To Spike, by Charles Wood

Occasionally I like to publish something not having to do with coyotes.  I’m hoping you all enjoy this as much as I did.

A couple years ago there was a cockatiel at my nearby park. I took photos of him(?) for as long as he was around there in the wild. One day he just wasn’t there. Maybe it was the park cat that got him, maybe a Cooper’s hawk, maybe he moved on. But last week I finally got around to writing a eulogy for Spike. I hoped that you might enjoy it. It is heartfelt, but there is some humor interspersed because he, after all, was a ‘mere’ bird.

Spike with his flock

Spike with his flock

I know neither for how long he was able to live his natural and intended life among his wild cousins, nor how old he might have become. All I do know is that for exquisite and incomparable moments he was free. The cage abandoned, he used that freedom not solely for his own will. Instead Spike made many friends. He adopted a flock, more so than they having adopted him, and he became their early warning system. Though the flock measured their own distance from Spike, Spike nevertheless was always first to call the alarm and take flight from danger, whether that danger came from the air or from the ground. Spike devoted himself not just to his own safety, but to the safety of his entire group.

We don’t know how Spike spent what were to be the final hours of his short life. We can imagine that day to have been for him like any other. Rising with the sun to preen with his compatriots and exchange greetings, ever watchfully searching for sustenance, and enjoying the many breaks he gave himself during his busy day: these acts were the fabric of his typical day.

All I know for certain is that Spike is gone, his watchfulness silenced, his chirping stilled forever. Somewhere a broken hearted child grieved for Spike having found his freedom from his cage. To that child I say, “Spike lived on”. I too grieve for Spike’s passing from my life. Yet Spike lives on. He lives in the gift he left us, the gift of his example of a life well lived.

Here is a link to the folio where Charles has Spike’s pictures online: http://photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=1013984

Spike

Spike

Dangers in the park

Dangers in the park

 

More Rendezvous Behavior: Fussing Over His Pups, Grooming & Intimacy

Charles Wood and I both have written a number of postings on coyote rendezvous behavior.  Coyotes are social animals who, except for transients and loners, live in nuclear families. They mate for life — coyotes are one of only 3-5% of mammalian species that do so — and the family is what centers their lives. Hey, not so different from us!

I recently wrote about a coyote mated pair — one with a den full of infant pups — who took off to rendezvous at dusk — like a couple on their way to a tryst in the dark.  Mated pairs are special buddies, and you can see it in that posting. I’ve also assembled a photo essay for Bay Nature on “Raising Kids in the City” to let people know about how social and family-minded coyotes are.

Today’s rendezvous was a family one. Mom and two kids were out lolling around on the hidden side of a hillside, waiting for dusk to get a little heavier.

Dad gets up & stretches

Dad gets up & stretches

After seeing them, I kept walking and found Dad sleeping in a little ball, about 400 feet away from where the others were. I settled down to wait for some activity. Suddenly Dad sat up, as if he knew that the others were waiting for him. What was his cue? He hadn’t seen the others — they were within his line of sight, but he had not looked in their direction. I’m sure he hadn’t heard them or smelled them. Maybe it was a cue in his circadian rhythms, much like our own, built in and influenced by daylight hours, or possibly by the movement of the moon?

He allowed himself a long stretch, and then scouted the length of a path before walking slowly into a clump of bushes which were in the direction of the place where the other family members were hanging out.

rendezvous begins

Rendezvous begins with Dad’s arrival

Mom relaxes a few feet away

Mom relaxes a few feet away

Since I could no longer see Dad after he disappeared into the bushes, I headed back to the hillside where I had first spotted the 3 other coyote family members. By the time I got to the spot where I could see them again, Dad was there. His arrival had sparked great excitement. Tails were wagging furiously. All coyotes, except Mom, were falling all over each other and doing their little wiggle-squiggle thing that they do when they greet one another.  Mom hadn’t moved from her sphynx-like pose, arms extended and crossed,  a few feet away. Now three pups were visible, but the shyest scurried behind a bush when she saw me.

Dad fusses over the first pup, stopping only to watch an owl pass overhead

As the excitement of the greeting calmed down, Dad approached the two remaining pups, one at a time. The first one he nudged in the snout, and then he poked his own snout into its fur, over and over again, twisting his head this way and that, in a grooming sort of way. The young pup closed its eyes and let itself enjoy the affectionate massage which went along with the grooming.  After about four minutes Dad moved over to the second pup. The first pup got up to follow and stuck its snout under Dad to smell his private parts. Dad did not like this and must have given a sign, because the pup turned away quickly and moved off.

Then Dad groomed the second pup: repeatedly nudging the pup’s head, licking and cleaning it. He then moved to the pup’s rear area and seemed to do the same, though I was on the other side so I could not see exactly where the licking was occurring.

Dad fusses over the second pup, spending lots of time licking and grooming the head and end of this 6-month old pup

Then my Canadian friend walked up, and I explained to her what was going on. We heard a siren in the distance. All coyote activity ceased and there was silence. I suggested to my friend that we might be in for a great family howling session, and I set my camera into “record” mode in preparation. Sure enough, the howling and squealing began, with the entire family joining in, AND was there another pup in the far distance adding its voice to the fabulous chorus!? Then all sounds ceased, after about 2 minutes. All the coyotes ran off, with happy flailing tails, in a single file, into the darkness and out of sight. There was no longer enough light for my camera to focus. My friend and I departed, too, delighted by how magical this had been. Here is the recording:

Orphaned Pups Have Been Raised and Are Being Released Tonight!

When these pups were first brought in, they were small enough to fit into a bucket!

They soon outgrew the bucket, and kept growing!!

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And tonight, the youngsters who are full-grown, and who have been prepared as best as possible for this moment, will be released in a safe area and slowly find their own way in the world.

“The 3 coyotes that have grown up at AWARE are being released tonight.  I wanted to go for the release, but it was going to happen at a site several hours from here, in a place that does not allow hunting, and I simply did not have the time to make the trip.  However, I fed them a special breakfast with lots of goodies and took the enclosed pictures this morning. We have done everything that we can for them and they are well prepared.  Now it is up to them.  They will be released at dusk (about now as I am writing this).  So keep them in your thoughts and say a prayer for them.  I’m sad to see them go, but delighted that they will be able to run free and not be confined in an enclosure.”

All photos from AWARE. If you would like to donate to this organization, please click here: AWARE. Thank you AWARE for taking on this big job!

** PLEASE NOTE  that any animal not raised by its own parents begins life with an overwhelming disadvantage. Coyotes are family animals. They are one of only 3-5% of all mammalian species that mate for life and grow up in nuclear families. It is within the context of a family that they learn not only their social skills, but they also learn every other skill they need for survival. Coyotes learn by observing and imitating their parents, and by interacting with their parents and their siblings, and they learn these skills during a “critical window” in their lives, when they are puppies.  Orphaned animals can never get this same training.

In addition, coyotes are “tied to the land”: Uprooting them and depositing them in another location where they don’t know the terrain, the dangers, other coyotes, predators, or even the best food locations adds additional hardship which they must overcome. How can we all help? Let’s stop the trapping and killing of coyotes so that their families may remain intact, and so that youngsters can learn the ropes of urban living from their parents, and not through trial and error and unexpected encounters with people and pets.

A Dad Doesn’t Share

That’s a Dad rolling and rubbing himself on an old, smelly tennis ball — most likely covered with grimy dog saliva. Isn’t that what tennis balls are for?

When the kid comes by to check it out, Dad doesn’t let him.  Dad wants the ball for himself — at least until he finishes his rubdown. When he’s through, he abandons the ball, allowing the kid a turn.

But the kid was only interested in it while Dad had it. He follows Dad, giving the ball only a short sniff  as he passes it.  Maybe he’ll try rolling on it another time.

Bay Nature: Coyotes Raising Kids in San Francisco

#68 BN6

Continue reading by pressing this link: http://baynature.org/articles/photo-gallery-coyotes-raising-kids-san-francisco/

Night Eyes, by Charles Wood

Here in the LA area yesterday evening I took this video of a coyote. It was too dark for me to actually see the coyote. I used a couple of flashlights to track its movement. All I could see was reflection from the coyote’s eyes. Was it a coyote?

We can tell it was from how it walked around, looked around and then dropped its head in canine fashion to investigate an odor. Also, I had arrived a little earlier when the light was a bit better and could still make it out. It was a coyote. It vanished, as you can see in the video, so I went home.

At home much later, I heard barking from a distance of a few houses away. After several minutes I recognized it as the bark of a coyote. The bark had short and high dog-like bursts, several times repeated and concluding with a song. The song was a quick “yaaw yaaw yaaw yaaw yaaw”. Dogs don’t sing that way so I knew it was a coyote or a very very strange dog. The coyote kept barking and some of its barks did not end with the song. Without the song, its bark sounded like a dog with an insistent and high voice.

I went to investigate. I walked past houses as I looked around for the coyote, heading for the park at the end of my street. Passing by about half a dozen or so houses, from inside the house closest to the park I heard someone yell “OH SHUT UP!” That was how I felt after about ten minutes of that barking.

Arriving at the park, I could hear the coyote but couldn’t see it. I found it by using my flashlight, light reflecting back from the coyote’s eyes. I got a good look at a nondescript coyote. It looked like it was barking at something near or in a tree. I smiled to myself, recognizing typically pointless canine behavior. Upon seeing me and being under my light, the coyote ran off. I yelled at it for good measure. Once I got home the coyote’s barking started up again. By the time I called my neighbor to go back down there with me, the barking had stopped.

Coyotes Eat Blackberries

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2013-09-09We can often tell what coyotes eat by examining their scat. Sometimes what they’ve ingested is pretty obvious, as this photo to the right shows.

San Francisco has lots of blackberries — Himalayan Blackberries — which are eaten by a variety of critters at this time of year: birds, coyotes and humans! It looks like a coyote made a pretty full meal of them here!

Himalayan Blackberry vines also form tangles of thorny protective habitat for many of our wild critters. Most humans and dogs won’t venture into a thicket of this spiny plant — it’s just not worth it. Birds, raccoons and coyotes know how to make use of it for their protection against other species. Unfortunately, in San Francisco, there is a small group of “nativists” who have infiltrated the park department. They have removed huge portions of these plants in many of our parks. The result has been more bare ground, and less habitat for wildlife in our parks. Fortunately, some of it is now finally growing back — I think many people complained: I’ve seen humans and others again enjoying this food, and the activity of picking it!

I was inspired to post this because of a comment I recently read on a petition to stop trapping and killing coyotes in Atlanta, a comment I felt was extremely warm and heartfelt:

“I live in San Francisco. I have coyotes in my back yard. I can hear them howl when the sirens go by and have seen them eating berries from the bushes. They present no harm when managed properly and respecting them. Do not trap and kill coyotes.”

 If you want to sign the petition, here is the link: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-coyote-trapping?source=c.url&r_by=6767189

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