Bubbles Draw In A Coyote’s Curiosity

Novelty, again, attracts a coyote’s interest! There was a bubble machine spewing out streams of bubbles in one of the parks during twilight hours. Bubbles were everywhere. Some travelled far enough to catch this fellow’s attention. He carefully kept his eyes on several as they floated by, sank, and then popped. Where did they go? I don’t know what he ended up thinking, but eventually he moved on to other, more important things! After all, you can’t eat something that disappears!

[Click on one of these six photos above to enlarge them and flip through them]

An Update on Ranchers and Coyotes From Walkaboutlou

Look at what one individual person can accomplish, by talking to another individual, privately and confidentially, about what he has learned through dedicated and insightful direct-observation. Publicly they will spew what their peers and neighbors say. Privately, more are starting to realize that so called predator control is a myth. Yay, Lou! This is Fantastic!!

Sent: Tue, Oct 23, 2018 9:12 am

Good morning Janet,

I had a really good conversation with a farmer and convinced him to experiment with no hunting coyotes for a year minimal. Like most here, he hunts coyote hard. And continues to suffer from predation and financial loss. He is adding 2 more dogs to his flocks. When we spoke, he talked about how he has hunted coyote “hard core” with traps, snares and dogs for years and nothing has eased his loss. I explained with all due respect, his “hard core” tactics has helped create ” hard core” coyotes.

I also shared the article you sent me, and told him to speak to ranchers who have adopted no hunting strategies. I also told him if he allows a pair or 2 of coyote to establish territory, they will act as peripheral guards to his property to other nomadic, strange coyotes. I explained how coyote pairs/packs don’t normally allow nomads to stay long, and how local coyotes know the land, and rules intimately.

He also spoke of “outskirt” areas he’ll allow for coyote to encourage them to stay in certain spaces. I’m so very excited. My vision is large areas of settled, territorial coyotes living naturally among ranches, proving coexistence is a reality and ending the cycle of hard core tactics that creates big problems for both coyote and rancher.

[For background on Lou and what he does, please read Lou’s previous correspondence: “Observations of Coyote Behavior on Ranches by Walkaboutlou”.


Coyotes can find themselves in dire straits, not always caused by humans, and here is an example of this. Let’s give them a break whenever we can!

Nature is full of conflict and it can be harsh. Few people are even aware that all those birds on a spring morning aren’t simply singing beautiful songs as the sun begins to show itself and as the day comes into bloom. No, most of these sounds are territorial warnings and battle cries, and the parks are war zones. When animals aren’t fighting for, or defending their territories, they are eating each other. This, I’m afraid, is what is going on. Yes, there’s much sweetness in-between, but the point is that it isn’t all sweetness.

A resident coyote family which “owns” a territory has to protect its territory exclusively for itself — it’s a survival tactic. This ensures that the resources on that territory will be available to them alone, without competition from other coyotes. This is the reason intruders are driven off. But what about the intruder?  It’s important to see his point of view as well. The intruder is looking for a place to live. It might be a coyote who has been displaced from his own territory (usually by humans), or a younger coyote dispersing from its natal territory. New environments are hazardous for all animals because they are unknown, as are the situations on them.

Within the span of several weeks I saw one newcomer/intruder coyote welcomed into a new territory: he paired-up with a loner coyote on her territory — yes, this has been incredibly heartwarming and “sweet” to watch, as I posted just a short while ago.

During that same several weeks, in another park, an intruder coyote was viciously driven out — circumstances were different for him and decidedly not hospitable. I’ve seen enough coyotes driven off brutally from claimed territories to know that it is not a rare occurrence. The misconception that “coyotes seldom get into physical altercations with other coyotes” (a statement made by an individual who also claims that only ‘degreed individuals’ have the right to know coyote behavior) arises from a lack of field-work and first-hand observation, which are of course at the foundation of any legitimate inquiry into coyote behavior. This is what I do.

Most of the fighting I have observed has occurred when it was too dark to photo-record, but there was still a smattering of light when I captured the following series. It was late dusk and getting darker, however my camera with a 16,000 ISO captured the activity even though much of it is blurry due to the low light — nevertheless, you’ll get the idea. So here are my first-hand observations with 65 photos. (Note that these photos have been lightened so you can see the activity). [Also see Territorial Fighting Can Be Vicious]

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At this point in time [the makeup of families changes routinely as pups are born, and eventually disperse at various times during the year] the resident coyote family consisted of the mated pair, I’ll call them Mom and Dad, one Yearling female aged 2.5, and several pups, who have been kept secluded, even now at 6.5 months of age. I know them all well. On the contrary, I had not seen the intruder youngster before, so I don’t know his background. I do know that he is a male probably 1.5 years of age.

When I arrived, I immediately knew something was wrong because one of the two female coyotes, Mom, was “messaging” the intruder by approaching and gaping (slide #1). The intruder kept his distance, squeezing his eyes tightly shut at regular intervals, and then lay down, keeping his distance when the two resident females lay down. Each coyote was waiting for another to do something. I had never seen a coyote repeatedly squeezing his eyes like this before, but it was obviously a stress indicator, and reminded me of a human squeezing away the tears of pain. My wildlife behavior contact suggested that he might be trying desperately to be accepted by the group and the blinking was his way of communicating “I am not threatening”. When his eyes were open, they were wide open, glassy and scared.

After ten minutes, all three coyotes jaunted towards the interior of the park without incident — I don’t know what prompted this. The two resident females soon lay down on a knoll and watched the intruder distance himself further away (#14). The intruder then stopped and turned around to watch them, and they watched back. I noticed the intruder had a limp, and I don’t know if that was inflicted by the two females before I came, or if he had come to the area with it — it could have been a battle wound at another territory, or even from at own natal territory from which he dispersed and from which he may have been driven out. He then, too, lay down, in the distance.

I began walking in his direction, and when I was half-way there, the two females got up and came my way, at first trotting, but once they had passed me, they pursued the intruder at a run (slide #15). The intruder ran to keep away. Soon again, they all came to a standstill, where, again, the two resident females lay down and watched while the intruder kept his distance. But then the Yearling got up and began poking around (might she have been “testing” him? I don’t know) and the intruder got closer to her, not aggressively, but almost beseechingly.  The Yearling reacted with an intensely aggressive messaging display which had little effect on the intruder. She ended up walking away from him. (see slides #20-25).

And THEN, I guess this is what the females had been waiting for: DAD appeared in the distance (slide #28). I don’t think he had a clue as to what was going on. He had probably been occupied with the hidden pups. First Mom went to greet him angrily, and he reacted in kind to her mood — there sometimes has been mild sparring between these two (slide #29). Then she gaped at Dad and ultimately prodded him with her paw — an action I have seen coyotes do when they want the other to do something (slide #30). As the Yearling joined these two, Dad finally began picking up on the cues. He looked around and saw the intruder in the distance. “Oh!” Dad yawned, squinted his eyes, and headed for the intruder, first deliberately and slowly, and then charging at a run. Dad made contact with the intruder, threw him to the ground and began attacking viciously. Poor intruder! The females joined in to help towards the end but soon left the fray, and now it was between Dad and the Intruder (slides #40-50).

But first there was a standoff, with scared intruder facing Dad, both with their hackles up. The intruder again squeezed his eyes shut and I felt his anguish and desperate situation (#52). At this point, Dad kicked the dirt in anger and went after him again (#54). The intruder headed into the bushes for some protection but Dad followed him there. Finally, when the opportunity came up, the defeated intruder headed off, tail tucked under and back arched in a protective posture (#59). Dad followed him to behind a pile of wood chips. Most of the attacks now were in the heavy growth behind the wood chips where it was too dark to photograph and I dared not go, but I heard the loud rustling and crackling of dried leaves and breaking twigs, and the repeated short, intense squeals and cries of pain.

Dad then emerged and walked away. But Intruder stuck his head above the woodpile one more time, and so Dad returned to take care of him. I never saw the intruder emerge — he was being taught to not show himself here ever again. I hope he went the other way, but I don’t know how he fared. I’ve seen the wounds from territorial fights — some of them large and deep, and I’ve seen severe limping afterwards. I’ve seen these wounds mostly on older males, probably because they are more willing to standup for themselves. A younger coyote might give up before the wounds become severe? And, it’s interesting that all territorial wounds I’ve ever seen have been on males: it appears that the females are more likely to withdraw than allow themselves to become injured.

Meet “Hunter”: Gold Medalist in High Airborne Pouncing

Coyotes are as individual, unique and different in their competencies as are people: for instance, not every coyote is endowed with the same pouncing ability, or has perfected that skill to the extent this fellow has. He consistently gives stellar leaping performances, day after day after day.

All of the following photos are of that single coyote I have named “Hunter”.  His exceptional skill consists of ease in springing up high, aiming, and then either diving directly down with an added end-bounce, or first sailing through the air for a few feet before his dive. He has eliminated all the extraneous movements which might make another coyote look more clumsy or awkward at times. I’m mesmerized each time I watch him. And usually his only reward is an itsy bitsy little field mouse in the end. I’ve come to believe he’s not in it for the reward, he just seems to love springing up and sailing energetically and efficiently through the air — and that’s probably why he’s so good at it.

Press on each of the photo groups to see them enlarged, and watch the video above which I’ve slowed down so you can appreciate his every move.

Observations of Coyote Behavior On Ranches, by “Walkaboutlou”

“Believe it or not, we determine what they will become.” This quote is from ‘Walkaboutlou’ who just wrote me about his observations of coyote behavior on farms and ranches. Whether you live on a farm/ranch or not, I think you’ll find these observations fascinating!

Greetings! I’ve enjoyed following your posts on Instagram.

I’m just an amateur coyote fan, but after studying them coast to coast for the last 30 years, I find them just as fascinating, and mysterious.

I hate when people say “coyotes always or never do this or that”. The reason why is because like many intelligent beings that live in a variety of environments, and with varying genetics, there are going to be differences. Some slight. Some quite marked. The common theme is survival. But a coyote habituated to humans living in a city may well act markedly different, than, lets say, a hard hunted coyote living among ranches. Or a coyote that deals with wolves rather than people. There’s so much variety. Even the ages and social settings. An established bonded pair will act differently than a footloose nomad.

For the past 5 years, I have been walking and traveling among ranches, inspecting fences, and with my dogs, perhaps collecting escaped cattle. I get walking rights in exchange for my services. And am retired, so I have the time.

Most ranchers are enemies of coyotes. It’s almost a cultural, religious feeling. But one rancher in particular I’ve enjoyed being around. He’s very open-minded, and wise. His rule on his vast property is this: “don’t touch the yotes”. His reasons for this are not sentimental, but learned by his father and passed on to him. He literally feels if you leave the coyote alone, they form pairs or small packs. These groups then become very intimate with the land, and with their neighbors. They learn what is safe and dangerous. They learn, for example, the nature of the dogs, llamas, and livestock. They then pass their knowledge down to surviving pups. And he feels, the permanent coyotes are very jealous of their land and will chase off coyotes that don’t know the “rules” of this ranch.

He literally is practicing science-proven tactics. To help him keep his sons on-board, I volunteered and promised to report any signs of livestock predation. 1st of all, coyotes almost never bother cattle unless the cattle are dead, or a very sickly, newborn calf is abandoned by its mother. And in regards to the sheep of this ranch, they are guarded by really efficient, well-trained experienced dogs, or donkeys, or llamas. They aren’t left lying around if they die. It’s a very well run ranch.

Finally, in the 5 years of checking coyote scat (I wear a mask and gloves if I really am going to study them) I’ve never found sheep wool or bones in the local coyotes. I’ve found exclusively rodents of all sorts, berries from July until early October. Deer/elk hair and bone almost directly coinciding with hunting season. Once in a great while the remains of a feral barn cat that wandered a bit too far. But in 5 years, no wool, or feathers or evidence of raids.

On the other ranches, that’s not the picture. Coyotes are shot indiscriminately, so there are almost never long-lasting bonded pairs keeping a territory. In fact, on the other ranches, I see or hear many more coyotes or their tracks. They are often nocturnal. And there is a more helter-skelter, chaotic feel to their movements and calls. I feel these are either nomadic, younger coyotes, or coyotes that have been hard hunted and are survivors of war. And like any survivors of war, they change. I feel the canine guerilla type of skirmishes ranchers have come to associate with coyote are human caused. It’s true, a coyote has the tendency to be smart and have tricks. They were pulling tricks when the mastodons were roaming those ranches. But when hit super hard, the coyotes become super smart. And they have minimal time to hunt relaxed because of human pressures — so they will hunt harder, and faster, and, I feel, take on certain sheep, or are emboldened to raid a chicken coop or garden. All because of human pressure. It’s a behavior boomerang. At any rate, the rancher with the “no yote” rule continues to have 0 losses to coyotes. While the ranches surrounding him keep up their unceasing warfare with coyote, and the coyotes survive to hit back, so to speak with pressure caused behaviors.

If we keep sharing knowledge , maybe one day we’ll understand how to live with them with common sense knowledge.

Keep up your fine work. And pics!


After 5 years of checking coyote scat on a ranch that doesn’t allow them to be hunted, this is the most common find: rodents (though I almost never have found a partial skeleton like this). Rodents, rodents, and more rodents. With some berries in late summer/ early fall. And deer/elk hair and bone that coincides almost exactly with hunting season. On other ranches, I find cattle hair or sheep wool, but almost always can locate a carcass left by ranchers of an animal that died and was left about. At any rate, I will continue to share this knowledge with my ranching colleagues. Keep up your fine work. [Photo and text from Walkaboutlou]

A Solution Offered For Ranchers: I have found cattle killed by cougar, livestock guard-dogs who roam to kill neighbors sheep (rare), and again, discovered areas where indiscriminate hunting leads to livestock predation. For example, where coyotes aren’t hunted, you will often see them during day, hunting rodents. Its natural, but it takes time to hunt this way. And focus. And standing still, sometimes for periods of time. However, a hunted coyote learns this is a death trap. To be out in open is death. To stand in the open focused on something else means you’re not watching your back. To stay still makes you a target.

Hunted coyotes will obviously still hunt rodents. But they face pressures, time pressures (they’ll become nocturnal if they learn) and will find out the best food sources, as quickly as possible. The scattering of packs, and the forced displacement and high numbers of nomads, also has a bearing on hunting, because nomads never hunt in complete ease. They find food quickly, and keep going. Years of living this way creates coyotes that are quick to move in, kill as much as they can, eat as much as they can, and move on. Hence, scat with wool is almost always a sure sign of hard-hunted, stressed, but also thriving coyotes. I just report what I see. But I also make suggestions. Like, for example, if a ranch has 2000 acres. If 5 acres spots can be saved, even just one or 2, and grass be allowed to grow there, the mice, rodents, pack rats will flourish there. If you can hold off hunting for spring and summer, those little “tall grass allotments” will attract, and hold coyotes all summer, and take pressure off sheep. Its my 1st step in getting a rancher to at least recognize coyote solutions naturally. I call it “Rats or Lambs” program. Coyotes prefer rats in a natural setting rather then the stress that comes with livestock predation. It’s just a 1st step, but a step towards solutions. Sorry I meandered with my words. I’m just a volunteer hiker/walker/ fencelines checker!

Basically, I view myself as a covert coyote conservationist. They are by no means endangered. They will likely outlast our times and governments. It’s just that they fascinate me. I love them. Both emotionally and from a ‘scientific view’. As well as I see ways where both humans and animals can share. So for example, I know that a 3-5 acres of tall, natural grasses are paradise to rodents of all kinds of rodents. Which is a magnet for coyotes. If I can get a rancher, or city planner to give it a try, then the Rancher sees less or no predation on his place, the city isn’t overrun with complaints of coyotes “hunting cats, small dogs, or kids” (often complete hoaxes) and some of the coyotes will stay more natural. If this is repeated enough, people will see the less you hunt or otherwise interfere with coyote, the more apt they are to live lives more in tune with natural settings. [This will at least insure the survival of the more discreet coyotes — and the bolder ones could learn from these]. Either way, coyotes will thrive. I’d rather see natural living, bonded, content and territorial coyotes (easier to study and enjoy and live with) than coyotes living endlessly nomadic, being pushed or hunted ceaselessly, which creates a more desperate, braver, less discriminatory hunter that would have no qualms about jumping over a fence on overfed livestock or pets.

What kind of coyotes do we want?

Believe or not, we determine what they will become.


Addendum from Janet: In the same vein, Timm and Baker long ago wrote about how dangerous habituated coyotes were. In eleven years of many hours of daily observations, I have NEVER seen habituated coyotes become aggressive or dangerous to humans. Could it be that constant or intense hazing (harassing) certain coyotes — which is what Timm and Baker advocate “to keep them wary and fearful of people” — is what might have contributed to any aggressiveness they saw? In other words, again, stressed animals respond in a stressed manner, or, “we determine what they will become”.

Territorial Fighting Can Be Vicious

I cried when I came across this fellow yesterday. Although I know him well, he was almost unrecognizable due to the lacerations on both sides of his snout and the resulting swelling. This is part and parcel of being an alpha male coyote: they must defend their territories and families when challenged.

Territorial fights between coyotes can be vicious. I have observed  fights such as the one below on numerous occasions in San Francisco, and around this time of year. Notice these two latching onto each other’s snouts without letting go.

Life is hard enough for coyotes without us making it harder for them. Their lives are fabulously rich with family interactions, but also fabulously tough at times. Let’s give them a break whenever we can! [Also see posting on injured father].

[More graphic photos, for those who aren’t squeamish, can be found here:   http://www.urbanwildness.com/urbanwildness.com/Tattle-Tails/Pages/Injury.html].

Handling A Coyote Encounter: A Review

If you know this information, great! If you don’t, please review it. Also, help get it out there: no dog-owner should be without it. The chief issue folks have with coyotes is encounters with pets. These can be easily averted by walking away from them always, especially if you have a dog.

Here’s a flyer that I first designed and put out in 2014 as “How to Shoo Off A Coyote”. It has since morphed and been refined into its present form through watching hundreds and hundreds of coyote/pet/human encounters and observing what works best. I continue to subtly revise it to give you the guidelines that have proven to be the safest and most effective for avoiding incidents with pets. Please share this far and wide! “Leave no dog or dog-owner behind!” Pressing on the images below will enlarge them for better reading, or press the link below the images to read or download the pdf.  Janet

Here is a link for downloading the two sided PDF: Encounter GUIDELINES 2018

Speaking To the Lindsay Wildlife Center’s Volunteers

I was invited to talk about coyotes at the Lindsay Wildlife Center in Walnut Creek on Monday. I gave a 94-slide presentation, put together specifically for this audience, based on my first-hand observations and illustrated with my own photos and videos, and then we had comments and questions afterwards.

I spoke about what I do: first-hand researching and photo-documenting urban coyote behavior and family life and their interface with people and pets for the last 11 years in San Francisco and disseminating this to the public, and then I continued with what I have learned first-hand: typical coyote characteristics and their individuality, their family behaviors and communication, their population dynamics and movement into urban areas, coyotes and pets, and finally the social interface of which we humans are a part, along with how best to coexist with them through education and minor habitat adjustments.

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Above are nine of the 94 slides I used as starting points to discuss behaviors and guidelines.

For instance, one of coyotes’ normal behaviors (slide 45) is their routine trekking through the neighborhoods after their evening rendezvous: they travel beyond parks, where they survey, hunt, mark and continue to socialize. Being in neighborhoods is not “wayward” behavior — it is totally normal behavior in dense urban areas and should be expected by everyone living in urban settings, especially by those living close to parks or open spaces. It is a territorial behavior and has little to do with the amount of food and water available to them in the parks: so changing the resources or configuration of these resources within the parks (as was offered as a solution for keeping them out of the neighborhoods by someone) is not going to thwart them from trekking through the neighborhoods. There is more to coyotes than just their stomachs!

Below are a few photos of the event. Thank you Lindsay Wildlife Center volunteers for inviting me: it was an honor to share this information with you!

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