Dad and Pup, by Charles Wood

Here in LA county my dad coyote showed up alone. He sat for twelve minutes at the rendezvous area. Then this year’s puppy found Dad. The video shows their reunion.

I had to wonder. Why did the puppy also show up alone? Clearly it is too young to be alone. If it had been with a different pack member, that pack member would also have greeted Dad. I suspect Dad had been with the puppy and that Dad wandered off and left it. It took the puppy about twelve minutes to figure out that Dad had wandered off and to then find Dad. Dad could well have wandered off to teach the puppy to keep a better eye on him.

The puppy had another lesson to learn, that it had better pay attention to what Dad is paying attention to. Dad gave the puppy some little bites to calm it down. Dad was keeping an eye on my two dogs and me. The puppy didn’t figure that out until one of my dogs barked at a pedestrian. The last two segments of the video, taken after my dog barked, show the puppy’s ears at low camera left close to the edge of the frame. By now the puppy knew to be cautious.

Coyote Behavior: Coyotes in Neighborhoods

Dear Ms Kessler,

I love your website...and have enjoyed your writings on coyotes. I 
was wondering if you would be able to share some information. Most 
of the people-dog incidents seem to be related to meeting a coyote 
in a park area.

Personally, I am happy we have coyotes back in our parks, they are a 
special part of the wild bay area eco-system.

However, we have recently begun having incidents of coyotes moving their 
way through residential areas at night. Also, the established "family" 
of coyotes in the Fremont Older open space area (Cupertino, CA) have 
all but disappeared.

The "prey" at risk in our area in Sunnyvale, are cats. And, yes, I think 
cats should spend the night inside, but I guess it's not quite that easy 
for somepeople. Plus, there are "visiting cats" that kindly people try 
to take care of. Anyway, there have been a couple of incidents with the 
remains of cats being found.

In your research on urban wildlife have you encountered a website 
that might help me understand this migration? I am not saying these 
are the animals from Fremont Older...but it is odd that they seem to 
have disappeared.

The actual sightings of a pair of coyotes have taking place between
11p.m. and 1 a.m.  Perfect time for coyotes to be out doing there thing.
It could be we have just one pair of coyotes that are trying to set up
a territory(?)

However, there have been other sightings over in San Jose (Quito Road  
area) of multiple coyote individuals.

I would like to understand this phenomenon better...can you direct me?

Marcia Bacher
Hi Marcia —
Thank you for writing!!  I’m so glad you like the website! I don’t know your specific situation, but I can address generalities about various issues you raise. I’ve been mapping some coyote trekking behavior, so I’m quite interested in this topic.
Traveling through residential neighborhoods is a normal component of coyote behavior — their “territories” can be quite large. I don’t think you can keep them out of neighborhoods — it is their instinctual nature to trek substantial distances and check things out — they are constantly defining and marking their territories. Coyotes do move/migrate, but I don’t think they would leave Fremont Older unless they were forced out by a more dominant coyote group — in other words, there would still be coyotes there. They might also leave a territory if a larger predator moved into the area, such as a mountain lion. I’m wondering if human harassment, in the form of severe hazing, might also cause them to actually move away vs. having the intended effect of keeping them away from certain areas, influencing the times they are out or making them fearful of humans? — just a thought! Individual coyotes, when they first disperse, seem to have no territories, or they have very fluid territories, and they may wander more into newer areas.  
Coyotes have taken cats, but it is inaccurate to assume that every cat that goes missing is caused by a coyote. Cats were disappearing long before coyotes appeared. It is known that older cats frequently “leave” their homes when they sense their time is up — nature is humane in its own way in taking care of these animals. Raccoons also eat cats, and both coyotes and raccoons will eat cats that have been hit by cars — carrion — which they did not kill.  This being said, small pets do need to be protected.
To dissuade coyotes from doing more than just passing through, it is important not to have any accessible food available. Pet food should never be left out, and garbage should be well secured. All pets, particularly small ones, need to be supervised or kept indoors. Coyotes don’t see these as your pets, but rather as moving prey, like any other gopher, skunk or raccoon. Very high fences work — here is one of the best websites I’ve seen with practical solutions for coexistence:
Why are we even seeing coyotes in parks and neighborhoods? Might they be learning that they are safer in these areas? Please remember that coyotes are shot from helicopters en-masse in “wilder” areas, or they are pursued by hunters. This murdering activity is, for the most part, not allowed in our suburban and urban areas. Coyotes which have discovered this new niche are benefiting from it.
I do know some academics who have studied, or are studying territoriality and migration. Professor Stan Gehrt of Ohio State University is doing amazing studies on coyote territoriality and social structure in the Chicago area where they have 2000 coyotes. Professor Ben Sacks of UC Davis has studied coyote DNA to determine where coyotes emanated from and what kind of habitat they eventually choose. If you would like me to search further, or contact these academics — I would be very happy to do so, since this topic is something I’m working on. I don’t know of any particular websites that go into this.
Sincerely, Janet
Dear Janet-

Thank you again for all your suggestions.
I read the State of Washington’s suggestions…very good.
Went to the Ohio State article about Professor Gehrt’s research in Chicago…
(That was really an eye-opener…WOW!)
I also looked up Professor Sacks published papers on coyotes.
And, after all that, I can only think we (in the South Bay) are at the edge
of “a change” in what we think constitutes our environment.
I have high hopes that it’s something people can adjust their think too,
without over reacting.
Thank you again.
Marcia Bacher

Play and Wait, by Charles Wood

Mom, resting and waiting, wasn’t in the mood to play with her two yearlings. She went so far as to show them some teeth! Once again, they were waiting for their dusk rendezvous and Mom looked spent. This event marked the first time I’ve seen the two 2011 yearlings together, confirming my suspicion that Mom and Dad had two puppies last year. It took about a year for me to see just one of them.

Yearling With Stick, by Charles Wood

My coyotes rendezvous daily around dusk in the same place and have been doing so for the four years I’ve been watching them. They don’t all arrive there at the same time. I’ve often seen one or two family members waiting for others to show up. Once all are together and joyful greetings exchanged, the pack trots away together. I’ve seen some wait for two hours and more, sitting or ambling around. While waiting for each other, I’ve never seen them hunt. The time they spend waiting looks pretty boring for them.

The yearling in the video is passing time by walking around with a stick in its mouth. In the distance to camera right, humans jog and bicycle until it’s time for them to meet up with friends and family for the evening. For humans and coyotes, social contexts are essential.

Individually, coyotes eat small prey and consequently could exist as solitary hunters. Yet coyote food security comes from holding territory and a solitary coyote can’t hold territory. A coyote couple can; and a coyote couple can only raise a family by holding territory. Within that territory, coyote family members don’t depend on group hunts to get food. However coyote families do depend on family members to hold territory. Without family there is no territory and without territory there is no food security for coyotes. Family is food security for coyotes and territory is family.

Within the bond of a coyote couple rests their food security. It is no wonder that a Chicago coyote study researcher has noted no cases of coyote divorce. My Mom and Dad coyotes fundamentally know that eating has been really good since they met, just as good as when they lived back in the homes of their respective parents. In essence, they are each other’s promised land, they are an abundance to each other that only death can put asunder.

Still in its own parents promised land, the yearling was at a comfortable distance from me. It didn’t feel its territory was being compromised and didn’t need to defend it. Its backward glance at me confirmed that I was staying put and that it could keep walking around with its stick.

How Far Can You Hear A Coyote Howl?

Someone asked me this question, so I’ve been paying attention to it: How far away can you hear a coyote howling?  How sound travels, and how well we hear these sounds, are determined by conditions which aren’t always the same. So, for instance, if there are hills or trees in the way, if there are other ambient noises in the environment, if the wind is blowing, which way the coyote is facing — all of these influence the distance at which you will hear a coyote: whether you hear it at all, and how loud it sounds. See Charles’ posting of August 22, right below this — the coyotes are not so audible.

On a very still evening, when there are no extraneous sounds around and when human activity and traffic have ceased, the sounds might travel pretty far — maybe a good half mile or further — that would be my guess. But only a few days ago I thought I heard a coyote — I say “thought” because it really was not clear whether or not this is what it was at first. When I decided that indeed it was a coyote howling, it sounded far, far off. But it turns out that the coyote and I had not been so far apart. We had been on opposite sides of  a very small hill, the coyote was about a minute’s walking distance from where I was. It sounded far off because there was sound interference from a strong wind which was carrying the sounds away from me, from the hill and trees, and from other ambient noises — the sound did not travel well. By the time I could actually see the coyote at about 200 feet from around the hill — no more hill or trees between us — the wind had died down and the howling sounded quite loud.

In addition, there is variation in human hearing.  Young kids can hear better than can adults. Someone told me that kids in a classroom were setting their cell phones so that they, but not the teacher could hear the ring — the kids knew about this hearing discrepancy! If you take friends of various ages to the Exploratorium in San Francisco where they have a device which tests your hearing, you will find that your ability to hear certain frequencies diminishes with age beginning at age 8.

So, the conclusion is that there are many variables involved which influence how far away you can hear a coyote howl — weather conditions, the terrain, other ambient noises, the sensitivity of your own hearing, and maybe even the strength of the coyote’s voice are involved. I recently took this video, below, which records yipping exactly as I heard it: when the coyote was 40 feet away and facing me is when the howling began — it ended with the coyote yipping from quite some distance away — maybe 300 feet or so. Notice the difference in loudness: there’s a marked deterioration in strength of sound with distance:

Note that this posting is about *human hearing*. Coyote hearing is much more acute than ours and would be able to hear other coyotes much further off than we can.

A Brief Show, by Charles Wood

Mom and her puppy were waiting around when a siren sounded in the distance. The puppy got hidden pack members to join it for some vocalizing. Mom, on watch, did not join in. I didn’t have time to properly set my tripod and the noise from passing cars almost entirely drowned out the coyotes. A minute later the puppy had hidden itself and the show was over.

Seems to Want to Howl, but only One Short Bark Comes Out

Sirens sound in the far distance. This coyote hurries to the edge of a cliff and looks ready to howl, but for some reason never gets going with it. He throws his head back several times and engages in small nodding, but all we get out of it is one very short bark in the middle of the video.

There is another coyote nearby involved in hunting, within view of this one  — possibly that one is hot on the trail of some prey which it doesn’t want to lose, and therefore doesn’t want to be interrupted? Might this coyote have been waiting for a go-ahead cue from the other, the alpha — a cue which was not forthcoming?

Emma Marris, The Rambunctious Garden

Everyone should know about the large number of tree removals and massive defoliation happening in some of our major San Francisco parks, including McLaren Park, Mount Davidson, Glen Canyon among others. Do we want this massive intervention, intended to return these parks to dune grasses and scrubland, or do we want a different intervention based on a resiliency paradigm which preserves the wildlife habitat that has evolved over the last 150 years and supports most of our wildlife. Ecologists have discovered that the “go back to dates” chosen by “restorationists” are really only moments between two human altered landscapes. They are entirely arbitrary.

“Learn to love the inevitable changes, is really how I feel”, says Emma Marris. “If the choice is to fight for a [pristine past environment] and lose, or to work with nature as it changes and adapts to what we humans have done to planet Earth, respecting its dynamism and resilience as it shifts to new states, I vote for the latter.” And so do most park visitors in San Francisco.

In addition, Emma states that when anything is too biodiverse — one of everything — it is more like a zoo than nature. We need to leave areas alone and let them sort themselves out. Practitioners (those doing “restorations”) really need to read her book: The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World.”

Hunting Togetherness

These two seem to be in each others’ faces. If they were to catch a vole or gopher, I wonder if they would share it? Towards the end of the video here, one coyote runs off because dogs are approaching. The other coyote didn’t seem to want to give up the possibility of a catch! However, it, too, bolted, the minute the dog actually saw it and began to chase — right after I cut off the video.

Amazing Echos from just Two Coyotes

Today I was out before dawn. I heard the sirens, and then amazing coyote sounds in the distance, so I ran to get there, and began recording along the way as I approached the sounds.  I could not see them at first, but could tell that they were in a ravine, which produced amazing echos.

I suppose the sounds bounced off the surrounding hills. Possibly the stillness and the fog helped to enhance the echos. I finally spotted them in the dark twilight but could only get one blurry photo!  However, I did record the last part of the concert right to the last note: the concert ended abruptly — no diminuendo or decrescendo!

Following Mom, by Charles Wood


Both photographs are of my LA county pup following Mom around. Both were alarmed when they saw my companions, another human and two good sized dogs, and me. Mom headed down the road and within a minute her puppy followed. The road offered us a clear view of them, but for only parts of the way because brush along the road at times concealed them from view. Soon both coyotes were hidden. Yet Mom could have immediately hid with her puppy in the brush. Why didn’t she? I think she had decided it was to her advantage to use the road strategically.

When Mom took to the road, I didn’t know if she intended to approach or avoid. I think she knew that by taking to the road, I wouldn’t know where she would end up or whether she intended to come towards me or intended to go away. All I would really know was that she was on the move.


After dusk, Mom came out from hiding to sit and stare at us, her puppy still in the brush. A third coyote, Dad, came in and out of view near them. Together, Mom and Dad formed a stone wall against an intrusion. Then, apparently instantly oblivious to danger, the puppy decided to come out and join Mom. Mom got up and the puppy followed her back into the brush. The puppy is too young to know that Mom doesn’t want to play when actively guarding the family.

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


Coyotes make a variety of sounds: yips, barks, grunts, squeals, etc. Here you have baying: a soulful, mournful, wailing sound. And, if you listen carefully, you will hear two more coyotes responding from two different distant locations. The baying was set off by the sound of sirens.

This coyote had been sleeping, curled up in a ball. At the sound of the sirens she lifted her head and listened, and then she sat up — she did not begin the baying immediately. She began her own baying in response to one of the other coyotes. When the session was over, she went over to the same spot where she had been before, and again curled up into a little ball and closed her eyes.

Looking At A Bee?, by Charles Wood


Tuesday I saw my LA County coyote puppy. What was it doing when I took its picture? My best guess is that it was looking at a bee. Tiring of this, the puppy stood, dug a little with its front paws, and then headed north. Mom showed herself and laid down. Both she and the puppy then waited for Dad and any other family members to show up. I’ve often seen some of my coyotes wait patiently at this spot to rendezvous with the others around dusk.

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

Tick’ed Off

This video is a long one, four and a half minutes. One coyote is removing ticks from the other, and the other is enjoying the exquisite attention and massage, closing its eyes to relish this personal grooming session. The behavior not only serves the purpose of removing unhealthy ticks, it serves to strengthen the social bond between these two. The affection between these two is tremendous.

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