An Incident: Embracing the Neighborhood Coyote, by Deb

Photo credit: Deb

Yesterday was bizarre. Early in the morning, while sitting in my car (getting ready to take my dog out) I observed a white male jogger stop near where our neighborhood coyote was lying hidden in the bushes. He was angry and started waving his arms menacingly as he quickly walked towards the bush.

The coyote froze for some reason. The man in a very angry tone started shouting, ”Get outta here you nasty thing”. Next he started kicking the bush.  I jumped outta the car & asked the man to leave the coyote alone — that he had been injured. He said, “Lady I don’t have to”.

At that point a Mom driving her daughter to school, stopped her car. She willingly took the time to talk to this man. She walked up to him and said she had seen what was going on and wasn’t going to leave until he did. What a gal! She was spectacular. Her name is Lisa. We exchanged phone numbers. At that point, she persuaded the man to leave. She is very fond of our neighborhood coyote as well — as appear to be most folks as they get to know about him!!

THEN, a neighbor, Jake, who lives across the street came out and said he wanted to help. He had seen the incident unfold while he was getting dressed for work. What is great here is how our neighbourhood community positively responded when we saw a mean person trying to hurt a wounded coyote.  I am proud of my community for quickly defending our wild neighbour whom we have become deeply fond of.

An Injury, and A Sweet Confirmation About His Devotion to Her

Photo of the coyote hanging out the previous day.

The injury was first noticed the previous morning. I was told that it was a bad limp — the devoted neighbors were worried and concerned for his safety and his life: “What should we do?” I advised that, if the coyote was mobile, he should be left alone — he would be okay.

I went out before dawn the next day to assess the extent of the injury and exactly what was injured: be it paw, leg, joint, or hip, along with the coyote’s demeanor and mobility. I spotted the fella and his mate right off, foraging in the bushes.

Well, he was very mobile, and his disposition was great. In fact, he was more concerned about his mate than about himself! This was ever so sweet to see. When I first encountered them, SHE ran off to stay hidden, after which HE spent time looking around for her, found her and ran to be with her. She is much shyer than he is. They then both walked together for a stretch, but as dawn broke and people started to gather, she hurried down a little used street to keep away. He watched her go, staying back so that HE would be the attractant and not her, thus allowing her to slip away undisturbed. As he watched her go, he gingerly walked on his leg a little but did not put much weight on it when he stood still. Then, when she was almost out of view, he hurried along after her: this is when the limp became noticeable: at a faster pace, he had to hold up his injured leg.

So, as the video shows, he’s quite mobile, and he has not lost his spirit, indicating that he was taking care of himself just fine. It’s always best to allow wild animals to heal on their own: nature is a marvelous healer if you allow it to do its magic. Intervention is not necessary here, and in fact could do more harm than good. The process of intervening would be traumatizing not only to the injured coyote, but to his entire family which depends on him as the leader and authority figure for his family — it would be extremely disruptive for them to find him gone. Intervention may indeed be needed sometimes, but more often it is not necessary. We’ll keep an eye on his improvement over the next couple of weeks to make sure he doesn’t regress.

I’ve seen lots of leg and hip injuries. Every one of those I’ve seen has resolved itself pretty quickly except one, which simply took longer — several months. THAT coyote had been hit by a car. I was lucky enough to run into an eye-witness of the accident. The witness wanted to help the coyote but the coyote slipped away and they could not find her. It turned out to be a good thing because, months later, we discovered that she was raising two pups as a single mom. They would have perished without her. We knew that her mate had been killed before the pups were born, apparently by rat poison. This speaks volumes for coyotes’ resiliency: normally both father and mother raise the young.

Here is another bad hip injury which resolved itself in a couple of days: Injured coyote – collapsing hip and leg.

UPDATE from three days later: Good news to report! The injured fella has been walking AND trotting solidly on all fours, in addition to howling with the sirens. Injured animals tend to remain quiet and under-the-radar for a while, but this coyote’s injury clearly is no longer hampering his style.  Yay!

Happy Holidays to all of you caring coyote advocates out there!

WildCare’s 2017 Photo Contest winners. If you are looking for a place to donate, consider WildCare in San Rafael.

Excluded and Banished To The Fringes

The female yearling who was all alone

This evening’s observation pulled at my heartstrings.  At first, I could only locate one coyote of a family I’ve been observing — the yearling female who recently is being bashed on a daily basis by her mother. She was alone and, unusually, she kept her eye on me and kept looking into the distance past me. I distanced myself but kept her in sight. After about an hour, she stopped poking around and looking around aimlessly, and lay down on the lawn, sphinx-style.

Right about then, I noticed that all the other coyotes of her family, four of them, had appeared together in the distance. She, of course, would have noticed them too, her eyes being that much better than any human’s. And now she looked in their direction. But she stayed where she was, lying down, instead of running happily with tail waving behind her to go say hello for their evening rendezvous.

the family in the distance

Female yearling sitting off in the distance all alone

I decided to walk towards the rest of the family — they were probably about 800 yards or so away. As I walked, I looked back. The yearling female had not budged. I continued on towards the family. They had greeted each other and now Mom was pacing back and forth probably looking for the female; Dad was relaxing on a knoll; and the two other youngsters were playing: wresting, chase, tug of war — all normal and happy evening rendezvous activities — except the yearling female was not included. After a minute of watching, I turned around and marched back. The yearling female had not moved. She was watching her family have a grand time, and she was not part of it.

Two youngsters play animatedly — sister is not included in the play — she’s far off, watching [blurry photos are because of the lack of light]

I had now returned to within 70 feet of the yearling female. Sirens then sounded and she sat up. In the distance, the entire family could be heard yipping and howling along with the sirens — but not this one. She kept quiet. She remained seated, watched and listened from the distance. And then she lay down again, focusing on where the yipping sounds had come from. It was totally dark now and my camera just couldn’t cope with no light, so I decided to leave. It’s the holiday season: it made me think of “they never let poor Rudolph, join in any reindeer games.” To be sure, there’s been affection between twin brother and this gal and even dad and her. I’ll post some photos of these soon.

This is the video I (tried) taking in the dark. It’s more a recording of the family yipping in the background than anything else, but you can see the lone, excluded female for a split second now and then as the camera attempts to focus with no light. When I zoomed out, at 43rd second of the video, the aperture opened up a little (offering more light and a stronger focus) so you can see the coyote a little further back, listening as the others sing. Coyotes love being part of  family howling, but she’s not part of that ceremony.  :((

As I walked away, I noticed, finally, that the family, beginning their nightly trekking, had come in her direction, and she had headed towards them. She had moved about 50 feet from where she had been. Dad is her perennial comforter, and with him there, she must have felt safe enough to approach him. As I walked down the hill and away, these two were right on the horizon against the almost black sky, which provided just enough light for a couple of silhouette photos — enough for me to see her crouched down submissively (in case Mom should approach), and Dad standing over her and grooming her affectionately. It made me smile and heave a sigh of relief: she’s still accepted and loved by her father and even her twin brother. HOWEVER, I wonder if this relationship might be fueling some of Mom’s behavior toward this daughter — not unlike a triangle??

So yearling daughter is being forced to keep her distance during the daytime, and only feels secure enough to approach if Dad is there, or if Mom is not there. Let’s see where this leads. Stay tuned. The thing to keep in mind is that this is a normal coyote behavior and it’s done for a reason — it has its good side — it did for Rudolph! We all eventually leave home to make lives of our own, and Mom’s treatment of her is helping the process.

Coyote in SOMA of San Francisco

Coyote in downtown San Francisco

A few days ago, this little coyote was spotted at Third and Folsom, South of Market, near Moscone Center, right in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown, and right during hustle-and-bustle prime time: it must have been pretty scary with all those people, cars, and trollies, and with all the activity and noise. The coyote had either taken a wrong route or run out of time in her/his journey, because now it was daylight and the city’s downtown was filling up with activity.

Photo: courtesy ACC

We’ve seen coyotes up on buildings in the downtowns of various large cities, including New York. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens, and each time it makes headlines. In addition to its serving as an escape from all the noise and activity at street level, a building provides an *up*. In the wild they often seek out high points from which to survey their territories and to see what the lay of the land is. This coyote may have been looking for a higher spot as a means of finding her way out of the situation in which she found herself.

I don’t know this particular coyote, but I can take a guess at what was going on. If she/he had been dispersed from a nearby territory (coyotes may be dispersed at anytime of the year), as she moved away from her home territory, she could have become caught up in our labyrinthine downtown which has no thickets to hide in.  Coyotes live in our parks and in the larger green/open spaces of the city. ACC would not have been able to return her to where she/he came from because, 1) no one knew for sure where she/he came from, and 2) dispersed youngsters will not be welcomed back to the place they were harshly driven from.

So, for the first time, probably, the animal was on its own and needed to find its way out of the city. Most coyote territorial niches are already occupied within the city, so where could she go? South of the city is where the ecologist for the Presidio, Jonathan Young, has found several of San Francisco’s dispersed coyotes which he had radio-collared. Dispersion is a hazardous time for coyotes and a time when their survival is at high risk.

Potential problems, besides a few fearful people, were dehydration and being hit by a car. Water, in fact, can be found all over the the city from spigots, etc, so the real danger is from traffic.  Come nighttime, she would have moved on, but a full day is a long time to sit up on a building. ACC hurried the process along by clearing traffic down a street, which gave the coyote a way out. It is always best to allow coyotes to find their own way — possibly with a little help as was offered by ACC. Thank you, ACC!

Deb Campbell of ACC wrote me, “We were trying to get the coyote (a crowd had gathered, and our original plan to wait until nightfall was not going to work), but it slipped away and ran down Folsom Street towards First Street. The police had stopped traffic, so it had a cleared escape route. We looked, but couldn’t find it, and we’re hoping that s/he made it back to a green space.” Deb generously supplied me with this photo.

San Francisco, with the help of ACC and RPD, promotes coexistence through education: we are one of the most progressive cities in this respect (in fact, in many respects).  ACC is here to help with sticky situations such as this one . And, of course, they have their hands full with every imaginable animal contingency in the city, for instance, now they’re busy looking for the pit-bull who last week mauled a leashed chihuahua. Our animal residents keep ACC occupied.

A Coyote’s Story, by AWARE

What follows is the story of a terribly injured coyote rescued and rehabilitated by AWARE. If you want to make more stories like this possible, please give what you can to their year-end campaign. And come back on December 17 for a video showing footage from his recovery!

Early this September, a coyote pup was making his way through a quiet pine forest in rural Fayette County when he came upon a long-forgotten rusty fence. While he was either exploring it or trying to get past it, his front legs become trapped, and he found he could not get away.

The coyote shortly after intake, scared and hiding under a towel.

We’re not sure how long he stayed there, stuck in the fence without food or water, but we do know that a rescuer found him on a stormy Wednesday morning and brought him to AWARE.  When he arrived, AWARE Wildlife Care Supervisors Marielle Kromis and Julia Sparks brought him to our exam room to perform an intake exam. They found that he was very dehydrated and had severe injuries to both front legs. It was clear that he had been struggling to pull the legs free, as the damage was on both sides of each leg. They were both extremely swollen and the wounds were so deep that both the radius and ulna on each leg was exposed. The wounds were seriously infected as well. Continue reading at

The coyote after several weeks of progress and therapy.

Sneaky Thief: A Famed Trickster

Having fun with his dead rat

The observation began at dusk, during very poor lighting (i.e., blurry photos), with a 1.5 year old male toying with what looked like a large dead rat. Indeed it was a dead rat, but when I examined it later, it turned out to be a very small one. For some reason, next to the coyote it looked big. Both rat and coyote were smaller than I had projected from the distance. I did what many people do: I mistakenly had judged a coyote’s size based on something else nearby and the setting — and judged the coyote bigger than it really was. Many people tell me thy just saw a “very big” coyote: 50 or 60 pounds. Actually, Western Coyotes don’t come that big. They weigh 30-35 pounds and in the winter have 3″-4″ fluffy fur which makes them look larger than they are.

The coyote toyed with the dead rat: he tossed it, caught it, twirled with it, practiced pouncing on it, jumped for it. After a short time, maybe only 3 minutes or so, he walked off with it, searched for an appropriate spot to hide it. He found the spot, dug a little depression, placed the rat in that depression, and then covered it all up, using his snout to push leaves, dirt and debris over the burial site. He looked around — the coast looked clear — so he walked away. He hadn’t bothered looking around in back of himself WHILE he was digging the depression and burying the rat — maybe he should have?

Unbeknownst to Bigger Brother, Little Brother was watching

Not far off, and unbeknownst to that coyote, Little 7-month old Brother observed Big Brother’s every move — it was year-and-a-half-year-old Big Brother who had buried the rat: to be used later either for play or for eating. As soon as Big Brother was out of sight, Little Brother headed directly over to the burial site at a trot. He sniffed around and found what he was looking for and dug it up. He did this secretly, sneaking over there only after the first coyote had left. He looked around to make sure he wasn’t being watched. And then he stole the rat — the bandit. Ahhh, now the rat was his.

He grabbed it and began to play happily with it: same rat, but a different coyote: tossing it, catching it, twirling with it. After he had enough playtime,  he would bury it in a different place where only HE would be able to find it.

He entered the forest with the rat. I heard sticks crackling and leaves rustling. When I was able to locate him, he still had the rat in his mouth: the forest, apparently, was not a great place to cache the rat. As he left the forest grove, rat in mouth, sirens began to blare, and other family members who were close by began yipping along, joining-in one at a time.

Coyotes love their yipping sessions — it’s lots of fun for them and definitely an emblem of their community/family spirit. But what do you do if you have a prized rat in your mouth WHEN sirens sound? Do you continue what you are doing, or join the chorus, or . . .  both?! Find out in this video below! The coyote was definitely conflicted about his priorities. During the course of the video, his priorities shift from the rat, to both the rat AND yipping, to yipping, back to the rat and burying it (going so far as to half-heartedly dig a depression, becoming distracted again and then covering up the depression without having placed the rat in there), and then sitting, facing his nearby yipping family before heading off to physically join them.

The rat was abandoned in favor of family activities: social life and family interactions are of utmost important to coyotes, and, actually, it’s what they live for. The next day the rat was not there. It had been taken, but I wonder who ended up with it, or where it might be buried?

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