Coyote Tail . . . Fun, Fleas, or More?

This coyote spends a lot of her time sitting and observing what’s going on, but recently she has been plagued by fleas — she’s been overwhelmed by them. Many of her behaviors reflect this: scratching them, darting away from them (as though this would help!), running in circles after her itchy tail, curling in a little ball to be able to reach the flees on her back and her tail with her snout, and discovering that she could “roll” when she did this. You can actually see the flea bites all over her face. It must be excruciatingly uncomfortable. I’ve had a couple of flea bites and it was awful. Dogs get fleas and it drives them crazy!

And why does the coyote jump up and down, bouncing a little like a pogo-stick? Coyotes do this when they get excited and when they want a better view. This coyote, judging from the direction of her gaze, has seen something on the other side of the hill which we can’t see. I would guess it’s a dog that simply caught her attention. I’ve seen this reaction to a dog in the distance many times.

A dog walker suggested that, from what she knows about dog behavior, that the coyote’s behavior in this video might be anxious behavior due to the photographer because her own dog freaks out when “a lens is shoved in her face”. I took the suggestion to Turid Rugaas, who studies wildlife to know what is *natural* behavior in order to understand stressed-out dogs. She assured me that this is not what is going on here. First of all, this is not an inbred little domestic dog, it is a wild coyote. Secondly, no lens is being shoved in this coyote’s face — this video was taken well over 100 feet away. Thirdly, this coyote has her freedom to move, and would do so in order to avoid a stressful situation, unlike a dog who feels constrained by it’s owner’s *unnatural* demands: it’s this latter which causes anxiety in dogs. Fourthly, loner coyotes without families invariably become inventive in their play to fill the time that normally would be devoted to family interactions. Coyotes are social animals, so when there are no family members to interact and play with, and because they need to expend their pent-up energy, they invent all sorts of play activities for themselves.


Dive-bombed by a Bluejay

People, dogs, and now, darn . . . . a sky-diving bluejay to deal with! This bluejay dive-bombed this coyote for ten full minutes, squawking harshly and incessantly as it did so, in an attempt to get the coyote to leave. The coyote ignored it as much as he could, meandering or standing there stoically still as though it wasn’t there, but at times giving in to ducking, flinching and folding back his ears, as seen in the last two photos.

The coyote never once *looked* at the bluejay, though, of course, he was very aware of it. This particular bluejay interacts in this way regularly with this coyote within about a 100 foot area.

We all forget that all those beautiful — and sometimes harsher — springtime songbird sounds are actually battle cries of little critters trying to protect their territories from other little critters or vying for a mate. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in nature!

[click on any of these smaller photos to enlarge them and see as a slide show]

A Shaky Beginning for A Coyote Litter

Chuck Rossi was going to be posting his videos of coyotes growing up and we were all excited about it. However, this, below, was the only video posted on April 30th because then Chuck noticed that the mom hadn’t returned for a few days.

Mom coyotes frequently leave their pups for a full day, or even for several days, leaving them with enough food in the den to keep them going. The rescue group Chuck contacted decided to retrieve the youngsters, and it may have been a good idea since a coyote was found killed on the side of the Alameda Expressway about 1/2 mile away — they are assuming this was the mom.

I see Dads hanging out not far from their dens these days — that’s their job right now: they are on sentry duty to protect the dens and pups. Where was Dad in the case of this den? Dads fully contribute to raising the youngsters, but these youngsters were still lactating — could Dad have filled in here? The question is a moot one since the pups are now under the care of a rehabilitator.

No one can prepare baby wild animals for life as well as their parents can. If you suspect you’ve found *abandoned* coyote pups, stand back and watch for a few days before *saving* them. Maybe they need saving, but maybe they don’t! See: Please Don’t Rescue Abandoned Coyote Pups!

Für Elise

coyote appears on the fire-lane

As we were leaving a park late in the afternoon yesterday, out trotted Mr. Coyote. He would be out for either of two reasons, maybe for both. One was for food — this coyote is being fed by some park visitors — please discourage this if you see it happening. It is feeding which leads to food-conditioning and a coyote approaching humans. When in close proximity to humans, the chance for a bite, even if it is inadvertent, increases many times over. The other reason, just as important, is the coyote’s need to show/message folks and dogs that he is there — the proud owner of this domain, so, “don’t even think about moving in, folks”.

messaging dogs not to get close

We ran into Elise, a regular walker there, and chatted as we watched. Elise asked me to post the photos I took to a blog, which is why I’ve written this up and given it this title.

As usual, the resident coyote came to within his normal 20 or so foot distance from people and dogs and stood still, right in the middle of the wide fire-road. We all stayed well away from him, allowing him to feel safe and ourselves, too. Elise’s dog was very focused on the ball and, along with keeping a safe distance away, chose to ignore the coyote, and vice-versa. The little 35-pound dog we had with us stood perfectly still and watched the coyote with us, but this little dog may have been messaging back at the coyote in ways we are unaware of.  The coyote messaged him mildly, as shown in the photo above, and we backed further away. The coyote’s message was clear: stay away. 

Visitors to the park who found themselves right there at that moment and didn’t know the coyote were the best at respecting the coyote’s space and giving him a wide berth, and walking away from him if he began approaching. The long-time visitors to the park had already had time to assess this coyote’s behavior and had decided this coyote really wasn’t dangerous — that if the coyote happened to look ferocious, it was all bluff.  Several of these — most were large dogs and owners — walked calmly right by the coyote with their dogs unleashed but apparently under voice control. As expected, the coyote did not approach them and even backed away, but the coyote’s messaging intensified as these individuals came too close (see photos below).

At this point the little 35-pound dog was taken away from the scene and Elise walked on, so there were no dogs now, just spectators — about 8 people — watching him. The coyote stood in the middle of the road, wandering at times to the edge where the grasses began. He kept watching everyone, watching their every-move for danger and for signs of a handout. And then, the show began.

a mouse escapes from the coyote

At the edge of the road, in the grasses, there was movement. Quicker than a flash, the coyote caught the mouse. Coyotes are superb hunters, but whether through design or ineptness — I think the former: look at how fine-tuned the coyote is with his teeth: carrying that mouse by its tail and later by the scruff of its neck without hurting it — the mouse escaped, and kept escaping, and the coyote persisted in re-catching it, without trying too hard.

What is of greatest interest here is that the coyote repeatedly passed back and forth in front of the spectators, showing off the mouse, and sometimes just showing off himself without the mouse. He did this many more times than the video shows. Towards the end of the video (it is several videos spliced together), the coyote spends a long time apparently scratching himself, but in actuality he was probably thinking. Coyotes are much more intelligent and wiser than most people give them credit for.

It occurred to me that coyotes may think we humans, and certainly our dogs, are not terribly bright sometimes. “Don’t you know what a mouse is and what it’s for? Why has no one come after me for it?” I’m playing with an idea here — I don’t really know what script was playing in the coyote’s head. Coyotes do assess dogs in order to thoroughly know the animal they are having to deal with. Then again, maybe the coyote was checking on how much humanity any of us humans really had — it was obvious we had none for saving the little mouse. ;)

Coyote Den In A Backyard


Hello Janet,

I found your wonderful blog and fabulous photos as i was researching coyotes on the google machine. I really like your respectful approach to wildlife. Thank you for sharing your photos and observations.

I started learning about coyotes this spring, when i found a coyote den on my property. I live in Portland Oregon, on the outskirts of the city. I found a large hole in my yard about a month ago, and as i was sitting near the hole trying to decipher the tracks in the mud around it to figure who might live in there, i heard some high whimpering coming from the hole (pups!). After an entire day of watching the hole from a window i finally saw that a coyote mother crawled in there after cautious observation to make sure nobody was watching.

I have not told anyone about this den for fear that someone in my neighborhood would call animal control and ‘remove’ the animals. People have so much fear and disdain towards coyotes.

I have mixed feelings about this den. On the one hand, i am honored that they would find my yard safe to inhabit. On the other hand, i have cats who go outdoors during the day (but i keep them indoors at night). If it weren’t for the cats, i would have absolutely no problem with this den here.

I am not sure how to proceed. These cats harass me all day long to go outside. I find it unfair to trap cats indoors who are habituated to going outside (what good is prison life?). What is the likelihood of coyotes hunting cats during daytime? There are conflicting opinions on the internet.

I get the sense the coyote mom may have moved her pups this week- I haven’t seen her at all in the yard. She knew i knew where the den was. I spend a lot of time in my garden and that probably made her nervous. Do you know if coyotes return to their dens after a period?

I want to coexist peacefully with this family of coyotes. I found your blog to be a great resource for understanding coyote behavior. I have so much more to learn. I want to understand them so that i can avoid conflicts and allow these beautiful creatures to live peacefully. If you have any advice or resources you could point me to, I would be so grateful.

Thanks again for everything you have shared in your blog.


Den (with coffee mug for size reference)

Hi Susan —

I’m so glad that you like the blog and that you like my approach to wildlife! Thank you!

Cats could be a problem for coyotes (and vice versa) for a number of reasons. Yes, ultimately, some coyotes do see cats as prey. But also, cats and coyotes are competitors for the same resources (rodents), which, if resources are low, could cause conflict between the cats and the coyotes.

A half-way solution which would allow the den to remain undisturbed and your cats to have *some* freedom would be a catio. Of course, a catio isn’t really the out-of-doors, so it may not be a solution that would work for you.

Coyotes do move their pups between several dens during the pupping season. Creating a slight disturbance everyday — as apparently you have — will cause the coyotes to move to another location. If your coyote mom moved the pups for this reason, she may not return. If she moved them simply because it was time to rotate them to another den site, then she could come back. If you don’t want them back, continue to create a disturbance around the den — or put some soiled human socks close by and walk around the den opening a few times for several days in a row to leave your scent. If you want them back, you might stop the gardening for a while (no guarantee they’ll return).

As you say, people have a lot of fear and disdain towards coyotes, so we need to keep in mind that the coyote could move her pups to a place where they are absolutely not welcome. This is the biggest problem to be aware of.

In addition to my coyoteyipps blog, there is a website I contribute to a website called These two sites will answer a lot of your questions. THEN, if you are lucky enough to have the family return, spend time watching them! This is how you are really going to learn about them.

I would be really happy to post any of your observations and photos. Your story is very interesting! Let me know, and also please let me know if you have further questions! 


Den secondary hole


Thanks so much for your quick reply and helpful suggestions!  The Coyotecoexistence website had some really helpful videos (i had found that before, and didn’t realize it was related).  The ethics of hosting domesticated pets is challenging, and continues to be a source of daily conversation and questioning in our household, with no clear answers on many of the nuances (i.e. pet food, cats hunting critters, prisoners of the house, and on and on…)  An unintended positive effect of the coyote den has been that it put one cat on high alert and very cautious behavior outside, so she did not have a chance to hunt anything.  The yard became the hunting grounds of the coyote mom from the cat’s perspective.  One of the clues that the mom is gone is that the cat acts more brazen now in the ‘enemy territory’ part of the yard.  The other cat is ‘sweet and dumb’, and i doubt she knew anything about the coyote’s threat. I watched her stick her head in the den out of curiosity at a time when i knew there were pups in there.  Not the brightest crayon in the box. I like the catio idea, and will see if it’s feasible in some part of the yard (although it doesn’t solve my prisoner issue).

I attached some photos.  The den is dug under an old abandoned ‘root cellar’ type concrete outbuilding that is built into the hillside.  You’ll see it’s visible from my bedroom window, so it’s really close to the house.  They must have decided we pose no threat to their offspring.  The den has two holes that i know of – a main entrance (which i deemed too small for a coyote before I actually saw one squeeze herself in there) and a smaller hole that is definitely too small for an adult coyote.  I included the mug in the pictures for size reference.



View of den from bedroom window

Shy Mom – Brave Mom, by Charles Wood

Janet’s post from May 4th reminded me of my Mom coyote from about 7 years ago. Janet noted that it took courage for her coyote to message a dog that in the past had chased that coyote. I agree.

My mom coyote was shy when I first ran into her. She had shown herself to me and my dog Holtz as we wandered around in her territory. I didn’t know how to communicate with Mom coyote and had some vague hope that we would become friends. She showed herself and so I decided to sit down. I did sit down and so did Mom. She seemed pleased that I had sat. However, being friends wasn’t in the cards.

Shy Mom

The Shy Mom photo is her at what turned out to be an easy entrance to her den area. She chose to stand her ground where pictured, barring Holtz and my progress into the brush. We moved toward her. She went back into the brush. I couldn’t see where she was so I went forward. She came out as soon as we stepped forward. That was a message that was clear and I left.

Mom – Braver

Later I thought I had such a good picture. I was close up to her and there was a lot of detail in it. I carefully edited it as it appears in this post. What I edited out of the photo was something it took me a couple years to notice. I had edited out her full breasts and swollen nipples. I hadn’t looked carefully. Once I did look, it fully explained to me the reason she had barred the path to her den area. Yet she had been so polite. She wouldn’t make eye contact, instead averted her eyes. Previously she would shadow us and occasionally stand out nervously in the open for a while. I decided she was terminally shy.

Brave Mom

A few months later Mom became brave. With Holtz by my side and separated from Mom by a chain link fence, Mom came up to us and did a number. Then she showed us how fit and brave she was. After that day, going just by my percepts, she was no longer shy with Holtz and me. After that day Mom gave us more of the same and then some. I couldn’t help but interpret her change in behavior as her change in mind and spirit when around us. Being friends, of course, was not in the cards that Nature dealt us.

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

Coyote Speaks Her Mind to The Dog Who Chased Her Three Weeks Ago!

Three weeks ago, this coyote was chased by a dog. She fled and hid in some bushes where the dog could not reach her, and she remained there screeching distressingly for 20 minutes after the chase. An excerpt of her perturbed vocalizations can be seen and heard in the video at the bottom of this posting. This coyote normally simply flees when chased by dogs without vocalizing, so the screeching sounds were notable.

The chase must have been traumatizing because three weeks later, as can be heard in the video above, she *told-off* that dog — letting the dog know what she felt — even though there was no chase this time — just the memory of it. Please note that the dog owner is extremely respectful of the coyote and cares about her welfare. Just before the chase three weeks ago, his dog was playing in the off-leash park when the dog spotted the coyote in the distance and went after her. The owner is being much more vigilant so that it won’t happen again.

The *telling-off* incident, which is the focus of this posting today, began in the early morning with the coyote loitering calmly, close to the road, when the leashed dog and her owner appeared. The owner and dog headed away from the coyote and across the street to get to the trailhead into the park, making sure to go way around the coyote. This was the best thing to do. But the coyote had something to say. She bravely, *messaged* the dog with what I call a *halloween-cat warning display*: high arched back with hackles up, head down, snarly-face, and tail tucked under. The message: “please leave me alone.” The dog, of course, couldn’t do anything because she was leashed, but she probably grimaced some kind of message to the coyote — and I really wouldn’t know who *messaged* the other first. Note that although many people think it is their dog which is endangered by a coyote, very often it is the other way around: coyotes are small, weighing only about 30 pounds — fluffy 4-inch long fur conceals a much smaller size — while the dog in this incident, a four year old female, weighed close to 80 or more pounds.

large four-year old female golden-retriever mix

The leashed-dog and owner then climbed the hill at the trailhead. The coyote moved away as they did so, and she watched them from way back. After the walker and dog distanced themselves into the park, the coyote, too, climbed up the hill at the trailhead, apparently to keep an eye on them, remaining at the trailhead, keeping well back and a very safe distance just in case of another chase (which did not happen because the dog remained leashed). And then, surprisingly, the coyote began vocalizing her feelings, apparently scolding and/or warning that dog, as you can hear in the video above. When the dog and owner disappeared over a hill crest in the distance, the coyote followed just enough to keep them in view, and continued her tongue-lashing message — always from a very safe distance — until dog and walker were out of sight. Wow! What a spunky little coyote!

This behavior — vocally spewing out her anger and warning at this particular dog — happened again just a few days later, and now has been repeated a number of times, always and only towards this particular dog as far as we know. The second time it happened, the coyote freaked out upon seeing the dog — she was scared and ran off agitatedly, but she returned, and, seemingly very upset, delivered the same tongue-lashing tirade as she had before. It was fascinating to watch. At the same time, I want to make sure folks understand that this was not an act of aggression, but rather a communication. By simply walking away from the coyote, the owner did what is recommended. I asked the owner to please write up the *history* he has had with this coyote and he said he would — he and his dog seem to have interacted with her a while ago: this, hopefully, will help round-out an understanding of the behavior and this particular dog’s relationship to her.

HAPPY ASIDE: Yesterday, I stayed a long time at this coyote’s park, watching her relax and sleep in tall grasses where she was mostly hidden from view. If and when anyone realized she was there, they were beautifully responsible: runners ran way around her, taking her presence in stride, and dog-walkers leashed their dogs, gave her a wide berth, and walked on. YAY for everyone!!  Thank you all for making coexistence work and for being ambassadors for her welfare! One walker told me that several months ago she overheard some youths saying they would bring their pellet guns for when they saw her next time. My friend took their photo and told them that if she ever heard about it, she had their photo and would turn them in. Again, thank you!

Mary Takes a Break, by Charles Wood


Mary, a new mother given the appearance of her abdomen, was out this afternoon. Janet too has observed that mother coyotes take breaks despite that the pups’ eyes can’t even be open yet. Hallelujah!

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

Rufous! by Charles Wood

Rufous 2013

Rufous 2017

Today I was fortunate and saw Rufous. The 2013 photograph and the 2017 photograph: same Rufous, different years. That’s my boy! The river of life in and all around him.

I was opposed to his match with Mary and had hoped Rufous would just go away or be chased away. Mary’s parents lost their territory to Rufous and Mary in 2013. I guess Mary knew what she was doing when she accepted Rufous’ proposal. Since 2013 it has been 5 years of offspring and Mary’s life is more than half over.

Rufous wasn’t glad to see me of course, me just another blip on his radar and a choice to make. Today he sauntered around a little before trotting away.

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

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