My Position In Relation To Coyotes

Dear  Blog:

People continue to ask me if they could “come along” on my observations, to “study” or “photograph”  or  “just observe”.  Apparently everybody has a worthy project that would benefit from this “hands on” involvement.

I need everyone to know where I am coming from regarding all coyotes, but especially regarding the coyotes I have been able to follow. I am extremely protective of them and their space. I do not advertise their locations, and I make a blanket policy of not taking anyone with me on my outings. This is important in order to be fair to the coyotes. I’m sure everyone can understand this and I’m sure everyone wants this for the coyotes — to keep their lives as even as possible. We need to think about the coyotes first.

Coyotes do not need more and more people intruding on them. When anyone approaches a coyote, or even when people are around, a coyote’s alertness intensifies and its behaviors change. It may flee. This heightened alertness and behavior change are indications of stress. All interventions and intrusions that I have seen disrupt the normal behavior I’m trying to document — this is why I work alone.

I’ve spent thousands of hours in various parks where I seem to have “earned” an “ignored place”, at a safe distance, from a number of coyotes. Even bringing my husband a couple of times to several of the parks changed that whole dynamic: coyotes are much too aware not to be affected by everyone’s presence.  My project is not conducive to group activity — I hope everyone can respect that. I want to continue doing my part in taking photos and writing my observations, as a means of advocating for the coyotes in the Bay Area, but I need to do this alone. Nevertheless, everybody who wants can help. We ALL can spread respect for coyotes and all wildlife, and we all can preserve habitat that is already in place, by leaving it alone, and not by re-creating it in the image of just the “native plant” advocates.

I began this blog to share information with those who might feel apprehensive about coyotes generally, and about urban coyotes specifically. My purpose is to show, through my photos and observations, that coyotes have character and personality. They have a tight-knit family life which is very worthy of our respect.  They display the qualities which we value in ourselves.  I’m trying to help people relate to them in ways which they may not have been able to before. At the same time, I need to remind everyone that these are not cuddly stuffed animals. They are WILD. They are VERY wild. We need to respect this about them: give them space and keep our dogs off of them — co-existence requires just this little from us.

Two incidents recently have distressed me. One was a high school teacher who, before leaving his students to explore in one of the parks, admonished them to “please don’t pet the coyotes.” Do people really think that these are cuddly little animals that can be approached in this manner? They cannot. They could bite if they have to protect themselves.

The second incident involved a father with four pre-teens. I was so pleased to point out a coyote for them — but I should not have. I advised the father that the coyotes were not aggressive, but that we need to give them space. Immediately, this man walked straight up to where the coyote was. The coyote, relaxing on a hill, saw him coming and bolted up to a tense sitting position. The man got closer and closer until the coyote fled. Although most people seem to respect the needs of our coyotes, there are the aggressive few who think it is their right to intrude on the coyotes — you have intruded upon a coyote if you have caused it to alter its normal flow of behavior. We need to remember that the coyotes are not tame farm animals and they do not want to be approached.

Coyotes dislike most dogs: dogs are threats to them and put the coyotes on heightened alert. Even so, I have seen coyotes “hand pick” a couple of dogs as friends — it is always the dogs who show little interest in them!! A lot of my observations involve coyote and dog reactions to each other: in all except a couple of instances this has been antagonistic. Regarding people, coyotes are not interested in people except to stay away from them. Dogs are a different story: because they are a threat to coyotes, dogs are more interesting to them. Coyotes treat dogs the same as they do “outsider” coyotes who would be competing for the territory and its resources. If we keep our dogs leashed in coyote areas, these threats can be kept to a minimum.

One last point I would like to make regarding animal habitats. My policy would be to leave nature alone, the way it is — nature is smarter than humans, who, I have found, feel they need to control and manage everything. My problem with human intervention is that they try too often hide behind the guise of “science”, when science does not have all the answers — science is a human phenomenon and humans do not have all the answers. The plans they come up with often do more harm than good. The Gulf oil spill is a disaster we could have avoided — but we listened to the “sound science” behind the technology involved in deep water drilling. Another is the “native” plant programs which purport to be “scientific” when in fact they are extreme, arbitrary and one-dimensional. Animals live in our thick wooded areas where the balances have been achieved over a long period of time. Mount Sutro Forest, for example, needs to be preserved, not ripped out and re-created. Please see the blog dedicated to preserving this cloud forest. Please do what you can to preserve it. Thanks for listening.  Janet

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Leslie
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 07:10:32

    Hey Janet, I wrote a few minutes ago about coyotes yipping. I am from Phoenix Arizona and appreciate your knowledge about these wild animals. Thanks for the info once again. Thanks for a great job done on your researching and letting everyone know what’s up with these animals. Appreciate you. Leslie /Phoenix


    • yipps
      Oct 28, 2011 @ 13:32:37

      Hi Leslie again! I appreciate your supportive comments. With my blog, I’m trying to show people what coyotes are like. They really are very cool little animals with lots of personality and intelligence, and with very strong family ties to each other. They are skinny little things weighing only 25 to 35 pounds, but they look bigger because of their fur. But they also have their own instincts which help them survive. If we understand what these instincts are we can deal with them. It is best not to take chances. In San Francisco there was recently an incident where two little unleashed dogs were walked in a park with coyotes. The coyotes came out of the bushes and surprised the dogs and their owner. The little dogs ran off after the coyotes and of course the coyotes chased back. The dogs became separated from their owner — this in itself is not safe for dogs in a coyote area. It took all morning to find one of the dogs. The other dog wasn’t found for three days, wandering the streets of San Francisco. These dogs are okay and at home now. If they had been leashed, this would not have happened. Guard your little dog well, but also please respect why a coyote does what it does. You can prevent incidents by taking the necessary precautions. Hope I’ve been able to help. Janet

  2. Regan Hollady
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 13:37:32

    Hi Janet,

    Thank you for your work and the website, which I discovered in the process of learning about the coyotes roaming the foothills north of Santa Fe. I wish there were wolves too!



    • yipps
      Jan 04, 2012 @ 19:04:50

      Hi Regan — Thank you for your comment. I, too, love wolves — they are actually my favorite animals. I wish more people could understand their intelligence, intense family life and ties, and their range of emotions — not so different from us if you are willing to look. I’m hoping that what I show about coyotes will be generalized to other critters. Again, thanks for being supportive. Janet

  3. Melani Wright
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 16:17:07

    Janet, thank you for your blog. It is refreshing to find a site about coyotes that is not about hunting them. I live is southern utah and was up on the mesa yesterday when I heard a coyote give a short howl followed by several barks. It did this repeatedly for a long time and didn’t move around. I’m very curious as to what he or she was saying. Do you have any experience that would indicate what that series of sounds means? I am trying to study the local wildlife using a trail camera because I want to become a wildlife photographer and need to know all I can to be able to photograph them without disturbing them.


    • yipps
      Feb 03, 2012 @ 19:18:29

      Hi Melani — Thank you for supporting wildlife and especially coyotes! I’m not sure there is a specific meaning to the pattern of vocalizations you heard. I tend to think that coyotes express what they feel and this is always a little different each time. I’ve been listening to vocalizations for a long time and can’t say that I’ve heard such a pattern repeated regularly. However, I think it would be great if you document what you hear — I would love to post what you come up with! Janet

    • Melani Wright
      Feb 18, 2012 @ 21:59:01

      I wish I could document and learn more about them. I’m afraid that because of some recent storms I won’t be able to get up on those dirt roads for a long time. I hope to learn more about them over the next few years.

    • yipps
      Feb 20, 2012 @ 20:52:23

      Hi Melani — It’s difficult, I know, to make a regular commitment. However, even an occasional observation, if you can hone into what is going on, can teach you a lot. Don’t give up!

    Jun 02, 2012 @ 04:24:06

    Hi –
    I just stumbled upon your blog while researching coyotes online. What a wealth of information you have! I live in Northern California and we definitely have coyotes nearby – hear them yipping at night and a couple of days ago I got a short 11 second film of a very young coyote and the mama or papa (we have a critter cam we strap to a tree). A couple of times we’ve had a pair of coyotes come on to our property – perhaps when they were looking for food for their young. Anyway, I think they are beautiful creatures and I appreciate your philosophy regarding them – staying away, letting them be. Thanks for great blog!


  5. creekwaterwoman
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 22:54:17

    Your last paragraph in this blog nailed it. We humans over manage and try to control nature. Through my work in stream ecology, and my graduate work in the environmental/wetlands field, I have come to pretty much loath the work ‘manage’. Last year, as a student in a graduate level wetlands ecology class I had to do a lecture. One thing I said was people and policy are the biggest part of any ecological problem. I firmly believe that even though I know we have to have policies, and we will always have to deal with peoples’ personalities and interests.

    I just wish we humans would improve how we develop policy that is meant to ‘manage’ nature, and realize that we do not need, nor can we control everything. Nor should we.


  6. ellen benson
    Aug 09, 2014 @ 02:48:32

    I was told about the strange sounds in the back acreage, and heard it myself this evening late. Perhaps described as a soft reported nickering or ‘horsey’ sound but no not horseys. I have very small dogs, and a decent chain link fence but am baffled by the strange sound. I have heard alot of coyotes, but never this one. Your thoughts? Thank you. My neighbors have introduced hybrid wolf/coyotes with a very poor local reputation and I don’t look forward to having to shoot anyone in defense of my little pets.


    • yipps
      Aug 09, 2014 @ 16:53:10

      Hi Ellen —

      I’m wondering if it might be a raccoon? Try searching on the internet for raccoon sounds, and see if they match what you have been hearing. From your description, it seems most likely that it’s a raccoon. If you have small dogs they need to be supervised because of a variety of wild animals such as raccoons, hawks and coyotes. Coywolves are just slightly bigger than coyotes and the same guidelines should be followed for coexisting with them. You might take a look at the video, Coyotes As Neighbors, and additional easy-to-follow guidelines on the site. Janet

  7. dawn
    Nov 19, 2014 @ 10:59:42

    Very interested in your thoughts about this one.
    I recently had a pet cat go missing, I live in the forest. . . I set up a microphone outside just in case she came to back in the night so that I could hear her meow. I turned up the speaker inside as loud as I could so as to wake me up if she returned while I was asleep. Anyway, hours later, and long enough to have gotten use to the amplified outdoors and forgetting I had this set up, I heard a dog growling — what sounded like, directly, into the microphone!!!!!! But before I could jump out of my own skin and hit my head on the ceiling the growl turned into an unbelievably loud and crazed shrieking as if the growler had instantly been attacked and ripped apart!!!! I hadn’t put food out to lure the cat for obvious reasons, but the coyote came to inspect the microphone anyways- possibly out of curiosity? I don’t know why the coyote started growling but when it did it heard himself, amplified, coming out of the house and at the same time this opened up the feedback between the mic and speaker, so the speaker started ‘howling’ as well… and this all happened very fast…I took a few breaths and looked out the window to see a visibly immobile lone coyote staring back at me – jaw dropped. The coyote! Not me! . . . He got as far as 9 feet away from the door and just sat there motionless…. Then I opened the door and he/she was not moving just panting and sitting on its hind-legs getting its breath back. It was a sight to see….. I couldn’t help but laugh and went to the door opened it and had to let it know “you’re okay”, “go home” a few times. . . It was crazy! So . . . I’m just wondering what the coyote might have made of that experience? And how he might be received by its pack upon returning from such an experience . . . I’m concerned.


    • yipps
      Nov 21, 2014 @ 20:34:48

      Hi Dawn —

      Sounds like you created a memorable — and amusing — adventure for both yourself and for the coyote! It will be interesting to see if that coyote comes around again! Please let us know if he/she does! But I wouldn’t be too concerned about him/her: He/she was probably totally freaked out, yes — this was a new experience for both of you — but I don’t see that any harm was done! I hope your cat is okay and that you find her.

    • Dawn
      Mar 21, 2016 @ 09:11:36

      I haven seen a coyote near my home and rarely hear them from across th lake…. I know they are still around …. Could they be embarrassed? I know cats and dogs and other domestic four legged friends can embarrass themselves…. I just heard that I live in the most urbanized forest city in the world.

    • yipps
      Mar 21, 2016 @ 14:12:35

      Hi Dawn — You are lucky to live in the most urbanized forest city in the world. Where do you live? Coyotes are shy (not embarrassed) and try to avoid humans. If they have plenty of forest area with all the resources they need, they would have less need to explore outside the forest. They tend to trek during the darker hours of the night when folks aren’t around and when it would be difficult to see them.

  8. Will
    Dec 27, 2019 @ 23:49:26

    wow. love the photos, also first site without anyone just there to offend those researching. Thanks for your support of this species!


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