Coyote Territorial Movements: Scout’s Story

I’ve been able to keep up with a displaced coyote for the last four months. I decided to summarize what has been going on recently with her, as well as her territorial life previous to the battle which displaced her. I’ve used names here to help you keep the individuals involved sorted out.

The wanderings here were put together based solely on my visual identification of individuals in different families I’ve observed over the years, and with a couple of field cameras. I seldom use field cams because they are intrusive: coyotes know they are there. I define anything as intrusive which changes the behavior of a coyote. Coyotes look right at the cams because of course they can see them and hear them. You’ll notice that many trap-cam photos show the animals looking directly at the camera. Sometimes a coyote can only hear the camera, in which case you will get photos of the coyote (or other animal) looking up and around as he/she tries to figure out exactly what and where the sound is. Some coyotes come over and examine the cameras because they are worried about them. I know one coyote who actually “messages” his dislike to such cameras by defecating in front of them, kicking dirt, or even knocking them down! Yikes! Anyway, since I’m not seeing Scout on her territory, and I wanted to follow through on her story for at least a while, I resorted to using a couple such cameras on routes where coyotes have been seen several times. Friends have allowed me — when these coyotes have been sighted in their areas — to put up a camera very temporarily on or near their properties and I want to thank them for helping out!

These coyotes wander generally and much more than I’ve depicted here. The movements depicted here are simply to show points where they went, and when, which affected Scout’s story.

I did not observe the coyote referred to as “Wired” being captured and radio-collared on January 3rd. My observations of her begin after that. I called up the Presidio to ask about the new radio-collared coyote in Scout’s area. Within San Francisco, no coyotes are radio-collared EXCEPT those within the Presidio, so they would know about her. That’s how I have that date. She was in the general area of Scout’s territory for weeks before the territorial fight. Scout’s sudden change of behavior to constant periphery walks and patrolling hinted at what was to come, but I was unable to identify what was causing this behavior change until after the attack: then it all fell into place.

Coyotes, once you get to know them, can be identified by their faces, their general body shapes/outlines and their movements/behaviors. But in addition, very interestingly, I have found family resemblances within some families — no different from in some human families. Recognizing these family similarities has helped me find where some coyotes had once been after they moved, by going back to my previous photos of that family. Dispersed individuals often, of course, continue to change a little appearance-wise as they fill out to their adult sizes. There is a slight difference between the younger and slightly older coyote which may throw you off when attempting an exact identification — until you compare them to the previous photos you took of them and realize and confirm that indeed, they are one and the same coyote.

Scout was Queen Bee as a loner for two and a half years in her territory. The bliss of friendship and camaraderie followed and lasted five months. She was obviously as thrilled at the new situation as were her long-time observers. But it ended and she fell hard. Defeated in battle by an intruder, she lost everything, and was barely able to hold on to life itself. Even now, to stay alive, she must constantly flee from place to place, continuously looking over her shoulder. Scout’s story emphasizes how strong coyote territoriality is: they fight for and defend their turfs. Her story also speaks strongly for how extremely social coyotes are: they interact all the time — both adversely and harmoniously — and have strong family ties: they sometimes even check on family individuals over distances.

As of this posting, here are my last two sightings of Wired and Scout. Wired is seen on May 24th (three days ago) passing over the path that Scout has been taking for a week: that’s the first part of the video. Then, Scout is seen this morning passing through again: note her continual looking over her shoulder before continuing on the path: she does not want to run into Wired.

© All information and photos in my postings come from my original and first-hand documentation work which is copyrighted and may only be re-used with proper credit.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. toni kline
    May 28, 2019 @ 01:58:59

    Fantastic narrative. The complexity of their lives is certainly no less than our own.
    and if I feel a special feeling for Scout, so be it!


    • yipps:janetkessler
      May 28, 2019 @ 04:10:28

      Hi Toni — Yes, we need to accept this: that they are living as convoluted and perplexing lives as we are. When we can see this, we can feel for them. I’m so glad you feel a connection with Scout. :))

  2. Linda Bolon SendOutCards
    May 30, 2019 @ 18:15:51

    Love your findings, Janet. I read your posted all the times and continue to learn from you. I recently had a similar situation where I live on what I think is territorial turnover. We’ve had about 10-12 coyotes in our gated community for about 14 years. Recently, NO coyotes have been spotted; no even pups. People are asking me “what has happened to them?”. I’ve determined that the alpha’s may have been too old to defend or manage their territory or have given control to younger group members. Also, because of intense construction inside our community and the surrounding areas, increased disruptive activity may have caused them to move on. Most everyone is saddened by this lack of sightings. The last report I had was about a month ago of 4 coyotes walking together. I’d love your opinion of what cause resident coyotes to move out.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      May 30, 2019 @ 19:33:04

      Hi Linda —

      Glad you like the blog and are learning from it. Without watching the behavior of the coyotes over time, it’s hard to tell exactly what is going on. I must say that I’m surprised by the large number of coyotes in that family — the families I know and study are much smaller than that.

      Since this is a gated community, could it be that resources might be dwindling because folks are learning not to leave food scraps out? If they’ve been relying on a feeder, and that feeder stops, it seems this could have an impact.

      Have you noticed new faces, or behavior changes of individuals and between individuals? Without knowing the individuals well, it may be hard to tell what is going on, and you won’t know if an intruder has come in and driven the rest of them out. In my observations, I’ve found that intruders tend to be less out in the open than the others, so you may not even see this one regularly or know he/she is there, even though he/she is there. The important point here is that very often, a change is caused by internal coyote affairs and not so much by the human world.

      Certainly if the construction is impinging on a large percentage of the area, that could be having an impact — I’ve watched this type of scenario once and I’ve been told by others about such situations.

      So, without knowing the coyotes, it would be very hard for me to know the cause of the departure, but I’ve given you several possibilities to think about.

      Hope this helps?? Janet

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