“Ghost Dogs” in Audubon Magazine

“The long persecuted coyote is not vermin, after all. Researchers are now discovering that it’s a resilient, adaptable predator that’s not just surviving in U.S. cities but playing a valuable role in restoring the food chain for the benefit of birds and other species.”

“They’re on the prowl at night, melting in and out of the shadows. It’s not likely you’ve seen them, but if you live in a city anywhere in America, these four-footed specters have probably moved into your neighborhood.”

This excellent article by Alisa Opar appears in the the current issue, May-June 2011, of Audubon Magazine,  and is based on fascinating information supplied by Professor Stan Gehrt of Ohio State University who has been studying coyotes for the past ten years.  Check it out at:


HOWL by Charlotte Hildebrand

My own HOWL woke me up yesterday, early morning. First the crows making a racket on our railing, then caw caw cawing overhead.

Then a swish and movement in Thea’s backyard.

I snuck outside along the walkway between our houses, and saw my old neighbor Thea putting two plates of food down on the ground next to the canyon, and a second later, a coyote cautiously approaching. . .

I would say with almost certainty this is the same coyote I saw in the canyon at this time last year, when it was only a toddler. I worrid then that Thea might be feeding it, but never imagined she’d be so blatant, deliberately putting out food for it to guzzle down. And guzzle down it did, indicating it’s probably dependent on my neighbor — in her delusions of goodwill and ignorance — for the food it eats.

. . . but I freaked it out!

It caught me peeking around the corner to take its picture. For the next hour, it filled the canyon with its growls and barks, howls and HOWLS, pursuing me, through the canyon, to the back of my house (how did it know where I lived?) and approaching in its awkward, frightened, vulnerable, sad way.

Do I call animal control? Do I let Thea continue feeding it? What is the right thing to do?

You can hear it’s yips and yaps, along with the crows, in the video below:

[Reprinted with permission by Charlotte Hildebrand from her blog “The Rat’s Nest”: http://charlottehildebrand.blogspot.com/2011/06/howl.html]

“It’s A Good Time Of Year To Spot Urban Wildlife” by Victoria Schlesinger

Victoria Schlesinger is one of the founders of Way Out West News, or WOW. This journal, which covers the environmental news in the Bay Area, is a fairly recent creation which is growing by leaps and bounds. Victoria contacted me about wildlife and my wildlife photography. Please check out the journal, and while you are at it, check out her article and slide show based on our interview:   PDF of WayOutWestNews article of 6/6/2022 “Its a good time of the year to spot urban wildlife”.

Dad and His Two Daughters, by Charles Wood

Before sunset today, as I stood on the river bank that borders my Los Angeles coyotes’ field, three of them went by. The bold daughter came first. Three minutes later I saw a park ranger’s car driving in the area where the coyotes were headed. A minute later Dad stopped to stare before following the bold daughter. Three minutes after that the shy daughter went by.

I didn’t see Mom today, nor did I see any puppies. It is significant to me to have confirmed that two siblings remain with their parents, both about a year old. Mom is lactating and there are new puppies in that field. Getting a look at them is another matter. The park ranger said he was looking in the field for two boys. The boys had been fishing where they shouldn’t have been. Today I was where I should have been: on the road.

The park ranger said delightedly that he had just seen a fox hunting, pouncing on prey. I said there were coyotes in the field. He said he knew what a fox looked like and that it was a fox. I asked him if there was anyone in the neighboring nature area who was familiar with the coyote groups there. He said that he didn’t pay any attention to coyotes. If he doesn’t pay attention to coyotes, can he distinguish between a fox and a puppy coyote? Do four adult coyotes let a fox live in their home range? Has my desire to see the puppies affected my ability to properly reason?

The park ranger didn’t stay around long enough to catch the two boys that I later saw leaving the field with a bucket. The boys walked along the field’s roads without encountering a coyote. Yet just a few minutes before, three had gone to the area in which the boys were hiding. The coyotes had a lot to keep track of before sunset: a man, the man’s companion, the man’s dog, his companion’s dog, a man in a car, two young boys and an unknown number of puppies. And don’t forget the fox, maybe.

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.

A Deliberate Smoke Screen?

Howling, screaming, fretting and fuming after having been approached by a couple of dogs: this is what a coyote’s distressed barking sounds like. It went on for a long time — 20 minutes — and it was loud.

The interesting thing this time is that, although my eyes were fixed on this coyote which was drawing attention to itself, when the noise stopped, someone else noticed another coyote slowly and surreptitiously making its way  away from the area. Had this screaming coyote been drawing attention to itself in order to allow the other one to safely withdraw from the area without being seen? The other one was not a puppy, but it was definitely a juvenile that might have needed protection.

Dad, Five People and a Dog, by Charles Wood

Dad on hold

As I left my coyotes’ field at twilight I met, under the bridge, four adolescent women hanging out and taking pictures of themselves in front of graffiti.  At just that moment, Dad appeared.  He stopped farther away than usual as he assessed five people and a dog.  One of the young women asked excitedly if that was a coyote.  I said it was.  As Dad trotted away she said that was “so cool and random.”  I agreed.  We talked more and I told them of the four adult coyotes with puppies.  One of the young women said, “So they are more territorial now?”  Exactly.  They said they hadn’t been advised on how to deal with an approaching coyote.  So I told them to not run and asked them what else to do.  One said, as she raised herself up and held out her arms:  “Make yourself big.”  Another said she would yell and make a lot of noise.  I was satisfied that they knew exactly how to handle an approaching coyote and I added that in the field it is a good idea to scan 360 degrees as you take your walk.

I haven’t seen the puppies yet.  In the sand, I want to think that the little tracks next to the larger coyote tracks are puppy tracks, yet I don’t know.  I want to think that the smaller droppings are from puppies, yet I don’t know.

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.

“Not Welcome” Behavior?

Here is coyote behavior which I’ve been seeing more of lately. A coyote appears to be going about its own business when it becomes aware of a walker and dog some distance away, maybe 200 feet or so. The coyote stops what it is doing, trots closer to the walking pair, and follows, getting closer and closer to them. Neither owner nor dog is at all aware of the coyote following and getting closer. Usually, at some point, the owner senses the coyote, turns around and shoos it off — noise, making yourself big, flailing arms and charging back at the coyote. The coyote takes the hint and moves on and, importantly, the dog and walker continue on rather than linger at the scene of the encounter.

Once I saw a coyote actually go all the way up to the dog. The dog and owner were totally oblivious to what was coming up behind them, until the coyote actually poked or touched the dog — maybe even nipped the dog — the dog squealed from the surprise encounter. This is when the owner turned around and shooed the coyote off.

In this behavior, the coyote very carefully avoids the gaze of the human — he gets as close as he can to the dog. When detected and faced by the owner, he heads off.  I’m not sure what the coyote’s purpose is: however, coyotes are territorial and may be messaging a “not welcome” message. I have seen this happen only with medium to medium-small size dogs — let’s say about the size of a coyote or a tiny bit smaller. In one case, I was told, there were two coyotes who actually approached and knocked a dog off its feet. The owner told me that her dog now stays right next to her when she runs in the park. In another instance, there was such an incident involving two coyotes. After being shooed away, both pooped and urinated on the path right where the dog had walked. Pooping and urinating are how coyotes tell you that this is their area.

It seems that at this time of year, whether there are pups or not, coyotes are out defining and redefining their territories, making sure that all four-legged comers know that the area already has been claimed and is owned.

The important point to remember if you have a dog is that having your dog follow you is not the best way to keep your eye on your dog’s safety. One walker told me that he always has his dog in front of him, where he can keep an eye on him. This is a probably a good bit of advice. Better yet, keep your dog leashed on a short leash and right next to you in a coyote area.

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