coyote

One of the most famous descriptions of a coyote — which was also known as a “prairie dog” by Lewis and Clark — was written by Mark Twain in his 1872 book, Roughing it. For those who have not read it yet, here it is. Twain goes to the extreme to wake up the reader, using over-the-top satire for effect, to depict a standard negative view of coyotes held by Americans at the time. The brilliant irony is exquisite: Clemens sullies and defiles a coyote’s “sorry looking aspect”, but in the end he shows his admiration for the coyote who gets the last laugh when put up against any dog, and wishes him the best. The so called “miserable looking creature” is actually an intelligent, brilliant survivor.  

Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie dog villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I remember rightly, this latter was the regular coyote (pronounced ky-o-te) of the farther deserts. And if it was, he was not a pretty creature or respectable either, for I got well acquanited with his race afterward, and can speak with confidence.

The coyote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolfskin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck, and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is so spirtless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it. And he is so homely! -so scrawny, and ribby, and coarse-haired, and pitiful.

When he sees you he lifts his lip and lets a flash of his teeth out, and then turns a little out of the course he was pursuing, depresses his head a bit, and strikes a long, soft- footed trot through the sagebrush, glancing over his shoulder at you, from time to time, till he is about out of easy pistol range, and then he stops and takes a deliberate survey of you; he will trot fifty yards and stop again- another fifty and stop again; and finally the gray of his gliding body blends with the gray of the sagebrush, and he disappears. All this is when you make no demonstration against him; but if you do, he develops a livelier interest in his journey, and instantly electrifies his heels and puts such a deal of real estate between himself and your weapon that by the time you have raised the hammer you see that you need a Minie rifle, and by the time you have got him in line you need a rifled cannon, and by the time you have “drawn a bead” on him you see well enough that nothing but an unusually long-winded streak of lightning could reach him where he is now.

But if you start a swift-footed dog after him, you will enjoy it ever so much- especially if it is a dog that has a good opinion of himself, and has been brought up to think he knows something about speed. The coyote will go swinging gently off on that deceitful trot of his, and every little while he will smile a fraudful smile over his shoulder that will fill that dog entirely full of encouragement and worldly ambition, and make him lay his head still lower to the ground, and stretch his neck further to the front, and pant more fiercely, and stick his tail out straighter behind, and move his furious legs with a yet wilder frenzy, and leave a broader and broader, and higher and denser cloud of desert sand smoking behind him, and marking his long wake across the level plain!

And all this time the dog is only a short twenty feet behind the coyote, and to save the soul of him he cannot understand why it is that he cannot get perceptibly closer; and he begins to get aggravated, and it makes him madder and madder to see how gently the coyote glides along and never pants or sweats or ceases to smile; and he grows still more and more incensed to see how shamefully he has been taken in by an entire stranger, and what an ignoble swindle that long, calm, soft-footed trot is; and next he notices that he is getting fagged, and that the coyote actually has to slacken speed a little to keep from running away from him- and then that town dog is mad in earnest, and he begins to strain and weep and swear, and paw the sand higher than ever, and reach for the coyote with concentrated and desperate energy. This “spurt” finds him six feet behind the gliding enemy, and two miles from his friends. And then, in the instant that a wild new hope is lighting up his face, the coyote turns and smiles blandly upon him once more, and with a something about it which seems to say: “Well, I shall have to tear myself away from you, bub- business is business, and it will not do for me to be fooling along this way all day”- and forthwith there is a rushing sound, and the sudden splitting of a long crack through the atmosphere, and behold that dog is solitary and alone in the midst of a vast solitude!

It makes his head swim. He stops, and looks all around; climbs the nearest sand mound, and gazes into the distance; shakes his head reflectively, and then, without a word, he turns and jogs along back to his train, and takes up a humble position under the hindmost wagon, and feels unspeakably mean, and looks ashamed, and hangs his tail at half-mast for a week. And for as much as a year after that, whenever there is a great hue and cry after a coyote, that dog will merely glance in that direction without emotion, and apparently observe to himself, “I believe I do not wish any of that pie.”

The coyote lives chiefly in the most desolate and forbidding deserts, along with the lizard, the jackass rabbit, and the raven, and gets an uncertain and precarious living, and earns it. He seems to subsist almost wholly on the carcasses of oxen, mules, and horses that have dropped out of emigrant trains and died, and upon windfalls of carrion, and occasional legacies of offal bequeathed to him by white men who have been opulent enough to have something better to butcher than condemned Army bacon…. He does not mind going a hundred miles to breakfast, and a hundred and fifty to dinner, because he is sure to have three or four days between meals, and he can just as well be traveling and looking at the scenery as lying around doing nothing and adding to the burdens of his parents.

We soon learned to recognize the sharp, vicious bark of the coyote as it came across the murky plain at night to disturb our dreams among the mail sacks; and remembering his forlorn aspect and his hard fortune, made shift to wish him the blessed novelty of a long day’s good luck and a limitless larder the morrow.

Images by J. C. Amberlyn

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