Community Health & Safety Fair

I was pleased to participate again in the Diamond Heights Health & Safety Fair on Saturday, October 30th in San Francisco. Our booth featured safety around our urban wild animals. We answered questions and concerns about coexisting with coyotes, and handed out flyers about coyote behavior and guidelines for coexistence. We specifically addressed the coyote-dog issue as we did last year: helping everyone become aware of what to expect in the way of coyote behavior, what they can do to prevent dog-coyote incidents, and, ultimately, how to extricate oneself and one’s pet from an incident in progress. There was a raffle for a coyote puppet and a baby owl puppet — free to those who could give three precautions to keep our coyotes safe and wild, and keep our dogs safe and not so wild in our urban parks!

The updated “Coyote Coexistence and Behavior” Flyer is posted below: Coyote Coexistence & Behavior — an update .

Coyote Coexistence & Behavior — an update of what to expect and what to do

This flyer was distributed at the Diamond Heights Health & Safety Fair on October 30th. It reiterates and updates what we know about coyote behavior and how to avoid mishaps between dogs and coyotes in urban settings. It basically expands on the same information in the two posters on Coyote Coexistence Guidelines posted on October 15th, above.

Click on image to enlarge it for easier reading.


Familiar “Squirrel Spots”

Over time, as I’ve watched a number of coyotes, I’ve become aware of their awareness of particular squirrel spots: places where there is squirrel activity on a regular basis. Coyotes keep their eyes on these areas for activity, sometimes from quite a distance away. I’ve seen a coyote dash in from 200 feet away: I don’t know if it was their vision or their hearing, or both, which tuned them in. So far, I have never seen a coyote actually catch a squirrel.

Here are photos from a recent coyote/squirrel campaign. The coyote dashed in from quite a distance, having spotted the squirrel from high up on a hill. The coyote climbed the lower branches of the tree, and then patiently paced while waiting for the squirrel to make a mistake, which the squirrel did not do. Meanwhile, the squirrel teased and scolded from high up in the tree. I’ve seen this same activity in the same location many times now. And I’ve seen the same activity in a couple of other locations.

A Playground With A Cache Of Toys

Coyotes appear to have “playgrounds”. The one I came across here had various objects which I’ve seen coyotes play with: objects left behind by humans and dogs, and even some of nature itself. Most of the objects were dismembered balls of various types, but also there was a stick, a piece of cork, the finger of a gardener’s glove which I watched being chewed when it was still attached to the glove, a pine cone, the stuffing of a doll which I observed chewed in another location, a dead bird, a piece of cloth, shredded garden “flags”. That there are favorite play areas is very interesting. But also, that there is a cache of toys. We know that coyotes are very aware of their environment: they are very aware of every individual person and every single dog that passes through their territories. But also, that they are aware of new objects left behind by humans, and they are curious about these. Picking them up and playing with them is a way to find out about them.

The idea of a “cache” of items drew my attention because of an article I read not long ago. The March 2010 National Geographic features an article on “Wolf Wars: Once Protected, Now Hunted,” by Douglas H. Chadwick. There is a quote on page 54: “The [wolf] pack has dragged in ceramic shards, cans, pots, pieces of iron tools from abandoned homesteads in the park. Canine junk collectors. Who knew?”  “Wow!”, I thought to myself. I’ve now seen a coyote cache of toys! Do coyotes, too, “collect” things? Or were these things just brought to a “favorite spot” — a playground — to play with?

There is another quote on the same page which serves as a departure for further thought on coexistence: “Large mammals are learning and changing their behavior all the time: deer, bears, wolves, [coyotes] and yes, humans, too.”  We can all modify our behavior enough so that the environment may include us all. We should be open to the fact that coyotes and humans can and do adapt fairly easily to each other. Of course, the immigrants — the newcomers, have always had a hard time because of conservative forces that are afraid of change: there is an “ecology of fear.” Coyote behavior doesn’t warrant this fear. The effort we need to expend on them is minimal: awareness, respect, securing our pets and garbage and not letting our dogs threaten these newcomers. If a coyote becomes a nuisance, it can probably be remedied by a mild alteration in our own behavior. It is our behavior — leaving pet food out, leaving trash cans open, leaving our pets out, and letting our dogs chase them — which, inadvertently as it may be, causes problems in the first place.

“Rattle Snakes, Coyotes and Dogs”, by Charles Wood

On two occasions a few years ago my dog was off leash in two different locations where I suspected coyotes were present.  Both times we were in areas my dog hadn’t previously explored.  Both times a sole coyote approached my dog from behind.  Each got rather close and my dog didn’t seem to sense that he was being approached.  I was near enough to call off the coyote each time.  One of the coyotes was easy to call off.  The second one wasn’t as easy to call off, seemed more purposed and grumpier than the other.

A few nights ago I was glad I had my dog on leash.  I was on the riverbank and a coyote was fording the shallow, narrow river to come over onto our side.  My dog began to bark incessantly and pull on the leash.  Without that restraint, my dog would have chased the coyote.  My dog has an adversarial history with that particular coyote where neither much cares for the other.  The outcome of a chase wouldn’t have been predictable.

Coyote habitat is ideal for dogs to just be dogs.  Coyote habitat may also be home to rattle snakes.  Despite how we might assess our dog’s ability to emerge unscathed by contact with a coyote, the fact that rattlesnakes may also be present is a possibility I had not fully considered until yesterday.  Dogs like to chase and they also like to dig.  Off leash, my dog likes to dig out ground squirrel burrows.  I released him in a mesa where I can spot a coyote from a quarter mile away, farther than my dog can see.  I neither heard nor saw the rattlesnake my dog disturbed.  I did see my dog’s swollen and punctured back foot and soon discovered that the two vials of antivenin needed to treat him cost $485 each and aren’t necessarily stocked by an urban or suburban family veterinarian.  The total cost of his treatment could well approach $3,000.  Off leash, a dog may successfully chase away a coyote.  It may then proceed to investigate interests that prove more dangerous than coyotes.  There are more reasons than coyotes to leash a dog.

Sibling Rivalry #4a: Bullied Three Consecutively Times Before Snapping

The sequence of photos for this posting is long: 35 photos, so I have divided them, along with the posting into two parts, “a” and “b”.

In these photos, various things are occurring. First, the dominant sibling coyote has caught a vole. The less dominant coyote sibling watches from only a few feet away as the dominant one toys with the vole for a moment. But then the dominant guy decides to show his sibling his place by overpowering him — notice that his hackles are up. The dominance seems to be less based on strength than on a powerful personality — a willfulness. I say this, because the smaller coyote is the more dominant one.

Maybe the dominant guy saw that the less dominant coyote might want his vole? See One Coyote Filching The Other’s Lunch! I don’t know if this was the case here, it is just a thought that later occurred to me. The less dominant coyote falls to the ground and remains there until the dominant one’s attention is diverted, at which point the less dominant one slips away — but he is overpowered again, until the dominant guy thinks of the vole he caught a few minutes earlier.

Continued at:  Sibling Rivalry #4b: Bullied Three Consecutively Times Before Snapping

Sibling Rivalry #4b: Bullied Three Consecutively Times Before Snapping

This is a continuation of the previous posting which left off with a dominant coyote remembering the prey it had abandoned.

The dominant coyote finds his prey, a vole, and eats it wholeheartedly as the more submissive coyote looks on — actually approaching within only a few inches.

When the submissive guy moves off, the dominant guy, again, for the third time within 20 minutes, approached the departing fellow and attempted dominating him again. This time the less dominant guy stood up for himself, snapping viciously at his bullying sibling.  The bully moved on out of the area, and the bullied fellow sat down and watched him leave.

It is sad to see the fun-loving, playful young coyotes becoming antagonistic and hierarchical. They must do so as they attain their adulthood. They may soon go their separate ways. A childhood chapter in their lives is closing, and a new life as independent adults is coming on. We are all waiting to see how this develops. But who knows? Maybe these coyotes will remain in the area as part of an intact pack. Maybe they are just establishing and tightening the social order. A firm and well defined social order may be needed for the group to operate smoothly.

Delight With A Peeled Golf Ball

This fellow was so happy playing with his peeled golf ball. He seemed to do so absolutely lovingly. He pounced on it, tossed it, caressed it with the side of his face, gnawed on it and rolled on it. One reason may be that the peeled golf ball actually responded — the center core of the golf ball consists of rubber bands stretched tightly around a center core! If you can imagine, the bits of rubber band wacked this guy in the face as he played with it — almost as if it were alive — and the coyote responded back!

As the young coyote played with his treasure, a dog and runner went by. They did not even notice the coyote who, just in case, got up and trotted over to where he could not be seen — with his ball of course — and then returned to the exact same place he had been (2nd and 3rd slide from the beginning).

He played with the shell of the ball to begin with, and then the rubber band inner core — these two objects were about 25 feet apart. He stretched before leaving the shell, and then noticed the inner core and ran delightedly toward that object. At another point he stopped his activity entirely to observe walkers in the distance — they did notice him — he did not resume his play until they were totally out of sight (third line down, second slide in) . And in the end, when he was all through playing, he yawned, stretched and then shook himself out before moving on (2nd and 3rd slides from the end).

Squirrel Teases Coyote

These two saw each other, one from high in a tree and the other from on the ground. I would have thought that the squirrel would have remained high and safe in the tree. But no. It descended half-way down, head first, holding on tightly with its sharp claws, scolding the coyote loudly, and flailing it’s tail with equal intensity. The squirrel then came all the way down to the coyote’s level, allowing the coyote to come close enough to almost make it a hunt instead of a game. The teasing went on for four full minutes!  Finally the squirrel came down no more but remained high in the tree, and the coyote, knowing its chances for catching the squirrel were nil, lost interest and wandered off.

Sibling Rivalry #3: Growling

I had never heard growling between these coyotes until today. They are 18 month-old male siblings who appear to be going through the process of separation between each other. They have always played wholeheartedly as buddies until very recently. Here, the dominant guy to the left approached the guy to the right. The less dominant guy to the right narrowed his eyes, put his ears down and growled; he then shook himself out, maybe to reduce tension? Ears down indicates caution and wariness. This ended the interaction, with both then sitting together side by side on the hillside.

I call the less dominant guy “less dominant” and not “submissive” because, although he is the one who moves off or hits the ground when the two interact, he nonetheless snaps or growls in his own defense. His ears are often carried low — down and to the sides — when these two are together: a sign of being cautious and wary.

Sibling Rivalry #2: Challenging And Running Off

Here is an interesting twist to the normal bullying and submission that has been going on between two young adult male siblings. The less dominant coyotes is waiting in “ambush” position as the dominant one comes up. The dominant one avoids him initially, until the ambusher springs up to a standing position. At this point the ambushed — the dominant guy — turns on the daring sibling with hackles up. The less dominant guy flees. These siblings often used to begin their play this way, but now the dominant one consistently shows his mettle, and the game is over before it ever begins.

Sibling Rivalry #1: Bullying and Snapping

These two young adult coyotes, 19 month olds, are almost always irritable and antagonistic in each other’s company these days. Although they still walk around together at times, they no long play-fight the way they used to: the contests have become real displays of put-downs and submission. One has become dominant over the other.  Almost always, the dominant one will approach the less dominant one to “lord it over him”. The response, ultimately, is for the less dominant one to flee, but his response also involves snapping, falling to the ground in submission and growling — I’ll show all these sequences in my next few postings. This sequence here involved an attempt to mount by the dominant one, and the accosted one then snapping and removing himself from the immediate vicinity of the dominant one.

Three Coyotes Respond To A Siren

Three coyotes howling (#6) in response to a siren, with some bass in the background added by a dog — this is the first minute of the recording. The last 4 minutes turns into barking by one of the coyotes with a second one howling occasionally — it went on less intensely for a long time in response to dogs and onlookers on a path close by.

Entertainment By A Flock Of Birds

This flock of songbirds was actively chirping and actively moving around on a branch when they caught this coyote’s attention. The branch reached about 30 feet off the ground, so the birds were not reachable. The coyote approached slowly, fully absorbed with the bird activity. He then sat and watched for about two minutes before the birds flew off all at once.

I’ve seen coyotes visually absorbed in watching raindrops hit the grass, and in watching hawks and ravens and even bees fly in their vicinity. They are visually acute because hunting requires them to be so, but also they are extremely curious regarding just about anything.

Battle Of The Bugs

Bugs take on a coyote! I’ve seen coyotes battle mosquitos. Here it is wasps — you can actually see them in the photograph.

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