A Mom Revelas to Me That She’s Had Pups

Here is a young mother who reveals her motherhood status to me. It was very exciting to see her! She’s two years old and she has just had her first litter.

a lactating mother

a lactating mother

In very young mothers, however, unless they show you their bellies, it is almost impossible to tell that they are lactating: the mammary glands are compact and don’t “show”.

young mother -- her lactating status is a secret

young mother — her lactating status is a secret

On the other hand, older mothers very often do reveal their status as mothers. By the time a coyote has aged and has had several litters, the mammary glands sag more, and if you are looking for it, you can see what is going on.

a lactating mother coyote

a lactating mother coyote

More on lactating mothers: https://coyoteyipps.com/2010/05/26/lactating-mothers/

“Beyond Words: What animals think and feel”

I am in total agreement with the author of this review: “Carl Safina has written an excellent book that we recommend to our readers without reservation. We guarantee that it will warm your heart to read about animal communities that share both the positive and the negative aspects of human societies. We hope it will make you reflect, as it did us, about the ways in which the activities of humans intrude on the lives of animals. Thank you, Mr. Safina, for giving us this opportunity to learn more about our animal friends.”

Death of a Million Trees

Beyond WordsBeyond Words, by Carl Safina, was written by an animal lover for other animal lovers.  His mission is to convince his readers that animals are capable of the full range of emotions experienced by humans and that their communities are often as complex and varied as human communities.  His hope is that humans who understand the feelings and capabilities of animals, will therefore treat them with the respect they deserve.  It is a worthy cause and not hard to sell to this animal lover.

Inadequate scientific inquiry

Safina begins by lamenting the sorry state of scientific inquiry into animal behavior.  He speculates that the dominance of humans in the environment fostered a condescending attitude toward animals that prevented scientific inquiry of the animal kingdom until very recently.  Animals were perceived by humans as utilitarian objects to be exploited for food and transport or destroyed if perceived as a…

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A Small, Very Loved Coyote

Today I got to better know, through another coyote lover, a little coyote who frequents one of the tourist spots in San Francisco. Like most tourist spots in San Francisco, this was also a residential neighborhood and the place where the coyote resides. Many folks have sent me emails worrying about her because she was being fed by lots of people — by both residents of the area and by tourists — and folks were allowing their pets either to chase her or to interact with her. Eventually, this could spell no good for the coyote. Folks can actually unknowingly shape coyote behavior and the outcome of a situation by their uninformed actions. Feeding or interacting with an urban coyote can often spell doom for the coyote. This coyote kept her distance from people, but she showed no fear of them, which also worried some people. I had already visited the area and posted some tri-lingual signs with guidelines that all folks should follow. There are not enough informational and alert signs put out by the City, to inform folks that there is a coyote living in the area along with guidelines to help protect both the coyote and all pets from each other.

Bipasha had contacted me about advocating for coyotes with her photography. This was the coyote she was photographing. We decided to meet.

I arrived early for our meeting, well before dawn, so I walked around. Two friendly, older fellows who spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese (I know because I asked them) were doing their daily exercises at this spot-with-a-view. They told me that they saw the coyote regularly — that she was part of the neighborhood, and that they liked and accepted her as part of the environment. Because of their enthusiasm, I thought of giving them the link to the Mandarin version of the video,  “Coyotes As Neighbors”. So I asked them if they had Internet access. They waved their hands showing me that the Internet was not part of their lives. It was a reminder that many people do not have Internet access, and information must reach them by other means.

Soon I met the first runner of the morning. Dawn was just beginning to break. He had slowed down to take a breath after a long, arduous climb. He told me he was delighted to be in San Francisco and couldn’t get enough of it. I asked him about his coyote experiences.  It turns out that he was in the City only for a day. He comes to San Francisco once a year for a medical conference — and before the conference he made it a practice to take this trying run. He felt he had fallen a little out-of-shape compared to last year. Interestingly, he told me that, yes, he had seen a coyote each of the two previous years during his run in this location and he had always been delighted to see them.  Then he had to run on, so I asked that, if he saw a coyote on his way down the hill, could he please yell “coyote”, and he said he would.

the little coyote appears

The small coyote appears

This is when Bipasha appeared — she had found me through my blog which she liked. As she began to tell me her story, the doctor suddenly reappeared excitedly and out-of-breath at the top of the hill again. He beamed a wide grin and said, “a coyote is on its way up this road.” Ahhh, he had seen the coyote and called me the way I had asked him to! We thanked him, and before he turned around to go, there she was, “The Small, Very Loved Coyote”. I asked Bipasha if the coyote had a name, and was told it was Cai (for coyote, of course). Bipasha is a lady who has spent a lot of time watching and photographing Cai. She has developed a deep love and substantial knowledge of this coyote’s particular habits. For instance, the coyote comes to this spot at just about the same time every day, usually following the same route. When she arrives, she stands very still at various spots and looks around to assess the goings-on — you might call this “patrol duty” — many coyotes do this. The coyote knows Bipasha and they smile at each other — there appears to be understanding and respect between them, and there appears to be mutual trust: each knows that the other will not approach or harm the other. Bipasha is actually still a little afraid of the coyote. When she saw her first coyote, she was absolutely thrilled, but she would wait in the safety of her home, behind a window, and watch, too fearful to venture out looking for Cai. Then one day, someone told her where the coyote had been seen, and Bipasha took a chance, holding on to her fear, and found the coyote. It’s been love ever since.

Cai surveying "her" area

Cai surveying “her” area

Cai learned to hear which car belonged to her friend and both began appearing at the the same spot at the same time. Bipasha thinks the coyote actually waits for her. At this “meeting spot”, the coyote hangs out, and the few tourists at this early hour take her photo. Today, no one feeds her. After a while, she moves to various other locations: behind a fence, on a grassy area, down the walkway. She always stops where we can see her — she makes no attempt to hide or run off.  She exudes calm friendliness and trust . . . and a gentle sort of wariness, keeping her distance. I, too, soon fall in love with her as I listen to Bipasha talking about her routines and behaviors and the love she has developed for the coyote. The coyote soon hops down, and Bipasha says that it looks as though the coyote is about to move on. Then Cai slips out of sight. Bipasha tells me where the coyote has gone. She has actually followed the coyote a number of times and knows her routes.

Cai sits off the beaten path sniffing in and comfortably looking around.

Cai sits off the beaten path, sniffing and comfortably looking around

We walk down a hill where, surprise to me, but not such a surprise to Bipasha, there is Cai again, exactly where Bipasha said she would be, probably 1/4 mile from where we had originally met her. This, I’m told, is Cai’s second “hangout”. We watch her sniff and cross the street a few times. She now looks as though she’s at loose ends — “Where should I go now?”, but maybe it’s just that she feels a little uncomfortable with a number of people around and a car pulling out of a driveway. Bipasha then picks up cues that the coyote is about to leave for the day. Bipasha tells me that Cai will begin to go and then she will turn back several times to make sure she is not being followed — and this is what happens. Bipasha used to follow Cai, but she stopped when the coyote “told” her not to follow. I knew exactly what Bipasha was talking about, because I, too, have “read” coyotes telling me that they don’t want me to follow.

Cai sniffing the ground probably where dogs have been, and marking

Cai sniffing the ground, probably where dogs have been, and marking

Many folks apparently have fallen in love with this particular coyote, who by all standards would have to be called “sweet” — a real sweetheart. The majority of neighbors want to protect her from harm. She “belongs” to these residents. Bipasha and I walked up the hill. We feel that something needs to be done right away about the feeding and about folks allowing their dogs to chase or interact with her. We’ll begin by designing a sign warning folks not to feed coyotes, and then we’ll plan more — we’ll do what we can to keep Cai, the Little Very Loved Coyote, safe, happy, healthy . . . and wild, which will at the same time keep folks and pets safe and away from her.

Cai departs for the day

Cai departs for the day

 

 

 

The Social Amplification of Risk and Fear

There are many coyote discussions happening on social media platforms such as Nextdoor and Facebook which are engendering and heightening fears of our urban coyotes, and which, for the most part, stem from fear based on misinformation and lack of information about coyotes.

My observations about the effect of social media were confirmed last year at an annual neighborhood association meeting in San Francisco by a police officer who was updating folks on the most recent crime reports. He made a huge point of saying that crime, in fact, had remained the same in the area over the last year or so, but that the perception of the extent of crime had changed tremendously, for the worse, due to social media such as Facebook and Nextdoor. Specifically, there were two crime incidents which social media discussions had so blown out of proportion and altered that they were no longer recognizable from what had really happened. And all of this, of course, increased fear to a crescendo which was simply uncalled for, according to the officer. Sounds exactly like what I’m seeing in discussions about coyotes.

These social media comments appear to be no different from the coyote rumors, passed along by word of mouth, which preceded social media. I became fascinated with how these rumors and myths about coyotes got started, survived, and then became amplified along the way. I happen to be in our parks for many hours every day, so I’ve actually watched and heard tales spin themselves from an inconsequential situation or comment into monster terrors.  My favorite was: “Seven coyotes surrounded my car and wouldn’t let me get out”. The story of fear spread far and wide, the fear level mounting, with folks afraid that the coyotes were coming to get them, until it actually reached one of the City’s governing Supervisors. The Supervisor was promptly educated by coyote experts and the rumor was put to rest. By the way, the single coyote family in the area consisted of just three coyotes, a mom and two pups, and they were a particularly flighty bunch when it came to people and cars.

What actually are the risks of injury by a coyote? Folks need to know that there have been only TWO recorded human deaths IN ALL HISTORY from coyotes and one of those involved the feeding of a coyote. Bites or scratches to people from coyotes for all of North America amount to fewer than 20 a year — and most of these are caused by feeding coyotes or from interfering in a coyote/dog altercation. For comparison, there have been about 20-30 deaths PER YEAR caused by dogs, and over 1000 people A DAY go to emergency rooms for dog bites. There are more interesting statistics which should help folks understand how minimal the risks are of being hurt by a coyote, for instance, did you know that champaign corks kill 24 people a year?

WP-ChampaignCork

One thing I have observed recently is that there are many, many more dogs than ever before visiting parks, and many more people who walk their dogs are glued to their iPhones and don’t have their dogs leashed in areas where they know there are coyotes. Meanwhile their dogs are running wild and out-of-control all over the place. The situation is ripe for the possibility of more dog/coyote encounters, and for these, indeed, precautions must be taken to keep coyotes and pets apart.

Every single dog/coyote incident I’ve seen and heard about could have been prevented by following very simple guidelines, which can be found at the top of the home page for this blog. These include:

  • don’t leave out food attractants
  • don’t let pets roam free — always closely supervise your pet out of doors
  • be vigilant when walking your pet
  • keep your distance from coyotes in the first place
  • if you see a coyote, leash and walk away from the coyote
  • don’t let your dog chase coyotes
  • know how to shoo away a coyote who is approaching your pet and WALK away without running.

To avoid car accidents, we learn and abide by traffic rules and guidelines. Guidelines for coexisting with coyotes are far fewer and simpler than those for the road, but there is a huge resistance to using them for some folks. Their response often is: Wouldn’t it just be easier to kill them?

The knee-jerk solution to many fears has often been to remove its source. Several years ago a tree limb fell on a visitor in a park and killed that person in San Francisco. It was an extremely unfortunate freak accident. But what was interesting was the way some people wanted to deal with their new-found fear: they wanted to cut down all the trees!

I’m now hearing that swing sets will be removed from our parks because they’re too risky. Swings of course are no more dangerous than they ever have been, but as a society we have changed how we interpret risk and fear and how we deal with it. Might our fears have less to do with the object of fear itself than with ourselves, the media and the tenor of the times?

I went to the internet to find out more about fear and risk. What I found is a fascinating exposition on precisely this subject. It’s long, but very, very interesting. I’m including the link in case anyone cares to explore it: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/3053#.VQnN0mTF-94

Getting back to coyotes, you can learn some of the behavior patterns to expect between dogs and coyotes, along with how to shoo off a coyote, and why killing does not work as a solution from the YouTube video “Coyotes As Neighbors”, also found at the top of the home page of this website. If you need or want help beyond this, contact the folks at Coyotexistence@gmail.com for one-on-one help.

I Parto Della Lupa (The Birthing of a Wolf)

image001This Italian video shows a wolf giving birth. It’s an Italian wolf that doesn’t look too different from our coyotes, and giving birth is probably very similar for both animals. It’s an appropriate time to post this, because birthing of our coyotes is occurring now.

I asked a friend if he could guess what the title of this posting meant: “I parto della lupa”. I myself thought “parto” and “partum” (as in post-partum) might sound close enough for folks to recognize.  His answer was, ” someone leaving or departing”. His answer astonished me! Yes, I guess that’s what it means; that’s what “birth” means: “a parting.”

By the way, what the mother is eating is the placenta or afterbirth. Either click on the photo or here to watch the video.