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

 

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

Coyote Portals, by Helen Tseng

Introduction: Artist Helen Tseng and I are both absorbed and intrigued by coyotes: it is because of this that we met. Not only have the coyotes themselves inspired her art, but she excitedly told me that she also has been inspired by my photos, some of which she has used as starting points for her own drawings. Hers are thoughtful creations, so please be sure to spend time reflecting on them and on her text: her simple outline art captures coyote movements and charm, and then she dives deeper into questions of her own (and our?) identity and her (our) place in the cosmos and on the globe where our success and expansion as a species has decimated so much of everything else.  

Coyote portals

I started this series in early 2020 as we entered a global pandemic and quarantine – a portal of sorts, both a closing and an opening. The act of making these coyotes became portals to me, as self-portraits and as visual commentary (portal and portrait share an ancient root, meaning through, forward, to draw forth). The narratives and imagery are influenced by astrophysics, literature, language, cultural critique, folk spiritualities, and more. The series is ongoing.

I have been and continue to be obsessed with coyotes, which I often encounter and observe on walks in the Bay Area. The oft-mythologized North American wild canid is genetically adjacent to the domestic dog, man’s best friend, but removed enough from civilization to be marked as vermin. Despite a long history of enduring systematic extermination by settler-colonizers, they continue to survive and thrive beyond expectation.

I appropriate coyotes as a mirror and proxy to mapping the contexts of my existence and the limits of my perception, while creating distance from implied specification and containment. They are an oblique path to examining identity, (im)migration, displacement, intergenerational trauma, adaptive resilience, marginalization, and erasure; a foil to my presence as an omnivorous mammal, apex predator, and unwitting species participant in the mass ecological destruction of this planet; a device for expressing all that defies reduction.

[Click on any of the images to enlarge them and scroll through them all]

Update: Into Sparks’ Seventh Month of Dispersal

I have been able to keep up with the youngster coyote I call “Sparks” who I watched grow up from birth. He began his dispersal at just under one year of age with his sister way back in March to a location two miles away from their birthplace. His first few months away from his birth home seemed to agree with him superbly: it looked like he was having a ball! Freedom from the constraints of parents and siblings obviously felt good. He and his sister rendezvoused every evening after dusk with high-pitched squeals of delight and excitement as they tumbled over each other in anticipation of the evening’s adventures. They were adjusting well to the move. It was unfortunately always too dark to capture images of this.

After a couple of months here, it was time to go, and he moved on to a place that was five miles further away, where life suddenly became harder. He was now alone — sister having returned to their birthplace — and he somehow ended up with a broken leg in this unfamiliar territory. He must have been in severe pain because he returned the five miles to the now familiar place he and his sister had first been, to the quiet of a backyard. There, on an undisturbed and protected hillside, he spent several weeks recovering with the help of humankindness by people who guarded his safety and gently cared for him. I have no doubt that this is what kept him alive.

Three weeks of convalescence in someone’s backyard [above]

He stayed there three weeks until he felt better, but, unfortunately, not until he was healed. He left that place on August 14th, and re-appeared the next day, on August 15th in the Presidio. Then, again, he was off of my radar. Of course, no one else who might have seen him would have known “who” this coyote was. I would have to see him myself or recognize him in someone else’s photos: few if anyone else in the city know who each coyote is, and no one else keeps tabs on individuals.

And then, incredibly, magically, just a couple of days ago, I was documenting another one of my coyote families in the North East of the city, when I glimpsed a coyote that didn’t seem to “belong” there — that I hadn’t seen there before. Suddenly it clicked: this was Sparks! He had moved on yet another five miles!

Of supreme interest to me is that he was accepted and warmly welcomed into this long-claimed territory without incident, and not driven off as an intruder. Why was he not driven away by Mom, especially since she has 5-month-old pups now? I’ve seen many intruders/interlopers repulsed away by the territorial claimants, but that didn’t happen here.

I was ecstatic to see the bantering and show-of-affection between these two as you can see in this series of photos taken the next morning [click on above photos to enlarge and scroll through them]

From my inquiries I learned that it has been only four or five days since he arrived, but I thought I would dive into possible outcomes based on what I have seen elsewhere:

1) Maybe it’s only a very temporary resting spot for him — with a very temporary grant to stay there. Might the alpha mom of the territory have sensed his weak physical condition and foreleg pain, and also his downtrodden mental state, and therefore taken him under her wing? At 17 months of age, he’s still a youngster, though you can see that he’s visibly much larger than the alpha female in the middle photo in the top row above. And she herself, in fact, is only two years older than him at 3.5 years of age. In the photo to the left of that, you can see his left front leg is still bent, and although he can walk on it, he retains the limp he acquired back in July: the limp wavers from barely-noticeable mild to causing intense bobbing up and down as he walks.

2) Another possible scenario is that this isn’t a temporary situation, but that he might have been adopted! I have seen another instance of a female yearling joining another family and, so far, remaining with that family for about 6 months: I think of it as a sort adoption. There were no other females in that family which consisted, before her arrival, of just a father and a son at that point. That “adopted” female is still too young to be a reproducing alpha, though by remaining there without challenge, that’s the position she would grow into. Finding more and more of these not-exactly-nuclear family arrangements have changed my idea of what constitutes a standard coyote family. The variations are beginning to appear to me more and more like our own human family variations!

“Mom’s” young male companion

3) A third possibility is that Sparks could have moved in as the new alpha male, although this seems unlikely because of his young age. But the fact is I have not seen “Mom’s” male companion around lately. In addition, I’ve always wondered if that male companion was actually “Mom’s” mate — he always appeared to be more of a younger brother or even another “adoptee”, though I could be wrong.  Whatever his position/role in the family has been, I have not seen him in the last little while — so the “position” may be open.

As an interesting aside: At the beginning of March which would have been mating season, I found “Mom” with a large gash on her forehead, in the Presidio along with this young male companion of hers. The Presidio is five miles away from her own claimed territory. I wondered what she/they were doing there. The gash was of the type she might have picked up after a territorial battle with another coyote. The Presidio has a very dominant alpha female — the gal I refer to as “Wired” — who has battled other females and driven them away ferociously. Wired’s mate happens to be “Mom’s” brother. Was she seeking out her brother?

This is actually the second instance of where I’ve seen a female head off from her own territory to a foreign territory during the receptive phase of her reproductive cycle, and it made me wonder if it was related to reproductive reasons. My DNA study will not be able to reveal this because DNA taken from scat can only follow the maternal line. So the questions remains: who sired her pups this year? And, will Sparks remain there?

So, it’s into any of these situations that Sparks now finds himself. Time will help us decide which is the real one.

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

Thief!

For my continuing long term DNA study of our San Francisco coyotes, I needed some scat (DNA is taken from the scats) from a very specific newcomer male coyote about whose origins I had no clue. I already had scat from his mate — I had seen her defecate many times and afterwards collected it, but I just simply was not seeing the activity from the male. Picking up scat right after seeing it expelled is how I know which coyote the sample came from. I had seen old scat in certain locations several times, but of course I didn’t know WHO it came from.  My solution was to catch WHO that scat came from with an automatic wildlife field camera I put out at night. I ended up putting out two such cameras in the same location. I got what I wanted, and more!

When I went to retrieve the two cameras the next morning, I was disappointed to see that one of them was gone: it had been taken — stolen. I looked over to where the second camera had been placed and was relieved to find it still there — the thief had not seen that one. I wondered if maybe that camera would reveal who the thief was?

Crossing the First Divide: One Milestone at a Time

The video depicts 11 week old pups at the end of June, two months ago. It covers the week before they abandoned their denning site entirely. 

This is a time-lapse video sequence taken over a week’s time, showing coyote pup and parent behavior at the entryway to their denning area. This is not a “video” but a “time lapse” sequence.  I’ve speeded it up to 2.5x — so please remember that the action actually was occurring at less than 1/2 the speed which you are seeing here. Time lapse at original speed is excruciatingly slow to watch. All of the activity occurred in the dead of night when it was safest for them — and with only a distant dim street lamp for lighting for the video: this should explain the jerkiness and the blurriness. But the story is captured! It turned out to be a milestone in their lives, i.e., practicing and first steps for moving out of the den. 

The camera was placed at the periphery of their denning area. The “outerworld” — dangerously full of people, traffic and dogs — is past the stake to the right. Before the video even begins, there was one wise little pup who had caught onto parental departures and returns. Hmmm. So, “Where were parents going? What’s out there? Why can’t I go? Looks scary!” Coyotes, even youngsters, are curious. Sneaking past the pups started not working. Mom or Dad had to turn around, turn them back and distract them, thwart them by carrying them and then leading them back to safety.  This is how they began to learn that “out there” was not safe. Boundaries seem to be understood early on, as they later are in territorial divisions between adult coyotes: coyotes firmly understand these.

The videoed part of the adventure, then, begins with the pups going to, and hovering around, this “exit” area. You can see that they are both apprehensive and excited, as they look around hesitantly. They repeat this approaching of the boundary line in the same way for several days — both fearing the outside world and at the same time drawn to it, encouraged now at this age and stage by their parents. Finally Mom or Dad begin leading them out a little way, but one pup is afraid and opts not to go, sitting down and looking back over his shoulder at Mom and siblings beyond the exit. The two beyond the exist see their brother and also get cold feet — decide to hold back too, and they hurry back. It takes a while to get the minds and bodies of the pups all moving in the same direction at the same time! This “sticking their toes out the door” happened once a day. They were getting used to the idea and any new stimulation right there close to home. It’s probably overwhelming to begin with.

By 1:50 in the video, the pups have now finally begun venturing out as a family and this is them returning. Mom anxiously makes sure everyone is in. You can almost hear her “Whew!” She lovingly mouths one of the youngsters (2:40 in the video) over and over: “Good job, Kids!”

The sequence after that, which is the next day, shows them now returning without too much fanfare — it’s old hat by now!

The move obviously required forethought, aim, intent, and direction on the part of the parents who were on the same wavelength with each other, working together and in unison on the project. They were able to communicate this to each other and then to the pups. Their communication isn’t something humans have a handle on — it’s too complicated for us!  I know that the ultimate goal and objective had been to prepare the pups for the move — the area was vacated the very next day. It took over a week of working on this project before it was actually carried out. Coyotes think ahead, plan, retain the plan in their minds, and communicate to each other about it!

Most “denning areas” I’ve observed remain “home” for months, but not in this case. After abandoning this site, the pups were moved every few days to at least four locations until they settled down in the safest spot, where they now have remained through 4 months of age.

The Coyote and The Buffalo, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet!

Somewhere in times past I saw this pic somewhere on internet in regards the true nature of coyote among cattle. I kept it because it was so true. I’ve seen this many times. Coyote enjoy how cattle stir up rodents/grasshoppers etc for a snack.

I wanted to share a development witnessed by a rancher who has switched to bison. They range an enormous area now and are the core group that hopefully turn into large herds.

This area was where Bad Leg aka Gimpy went when he was ousted from his old territory. He has done well. Even white faced, old and limping, he has a loyal mate and has been raising a litter this year. The rancher has really enjoyed watching this ancient male defy the odds and still be a Pack leader. He also enjoys coyote because…they are no threat to his bison.

He has seen Bad Leg hunting, walking and napping all summer among the bison herd. And rolling in bison chips.

However, a true danger approached Bad Leg one day.

2 Anatolian LGD roamed onto the ranch. Sometimes in the growing territorial integrity they have, they seek more places. And they also seek predators. Likely the scent of Bad Leg and his family was discovered. And silently walking around, they found Bad Leg literally napping.

According to the rancher, Bad Leg’s mate actually raised the alarm, barking and calling frantically. Bad Leg awoke, and rallied. The pups were further away in a rendezvous, but the danger to his pack was real. These dogs can and do hunt down and decimate/scatter coyote.

Bad Leg’s mate seemed to make a run for the pups to lead them away. (they were later found a few miles away resting safe)

Bad Leg limped toward the 2 massive Anatolian, barking and challenging the giant dogs. The rancher yelled to no avail. He was too far to be effective.

But the bison were there. And responded. Likely the dogs annoyed them and stirred them in anger and defensive mode. Also, these bison have met and rebuffed wolves. They know the drill.

In addition, the rut is starting in bison. The males are surging with testosterone. And looking for a fight.

2 bulls came alive and charged the dogs. And Bad Leg stepped gladly aside. The rancher saw the Anatolian dodging and running while the bulls and whole group of 25 chased the dogs. Bad Leg ran behind the herd, barking and yipping the whole time down a valley. Then he swerved up a hill, his panting, white face alight in victory.

A bison herd can not only stomp up the mice. They can be great allies for an old, tired coyote.

Bad Leg triumphs again. Surely, there is magic in an old, surviving coyote. To Bad Leg. May the white fur on your face see many more days and moons.

Lou🐾


Hi Janet, I have heard, and believe, that coyote and bison instinctively just meld. They have been coexisting untold thousands of years. All their behaviors and “vibes” meld naturally.

Incidentally, the rancher has reported a vast increase in wildlife since he removed sheep, created more acres of native grasses, and allowed the bison to range. Deer have increased. The ponds have deepened with wallowing-and frogs, fish and turtles have appeared where he never saw them. Elk are seen resting with calves near the bison. Wolves have visited, but quickly seem to leave. It seems bison are not in the menu, and often escort any large canine off quickly. White Faced Bad Leg, and other coyote, and finding such transformation welcoming. Bison create a very vibrant grassland ecosystem. The coyote find wonderful territory where buffalo range. There is over 5,000 acres here that will be range for growing, free ranging herds. Coyote heaven.
Lou

©linaizzie: the buffalo and coyote

Dispersal: One Youngster’s Trajectory Over The Last Five Months

All photos in this posting were taken after his dispersal from home.

We’re on another leg of the dispersal of a coyote I call Sparks. He and a sister, at just about one year of age, stepped away from home [see map below (1)] and out into the wider world where they came to rest and stay about two miles from their birthplace (2).They remained here close to two months — long enough to make me think that this might become their new home, but they did not remain there at this point in time. Maybe they weren’t ready to claim the area as theirs? Maybe they wanted to explore greener pastures, possibly less fragmented pieces of property? Anyway, Sparks’ dispersing “walkabout” — which I think is an apt term — was not over yet, apparently.

By the second week in July Sparks was spotted way up in the Presidio — a full six miles away from his birthplace, whereas the sister returned to their birthplace where I continue to see her romp with her other brothers who vie and compete for her attention. But Sparks had been dominated by these brothers — there may even have been a battle between them — and there was no going back for him.

So Sparks continued to roam in that area for the better part of a week, and by the third week of July found himself in the north-western corner of the city (4), where he was seen limping severely again on that left front leg. It was either a new injury, or the original injury was acting up. The original injury had occurred way back in mid-February and was severe enough — very likely a break, and very likely caused by chasing dogs — for him to retain a severe limp and keep off the leg entirely for over a month. I don’t think he ever fully recovered from that injury even though he regained use of the leg.

By July 31st and through August 5th — possibly because the new leg injury had deteriorated so badly from continued use — he returned to that two-mile distant spot (5). This was a space he was familiar with and where he felt safe, including from other coyotes. Here he was observed numerous times with what now had become an identifying characteristic: the severe limp. A worried neighbor spotted him on the hill in back of his house curled up in a ball. The last sighting was of him running, three-legged, licketsplit through the main park of the area on August 5th. UPDATE as of August 15th: Sparks left his neighbor’s yard at the beginning of the heatwave, after almost 3 weeks in a neighbor’s backyard. The neighbors have been worried about what became of him: well, he is now again roaming around in the Presidio! His leg has not healed.

Dispersals, as we’ve seen before — and again, these insights are from my own first-hand observations over the past 13+ years, but also include several photos sent to me — have coyotes exploring through distant corners of our city and some even exiting the city to the south. On the other hand, coyotes who are entrenched territorial claimants seldom have a need to travel such distances, so they don’t: although they still trek away from their homes, it’s not usually the vast distances as the dispersing/exploring youngsters. The territorial owners seem to stay nearer to their homes where it is safe and they know the terrain.

When do coyotes disperse and what causes them to do so? They leave home, as far as I have seen, anywhere from about 9 months of age and up to 2.5 years of age. They do so either on their own initiative and timeline, when they themselves get the urge and without any prodding or provocation from other family members, or they may leave because of growing rivalry and repeated battles aimed to drive them away.

This dispersal period might be navigated with ease and little danger — it could be a piece of cake — or the opposite, with extreme difficulty and constant danger. Territorial claimants might fight them off viciously, or might welcomingly invite them to stay a while — the latter is something I’ve seen only with young dispersing females. Many of the dispersing youngsters have miraculously found vacant locations right here within the city limits itself — spaces either vacated by other coyotes, be it because they moved or died, or some of the maturer dispersers might have fought the resident coyotes — the ones who may have become weak due to old age or even sickness — and won. One of the biggest dangers for dispersing youngsters in urban areas is traffic: they regularly get killed by cars. The city counts about ten such deaths a year officially, but you can be sure there are more that were not reported.  Those youngsters who can’t find vacant spaces within the city have been found to move south and out of the city according to the ecologist at the Presidio. Dispersal is a treacherous time for coyotes and contributes to their notoriously low survival rate: it is claimed that only 30% of coyote litters survive to adulthood, which is their one year old mark.

I don’t know where Sparks will move next. I don’t know if the injury will hinder his ability to survive. I don’t know if I’ll be able to come across him again. If I do, I’ll post about it.

By the way, it’s not necessary to know the dispersal trajectory of every single coyote to understand the process. A few examples give the idea, and I have provided a number in this blog, with maps. The coyotes I’ve been able to follow I do so visually and by examining photos: I recognize them each by their unique faces, so that radio-collaring and tagging are absolutely unnecessary: these heavy and bulky contraptions are intrusive, hampering and even harmful, and not needed to find out what indeed is needed to coexist with them.

Photos taken by other folks during this part of his dispersal “walkabout” [click on any of the photos to scroll through them]

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

Fed Up

I’m reposting this from two neighborhood sites here in the city — two places where feeding coyotes is out of control. In both cases, we have coyotes who are being perpetually fed. It has altered their behaviors which have become increasingly troubling and alarming not only to neighbors and dog-walkers as evidenced by their reports, but also to authorities. If you love the coyotes, you’ll leave them alone and walk away from them as soon as you see them, if you don’t, you may be contributing to their possible death warrants.

Dear Neighbor:

There has been increased feeding of our coyotes, inclusively along roadways and from cars, and humans are approaching and being “friendly” towards them: This not only endangers their lives, but it’s altering their natural behaviors, causing these coyotes to hang around, including in the streets, waiting for food and approaching people and cars for food, instead of hunting which is what they should be doing.

People tell me that these coyotes look as though they are “starving”. They aren’t. Coyotes are thin, scrawny, and lithe so that they can move quickly and efficiently — more like a whippet than a bulldog. Please don’t be deceived by their naturally skinny builds, especially now, in the summer when they’ve lost their 3″ fluffy furry coats. These will grow back in the fall.

In addition, coyotes have been approaching dogs with insistent “messaging” displays, and/or following or “escorting” dogs: these are DEFENSIVE MESSAGES aimed to move your dog away from them, members of their families or an area. Please heed the message: walk (don’t run) away from them, and stay as far away as possible with your dog. THIS IS WHAT THE COYOTES WANT — it’s what they are asking you to do and it’s so easy to do.

Please be an ambassador for them: help others understand what is going on and what to do.

Thanks!

Janet Kessler
PS: If you have questions or need one-on-one help in dealing with a coyote issue, please contact me directly through coyotecoexistence@gmail.com

Two Youngsters Take A Tentative Step Towards Dispersal

[Note: This posting has been revised! After revisiting my photos, I realized I had mistaken a coyote’s identity. This is so easy to do among siblings who very often look very much alike, and whose facial bone structures continue to grow and therefore alter their appearance, even if ever so slightly, even after a year of age. The change is that Sparks did NOT return home with his sister, which is what I had written, but continued his dispersing “walkabout” to the north of the city. I have edited this post to reflect this].

These two siblings — a brother and a sister — left home together in March when they were just about a year old. I assumed they were leaving for good — dispersing. A couple of months into their absence, I was thrilled to recognize the male when he showed up in another park about two miles away: I’m always exhilarated when I find dispersing youngsters who I’ve watched grow up because most, of course, I never see again after they leave. This male comes from an exceptionally large litter, most of whom I was seeing very irregularly and sporadically recently, so now I had to figure out which sibling was accompanying him, or was it someone he had met and hooked up with from a different family?

That second one remained too distant and seldom appeared in daylight; it was always at the darker end of twilight when I saw them, and this one always seemed to be moving away from me, so it took me a while longer to figure out which individual it was: I have to see their faces to know who each one is. To help me (though it didn’t help) I put out a trap camera on a narrow path close to one of the entrances to the park where I had seen them, not really expecting anything to show up on it.

Apparently I placed the camera well, because I caught these few seconds which, although they didn’t help me identify the second coyote, they did tell me how much fun these guys were having in their newfound freedom! In the video below you’ll see the two youngster coyotes who had been running along a narrow, sandy path. They’ve just jumped over a bush where the camera is hidden, and this is where the short video starts.. They stop to communicate their joy through eye contacting, touching and joyful jumping before continuing on. It’s only a few seconds long, but long enough to tell this part of their story.

People noticed them and told me about them: not only were they spotted in the fragmented parks of the area and on the streets in-between, but they were also seen in several backyards, where they were seen successfully hunting, once even with prey — a white cat — in their mouths.  They seem to have learned to navigate this new area well. Finally I was able to see her — the second coyote’s –face: these photos below have been substantially lightened to make the individuals visible —  they were essentially taken in the dark. Even so, the coyotes are very identifiable.

Far and away from home (above)

I pondered if these two would move on or become entrenched in this newfound location. The area has served as a sort of temporary “stopping off place” for several coyotes I’ve kept track of as they traversed the city, so would it be the same for these, or would it become a more permanent home — even though highly fragmented — since available territories within the city have been dwindling. I checked up on them only a few times as I continued to hear reports of them, and then, one day, suddenly, they no longer were being spotted. Where had they gone?

WELL, as of mid-July, the female, at 16-months of age, was back at her birthplace, after four months of absence! I guess she wasn’t quite ready to disperse lock-stock-and-barrel yet, even though she seemed to have a lot of fun and excitement during her AWOL adventure. And certainly the two of them escaped family tensions during that time “abroad” due to coming-of-age relationships which were beginning to show strain among the brothers.

Rivalry between siblings escalates over time, especially between brothers, and that seems to be kicking in and growing between these two stay-at-home brothers.One is more dominant and he’s displaying a lot of bullying these days. “Underling” brother kowtows towards him, and it’s precisely this kind of behavior that may have driven out Sparks, the dispersed brother this posting is about.

Back to family politics: the two remaining brothers vie for the affection of their sister

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

PostSript: The information in this article was gained by simple recognition of individual coyotes and from a vast knowledge about them gained through first-hand direct observation — without the use of radio-collars or identifying tags which are intrusive and harmful. My direct observations engender a much deeper and more expansive knowledge and understanding of coyotes than can be provided by simply mechanically tracking their movements.  “Look, Ma, no hands”. Try it! My “hard” facts include both photos and DNA from scat.

Death — Not By A Car

This posting was prompted by these photos I was sent of a dead coyote along a roadside in the Presidio on July 11. The caption stated that the coyote had not been hit by a car but it was presumed the culprits were the resident alpha coyotes in that territory.

© David Soren Harelson, all rights reserved [a walker added the flowers]

I was surprised, based on what I know, by this Presidio wildlife manager’s assessment. Certainly the resident alpha female has shown herself to be an aggressor, but she has never fought to the death — her targets have always fled rather than fighting it out to the end. I have never seen, or even heard of coyotes actually killing one another. They flee from vicious attacks, as did two other coyotes who were assailed by this aggressive female.

I would think this death should be investigated as a vicious dog attack and not assumed as caused by another coyote. That aggressive dog would still be out there at large and needs to be reined in. Teeth wound marks can be examined by those in the know for what kind of animal was the aggressor. If it indeed was caused by a coyote, then it actually should be stated how unlikely and rare such an occurrence would be.

I sent the photo with my assessment to my most knowledgeable friend/colleague, Walkaboutlou, who has had over 30 years of direct experience with this type of thing. He agreed. I’m including his response for its information and educational value:

“Good morning Janet,

Thank you for sharing this information and pictures with me. Your question is a valid one, especially in view of the pics.”I will say at outset what I say always with coyote: Anything is possible. However, in over 30 years of actively studying, tracking and observing coyote coast to coast, I have never seen coyote kill one another in territorial or inter-pack aggressions. I have seen evidence of some fierce fighting, but all indications were coyote flee, or stop, before death. Then, from what I could see in pics, there are the forensics of the bite. I can almost guarantee the tooth measurements don’t match a coyote tooth spacing/size etc. And the lacerations are very “sloppy”. The extent of damage indicates severe violence and power — more than any coyote gives out in fighting. My dogs have hunted for over 30 years as well. I’ve seen what they can do. I’ve also seen many species give bites/injury to my dogs. Including coyote. They can be graphic, but not in this pattern.

I’ve seen this type of bite/attack in 2 settings.
1) I’ve seen it when LGD [livestock guardian dog] catch a trespassing canine, dog, or coyote. (but even this is rather unusual.)

2) Many years ago, I helped infiltrate and break up a dog fighting ring. It was a very proud moment to have those people arrested and jailed. It also meant I saw some horrible things. Many bully type dogs, when fighting, will create damage like this. It’s rather sloppy, powerful, wide and more of a tearing, thrashing bite. Unlike coyote, but very much like a bully/pit bull type or a large, powerful and ultra aggressive dog. I would say this is the result of a very aggressive, powerfully built dog.

That’s just my assessment. Behaviorally and physically, this appears to be dog on coyote fatality. Not coyote on coyote.

© David Soren Harelson, all rights reserved [examination by a Presidio wildlife specialist]

I believe scientific research and PROOF is invaluable. But other than that, it’s based on feelings, belief and inclination. Really, we have to study any situation as a culmination and truly look at evidence. If they wanted true answers, the bites and trauma would be forensically examined. Bite/tooth marks measured. And the ample previous studies perused. Dogs and wolves routinely kill each other. We have literal evidence of that by the hundreds. It simply doesn’t exist in coyote. They can fight (and do) but they are a coursing predator. They usually avoid serious injury and prolonged fighting. I’ve seen dogs kill other dogs and coyote/foxes/cats etc…this is typical trauma for a very powerful, specific type dog (bully type, LGD (rarely) or staghound hunter) In this environment I would say a very powerful bully type latched on. It might even of been a loose dog. It had a lot of aggression. Might have even been “told” to get coyote. This isn’t a normal outcome. I’ve never seen in life, film or study, coyote on coyote fight to death.”

Keeping Pups Fed Can Be Demanding

Coyote pups were born during the first week of April here throughout San Francisco, and now they are three months old — the pupping season is progressing! As of the latter part of June, pups became completely weaned from their mother’s milk. They continue to be fed pablum which is being supplemented with small prey brought to them by the parents. Parents are working extra hard to keep up with the growing nutritional needs of their broods, sneaking in and out of their mostly hidden denning sites: it takes both parents to keep them nourished. While parents go off to hunt, youngsters are left alone for many hours at a time.

Lactating mom

Moms, of course, right from the start, need extra nourishment to insure the development of their pups before birth, and then for the six weeks afterwards to produce enough milk for them. But this is hardly the end of it.

Even before the youngsters are completely weaned in June, both parents introduce “pablum” to the youngsters’ diets: this consists of prey and other food that they’ve chewed up and ingested — and partly digested. They carry this food home in their bellies and regurgitate it for the youngsters. The following is a time-lapse video giving a glimpse into the time-consuming and often hectic task.

In the video you’ll see Mom hurries into the area — hurries so as not to be seen but also maybe to keep herself from digesting the food she carries in her belly — and quickly summons the youngsters who, of course, hurry after her until she expels the food onto the ground. The youngsters then lap this up voraciously. When she’s satisfied that they’ve cleaned most of it up, she’s off again for more, again hurrying through the gateway between her hidden den and the outer world. This process goes on multiple times a day.

Now, in July, whole foods are being introduced. The ending scene of this clip was captured only a week after the first clip, Mom is bringing in a small whole food — in this case a gopher. Both pablum and small whole food will be brought to coyote pups for the next little while as they learn to hunt for themselves, and as their digestive systems learn to handle the harder-to-digest foods.

It should be noted that every coyote parent is different. What you see here are two dedicated parents whose pups are foremost on their minds. But I have seen some parents who are not quite like this, specifically some mothers who were much more laid back, and whose mates seemed to take on the lion’s share of the feeding after the pups were weaned.

Story of One of My Oldest Coyotes, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet,

Not quite 10 years ago I was living and roaming in eastern Washington state. The area’s ecosystems were called scablands, mainly made up of harsh, semi arid regions with natural pockets of green oasis. In these pockets you could find rare native swan, pelican, and Moose. In one of these pockets I took a rest, and in marsh reeds, found one of the oldest coyote I’ve seen.

He was a male, and newly deceased. I spent hours scouting and reading around him, as well as carefully examining him best I could. His face was literally grey/white. He was well fed but scruffy and looked worn down. To all appearances, he appeared to curl up in a reed bed, and die in his sleep. No grimace of pain, no kicking struggles or spasms. Just curled up in sleep, and in that position, the fire of his life went out. It was the most peaceful setting I’ve ever seen a wild coyote die in.

What shocked me was his teeth. Most were gone. The remaining teeth worn or broken. This guy was an elder.

I left him there. I collected old reeds covered him and hoped nature would keep him there awhile. I went back repeatedly, and nature absorbed him, leaving his bones in the reeds.

I have had some naturalists and a dentist look at his skull for any insights. All remarked he must have been fairly remarkable to survive so long. Estimated age between 9 and 14 years. Tooth loss was extensive but so was healing. The empty sockets were filled with bone regrowth (mostly) and infection was minimal.

Please click on the images to enlarge them so you can actually see the lack of teeth and how many of the tooth holes were filled in by his own body over time.

This old coyote’s teeth tell only part of an incredible story. The region he lived in fostered some of the most virulent coyote hunting I had ever seen. Every method to hunt and exterminate them was applied regionally. I wondered at his life, his eras, his times and stories. How many pups did he raise? Did he have a mate or mates as the years passed? What did he see and feel and know? To live that long in the tough scablands, he had to be strong, beyond smart, and full of strategic living. And to face aging-the inevitable aches of arthritis-who of us could carry on and keep healing as one tooth after another slowly fell out? No help. No dentist. No doctors. But the indomitable spirit of being a wild coyote was his medicine and support.

I feel honored to have seen his gray/white face at peace in his reed bed. He was absorbed into the landscape, instead of hanging from a ranch fence. When the land left only his bones, I kept his skull and often still look at it in wonder. The spirit of all nature is wonderous. But the indomitable spirit of coyote is still can’t adequately explain. We can only wonder, at such a survivor. And be glad there are many more out there…singing every night.

Lou🐾

Urban Denning Areas Within The City

Plenty of water found in streams, lakes and spigots, along with great hiding places can be found in large city parks, but so can dogs which are the main issue and problem for coyotes. Intrusive people come second.


More than enough water, vast grasslands and thickets can be found on golf-courses where it’s safer from dogs, but not totally free of them. In some golf-courses, as in the parks, the thickets which afford hiding places are being removed.

Habitat removal occurs in all these areas, either through felling of trees and clearing brush, to clearing for construction.


Backyards in the more spacious green residential neighborhoods and fragmented smaller parks also provide enough water and cover, but these offer more of a challenge for coyotes from surrounding traffic, people and dogs, yet that hasn’t stopped coyotes from moving in there. Water, as elsewhere is found in fountains, spigots and puddles caused by watering and fog.


Urban dens run the gamut from those nestled inconspicuously into remote lush natural areas with streams or ponds of water nearby, thickets, trees and grasslands — these include most the larger parks and golf-courses — albeit some more accessible to dogs and people than others — to the scruffy no-man-land dumps off the shoulders of freeways with their incessant and penetrating loud whirring traffic noise, pervasive gas smells, and human refuse which includes sharp metal edges, splintered wood pieces, nails, rust, plastic bags and bottles, broken glass, needles, etc. Most urban denning areas include some aspects of both extremes. Den areas are the cradles coyote youngsters are born into, and none is without hazards and dangers of some sort.

“Away from dogs and people” — i.e., “away from danger” — is the main criteria for coyotes’ choice of den site: this is what makes one den site “better” than another. In fact, the “dump” dens are often less accessible to intruders. Also, such dens seem to have more challenges so that pups born there begin learning about life — urban life — much sooner than pups raised in grassy green or woodsy settings. These neglected empty spaces, or junkyards, have more obstacles and stimulation of all sorts which might spur more and sooner learning and even opportunistic innovation for negotiating dangers — that is, for the 30% who survive to adulthood. So it’s not for us to say, of these two extremes, that one site is “better” than the other based on what we might like. Coyotes have different standards and criteria than we do for our homes.

Please note that coyotes usually also “own” the land in the neighborhoods surrounding their homes in parks or open spaces, even if they live in larger parks, so being sighted in the neighborhoods as they make their rounds, either “marking” (to keep other coyotes out) or even hunting,  is not uncommon.

Coyotes were deposited by a trapper in the Presidio in 2002, so that vast park is where they made their first home and where the first sightings occurred in 2003. By 2004 to 2007 they were already living in the variety of locations throughout the city where they live today, including other larger parks such as Golden Gate Park, McLaren and Glen Canyon, on our many golf-courses, and in smaller and fragmented spaces surrounded by a sea of traffic and people such as Bernal Hill, Coit Tower and even some backyards. Many of the areas claimed long ago are still occupied by descendants of the coyotes who first moved there, but some have more recent immigrants, including in the Presidio where a new family moved in after kicking out the aging coyotes who had claimed the area for so long, or Lands End as well as some of the golf courses where the newcomers moved into previously owned but now vacated spaces without incident.

Professor Ben Sacks of UC Davis found that dispersing coyotes tend to seek out environments similar to what they had been raised in: those raised in the mountains seek out mountains, those from the desert or from riparian areas tend to seek out those areas to claim as their own territories. When coyotes first re-arrived here in San Francisco, the larger parks would have been environmentally closest to the rural areas they were used to in Mendocino County. But even in these parks, people and dog visitors have increased substantially over time, so any coyote raised in those areas would eventually have grown accustomed to more and more traffic, people, dogs and have been more and more comfortable dispersing to areas that included these and even sparser cover.

Anyway here are some photos of denning areas, from large public parks and golf courses, to fragmented smaller parks and neighborhoods, to no-man’s-lands off a busy highway. Each and every den itself, within a denning area, is totally different from the next. I’ve included only one actual “den”. Not only have the dens themselves been abandoned by now — pups are 3 months of age — but in some cases, the entire denning area has been left behind.

By the way, dangers to urban coyotes begin at the den site and continue through life. Coyotes, especially youngsters, get killed by cars — it’s their biggest killer in urban areas. They break wrists and ankles or pull tendons after being chased by dogs, they die of ingesting poisons such as car coolant left out by humans or rat poison, they get cut and stabbed by our debris. Those are some of the human/dog impacts. One of the biggest human impacts is humans attempting to interact with them (feeding and befriending) which impacts their behavior and compromises their wildness. Beyond those impacts caused directly by humans or our dogs, are more “natural” impacts many of which, however, may at their roots be caused indirectly by humans: for instance a coyote/coyote territorial fight might be the result of habitat destruction by humans — not always, but I’ve seen it. Mange often takes hold due to weakened immune systems which in turn are caused by rat poison ingestion. The one big danger they avoid in cities, at least here in San Francisco, is they don’t get indiscriminately shot on sight: they are much safer than their rural counterparts.


Vacant out-of-the-way lots or junkyards overlooking freeways in many ways may be the “better” denning areas for urban coyotes.

A vacant right-of-way is ideal as a denning area, in spite of 2-inch rusty nails sticking up out of the boards the youngster is standing on.

Debris is not an eyesore for coyotes, though it includes many dangers unknown to them: poisons, rusty metals, sharp edges.

Constant whirr of loud traffic noise and gassy smells are less of a problem for coyotes than human and dog intrusions.

Busy traffic noise can be heard at denning sites close to busy roadways, and especially close to freeways: it results from tire friction and from the flow of air stirred up into a strong wind as each car travels: multiply this by the number of cars on the road and it can be loud, stressful and unsettling. Noise is less of a concern for coyotes than safety.

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

Wild Plums, Eagles, Runt and Big Sis, by Walkaboutlou

“We are entering wild plum season, with blackberry, raspberry and blueberry fast approaching”

Hi Janet.

I hope you are well as summer flies. We are already entering wild plum season, with blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry also fast approaching.

Of course, this is appreciated by our local coyote. I was talking with one property owner who has been spying on some coyote pups the last 3 weeks. I enjoyed his observations and here are some.

“The pack consists of parents and a female yearling daughter with 5 pups. The pups were moved to a “rendezvous” area at around 6 weeks. Immediately, they changed dramatically. They started foraging for, and catching crickets, grasshoppers and mice/voles. There are also several plum trees in rendezvous area and the pups feast on plums daily. They are so full of fruit, bugs and mice, they sometimes ignore parents returning with food. They were at first scared of deer, but now playfully charge at them.

An incident occurred when it was noticed the “runt” pup had lacerations to his back and it seemed had trouble with back legs. Evidence indicates a golden eagle, as the pups hid for at least 2 days before being moved again. And an eagle kept returning to site and sitting in trees surrounding area. On 3rd day pup seemed listless, and then the older sister carried it a bit then groomed it some time, then slept with it. For several days she stayed with injured pup while parents fed pups AND older daughter while she cared for runt. The pup, though stunted and weak, is rallying again and hunting bugs and eating fruit, as well as being fed by parents.

No doubt it wouldn’t have survived without big sister’s week long special care. When the parents returned with venison (from scavenging road killed deer) the big sister guarded the runt while he ate a slice of meat as big as himself! He might be an undersized underdog, but he is grabbing the chances his big sister gave him. We see a coyote trotting along….but are almost never aware of the family bonds and life saving deeds they often share.”

Lou🐾🌾

“Most people don’t realize golden eagle are more than happy to take a young fox, coyote or wolf. This pup was very fortunate to escape, and have a big sis. ❤🐾

Raven Comeuppance

“If a raven can alert a coyote to potential live prey or carrion, both species benefit.  Common Ravens feeding on other predators’ kills is well documented, but ravens leading predators, such as coyotes, wolves, bears, or cougars, to potential live prey or carrion, by using vocalizations, is not as well documented, but may also exist. See “Communication Between Common Ravens and Eastern Coyotes” by Joan Collins.

However, here in San Francisco, where we have no large prey such as deer, ravens don’t like coyotes: they constantly harass coyotes with their loud cries of alarm and by swooping down or skydiving them. Raven alarm cries consist of incessant, piercing shrieks, which in some ways have the same alarmist intonation that we might use as we warn a fellow human: “Danger! Danger! Danger!” or “Run! Run! Run!” And the cries seem to run in groups of threes.

I happen to love ravens: their supreme intelligence, their long-term family life, and that they also mate for life. A “flock” of ravens, by the way, is known as either a “murder” of ravens, or an “unkindness” of ravens. Flocks of other blackbirds are referred to as “clouds”. When you have twenty to fifty of these birds shrieking all at once, it can be deafening.

This mama coyote, below, put up with 20 minutes of unceasing bullying, cawing, and skydiving by a single raven, the raven pictured above. She remained on edge and alert as she watched it. She reacted, as seen above, when the raven came within reach: “Kiai!”

Coyotes and ravens share many of the same resources, and it’s the competition for those resources that probably is at the root of the animosity. But not entirely!

The day before I took the above photographs, I found myself in a park broadcasting the most horrendously loud commotion of ravens. There must have been 100 of them. It sounded as if a real murder was in progress. And then I glimpsed the fomentor: a coyote hidden in the foliage. The noise was deafening and unceasing. A couple of the ravens skydove her — it happened too quickly to capture on video.  Her uneasiness could be seen through her erratic movements. Besides dealing with the ravens, she also was maneuvering to avoid people or being seen by them, evading a kid and his dad bicycling through the rough terrain who didn’t see her and weren’t even aware of the significance of all the noise.

The coyote moved around nervously. And then she got mad and kicked and scratched the ground angrily before disappearing from my view, but the super-penetrating, shrieking alarm cries continued. I decided to video the tree from where the cries came to record the absolutely amazing intensity of the noise. Two runners stopped to investigate: they saw the coyote and wondered why she didn’t flee. They asked me if the ravens might kill her. I smiled and said she’d be okay.

I then located the coyote with my camera in the distance. I took a few still shots and then switched to video again so that I could continue to capture more of the sounds: the sounds were much more impressive than the images of the coyote.

As I filmed, . . . well, just watch the video. Maybe the ravens should stop harassing coyotes.

The FIFTH Generation of One Direct Family Line — Documented

Fifth generation: born April, 2020

Life just keeps moving forward, spinning and weaving itself out as part of nature’s inexorable web. I’ve been able to follow a tiny segment of this web with my coyote documentation work. I’ve been able to keep track of a whopping ten new litters this year here in San Francisco, of which there are plenty more.  Of particular interest to me is one family line I’ve managed to follow generation after generation (not to be confused with litter after litter, which for years will be part of the same generation) since 2008. The youngsters depicted above are from the fifth generation (or fourth, depending on which line you follow) of that family, born this year.

Background: Coyotes first re-appeared here in San Francisco in 2002 after many years of absence, having been exterminated as “vermin” in the 20th century. Times changed so that environmentalism (of which coyotes are a part) became the new norm by the end of that century: coyotes made a comeback after a trapper brought several into the city. They now thrive under the new ethos here. According to DNA analysis (from my ongoing scat study begun in 2008), all of our SF coyotes came from just four founding individuals — they can all be traced back to that point. This posting portrays the genealogy — or the underlying “scaffolding” — of one of the many families and individuals within those families whose unique stories I’ve been writing about.  That family’s stories as a whole might now constitute a sort of family “saga”!

1st Generation: I began following the lineage in 2008. Although I don’t know the age of that first coyote I started with, I would say she had to have been three years old or older when I first met her, based on her surpassing wisdom, and that she had a singleton pup at the time: so she would have been born sometime before 2005. Yet she was obviously youthful and could not have been older than 6, so that would place her among the first coyotes to be born here in San Francisco after their return (Nisei?).

An original emigrant coyote

Possibly an original founder: To the left is a photo probably of one of the original four to six brought in. He was an aging old man when I met him in 2007 — born well before 2002. I’m including his photo here even though I don’t know if he is a direct ancestor of the line I’m describing here — though chances are high that he is.

Born before 2005 — I’m guessing she’s from the first generation actually born here in SF

Depicted above is the coyote I’ve named/labeled as Maeve, born before 2005 — making her one of among the first coyote generation actually born here in SF. Her mate, however, may have been one of the original four. He was older than her, and very wary and reclusive which is why I have only a few fuzzy photos of him — my guess is that he was this way because he never recovered from the trauma of having been trapped and removed from his previous situation. Every coyote is different, and some are much more sensitive than others.

2nd generation born in April, 2009

2nd Generation: Maeve’s litters, then, born over the next several years became the 2nd generation to be born in San Francisco. These eventually included a son, Silver (above), born in April, 2009, part of a litter of just two. His father, as I stated above, may have been one of the original four coyotes: I say this based solely on his older appearance and incredible wariness. I called him Toughy. He died of rat poisoning (as did a domestic dog at the time) and it is Silver who then filled in his shoes (paws?).

This posting is simply a pulling together, in skeletal outline form, of a this family’s genealogy, a bare-bones scaffolding exclusive of the stories about them. It is the stories about these individuals that reveal the “WHO” about these individuals and which bring this scaffolding to life. Knowing the genealogical connection just makes their story that more interesting by adding another layer to it.

3rd generation, Chert, above left. Silver, above right, is a 2nd generation coyote.

3rd Generation: At the age of four, in April 2013, Silver produced his first litter, constituting the 3rd generation of this coyote line. This litter included Chert (above left) who was one of four pups born by Maeve and Silver that year, and the one to remain on the land, and therefore the one I would continue to follow in this line.

On the turn of a dime, events can occur and circumstances can change, without our necessarily knowing the ultimate cause. Maeve, who became Silver’s mate (she was also his mother) disappeared suddenly when their youngsters were only 7 months old, never to be seen again. And this is where the story gets twisted a little because within a year, Chert moves into Maeve’s position as the female alpha of the territory: her father Silver  (above right) becomes her mate (yes, there’s lots of inbreeding in this line), so we have now a 2nd generation and a 3rd generation uniting to produce the next generation, which could be called either 3rd or 4th. I’m calling it 4th.

In 2015, I put together a 275 page book with over 700 photos about the family up to that point. It was entitled and focused on “Chert: One Day In The Life Of An Urban Coyote”. I was asked by a would-be publisher to transform what they called a “field guide” into a “story”. I never summoned up the bandwidth to do this, so the manuscript/monograph languishes on a bookshelf in my study. With two more generations to add to it, the story would now become a true “saga”. 

Scout, above left is the 4th generation. I do not know her mate’s lineage (above right).

4th Generation: Chert and Silver’s various litters constitute the 4th direct generation of this line. Scout (above left) was their first, a singleton pup, born in April 2015. Scout dispersed from this territory: she is the first youngster I’ve followed AFTER her dispersal which occurred at an early 9 months of age, whereas the previous generations that I’ve kept track of in this line simply “inherited” the property on which they had been born, and that’s where they reproduced. So her story continues on a new territory not so far away.

Scout’s mate (above right) is a newcomer to me — I don’t know his background. We’ll have to wait for DNA to find out his lineage. Dr. Ben Sacks at UC Davis has, or will be, analyzing all of their scats to “scientifically” confirm the relationships I’ve documented, and to find the connections between the coyotes whose backgrounds I don’t know..

5th Generation: Scout’s is a long and fascinating history, many aspects of which I’ve written about on this blog. It was not for many years, until she was five years old, that she acquired a stable and faithful mate and had her first litter in April of 2020. This litter, then, is the fifth generation of this one family line: the pup photos in this posting are hers.

So the story as a whole continues with new generations continuing as they have from the beginning of time, and with my relaying individual stories that serve to individualize and distinguish each coyote from the next — it’s not unlike what goes on with us humans. :))

Below is a standard genealogical chart — just the chart without any stories — of the family from 2008 (or from before 2005 if you incorporate Toughy and Maeve’s birthdates) to today. The stories about the individuals, including their personalities and interactions, can be found in this blog. However, I never mention locations, and seldom have I used their names in my postings, and this has been done in order to protect them.

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

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