Eye Injury

We all forget that wildlife suffers constant injuries: it’s not all that easy being a wild animal. In some cases, an injury could result in a permanent disability: I’ve seen coyotes with only three legs, with lacerations, with eye injuries, and I’ve wondered how long these injured animals might have to survive. If they do survive disabling injuries, life becomes that much more difficult for them, on top of a life in the wild that isn’t all that easy in the first place.

Here’s a coyote I caught with an apparent eye injury. The irritation plagued the coyote during the entire length of a day: whenever I spotted him, he was trying to wipe away whatever was in there. Probably a foreign object had lodged there, but it might have been a scratch or laceration. I suppose this fella was lucky: several days later I saw him and the irritant was gone. There are always hazards to contend with in nature — it’s why wild animals don’t live particularly long lives.

Pupping Season: What Behaviors to Expect If You Have A Dog, and What You Can Do

Coyote pupping season is in full swing, which is obvious from coyote behaviors I’m now observing in our parks. Since mating occurred through mid-February and, now that it is mid-March, dens are being selected and dug. In preparation for the big event, all coyotes, especially males, are vigilantly contributing their share to the process: they are safeguarding their family territories to help make them safe for pups. Where does this come from?

We all need to become aware of coyote behaviors so that we can know how to prevent issues. Coyotes don’t like canine intruders in their territories: they even don’t allow non-family coyotes in. All canines, be they wolves, dogs, foxes or coyotes, don’t really like each other and all will exclude the others, as well as members of their same species who are non-family members, from their territories. This is instinctive behavior. We can’t really change their instincts for survival, but we can learn about them and understand them, and modify our own behaviors, so that all of us — human, cat, dog, coyote — can coexist. The guidelines are few and simple.

What behaviors might you see at this time?

1) Coyotes want you and your dog to know they are around so that you’ll know that the area has been taken and is not up for grabs. One way of letting us know this is being more conspicuous around their denning sites and the adjacent surrounding areas. Increased visibility is a “message” to everyone and it’s a pretty basic way of letting us know they are around.

2) Coyotes also may actually approach dogs to get them to “move on” or “go away.” As you are walking along, a coyote could hurry in your dog’s direction and could even try to sneak up from behind in an attempt to give your dog a little nip or pinch on the hind quarters. Remember that they are approaching your dog, not you. They could try to do this when you aren’t looking at them, even if your dog is leashed. Their aim is not to maim, but to firmly “message” your dog to leave.  A small abrasion or scratch may result. You can prevent this.

What you need to do during this season is:

1) Be aware, alert and vigilant as you walk your dog during this pupping period. If you see a coyote, even if it’s out in the distance, make sure your dog is on a short leash and continue walking on and away from the coyote — you want to totally avoid an encounter. Nonetheless, the coyote, or coyotes, could hurry in your and your dog’s direction — they have a job to do which is instinctive: know what is happening and be prepared.

2) Your safest strategy always is to shorten your leash and walk away from the coyote, dragging the dog after you if you have to, and keep walking away. If you are feeling somewhat cornered or trapped by a coyote — just stop and face the coyote eyeball to eyeball — usually this is all you’ll have to do for the coyote to move on. If the coyote remains there, step in his direction and clap your hands or toss a small stone in his direction (not at him so as not to injure him). If the coyote moves, continue on your way, keeping an eye on him and without running. You may have to do this a second time with a little more energy. He’ll run off, and you, too, should walk on out of the area.

3) One caveat to these guidelines: During pupping season, a coyote defending a denning area will stand his/her ground — they should be allowed to do so. If a coyote displays this behavior, please just leave the area, walking away and not running.

[For more information on coexisting between people, pets and coyotes, see “Coyotes As Neighbors”, a one-stop video presentation, created by Janet Kessler based on her photo-documentation of coyotes in urban parks].

Peaceably Coexisting, from Amie

This one is of my ranch that shows how rural we are and why the water would be found behind my house, gravity.

This one is of my ranch that shows how rural we are and why the water would be found behind my house, gravity.

I have a quick question. I live in a rural area of Southern California adjacent to 15,000 acres of open space. Is it possible that the coyotes living on my ranch consider us part of their pack? I don’t feed them but they get water from the stock tanks. None of my animals are concerned about them and I have yet to lose one to a coyote, including chickens which have been allowed to free range 24/7 for years. At this point, we’ve had generations born here and they all seem to except us. In fact, if someone down the road shoots at one, they run back here. One female that was born behind the house has chased the hoses I was dragging around, like a puppy would. I don’t encourage that but there is something going on that fascinates me.  Just wondering if you’ve heard other stores like that. 

Thanks, Amie


Right after I received your last email, a neighbor stopped by while I was out front to tell me they thought I got a new dog but then realized it was a coyote playing in my front yard. I cannot locate the picture I was going to send you but I do have a couple that you might be interested in. Here are a few more that show the small fence that keeps my chickens out of the creek. The one of the cattle has the den in the picture, taken from my back deck. And of course, the rabbits feel safe too! 

Hello Amie,

What a wonderful testimony to coexistence your experience is!  I’m a coexister living in Atlanta, GA and your story reminds me of the touching book by Dayton O. Hyde entitled Don Coyote.
Thank you for sharing, Cathy

Hi Amie —

Right off I would say that these coyotes probably do not accept you as part of their family pack, as much as they accept you as part of their environment — a safe environment. You have proven to them that you won’t go after them, and they know that.

In most instances coyotes leave other animals alone if they themselves are left alone. I’m in contact with a woman who regularly sees a coyote and a skunk resting within view of each other in her back yard! Ferdinand the Coyote, by Charlotte Hildebrand.

You’ve allowed the coyotes to drink from your water trough without chasing them out. By not creating antagonisms, you’ve created a live and let-live situation. So there’s plenty of water for everyone, and probably plenty of food in the way of gophers and voles. HOWEVER, if food for some reason were to become scarce for them, they very well could try a chicken, and if they caught one they might actually begin seeing them as a food source.

One question I have for you is, do you have dogs? Dogs seem to create the biggest issues for coyotes, especially if they go after the coyotes during their first encounters. If you don’t have dogs, these issues, of course, won’t exist. Please let me know!

People need to hear these positive stories and yours is really nice!

I do have two dogs but don’t let them run free. They’re 30 pound house pets. The other morning I decided to take my female with me to feed the horses. She was off leash but is well trained. We turned the corner by the garage and a coyote was standing right there in the driveway. I picked up my dog and brought her inside, but neither animal really reacted. When I came back, the coyote was in the same spot and then scampered to my horses. My horses don’t even look up when she goes in there with them. I had to laugh because it was just like having a ranch dog tag along while doing chores.

We also have a spring/creek right behind the house and have water there most of the year. They build their dens close to the spring, in my pasture. I do have three young cows out there now and if they get close to her den, she comes out and stands guard but that’s it. 


Coyote Follows A Skunk Without Incident

Coyote smelled or eyed a skunk and carefully approached, then followed at point-blank range. Skunk had his tail up, but did not back up and spray — might he have had no “ammunition” left? Skunks apparently are very conservative in their use of their spray because it takes a full two weeks or so to fill up the sack once it is used. And Coyote made no attempt to grab the skunk, nor to deliver an incapacitating shake: Might this have been due to the skunk smell the skunk carried with him, or, possibly to the coyote’s inability to tell where the head was? 

At any rate, Coyote followed skunk and when Skunk stopped, Coyote then moved to the side and watched. Skunk kept his eyes on me and on Coyote, approaching neither of us. Soon I could tell Coyote wanted me gone, because he kept eyeing me and then he led me away — and I obliged by following. But he came back. Alas, Skunk had moved on. All in a day in the life of an urban coyote.

“Break It Up!”

This is a twenty minute episode in the day of a coyote family as they enjoyed some rest time together — at least initially. The alpha male, when he became aware of it, apparently didn’t like the other two devoting so much attention to each other, so he exercised his alpha prerogative by lunging at them with open jaws and putting them down on their backs. All in the everyday restful afternoon of a coyote family. There are 16 numbered slides.

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Vocalization Following A Siren, and Kanyon’s Art

by ©Kanyon Sayers-Roods

by ©Kanyon Sayers-Roods

Here’s a recording of a male coyote vocalizing after hearing a siren. Coyotes often join in with a siren, and then continue their vocalizations long after the siren has stopped. A siren is often the starting point — the inspiration — for a coyote’s howling. As they howl, they’re also calling out to make audio contact with the rest of the family which is close by. The other family members may join in or not, but usually at least one responds. And then the vocalization continues, probably for the sheer joy of vocalizing. In this recording, a female joins the male at the beginning — hers is the high pitched howl in the background, whereas his are the barks in the foreground — but it’s the male who continues through to the end.

With time, one can learn to appreciate the different aspects of coyote howls, no different from appreciating any other foreign language, as I did in a restaurant recently. The Italian language I listened to in the restaurant had unusual and unfamiliar sounds, which also included  lilting tones which we don’t have in English, and was accompanied by strong hand and body movements and strong facial expressions which were all part of the equation. I searched for possible meanings as I listened. Although the words were not intelligible to me I could “read” all sorts of things, such as questions, excitement, enthusiasm, anger, disciplining (of kids) and within the context I knew folks were ordering food. Of course, as a human, I can assume what is being communicated in Italian is not much different from what is communicated in my own languages.

Coyote howling is much more “foreign” to our human ears because we humans are not coyotes and therefore don’t have their “cultural background” to even know what is or needs to be communicated. But at the sound level alone, there are nuances of sounds which can be teased out, and I’m able to do this a little. The sounds include intensity, smooth tones and trills, length of sounds, barks, growls, grunts, whispers, pitch, changes of pitch during a long howl, when these pitch changes occur during the howling session (one coyote I know creates a signature pitch change always right at the end of his howling sessions), and there are distinguishing patterns which include the silences, all of which help me identify the individual who is howling. Context is important, though as a listener, we’re not often able to assess that. And of course, there is a world of meaning which goes beyond simple audio contact with others, roll call, warning, distress, joy, greetings, which I can’t decipher now — yet! But I know that these animals aren’t making these sounds just for no reason at all — they’re communicating.

I wondered if anyone would have the time to listen to my rather long sound bite — we all want things short these days.  But I decided to post it for those who might want to enjoy losing themselves in the call of the wild, as I do.

The drawing is by Kanyon Sayers-Roods, a very talented, committed and community-involved young American Indian from the Costanoan Ohlone and Chumash Native American Indian tribes. It fits with this posting. I think her art is superb, here evoking not only the spirit of the coyote, but the actual howling song as it spins forth. Visit Kanyon’s webpage to learn more about her: at http://about.me/kanyon.coyotewoman.

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