Pupping Season Gets Off To A Tough Start: One Family

The coronavirus may be adding a degree of uncertainty, stress, anxiety, and worry to our lives. But what if you were already experiencing worry and anxiety from some big change in your life, say having a baby (or even triplets): imagine the compounding effects of the coronavirus fallout! Well, that’s what’s going on with our coyotes.

Reproduction is not a casual event for them. They go through a lot of planning, pain, and effort to insure the safety of their litters, and suddenly, with the upheaval of the coronavirus, danger intrudes on them, nullifying all their work to guard against it.  Dogs and coyotes are naturally at odds, so they must be kept apart.

Courting behavior here in San Francisco began back in February. This is when the “pupping season” officially began for me. Mama and Papa coyotes were “trysting” on February 11th: he jealously followed her around, shadowing her closely and keeping an eye on her every move.  She, on the other hand, ignored him. She remained aloof and kept her “social distance” from him. When she was ready — and that would not be until several days after the 11th — she would let him know, but until then she would be edgy and greet him with repeated snarls and repulses as he persistently crowded her.

I often see this female sunning herself out in an open field throughout the year. HE, on the other hand, is further along in years: for self-protective reasons, he is out less. I continue to see him at regular intervals, but those intervals have become longer over the last few years, so it’s a real treat when I do see him. I was able to catch this afternoon of courting behavior probably only because he was compelled to follow her out into her open field.

After a 63 day gestation period, I started watching for him on his “birthing rock”: that’s where he has always stood guard during the birth and week or so after the birth of a new litter. Only the rock “announcement” didn’t happen this year: I sensed unease and anxiety in the pairs’ movements instead, especially Dad’s.

Every year the coyotes have been able to keep their “big secret” deep in the woods where the brambles and thick underbrush provided the protection they needed. It’s been an area they could count on year after year after year.

This year the situation turned topsy turvy because of the coronavirus backwash: the parks became one of the few places people could go due to the shelter-in-place orders. The sudden surge in constant visitors and loose dogs has created an upheaval for these coyotes in this park, and for coyotes elsewhere.

I was able to watch dog intrusions at the bramble divide — the one dividing their private wilderness area from public paths and open space — over several days. The dogs’ repeated pushing their way through the protective passageway served to break down more and more of the twigs and dense foliage that formed a barrier into the deeper woods . . . and then even more dogs were attracted to this spot. Most dogs are not leashed here, so they head pell-mell wherever their noses lead them, and coyote smells are one of the attractions.

Signs at all entrances to the park prescribing, “leashed dogs only”, are ignored. I’ve filled-in during past pupping seasons with additional signs, but these are removed by angry dog walkers who feel it is their right to run their dogs unleashed.

The Presidio is a park in the city with the best signage I have yet seen: these are four-foot signs with strong, no-nonsense language highlighted in red, and strategically placed at multiple repeated intervals: their message is very clear and un-ignorable: “dogs PROHIBITED in this area”. So, too, by the way, are their “Stay 6 feet apart” social distancing coronavirus signs. Because of the coronavirus, the golf course at the Presidio is closed to golfers, and people are allowed to spread out and enjoy the out-of-doors there. Most people abide by the rules: 6 feet apart – masks – politeness. And the golf-course is almost  dog-free.

But even there, where the signs are almost in your face, there is a trickle of hikers who walk right down the middle of a path, and when you ask them to please give you six feet, they laugh scornfully, or run past you (at a 2 foot distance) without giving you time to move. They don’t like the rules and feel the rules don’t apply to them. And for them, the dog rules apply even less. Dogs leashed and unleashed are not allowed on the golf-course, but there almost always are some.

So, back to this particular coyote family. For a while I was seeing Dad’s scat along the path surrounding the once-secret passageway — this was his attempt to demarcate and ward off any dog intruders. Of course, few people or domestic dogs know how to read this kind of messaging, and the dogs could care less anyway.

Dad’s scat appeared for a while at regular intervals along a path adjacent to a chosen denning site.

I’m sure it’s because of this coronavirus upheaval that I found this coyote pair, close to their birthing due date, visiting a park almost a mile away. I’m sure they were staking out a safer place for their family. But, as things turned out, that location also had dogs that chased them. It was not chosen as a nesting spot, and neither was the underside of a porch which they checked out intensively. The coyotes are now back at their long-term territory with their new den tucked into the farthest reaches of the park, in the safest place they could find: it is not the place they have used for so many years. And they are avoiding the flood of dogs and people as much as possible by moving around much more exclusively at night than before.

  • Far and away from “home” turned out to be just as dangerous. [above]
  • Maybe under a porch this year? [below]

Below is a video of Dad who came out into the open a couple of days ago as people and dogs passed by and watched him from the surrounding trail: he’s eating grass and regurgitating, a behavior caused by undue stress. During this pupping season, the usual anxiety, worry, strain and unease of the season appear doubly compounded for them by the overwhelming increase of human activity in their parks and loose dogs intruding on them.

So how can you help? Please remember that what’s good and safe for coyotes is good and safe for you and your dog. Coyotes need to protect themselves, their mates, their pups and their denning areas. They’ll stand up to intrusions if necessary, especially during pupping season, which is right now. They’ll even charge at and message dogs nearby who are potential intruders. Pupping season is a stressful and demanding time for them in good times. But when they are overwhelmed, as during this coronavirus time, it becomes more difficult and more stressful for them. We all respond to stress and high-strung situations by snapping at those around us. Hey, let’s relieve the pressure instead of increasing it.

Please keep your dogs close to you on the trails. The minute you see a coyote, especially now during this anxious time for them, leash your dog and walk away from the coyote and keep walking away. You will be showing the coyote that they are not “an object of interest” to you, that you are just minding your own business and not interested in interfering with them. Coyotes need to know this. They just want to be left alone and the dogs to be kept away from them and their den sites. And since you should want this too, walking away solves the problem.

You may be followed by a coyote who is suspicious of your motives. Again, just keep walking away. If a coyote follows too closely, you can turn and stare at him/her as you move away, or toss a small stone at its feet (not AT it so as to injure it), as you walk away. For more on coexisting during pupping season, please see my post from March of 2015: Pupping Season: What Behaviors to Expect If You Have A dog, and What You Can Do.

© 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.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindie White
    Apr 23, 2020 @ 18:17:27

    My aching heart….


  2. Gail Pettit
    Apr 23, 2020 @ 18:56:28

    Hi Janet, this is Gail Pettit. We’re having the same problem in San Carlos. Compounded by the nightly howling at 8pm, our coyotes are very unsettled and are appearing to investigate the intruder. I’ve encouraged people to clap or sing, the coyotes understand that’s human. They don’t understand the Wolf howl is a bunch of humans blowing off steam. There was a recent incident when a 70 lb family dog, upon investigating the grass ridge that borders the open space was greeted (attacked) by several coyotes and a pregnant female.
    The owner rescued the dog, who was not harmed. This was posted on Nextdoor. I explained the coyotes are very unsettled right now due to pupping season and the family works together during these times to protect their turf. I explained they were not trying to kill, lure or eat your dog, just give a very visible loud warning. Luckily our community is respectful of the wildlife and understand. The dog in question will be kept indoors and potty breaks out front of the home giving the coyotes a wide berth for now. We will haze later if need be with a garden hose spray, and or suddenly opening black umbrella.

    Our coyote with mange has resurfaced again and will be treated with a new med, but he (she) has a constant companion now. They delight in each other’s company. Clyde/Claudette is no longer alone. Yet another coyote has surfaced with mange from eating rodents tainted with rat bait and we are in the process of doing his infield treatment… We continue to educate the community that rat bait affects animals all along the food chain including pet cats and dogs killing them….. Gail :)


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Apr 23, 2020 @ 19:52:07

      So good to hear from you, Gail! “Unsettled” is the right word — thank you for getting the right information out to your community: I’m so glad they are onboard and willing to help. I started a posting about the mange/rat-poison connection — I’ll try to get that out soon. Stay well! Janet

  3. Hilary Cole
    Apr 24, 2020 @ 00:04:25

    Hi Janet…

    Such an interesting, but troubling post to read. I feel for these coyotes so much! It’s very sad to read that their home has now got intruders, causing them extreme distress, during what should be a peaceful and happy time for them… the birthing of their pups.

    I agree, all caused by humans, once again. So many seem to ignore the rules and regulations, which is really not on. Especially during these sad and unpredictable times!

    I do hope the situation improves for them. Looking forward to future posts regarding this family.

    All the best to you too.. thanks for such marvellous posts.

    Take care and stay safe…

    Hilary 💖 😊


  4. Renee
    Apr 24, 2020 @ 10:53:28

    Holy cow…. there is zero impartiality going on here. “poor coyotes” etc, etc….
    No thought to the thousands of people who have had their beloved pets murdered…. yes, in my own yard. Go ahead and tell me i can’t walk my own cat in my own yard. Now, i am the biggest nature fan going, but these animals were not part of our life here (ny state) for 50 yrs. Now we are over-run with them and it’s stressful and upsetting in the extreme — TO WE HUMANS. I can’t, with this bleeding heart, liberal, pro coyote agenda. You are serving your constituents poorly because you are causing the average hiker (me) to vilify the coyotes even more with your stance. I have been hiking the same areas since 1982…. there may have been the odd coyote here and there, but they were very far in the distance….. we were neve inundated as we are today. It’s a lot to deal with and not appreciated. Gotta say, i have strong Buddhist leanings and will not even kill a beetle, but these animals are another story : In my neighborhood, i can’t tell you how many pets have been murdered by coyotes. Yes, murder; because we’ve heard the terrible shrieks of small animals getting their throats ripped out. You think that doesn’t hurt pet owners ? I have nightmares that i’ll never get over. So, while you romanticize these critters and cry the blues for their “poor plight’, i will be toting a gun and woe to any coyote that bothers me. They are nasty, smelly, sneaky and pretty damned unlikable if you’re a pet lover. Personally, i’m rooting for coyote AIDS to come about and solve this problem for me. Extreme ? No more so than your ridiculous fawning over something that, were you to be lying injured in the woods, would not hesitate to have YOU for lunch. After all, they’ll eat anything. Don’t even bother with the hate mail. I am not interested in anything from your site, ever.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Apr 24, 2020 @ 17:10:54

      Hi Renee — Thank you for your very revealing comment. First, I’m sorry you harbor so much hatred — I don’t think you are the Buddhist you claim to be: Buddhists don’t hate. Hatred comes from FEAR and fear comes from a lack of knowledge. Fear leads to hate which leads to suffering. This blog is to help folks like you learn about coyotes.

      “In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering.” And hate is an example of suffering. Desire for your convenience at the expense of others (including animals) can be summed up like this: “ME, ME, ME, WANT, WANT, WANT, MINE, MINE, MINE”. And Ignorance leads to fears, and of course, these lead to hate. I’m just using your Buddhist leanings to help you here.

      Biased? Yes, my bias is to counter not only fear by filling in the void with proper observations and facts, but also to counter the self-serving view you have expostulated here: You want to carry a GUN to get YOUR way (without regard for coyotes or people who support and admire them) — to DOMINATE the scene. Humans have used guns (it’s so easy to use a gun — so much easier than to think) to eliminate the buffalo, the tigers, the elephants, we used it to move into the west, we used it to move into America. As we multiplied and spread out, we have taken over all of the areas where these animals (and other cultures) lived, and now it’s coming back to haunt us because our greed for ourselves and entitlement have unbalanced nature: global warming, viruses from overcrowding, etc. Be the Buddhist you claim to be: look at the world as a whole. Minor adjustments in your thinking and behavior are all you need. You know, the sun is much stronger than the wind. Try a little empathy. Maybe the “enemy” isn’t an enemy after all.

      You can protect your pets easily by supervising them (Did you know that house cats kill thousands of songbirds each year just for the fun of it?) You can walk away from coyotes to avoid conflict. Pretty simple.

  5. Trackback: Pupping Season Gets Off To A Tough Start: One Family — Coyote Yipps | huggers.ca

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