*FIRST: Coyote Coexistence Guidelines and Safety Information

A ONE-STOP INFORMATION VIDEO on urban coyotes: coyote behavior and how to coexist with them, how to shoo them off from a dog, and why killing them does not solve issues. Updated 6-13-2013. OR press https://youtu.be/euG7R11aXq0 to go directly to YouTube. [A shorter version may be seen at: http://youtu.be/1Kxl31nX0rc]

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

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



*A Quote Worth Pondering

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

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


Tyto Alba — Another Non-Coyote Wildlife Adventure


Tyto Alba or Barn Owl (click on the individual photos to enlarge them)

It was dusk, and all was peacefully quieting down in the park until, “Clonk, clonk!” It sounded as though a clumsy big horse was having trouble getting back into its stall, knocking things over along the way. . . .  except that there are no horses or horse stables in San Francisco and haven’t been for decades, by law. This un-“natural” sound probably sounded all the more disparate because I was out in nature. Instead it was a young Barn Owl (Tyto Alba) waking up after a long days nap — banging against the sides of its own “barn” — a man-made owl box.

A few minutes later I heard loud wing battings. How could this be? Aren’t owls supposed to be silent flyers so as not to be heard by their prey? And then I heard what sounded like the complaints/warning cries of alarm of a bird such as a Stellar Jay — maybe a little different — and I figured some bird was warning-off these predator owls from encroachment. Wrong again. THAT was the sound of the Barn Owl itself! Barn owls don’t hoot, they screech in a bunch of different ways!

AUDIO: Notice there are a couple of distant coyote barks at the 34-39 second marker, and the owls get really intense at the 2:54 marker. The recording lasts 3:24 minutes.

As I sat there listening to their amazing shrieks, screeches, peeps, hissing and squawks, I saw one, and then THREE others — a total of four — fly off to a nearby tree — wow, there were that many here?! This was indeed a surprising night.

For years I’d seen one at a time at dawn and dusk, gliding and swooping in its silveriness, ever so silently through the dark. You could only see them as you do the bats — against the lighter night sky before total darkness set in. Once, I lay down on the ground and was able to capture, in a photo, an owl as it “mothed” right above me, from what seemed like five feet away, examining me out of curiosity — no, it was not courting me! It was only because that owl was against the lighter sky that the camera was able to capture its image — it was actually dark outside.

Why hadn’t I seen them here before? There were actually several signs that the owls were there, including the box itself. The old owl box has been empty for many years, or inhabited by squirrels, so there had been no reason for me to suspect that the box was rightfully occupied now, but there were other signs staring me in the face. Owl guano droppings had hardened along the length of a nearby tree trunk, and below another tree there were owl pellets and what looked like white splashes of paint — more guano, or owl poop which had been expelled away from the tree trunk and lay in individual blotches.

There was even a dead mouse which had been rejected. I pulled out my camera and took a few shots in the obscure nighttime lighting. I got home and processed the photos — nice photos except they were rather grainy due to the lack of light at 9:00pm. I decided that I would come back tomorrow and take photos with the aid of a flashlight, the way I had the raccoons years ago in Golden Gate Park.

2016-07-16 (11)The next evening, a little bit earlier than before — I didn’t want to miss anything — I arrived and plopped myself some distance away and waited. Soon a little face appeared in the hole of the box. I shone my flashlight on it just long enough to get a couple of shots. Then the face disappeared. The scenario repeated itself, only this time, as I shone the flashlight, there was squawking from around me. It was the adult owls — I thought they were chattering away. Several of the owls appeared on the branches in neighboring trees to gawk at me — like I suppose I was gawking at them.

I shone my flashlight for a few seconds over to those on the branches and took some more pictures. And then I shone the beam on the box again. Suddenly the urgency in their shrieks intensified. And it is then that the tone of those intense squawks gained meaning: they were warning the little fella in the box: “keep down, keep down, danger, danger!!” Now a couple of the owls appeared on a nearby board/platform and on the box, as those around continued their warning cries. They were distressed. And the youngster, too, looked worried, and cringed, and looked in the direction of the adults knowing that all the commotion signified danger.

Now I knew that the loud batting wings I had heard the day before also had been warning messages. I did not feel good about the distress.  I had the choice of returning the next day or lingering a moment longer to get a few more photos now. I decided on the latter course of action — it would be less disruptive than returning again. I grabbed a couple more shots and then left. I went home and processed the photos, looked up some tidbits of information which I’ve added below, and wrote up the encounter. I was totally distraught and upset that my presence had upset the owls, and I vowed to never go back, and neither would I be the catalyst for others to disrupt these birds.

By extension, this situation is true for all wild animals anywhere, including coyotes in our parks: they just want to be left alone and not be noticed, but if they are intruded upon or threatened — even if it is just in their own perceptions — they will come forth with display messages and screeches — and more — if they feel a need to defend themselves, their territories, and especially their young.

I would write it up, but I would not reveal the nest location: the owls would not have wanted that. They are nocturnal, so if you want to see them you should begin your walk in the dark — and keep your eyes on the sky above the tree-line: you may see one floating silently by before returning to its roost for the day. This experience of mine was so totally different from that with the famous Great Horned Owls in the Eucalyptus trees which many folks have observed, where the adult owls took the gawking of their owlets in stride.

Fortunately, this little green box is in a remote part of the park, actually in someone’s yard. One of the neighbors recently told me that “those birds” were keeping him up throughout the night. It is because he told me this that I stopped to investigate that “clonk” sound. Below, I’ve written up some tidbits of information I collected over the internet.

Territoriality. Barn Owls defend the area around their nests, but they don’t defend the area where they hunt from others of their same species — they share. In other words, more than one pair of Barn Owls may hunt on the same fields.

Contrast this with the Great Horned Owls who live in the same parks as the Barn Owls but who are very territorial: only one mated pair and their offspring live in the area. Their territoriality actually places a limit on the number of breeding pairs in any given area. Great Horned Owls who haven’t been able to establish territories are known as “floaters” — they live along boundaries of established territories.  In fact, it may be that just the male Great Horned Owls defend the territories. They are known to kill each other in territorial conflicts, and sometimes resort to cannibalism.

In the summer, the Barn Owls’ home hunting ranges are a little over a square mile; in the winter they can be many times larger. If food is extremely scarce, both of these owl species might move out of their established territories, but there is no annual migration and they maintain their territories for life.

Nesting. I found out that most Barn Owls mate for life — they are monogamous, as are Great Horned Owls — though there have been reports that some males have had several female mates at the same time. And Barn Owls tend to use the same nest site year after year. One of their courting displays is hovering in front of the female in a “moth-like fashion” — Oh, I’ve experienced this several years ago! Chicks usually start flying at 9-10 weeks and begin leaving the nest for good at about 11-12 weeks. All will probably be gone by 14 wks.

If there is nesting in July, as was the case with this find of mine, it’s usually a second clutch for the mated pair. About 10% of barn owls reproduce two times a year — and some even produce three clutches in a year! And, although the breeding season is considered from March to August — having expanded due to climate change from an original breeding season which was almost always in May — they, in fact, can produce youngsters at any time of the year.

They lay as many as 6 eggs, but more often than not, only about 4 of them hatch. The eggs are laid asynchronously, every 2-3 days and they hatch in the order in which they were laid (sounds like a business telephone answering service, doesn’t it?!). So chicks from the same clutch can actually vary up to about 21 days in their ages. The little guy in the box must have been the last in his clutch. Incubation is about 31 days. They don’t “build” nests, but find places to lay their eggs which they line with their pellets.

Poop. Pellets are actually excrement regurgitated through the mouth. Owls swallow their prey whole, but they don’t digest the bones and fur. The parts of the prey that actually pass through the digestive tract and out of their rumps are excreted as a softish, whitish “guano” — like that of all birds. Guano can often be found dripping down the tree trunks which they inhabit. However, like all owls and hawks, the larger, indigestible parts of the prey, including bones and fur, are kept in their crock. Twice a day they are spat-up, or regurgitated out of their mouths, as “pellets”. These pellets basically look like the poop of other animals except that they are oval-shaped and not long. .

Hunting. All owls’ eyesight is pretty superb — they hunt at night [see “Coyote Night Vision”]. But, the ability of Barn Owls to capture prey by sound is the best of any animal that has ever been tested. Their satellite-dish shaped faces helps with this. They eat mostly small mammals such as rats, mice, voles, gophers. Also bats. They don’t eat squirrels so much because they are less active at night. They also eat some song birds. 91% of barn owls, post-mortem, are found to contain rat poison. The most long-lived Barn Owl ever recorded was 15 years old.

Everyone: Please don’t use poisons to eradicate rats, and please ask your neighbors to do the same. Rat poison is a horrible and slow death for rats, causing them to bleed from the inside out, and causing them to become disoriented and slow. This is why owls catch them. But worse, the poison actually travels up the food chain to these owls. Several years ago I sent in two dead barn owls for toxicity tests: they were found to have huge amounts of rat poisons laced throughout their bodies. We’ve also had a number of our Great Horned Owls killed by rat poisoning: One, this year, we guessed, was the mother of owlets who then never made it to adulthood.

Knowing Me

Coyote hurrying in my direction to keep away from dogs and walkers. It's actually dark outside, about 9pm -- it's astonishing that my camera was able to register these clear, albeit blurry, images.

Coyote hurrying in my direction to keep away from dogs and walkers. It’s actually dark outside, about 9pm — it’s astonishing that my camera was able to register these clear, albeit blurry, images.

I’ve known this coyote for seven and a half years — I’ve known him from before he was born. I can say this because I witnessed the entire courtship and pregnancy leading to his birth and knew he was on the way. He probably knows me as well as I know him. Coyotes are as curious about us and our dogs and probably spend more time watching us than vice-versa, and they are fast learners.

I once read that, “Your dog knows you better than you know yourself. Why wouldn’t he? After all, he/she spends all his/her time watching you.”  I thought, “well, of course!” Well, coyotes also spend time watching and getting to know us, our patterns of behavior, our attitudes and treatment of them. They are known for their curiosity and for observing. They are consummate hunters because they come to know the minute behaviors and reactions of their prey — they learn this by watching.

For the most part, this fella treats me the same as he treats anyone else: he keeps his distance and is suspicious. Yet at the same time, we have an understood pact, born of years of experience: my pattern is to stand off and observe. I stay well out of the way so as not to be an element in the behaviors I observe, and I never purposefully engage his or any coyote’s attention or interact in any way. I have defended him against dogs and he understood my role during those occasions. He’s formed an assessed opinion of me based on all of my behaviors which are relevant to him over the last seven-plus years.

But once I did break my rule to not interfere. A photographer with his dog was enticing/encouraging the coyote to approach them. The photographer and dog were on the path the coyote was trotting along. The coyote took a very wide detour around the man and dog to avoid them but then stopped to watch this duo staring at him. The man started taking photos and walking towards the coyote who now was within 50 feet. From years of observation, I could see that the coyote was turning to his defensive/messaging mode. If you, and especially if your dog, stares at a coyote, especially while approaching it, the coyote will become aware that he has become an *object of interest*, and the coyote may wonder why and what is going on. In a coyote’s world, *the interest* would be one of either predator/prey or possibly a territorial dispute.

This man and his dog have continually been a little too *in-the-face* of this coyote which is probably why the coyote stopped when he was being stared at so intensely. I did not want the photographer to set up an antagonistic situation and then get a photo of the coyote messaging his dog, and it looked as though this was going to happen. The coyote would have *messaged* either by taking on fierce-looking body language as a warning or possibly even by nipping the dog’s haunches as a stronger warning. The  photographer and his dog should have been moving on and away from the coyote — not towards it. So I interfered to prevent any engagement — and the possibility of such a negative photo — by clapping my hands and getting the coyote to move on.

What is interesting — and this is the point I want to make in this posting — is the coyote’s total surprise at my unexpected behavior. The coyote didn’t seem to believe his eyes at first — this wasn’t one of the behaviors he had ever seen in me before. I could see that he was actually confused. The coyote look at me, frozen, in seeming-disbelief. I repeated my actions and the coyote backed away slowly, while looking at me quizzically. My behavior here was totally out of character. And I, too, felt that I had betrayed our understood contract, and I had. But that was better for the coyote than having him photographed in an antagonistic pose next to a dog by a man who was intent on publishing his photos — that would have been more negative publicity for our coyotes. This is an isolated instance of my interference and it hasn’t happened again with this coyote. I need to remain totally neutral always to get the natural behaviors I’m seeking.

Another instance of a stunned reaction from this  very same coyote was the time I walked my son’s dog. This coyote did an obvious double-take because I never before, during his lifetime, had been *with* a dog. This particular coyote, by the way, always flees the instant he ever sees the one and only woman who pursues him relentlessly and aggressively. The coyote has learned to avoid this one person because he knows she will engage in hostile behaviors towards him: she charges at him no matter how far off in the distance he is as he’s minding his own business, flinging rocks at him and screaming. These little vignettes I’ve described here are to show how *in-tune* coyotes are to our behaviors — they do get to know us.

As I said, this coyote treats me like anyone else: keeping his distance and maintaining his suspicions. BUT, he knows I will never pursue or hurt him, and in a pinch, I suppose he knows I’ll be the one who will be accommodating and will move aside to let him go by — this sort of routine has played out often between us.

He pees/marks as a message to those in back of him

He pees/marks as a message to those in back of him

He turns to continue on his way, and then acknowledged my presence in passing with a "hello" type of look

He turns to continue on his way, and then acknowledged my presence in passing with a “hello” type of look

Back to the story behind the photos posted here. So today, when I saw the coyote trotting briskly in my direction and then look over his should at the two walkers and dogs coming towards him from behind, I realized that he was fleeing from the dogs and I was in his pathway. If he hadn’t known me and my patterns of behavior, he probably would have diverted off of the path to get away from both me and the dogs. Instead he hurried in my direction because he knew I was safe and that I would move for him. And indeed, I hurried down the path and away from him onto a cross path so that he could get by, and I then turned around to watch him and the developing situation. The coyote had come within 10 feet of me and, turned around to watch the dogs and their owners who were still approaching him. He peed/marked for them — actually a message of warning — as he watched them coming closer. He was aware that I was right there but he paid me no heed. Then he turned to continue on his trotting way,  acknowledged me as he went, and I acknowledged him with, “Good day” and a nod, and he trotted on into the cover of bushes, with one last glance at those of us in back of him before disappearing from view.

The coyote hurries on and into the brush

The coyote hurries on and into the brush

I reminded the dog walkers of our newest protocol for keeping things safe around coyotes: when you see a coyote, whether it is in the far distance, approaching, or at your side, the best policy is always to tighten the leash on your dog and walk away from the coyote without running.

Before disappearing completely, the coyote turns and looks at those of us in back of him. He had gotten to where he wanted to go without incident.

Before disappearing completely, the coyote turns and looks at those of us in back of him. He had gotten to where he wanted to go without incident.

Coyote As Totem of America, A New Yorker piece by Ottessa Moshfegh

For the week of July 4th, The New Yorker “asked writers to describe a person, object, or experience that they think captures a distinctly American spirit.” I’ve reprinted several paragraphs here, of this New Yorker article, with a link to the original for continued reading. Illustration (by Oliver Munday) and text (by Ottessa Moshfegh)©The New Yorker, July 6, 2016. Enjoy!

2016-07-07“The other day, I watched a wounded coyote jaunt down my street in East Hollywood. It limped suavely along the sidewalk at a confident clip, its mouth open in happy wonder or obscene hilarity—I couldn’t get a good read on him. Or maybe what I thought I saw in his eyes was just a projection of my own state of wonder at this gorgeous creature gliding coolly across my world of concrete and palm trees, elevating my humdrum hunt for a parking spot to a moment of amazement. I followed the coyote for a while in my car, then stopped to watch it step into busy Virgil Avenue, where it dodged cars so calmly, so expertly, that it almost appeared to be controlling the flow of traffic with its mind.

Los Angeles coyotes live in the hills, in parks, in landfills, under highway overpasses. We hear them howl at night. They are indelible players in the theatre of the city, and frequent sightings remind us that this land itself is still a volatile and largely untamable frontier. A strange and dangerous paradise, L.A., and we stubborn fools insist on staying put despite earthquakes, drought, forest fires, the dwindling shoreline. I like living here because the illusory nature of reality is perversely obvious. Around every corner there’s another movie scene; a fictional shimmer rises up off the city through the smog. As a writer, my imagination feels freer here than in my native New England.

There were coyotes back East, of course, but I like the peculiar grittiness and verve of L.A. coyotes. Their daytime presence in the city has increased with the drought. They come out in search of food and water. They don’t seem afraid of humans. Many humans, however, are afraid of them. In the suburbs especially, the fear is apparent: people arm themselves when they walk around at night. If a coyote comes onto your property, they say, shoot it on sight. Don’t leave your doors open.

Coyotes very rarely attack humans, by the way”. . . . [to continue reading please visit: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/coyotes-the-ultimate-american-tricksters?mbid=social_twitter]

Carl Safina Writes About Pronoun Usage When Referring To Animals — More on “Anthropomorphizing”

beyondwords-paperback-e1466014381216One step at a time, we’re getting the word out that social animals share many characteristics with humans. Outdated biases are often thoughtlessly — or purposefully — perpetuated in language, in this case, by using simple pronouns or designators which prevent folks from seeing social animals for who they really are. I sometimes wonder if referring to an animal as an inanimate “it” or reproductive entity such as “cow”, helps excuse and justify society’s treatment of them by keeping them at arms length: they are brutally hunted, brutally experimented upon, and brutally raised in preparation for the slaughterhouse.

In the article: “Wild In The Streets: Pronouns On The Loose”,  Huffington Post, June 17th of this year, Carl Safina, author of the wonderfully warm and biologically supported exposition, “Beyond Words” and author and host of “Saving the Ocean” on PBS, writes about our society’s use of impersonal pronouns when referring to animals, and how this detracts and diminishes them as sentient social beings. I, of course, totally agree with him. I’ve deliberately used “who”, “him”, “her”, “mom”, “dad”, to help folks better understand  and relate to coyotes, specifically in my 2013 informational video presentations, “Coyotes As Neighbors” and “How To Shoo Off A Coyote”. I also wrote an article on the fallacies of the anthropomorphizing concept which simply diminishes animals and prevents us humans from getting to know them, rather than helping us understand them for who they really are: unique individuals with amazingly different personalities from each other.

Here is what Carl says:

When a cow recently broke loose from a New York City slaughterhouse onto the streets of New York, The New York Times ran the headline, “Cow Who Escaped New York Slaughterhouse.” Using “who” for a non-human is heifer heresy, and The Times struggled with inner conflict. While the headline ran with “Who,” the first line of the story reported on the “cow that…” The New York Post reversed the Times inconsistency, running the headline, “Cow That Ran…” while their photo caption referred to, “The cow who escaped…”

For The New York Times it was a bit of a watershed, straddling a furry area in pronoun policy and prompting an explanatory editorial. “Our goal,” wrote editor Philip B. Corbett, “is to reflect familiar usage among our readers. In the case of the cow in Queens, it seems our editors were caught between two impulses.” At The Times they are a-changin’.

But not, apparently, at The New Yorker. There, Inky the octopus’s jailbreak from New Zealand’s National Aquarium in April prompted a profile with a photo and text. The caption under Inky’s headshot read awkwardly, “Inky the octopus, which recently escaped.” But The New Yorker too was at odds with its own caption; the body of the piece included, “Inky hauled his basketball-sized body out of the tank.” “His” body; not “its.”

What’s going on? Lines are blurring as we understand more about who animals are. As I wrote in my recent book Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel, “I allowed myself to ask them the question that is forbidden fruit: Who are you?”
To read on, please press this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-safina/wild-in-the-streets-prono_b_10526910.html

For a wonderful introduction and review of Carl’s book, Beyond Words, which will be republished in paperback on July 12th, see the following short YouTube video and read this review.

Coyote America, by Dan Flores — Two Reviews


David Roberts calls his review of the book, “The Original Bolshevik”:
“Camping out in the canyons of the Southwest, I hold my breath whenever I hear, in the distance, the familiar sound of overlapping howls and yips. I strain to catch every nuance, wishing that the antiphonal chorus would go on forever. I’ll wake my companions, if I have any, with a whispered nudge: “Listen. Coyotes.”

Such reverence was not the typical reaction of early travelers along the Santa Fe and Oregon trails. More often they heard coyotes’ howls as “blood-curdling.” In his classic 1844 narrative, “Commerce of the Prairies,” Josiah Gregg described the sound with his characteristic precision: “Like ventriloquists, a pair of these [coyotes] will represent a dozen distinct voices in such succession—will bark, chatter, yelp, whine, and howl in such variety of note, that one would fancy a score of them at hand.” Gregg complained that the noise “sometimes makes a night upon the Prairies perfectly hideous.”

In “Coyote America,” a masterly synthesis of scientific research and personal observation, Dan Flores tries to plumb the causes of what he calls “the Hundred Years War on Coyotes in the American West,” as he recounts the fate of “the most persecuted large mammal in American history.” The outcry of ranchers against the ruthless ravager of their sheep and cattle does not alone explain the longstanding revulsion against the coyote in this country. Mr. Flores traces the oddly anthropomorphic antagonism to a tour de force of comedic rant in Mark Twain ’s “Roughing It.” Twain portrayed the coyote as “a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, . . . a living, breathing allegory of Want.” The beast was also “spiritless and cowardly,” Twain wrote. “The meanest creatures despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede.” Horace Greeley chimed in, declaring the coyote “a sneaking, cowardly little wretch.” Subsequent pundits concluded, similarly, that coyotes lacked “higher morals.” A nadir of this opprobrium came in a 1920 article in Scientific American, whose author deemed the coyote the ‘Original Bolshevik’.”

Whereas Native Americans celebrated the animal’s keen intelligence and revered it as a semi-diety, the consummate Trickster, a kind of ironic foil to humans at our most fallible, Americans have long sought to eliminate Canis latrans (“the barking dog”), beginning with bounties placed by state and local governments on coyotes (as well as on wolves, bears and mountain lions) in the 1870s, followed by increasingly sophisticated campaigns of extermination waged by government agencies (which persist to this day, under the aegis of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). In the 1940s, the government used torturously cruel sodium fluoroacetate as poison bait which caused grotesque convulsions and agonizing vocalizations before the animal died.

To read more of this review, you’ll need to read the Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2016 Issue.

Goodreads, which sells the book, posted this review about Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History:
“With its uncanny night howls, unrivaled ingenuity, and amazing resilience, the coyote is the stuff of legends. In Indian folktales it often appears as a deceptive trickster or a sly genius. But legends don’t come close to capturing the incredible survival story of the coyote. As soon as Americans—especially white Americans—began ranching and herding in the West, they began working to destroy the coyote. Despite campaigns of annihilation employing poisons, gases, helicopters, and engineered epidemics, coyotes didn’t just survive, they thrived, expanding across the continent from Anchorage, Alaska, to New York’s Central Park. In the war between humans and coyotes, coyotes have won hands-down.
Coyote America is both an environmental and a deep natural history of the coyote. It traces both the five-million-year-long biological story of an animal that has become the “wolf” in our backyards, as well as its cultural evolution from a preeminent spot in Native American religions to the hapless foil of the Road Runner. A deeply American tale, the story of the coyote in the American West and beyond is a sort of Manifest Destiny in reverse, with a pioneering hero whose career holds up an uncanny mirror to the successes and failures of American expansionism.

An illuminating biography of this extraordinary animal, Coyote America isn’t just the story of an animal’s survival—it is one of the great epics of our time.”

Intent On Not Revealing Where She’s Going

coyote stops and turns to look at me

coyote turns and looks at me

This mother coyote tried remaining out of sight — I saw her keeping to the bushes — but she had to cross the path I was on, so, of course, eventually she knew that I saw her. She was very aware of me. After coming to the path, she trotted on over its crest, down an incline and remained out of my sight until I came to the crest of the hill. She continued trotting along this trail until she came to an intersection of paths. Here she stopped and looked back at me. Then she looked in other directions to assess the situation, and then she looked back at me again. I took her photo. She then squinted at me — she was communicating her needs to me. I stayed back, letting her know that I understood her message and would comply: I would not follow her.

She then proceeded around the bend of the trail and out of sight. I did not follow, as she had requested, but climbed a ridge from which I could see her on the trail below. She had trotted on and then come to another standstill, looking back to see if I had followed. I knew from her behavior that, if I had followed, she would have lead me down this path which was away from where she had intended to go. Instead, since I was not behind her, she turned back about 100 feet and slithered into one of her secret hidden tunnels through the brush and, most likely, on to her pups, which we’ve heard but never seen. By respecting the coyotes’ needs, by actually listening and understanding their communications, we are achieving a mutually acceptable coexistence with these urban neighbors or ours.

when she realizes no one is following, she turns back to her secret escape route

when she realizes no one is following, she turns back to her secret escape route

Coyote Behavior: Dusk

As the light of day wanes, I’m poking around in a park in San Francisco when a coyote darts out of the bushes and rushes past me. I drop what I’m doing, and lift my camera — I’m happiest when there are coyotes around to observe.

He hunts in tall grasses, patiently waiting with his snout close to the ground. Suddenly he darts to the side and pounces. That was his first vole of the evening. He’ll soon catch another in those tall grasses. Voles are small and two are only a snack.

The grasses are super tall right now and coyotes are hard to detect in them. From a distance all one might see — which gives their presence away — is the tippy-tops of the tall grasses erratically wiggling more than the rest of the wind-blown grasses.

He trots deliberately over to another area where he pokes around in several of the openings which he himself might have created in the dense tangle of thick, foot-deep weeds which carpet that part of a hill. He spends time with each opening, sticking his snout in, listening, and moving the stalks aside. After examining several openings in this manner without success,  he turns around and heads towards where I first encountered him. It’s a slow walk, with casual hunting stops along the way, though he doesn’t catch anything else. En route, a distant siren sounds — or maybe it’s not so distant. Maybe it just sounds faint and distant because of the strong winds. He’s at the top of a hill and the wind is blowing strongly and in furious gusts. He begins howling. In the video the wind ruins the recording but the coyote is shown belting forth. Turn the sound way down to see the video — wind on a microphone is deafening so you’ll want to hear it at a low volume.

Immediately, SHE, his mate, returns his calls.Soon there is back and forth communication: howling and yipping which to me is beautiful and and comforting, but which to others might be more readily described as eerie and disturbing. Today it is mostly drowned out and overpowered by the bursts of wind on top of the hill.

Turn the volume on LOW — the wind is blowing furiously which results in a painfully raspy sound in the video. What you may not be able to hear is the beautiful calls and responses between the two coyotes — the mated pair

After several minutes of howling, with snout whipping up and around like the wind itself, he stops and looks around to assess his surroundings for safety, and then heads down the hill and towards her. He seems to know exactly where to find her — he located her by her return calls. But on the way he suddenly stops, frozen in place for a few minutes, and looks around, straining all of his senses: it appears that he has caught her scent sooner than expected.  Instead of waiting from her calling spot in the under-cover for him to arrive, she has set out on her own — maybe to intercept him. But they are not on the same path, so if he had relied on vision alone, he would have missed her.  Using all of his senses, he detects her presence nearby and then sees her several hundred feet away. They stand very still and stare at each other for what seems an eternity but is only a few seconds. Then he relaxes, turns around and walks past some bushes in order to meet up with her.

Their rendezvous and greeting, with variations, is standard for coyotes. He slowly approaches her, and as he gets close, his posture is upright and tall. She immediately falls on her back deferentially. Thus begins their greeting ritual. He smells her carefully — maybe he can tell what she has been up to? When she knows he’s satisfied, she gets up carefully and then she begins grooming him — licking and pulling ticks off his face and affectionately pulling his ear. As she’s grooming she stands next to him, and then she extends her neck over his — he allows it: these two are well matched.

The major block of her days are spent with pups. He is the one who has chosen the safest areas to keep the pups sequestered. His main duties, as displayed by his behaviors, are to patrol for safety and bring home food which he carries in his belly and then regurgitates for the pups. Safety is one of his chief concerns. He often even escorts/shadows her when she decides to go a-hunting. He does so to guard and protect her, but also to keep an eye on her!   Young pups do not participate either in these rendezvous nor the treks which follow. The youngsters are tucked away carefully and left alone during these occasions.

After several minutes of grooming, he steps aside and then he leads in my direction. She has become the shier of the two in the last few months — which she wasn’t at one time — and moves away and around me. His route, keeping his distance, is more in my direction. And this is when I decide to leave — I don’t want to get in their way. It’s getting dark and anyway, the camera will stop being able to process the light soon.

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