The Plight Of Some Of Our Urban Coyotes

Hi Janet,

I’ve been meaning to write you these last few days, but you beat me to it!  I have been thinking about those coyotes in the Presidio [where we took our walk — but now where trees and habitat are being removed because of Doyle Drive renovation work and because of non-native tree removal], and also have been worried that all that change is driving them into the city.  I really hope that the increase in activity won’t hurt their campaign to be seen as good neighbors!

But the reason I have been thinking of writing you is with very sad news.  We have a family of coyotes here in my new neighborhood in Sausalito, and sometimes they are even in my back yard at night, singing.  My house is about 1000 feet from the freeway, though a thick grove of eucalyptus makes it feel further away.  I have made a few attempts to find routes the coyotes must be using to cross to get out to open space of the Marin Headlands on the other side, but so far I have found only small drainage culverts that are only 36″ in diameter.  Then there is the spencer underpass about a mile from here.

Anyway, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.  Friday morning I found a yearling male who had been struck trying to cross from our side. He was still warm when I pulled him from the second outer lane at about 6:30 am.  His death was instant, I’m sure.  But I am deeply saddened, as it feels like losing a neighbor’s kid.  We talk about how the youngsters get killed when trying to leave for new territory, but it’s different when you experience it in person. I thought of you when it happened, and knew you had experienced similar heartbreak.

The irony of this is that just yesterday I nearly hit a youngster bobcat that ran full speed in front of me out in the Marin headlands, but my antilock breaks saved the day.  We really need to work on this problem as a society — as it is such a terrible waste to kill so many animals.  We could prevent this simply with better planning, and putting in larger drainage culverts under roads with the idea that both water and animals could use them to travel from one side to another. And across freeways, the deliberate location of gaps every few thousand feet so animals who find themselves on roads can get off them safely.  I see even salamanders and snakes killed by cars on driveways, but it is so easy to use small pipes to act as tunnels under the asphalt. We have a lot of work to do!  And thanks for all your hard work on Coyote Yipps.  You are the human voice of those coyotes, and they really need it.  Jennifer

UPDATE

On  the coyote — I made some mistakes in my assumptions.  It’s worse than I had thought.  I don’t know my pack here as well as you know yours, but I now suspect the coyote I found last week was the alpha male. I had assumed a young male, given his small stature  and the fact that he had been inexperienced enough to be hit. But I did an autopsy to learn more about him, and found he was not young, but old enough to have several benign tumors, some of them quite sizable.  He also had some wearing on the teeth that make me think he was several years old.  But the shocker was when I recovered two 22-caliber bullets lodged in his shoulder.

Last year my neighbor told me he had been awakened by the coyotes singing, but then someone had fired shots and then my neighbor had heard one of them whimpering (in the city limits!)  It makes me wonder if this is the one who was shot then.  He also had some tapeworms, though no heart worms. All in all, he appears to have been quite healthy.  A real tragedy.  (You might wonder how I came to know enough to do an autopsy, but remember I was on my way to being a wildlife vet before discovering my passion for botany.) So my neighbors lost a father and mate last week.  I don’t know if they have pups this year. Not sure how this info effects your idea to post, but you are welcome to share this with your audience.   Jennifer

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