Gusty Winds and Gutsy Coyote


It wasn’t just a wind-in-the-willows gentle breeze. The gusts today whipped the trees and grasses around, blew my tied-on sunhat right off after blowing the rim over on itself every time I pulled it down, and it was strong enough to push me off balance on a rocky trail. Whoa! It was even difficult to hold the camera steady. Often, winds accompany our much-loved fog which serves as natural air-conditioning, keeping summer temperatures here in San Francisco regularly in the 60s (54 this evening) with pockets of warmness in-between. Today they were uncommonly gusty and strong. And the gutsy little coyote was out in it.

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Why “gutsy”? Why would I call a coyote that? Because he appeared intrepid, indomitable, and plucky maneuvering through that very scary landscape. His actions and expressions told me that he was afraid, but he trudged on.  He not only braved the normally dangerous-for-him park landscape, avoiding detection by dogs and humans, but also, today, he coped with all the startling noises and sudden movements caused by the incessant bursts of gusty winds: cracking branches, brambles and sand suddenly in movement along a path, leaves flying through the air, tree branches whipping this way and that, bushes leaning over and then snapping back up again — and, the wind itself pushing against him. I know this, because I, too, felt it.

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He flinched, he ducked, he startled & spooked, crouched low, made sudden darts, looked up and around. And then he continued on his way, sometimes ignoring these interferences as he got used to them while keeping his head low, and sometimes reacting to the unexpected, like the release of a tight rubber-band. What struck me was his total and keen awareness of every detailed effect of that spooky wind, which heightened my own awareness of it all as I watched him, and heightened my awareness of him in his environment: today I appreciated him as a really gutsy coyote!

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What Coyotes Do: Deliberately & Consciously Weighing A Risk

We were out on a trek this morning. I say “we” because I am allowed to tag along in the distance sometimes. Not always, and not even often by any means, but sometimes. Today I wasn’t given the “look” which says, “please don’t follow me”. It wasn’t an invitation to come along, but neither was it a “no, you can’t come.” So I tagged as far behind as I could without losing sight of him, as this male coyote made his circuit — or at least for most of it.

This is the last 1/2 minute of a 5+ minute howling session. You can hear *her* faintly in the distance at the end.

The day “for us” began with me finding him in his park howling in response to a siren as dawn broke. His mate responded from far, far off — barely audible, but distinctly her response. I’m sure he knew where she was. I did not, this time. She was obviously tucked away and safe, which gave him one less thing to be concerned about at that moment. So off he went, with me bringing up the rear at about 100 feet. It was very uneventful. We met few people or dogs and then only two at the very end of the trek.

Over hill and dale, within the park, we remained on a long path, he stopping to sniff now and then, and mark sporadically. At one point he pooped — diarrhea — and I wondered at the cause.

We came to the edge of the park, and here he paced along the edge of the road, watching out for traffic. Coyotes trek through areas much larger than their park territories — this is part of their daily behavior. As he began to cross the wide road, one car whizzed past. When this happened, he edged his way slowly and carefully back to the sidewalk, away from the car, where he stood very still and on full alert, with all of his senses focused and with every muscle taught and ready to respond. He had obviously gone through this experience many times and had learned to avoid the risks of quick-moving traffic. When the way was clear, still focused and tense, he crossed the road quickly and directly, and headed towards the long open space in back of the houses lining the street.

There were no fences between those apartments or between their backyards, so it was a perfect coyote-corridor. Here, he continued stopping, sniffing and marking the length of the very long block of connected apartments. He was always on alert. Sometimes he would stop longer at certain spots. Occasionally, nonchalantly, he turned his head, or head and body, just enough so that he could keep an eye on me.  This one knows I’m interested in him. He also knows that I’m not at all interested in getting close — it’s probably confusing for him. Other animals who would be interested in him would either be interested in him as prey, or in messaging him antagonistically. I simply didn’t fit the bill.

After about half an hour of trekking, he came to a fence with a plank missing. The gap was big enough for him to fit through. Should he try it? He spent well over a minute intently assessing the opening. His head would go forward and then he would withdraw it and look up and around in all directions, including at me. He did this maybe about 8 times, and finally, bravery won the day and he went through. I went up and examined the opening: the opening abutted the low support beams under a porch, and these were less than a foot off the ground. The coyote would have had to squeeze tightly and then bend to make it through. There was no chance for me, so I returned to the park, thinking my observations were over for the day.

But, within twenty minutes, who should come trotting up the path to the spot where I had first seen him howl in the morning, but Mr. Coyote himself! He continued along the path, now going in the other direction, somehow avoiding detection, between a couple of runners. He climbed a steep knoll where he then spent a few moments surveyed his domain — this “surveying” is a common coyote activity — and then he continued on his way, over hill and dale, through a field of waist-to-chest-high dense brush. I hurried over his lookout hill to the field below and was able to, at times, see his back as he slithered along, hidden by the bushes. When a dog and walker appeared in the distance, the coyote loitered behind one of these bushes until they had gone, and then he himself hurried along his chosen route and disappeared into a dense thicket, and I knew he had “gone in” for the duration of the day. His trek lasted a little over an hour.

slithering away in waist-to-shoulder high shrubbery

slithering away in waist-to-shoulder high shrubbery

Cindi’s Coyote Puppies in Pacifica, by Cindi


Here is a pic of the family …First time I saw all 4 puppies.

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This is a photo of one of the new coyote puppies. I took this last week on August 7th. .I was under the impression that there was just one puppy when in fact there are four!! I was happy I was able to get this shot with my zoom lens as puppies run and hide so quickly. He has his father’s beautiful almond shaped eyes!! He is about 3 months old..

[Note: Coyote pups in San Francisco are about this size now — they are about 4 months old]

My Coyotes In Pacifica, by Cindi

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I live in Pacifica California. I have a coyote that has been behind my backyard for 6 years. There is a new family..mama and 4 pups..The male sits in the sun and I see him there for hours at a time..there is a eucalyptus grove behind me with lots of undergrowth. My large collie sits in our yard and thankfully this coyote is afraid.. I leave him alone but love watching puppies play..I take tons of photos..
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The male coyote is called “Mama” because for a year we thought he was a female. He has been on my hill for six years now. These photos are from two years ago, when we were redoing our yard and had NO fence. . .


My collie Kody and the mom and dad coyotes. I DO NOT leave Kody outside when coyotes are on the hill.
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Question: Did you build the fence specifically because of the coyotes — to keep a barrier between coyotes and dog? No, we took down a 6 foot deer fence because we built a new step up patio so we could have a view of Montara Mountain. We just put a 42″ wrought iron fence so it would not obstruct the view!! As a matter of fact the puppy coyotes have been walking thru the slats and coming into my yard at different times of night! There is no food out there but one night two were playing on my artificial lawn!

Famously Nine-Lived

This cat has lived in the same park as coyotes for several years now. The cat is savvy and quick — and apparently very used to the various wild animals that can be encountered in an urban park, including owls, raccoons and skunks, in addition to off-leash dogs.

Almost all dogs I know love to chase cats. Once that adrenalin kicks in, which is almost instantaneously after a cat is seen, the dog cannot be stopped — there is a strong instinctual pull which prevents the dog from hearing you.  My own dog normally was excellent off leash: he always sat at street corners before crossing without me asking him to do so, he heeled when we passed others on the sidewalk, he came when I called, and he even “stayed” for long periods of time even if he could not see me. However, before I learned about the “critical instant” at which it would become useless to call a dog who had been “snared” by the sight of  a cat, my dog did chase a handful of them and I could not stop him. Then one day one of them stopped and faced him with it’s back arched and hissing. My dog had no idea what to do and just stood there, dumbfounded, before backing up. Most domestic dogs have not been primed to go further than this, though I’m sure some have as attested to by the injuries and cat deaths by dogs.

Coyotes also have this same instinct to go after fast small animals. The difference is that coyotes have a lot of experience with “catching” their prey. This is why it is so important for small pet owners to guard their pets and not let them wander about freely where there are coyotes around.

So, this morning there was a cat/coyote incident, as can be seen from the photos. Two coyotes were trotting close to a thicket area when they spotted the cat sitting on a rock, right on their path and not very well hidden by the tall grass. They saw it immediately and time stood still for that split second when everyone became aware of what was going on. And then, within the blink of an eye, they went for the cat who scrambled to evade them from right underfoot. I’m sure physical contact was made, but the cat got away. The cat made an amazing leap high up into a tree, followed by one of the coyotes, who also made an amazing leap but then remained at the base of the tree. The cat went right to the top, 75 feet high, and stayed there. The coyotes kept looking up and made a few hopeful attempts at jumping before giving up.

And then they went over to the spot where the cat had been sitting before it was seen. They spent a substantial amount of time sniffing out that area. I don’t know what kind of information they were seeking — but they definitely were trying to find out something. Soon, they wandered on. I continued photographing the coyotes, so I don’t know how long the cat remained in the tree. I have seen squirrels remain high in a tree for the good part of an hour after such a chase.

Healthy squirrels and cats can evade coyotes. It is usually the very young or older cats which become prey for them as well as for raccoons and owls. Coyotes have been seen ignoring cats in the vicinity while they ate mulberries, and they have even been known to run away from cats who showed dominance and stalked them! Nonetheless, it is wise to keep pet cats indoors if coyotes live in the area.

Read Melanie Piazza’s WildCare, Summer 2016 article on Reversing the CATastrophy.


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