Other Than Coyotes

I take photos of wildlife other than coyotes — and I have lots of fun and adventures doing so. I was asked to submit one of my adventures to the website: Golden Gate Park – Views From The Thicket. Take a look if you might be interested:

a wildlife photographer shares twilight adventure in golden gate park

Meal In The Meadow

Excitement, enthusiasm, fun, energy, entertainment and nourishment — all wrapped up in a meal in the meadow.

Observation About Dogs & Coyotes by Daren Sefcik

It is very useful for people to know that each coyote and each dog react individualistically towards the other — Daren’s dogs show two reactions. When coyotes approach a dog, they are probably being curious — assessing what is going on. It is best to scare them off as Daren does. That they approach from behind means they are being careful — this is their preferred method of approaching a dog, since the tail end of a dog doesn’t bite!!

I have seen the coyotes in “my” canyon for the last fifteen years or so while walking my dogs. Only the last couple of years with my new dog have I had any issues and really the issue is that he is nuts, crazy for chasing them. My older dogs never cared much, we would see them lounging in the sun and all was good between us. My new dog however is quite different. I have begun to be more curious about them and have started taking pictures the last year of the canyon and all of the wildlife in it. It is not a park but instead a protected watershed area and very few people frequent it, only a few dog owners and mountain bikers. It has year round water and a lot of bird/rodent activity. The coyotes are present everyday and while I am unsure how many actually live there, I have seen up to 5 at one time but usually it is only 1 or 2 and they will usually pop up behind us or on a hill just above us. I have never seen one approach us from the front. They have come as close as fifty feet or so, I usually have to yell to get them to go off, they seem attracted to my dog, not me. My dog is a big 100lb sheppard-husky mix.
On the nights or mornings when they start yipping and howling my dog will chime in with them. To me this is strange because he will not do it at any other time, not even when all of the other dogs in the neighborhood are howling, it is actually kinda cool to hear him. . . he thinks he is wolf. When I played the sound bites from your website he got up and got all antsy, looking up in the backyard for coyotes (sometimes they walk the small hill in our backyard). I have noticed in the last few months that one lone coyote will bark, bark, bark for awhile, and then many others start to join in and then they all start howling.

Interest Shifts Away From Dogs

Starting in January, I noticed a marked change in coyote behavior regarding dogs: the coyotes seem to have lost interest in them. Coyotes no longer came out to sit on a hill to watch dogs as they used to so frequently. They don’t do it at all now. Hmmm. In the past, I frequently witnessed one or two coyotes walking purposefully towards lookouts where they went to keep tabs on what was going on, to simply enjoy the “dog show”. But today, the exact opposite occurred: a coyote was walking away from one of its lookout areas as dogs began coming into the park — seemingly to avoid the dog issue entirely.

Watching the dogs had been only part of what was going on for the coyotes. It seems that coyotes had been placing themselves where they could easily be seen. In a way, they appeared to be affirming that this was their territory — they were out there almost inviting or daring any dog to challenge them — a sort of “test” — in order to find out about the dogs. I think the coyotes were assessing the attitudes and energy of the dogs, and evaluating their own positions in the territory. This is all speculation, but, after seeing it happen this same way so often, this is, to me, what appeared to be happening

This is mating season, and it is dispersal time. Possibly these new activities have become all-absorbing ones.

Coyotes Are Victims of Sensationalist Media Hype

Marc Bekoff, an animal behaviorist who has spent years studying coyotes, has written a couple of revealing short articles in the wake of sensationalist media hype: specifically on a recent National Geographic video which is based on a news item that occurred a year and a half ago and capitalizes on fears and sensationalism. The incident reported is one of only two ever recorded deaths of humans by a coyote. The other incident involved a small child whose father had been feeding coyotes, which is what we suspect may have gone on in this case here. That these deaths occurred is very upsetting, but they are made that much worse by globalizing an incident that is so rare that we only have two recorded incidents of it in the last 500 years.This approach sells, but our respect for National Geographic, which produced the video, has fallen hard. Please see his article and the comments afterwards. Coyotes Are Victims Of Their Own Success and Sensationalist Media.

Also, a recent follow-up: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201102/coyote-fur-prices-rise-steeply-they-are-indeed-victims-sensationalist-me

Two Months Later, by Charles Woood


It had been 9 weeks since I saw Mom or Dad who live in a small field that borders one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  At dusk today, Monday, I saw Mom.  I stood partially concealed under a bridge in their field.  I saw Mom on her routine walk back to her nest area.  She hesitated when she noticed my leashed dog, Holtz, and me.  She then quickly left.

I had entered their field hoping to see them.  I had failed to see any of them the last few times I visited.  I’m curious to know if Dad has remained for this year’s breeding season.  I also wonder if the two youngsters are still present in their field.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos:Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

‘Tis The Season, by Charles Wood

I ran into two coyotes Sunday in a field in north Orange County near Pacific Coast Highway.  While walking in an area with good cover, I didn’t see the howler until it stood to answer a siren in the distance.  The coyote seemed indifferent to my leashed dog, Holtz, and me.  It laid down to rest after the siren passed into the distance.  We moved closer and noticed a second coyote present.  It appeared to be older and is marked by scars on its muzzle.  I’m not sure if these two are mates.  I can’t judge if the howler in the Siren picture is slightly swollen around the midriff.  Of course, it is that time of year for coyotes.  Both disappeared quietly into brush when I approached to about sixty feet.

The PCH male’s scars are similar to those carried by the coyote I call Dad who, with his mate and two youngsters, live in a small inland field near a flood control channel – river.  I wonder how typical such scarring is and whether more likely found on males than females.

The PCH coyotes, before I arrived, were cavorting for a photographer in an open area near a well-used scenic, fenced walkway.  My river coyotes are more secretive and I haven’t seen them for weeks.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos:Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Torrential Downpour: Coyote Behavior

Before it even started raining, this coyote was out on a hillside, relaxing. Then it started raining. . . . . and then it started pouring. Really pouring. I thought to myself: I’ll just stay here a moment and catch this coyote running for cover. But no, it didn’t happen. I was the one that left after more than an hour in the downpour. I was able to duck under a tree which helped a little. I had a plastic bag around the camera and my hands were numb from the cold.

But this coyote stayed out there, squinting sometimes, closing its eyes sometimes, licking the water off its snout, or lowering its head to the ground to sleep.  All the while, in that driving rain, the coyote appeared totally relaxed with forearms often crossed. Maybe it was really enjoying the weather?  Or, maybe the coyote knew the benefits of a good hard cleansing shower? In the last photo I focused well in front of the coyote so that you can see how hard it was raining.

Starry Eyed Couple

You’ll have to judge for yourself, but what I am seeing was brought home by the two ravens dancing and cawing in a pine tree above where I was watching a couple of coyotes. The ravens cawed, moved away and then towards each other, made cooing sounds (yes), and danced their heads and upper bodies back and forth in what probably was courting behavior. Ahhh, yes, this is what is going on.

The two coyotes were not as explicit as the ravens, but the same thing was going on. It is that time of year when hormones and pheromones guide behaviors that will affect the future. The two coyotes stuck closely together. The female was a little bit reactive a couple of times, but the male was very solicitous — he read her well. They traveled and hunted side by side. They rubbed against each other, they made intense eye contact, and they did so touching noses a number of times — not fleetingly, but emphatically. He sniffed her often, and whenever she “marked” the ground, he lingered to sniff it and then marked the same spot — the middle two rows of photos show two instances of this. All behavior was extremely gentle and calm — especially when compared to the sibling rivalry I had been observing for the last few months. Do these two now reign over the territory that used to belong to three?

Packs And Loners, by Barbara Levine

My kitchen window faces a wooded area and I am frequently visited by coyotes, usually one at a time, occasionally 2 at a time, and once I saw 5 together. I also have an abundance of deer, wild turkeys, and quail which is probably the reason for the increasing coyote sightings.

A strange occurance happened a few weeks ago which I thought you might find interesting. A flock of 20-25 turkeys were in the meadow behind my house when a single coyote strolled by. To my amazement, the turkeys formed a circle around the coyote and the coyote climbed up a low branch on a tree and stayed there until the turkeys started to move on. He then came down and headed away from them and the turkeys followed him. I stood there watching until they all disappeared down the hill.

Wild Animals Need Thick Areas of Growth Where They Can Hide or Seek Protection

Coyotes require both open fields where they can hunt for the rodents which they live on, and they need thicket areas where they can retreat to for protection and rest. The top row of photos shows coyotes retreating into overgrown thicket areas. Coyotes especially need these protected areas when they live in urban environments: they need to be able to escape from dogs which chase them and they need to be able to keep away from people for their own safety.

Much of the original native flora of this area consisted of sparse, low lying shrubbery and dune plants — plants which grew and thrived in the sandy soil. Non-native trees and vegetation were introduced into the area to control winds, keep the sand from blowing around, add variety and to provide visual breaks. This non-native vegetation proliferated and created wonderful habitat and protection for creatures who might not otherwise have been able to move into the area which is now so heavily urbanized.

In recent years there has been a strong trend to reintroduce native plants and clear out non-native thickets. There is no thought given to the critters who live in these wild overgrown areas. When entire areas are cleared out for the purpose of introducing native plants, the homes of our wild animals are destroyed. Since our furry wild animals are not on any “endangered list”, they have no legal protection. The bottom row of photos shows areas where entire thickets have been cleared out, and either left bare under tall trees or planted with low lying native shrubbery — neither of which provide protection for coyotes, where protection once existed.

Meet The New Guys On The Block: Urban Coyotes



Coyote Relaxed


Please see WildCare’s February eNewsletter which has published my most recent article:  Urban Coyotes Have Lives, or see the PDF version HERE.

“The Last Lions” – Thoughts & Advocacy

We just saw a special screening of The Last Lions. It opens on March 5th in Bay Area theaters, and February 18th in some other locations. It’s riveting!

The film-makers were able to follow and become familiar with lions as individuals, and as distinct personalities. More of this approach is needed if we are ever really to appreciate the rich and fascinating lives that wild animals have. Each individual animal has its own very personal story. Discovering some of these individual stories will help open up our own interest and understanding of them. This is what I, too, am attempting, with my own look at coyotes.

In telling this particular lion’s story, the film-makers reveal the lion’s depth of awareness, deep emotions and finely-tuned intelligence. Real animal intelligence is revealed in their daily lives and in their own environments — not as Time magazine might have you believe, in laboratories or in artificial human settings where we teach animals to mimic our own intelligence (“What Animals Think”, Time, August 16, 2010, pp. 36-43). What these scientists test is how many symbols an animal can learn and manipulate — and many animals are able to learn our system and manipulate a great quantity of symbols in complicated ways, revealing very complicated thought processes; but such tests reveal more about humans and our own limited human standards for understanding intelligence — as if language and symbols were the highest method by which animals might think or communicate. An animal’s true intelligence is going to be revealed in his own environment and in his own social system and with his own language; maybe we need to learn theirs.

We need more Jane Goodalls, who can help us figure out the depth these animals have, within their own environments and within their own social systems — interfering as little as possible so as to reveal them. This movie does just that.

The movie’s drama unfolds as, due to land scarcity caused by human encroachment — there are almost 8 billion humans in the world — a pride of lions takes over another’s territory.  The movie’s development reveals much about depth of awareness, wisdom and intelligence of wild animals — a “sapience” few of us really appreciate to the extent we should, and few of us want to attribute at all to animals. For instance, animals have their own vast communication systems. They can minutely “read” other animals’ individual and group behavior, body language, vocalizations, emotion displays and gazes, and the ability to understand a situation and plan ahead for their own and their family’s survival. There is much going on far beyond what meets the human eye. There is a lot of fascinating drama out there in the animal world!

In the movie, you’ll see mutual affection and care between lion mates, and between a lion and her cubs — in particularly wrenching scenes the lioness searches and calls out for those she loves. In stunning and beautiful footage you will see rivalry, hostility, and the ability to form alliances. You will see leadership quality and the ability of others in a pride to “read” this quality and rally and work together when the time arrives to do so.

The talk afterwards by the film-makers, Beverly & Dereck Joubert, was as fascinating as the movie  — and just as relevant to a coyote’s situation. Most importantly, they talked about the human tendency in Africa for “retribution-by-killing” whenever a cow is taken from a farmer by a lion. The same occurs with coyotes here, for instance when a farmer loses a goat to coyote, or when a cat disappears and is never found. This is when the call for culling coyotes begins anew, even though it is a policy which we’ve discovered in fact upsets a stable population and increases their numbers. Other solutions exist.

The big difference between lions and coyotes is that coyotes are not endangered. But humans have encroached on all territories so that both species are pressed for space. Each has its own way of coping. Coyotes are finding that, if they want to survive, they need to move into the same environments that we occupy — coyotes are coming into urban and suburban areas. Not all humans are happy with this. Because of fear and hate, often due to lack of knowledge, harmful rumors take hold which many humans are quick to believe and spread — upping the ante in human/animal confrontations each time, rather than verifying the facts.

Many of us look at wild animals — in real life or in pictures. But few of us have the patience or opportunity to stop and really observe what is actually going on. And here is the clincher for me: as I watched this movie, I could see that the fascinating full capacity for life which applies to individual lions is the same as what applies to our individual coyotes’ lives. We need to give these animals credit for these qualities — not something most of us are willing to do or even think too much about.  Maybe doing so could help overcome the biggest danger to both of them: human fear and hate.

Please donate to the cause for which the movie was made: preservation of our vanishing lions whose population has fallen in just fifty short years from 450,000 to 20,000. Contact National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, at www.causeanuproar.org.

A Mad Dash: Crossing A Street, Stupidly

Not all coyotes are as street-wise as others. I took this sequence the day after I had watched a coyote cross the street at an intersection, using the traffic light. Today it was different — it was a different coyote. The coyote began from way up on a hill at a full run, about 200 feet from where the road actually began. He dashed down the hill, across a lot and then across the street, which was free of traffic on the near side, but coming from the other direction four cars and a truck had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting the coyote. The coyote got across — this time.

Crossing A Busy Intersection Intelligently

I watched a coyote cross the street this morning. The coyote was very intelligent about it. There was a stop light. The coyote didn’t cross when all the cars were fully stopped at a red stop light. No. The coyote just stayed back and watched from the grass beyond the sidewalk. Then the traffic started up again, moving en masse, almost as one big object. The coyote crossed the street when that burst of cars had passed — it had waited on purpose for that moment.  I was amazed!  I’ve heard of coyotes using crosswalks and stop lights to cross busy streets. This one used the traffic lights, not as we might have, but nonetheless in a way that worked!

This individual coyote knows how to handle traffic and obviously has had plenty of luck doing so, at least lately. Two years ago this same coyote was struck by a car. I didn’t see the accident, but I did see the severe limp which lasted for well over a month. But an acquaintance actually saw the accident. We both immediately knew it was the same coyote because none of the others ever showed this kind of injury. One of the chief causes of death in urban coyotes is being struck by a car. Just a couple of days ago, at about 7:00 am, a coyote  was fatally struck by a car as it wandered into the street. Please keep your eyes out for wildlife as you drive!

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