Setting Up House in the Presidio

Puff at his birthplace at one year of age, months before dispersal

Here in San Francisco, I’ve been able to follow about a handful of youngsters after watching them grow up in their separate families, after dispersal, after finding mates and territories of their own and then raise their own litters. This is an update and a slight expansion upon what I previously wrote about the fella I call “Puff”.

When coyotes first disperse, I lose track of them — many I don’t ever see again — so you can imagine my thrill whenever I find any of them again as full grown alphas and territorial claimants in their own right.

Puff is one of those: At three years of age, he has become the new alpha male in the Presidio — across town from his birthplace — after dispersing at over a year-and-a-half of age. I don’t normally state locations, but the coyotes there have already been heavily advertised in the Presidio, which is vast in size, so I don’t feel I am compromising their situation. And it is there that Puff has now become a dad, with all the attendant responsibilities of that role, including intense patrolling, keeping outsider coyotes out, guarding against dog intrusions, and bringing in food for the youngsters! In coyote families, dads help raise the young on a par with moms. So Puff has come of age in a new territory!

About the label, “Puff”. All the coyotes I watch I label according to a characteristic which helps me identify them. I rarely share these, but here are a few more as examples: Chert is the color of the chert rock, Silver has a silver patch on his back, Squirrel sat below a tree filled with squirrels. Scout was an explorer. Puff was a puffball. When a new mate joins a coyote I’ve been watching, I pair up the name appropriately: Bonnie’s new mate became Clyde. Scout’s new mate became Scooter.

It’s my first-hand documentation work that led me to the connection between the new Presidio alpha male and the youngster I watched grow up: no one else in San Francisco is or has been doing this kind of family-life documentation work. My DNA study will confirm my observations with harder facts for the hard-core “scientists” out there.

July 12, 2017

As a youngster, Puff was a playful teaser — the prime mover and leader of his large litter of which there were four surviving siblings (several died before the end of their first year — killed by human negligent acts, including a car).  Play fighting was how they passed the time: this activity, as might be expected, segued into true fighting as the males matured, and at 1.5 years of age, Puff and a brother teamed up to aggressively drive out a third brother — I was there to witness and photo-document the event.

However, I did not witness the actual trigger that drove Puff himself to disperse, if indeed there was one. I’ve watched coyotes disperse anywhere from 9 months to 2.5 years of age, where some were forced to leave by other family members (brothers, fathers, mothers) and some moved away without incident on their own timeline. Amazingly, I’ve been able to follow three of the four survivors in Puff’s litter to and at their new locations where they all are now parenting litters of their own which were born in April. I stay well away from den areas because this is what the coyotes would want, so I have not yet actually seen any pups this year, but I see all the moms who are obviously lactating.

Puff’s new mate is a coyote I call “Wired” (so named because of the radio-collar). The two of them took over the Presidio territory by force from the previous long-time territorial coyote residents there (as per a surveillance camera video capture at the Presidio).

Pre-Presidio, Wired had quite a story of her own: I was able to keep track of her as she roamed, looking for a place of her own. She even viciously pursued another coyote throughout the city after taking over and claiming that coyote’s territory: it turned out that this would be only a “temporary” takeover. Coyotes are well known for being opportunists, and she found something better! She ended up with Puff in the Presidio.

Puff’s birth territory has been abandoned by his parents and inherited by a sister who now is the pupping alpha female of that area. His Mom is still around but keeps a low profile. I’ve seen his Dad around, but not as the alpha male he had been. Oldsters get pushed out by younger reproducing pairs either from within or without of the family. And I’ve actually seen an older territorial pair leave a territory voluntarily, thereby ceding it to a daughter! THAT pair was seen several months later about a mile away, looking decrepit, worn-out and old. I have not seen them again and guess that their lives ended. Might they have known this was coming?

Immediately below is a recent photo of Puff and one of his new mate, “Wired”, and below these, several of the many photos I took of Puff and his siblings months before their dispersals.

Puff on the left as a full-grown, three-year old alpha male, and Wired on the right is his mate. 

© All information and photos in my postings come from my original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share with proper credit.

For A Bit of PERSPECTIVE

Occasionally I like to post something a little different from my coyote focus. This posting was inspired by my neighbor who just saw a wild turkey run down his street — this is right in the geographical center of San Francisco! That’s a first in that neighborhood. Two years ago it was that same neighbor who first saw a mountain lion right in front of his house.

Two first photos by Greg Miscikowski, the photo on the right is by Eric Weaver taken in his yard.

In this neighborhood, we’ve also seen Great Blue Herons hang out on someone’s roof and Turkey Vultures circle around several times a year. This sporadic wildlife is in addition to our regular wildlife which includes five types of hawks, an uncountable variety of songbirds, opossums, skunks, raccoons, gray and brown and red squirrels, moles, voles, gophers, rats, two types of owls, innumerable snake types, lizards. We even had foxes before coyotes. Everyone is always enchanted and thrilled with what will appear next!

Back to the wild-turkey sighting: I’ve seen videos of wild turkeys attacking (yes, attacking) mail delivery trucks in other towns: they actually slam their bodies against the truck, which you might think would crush every bone in their bodies, but it doesn’t. They get up and do it over and over again. It’s a territorial thing. Anyway, after re-watching that mail-truck vs. turkey video, this video below appeared as a “recommended for viewing”. So I watched it, very bemused as I thought about our urban coyotes who don’t attack humans!

‘Till Death Do Us Part?

Introduction: That “coyotes are known to mate for life” is something most of us have heard. In fact, I think it’s the only reality I’d ever seen in 13 years. However, as events in one of my families unfolded in early February of this year, I had to question this. My own perception of the turn of events came in bits and pieces and in fits and starts as revealed through a field camera which was out only at night, and not always then. My own desire for this pair-bond to be everlasting caused me to latch onto any details to support my belief, and herein lies a sort of soap opera aspect to the story which I weave into the ending. My ‘hopeful speculations’, along with background history have grown this posting into an unusually long one — a mini-tome! Yikes! 

Please know that every single one of these photos, as all the photos on this blog, were taken as photo-documentation at the time these events occurred. I don’t substitute a photo from another time or place that might simply “do”. What you see, and what you read, are authentic and concurring.

Background.  The years immediately leading up to this story serve as an important point of reference for what comes later, so I’ll sum those up here.

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Coyote Territorial Movements To Four Corners of the City: An Update

For 13 years I’ve been documenting coyotes and their families in the city. Last year, the life of one of those coyotes — a loner female — bounced into one of charmed companionship with the arrival of a friendly young newcomer male, and then, within just a few months of that, it spun downhill into chaos when her territory was invaded and taken over by an older female. This older female happened to be associated with her new male companion, and it’s this association that may have drawn the older female to the area in the first place. After these life-changing incidents, I continued to follow the lives, behaviors, new relationships and movements through the city of these particular coyotes, most of whom I have been following since their births. This current poster is a summary update — the present point in time — of where things stand now with each of those players.

The coyotes involved had come together from distant parts of the city and interacted during just a brief period of time towards the end of 2018 and through the first half of 2019. In the end, after all the intense up-and-down drama (see Coyote Territorial Movements: Scout’s Story), they went their separate ways and to diametrically opposite corners of the city. Each matured in his/her own way, claimed a territory and found a family situation of their own making. An interesting twist to the story is that a brother of the young male companion ended up becoming the mate of the intruding female. OMG! The displaced female — the main character of the story — found her way back to and re-claimed her original territory where she has bonded and formed a family with a completely new male.

My observations of these movements, along with all behaviors and relationships, are made without invasive “gadgets” such as radio-collars and identification tags. DNA from scat will confirm what I’ve detected from my own naked-eye observations — this is my concession to the “scientific” method which focuses on stats and hard data. But look at how much scientists are missing beyond the “stats” and number-crunching: a whole world of interactions, activities, relationships, and personalities! Each individual is different and can’t be summarized as a statistic and neither can their individual histories!

“You are doing the work”, one of my sons tells me. It needs to be put out there. No one else is doing what you are doing — this first-hand research. The word “expert”, another son tells me, comes from the word “experience”: i.e., doing the footwork. Spouting a “degree” as a “credential” evades the question of what a person really knows about coyotes or our coyotes here in San Francisco.  I work alone, not as a team, I don’t have an organization or their funds behind me, and this is not a paid job. It might be time to toot my own horn a little!

© 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.

Recess

“Pictures are worth a thousand words.” These photos depict a triad of coyote lads playing. There’s horsing around, cuddling, competition, domination, ownership, and some teeth-baring reactions.

A ball they found is included in the play. You’ll see them run with the ball, chase each other, roll it with their noses, battle for it, entice the others with it, coddle the ball lovingly, play tug-of-war with it.

You’ll also see them play without the ball: teasingly grabbing or nipping another’s leg, provokingly grabbing another’s back, somersaulting over another or tumbling over each other in an affectionate pileup, lying on each other, nibbling on each other.

They played for about 30 minutes with something happening every second of that time. I’ve limited this posting to include about one photo a minute — it was hard culling them down to just 40 photos! Second from the bottom is a slide show you can quickly flip through by pressing the advance arrow, or you can let it play at it’s own speed.

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What I describe above is what meets the uninitiated eye, and it is, in fact, what is going on. But there is more going on. The playing includes subtle hints (subtle to us) of one-upmanship from one of the coyotes towards the other two: this challenging type of play comes only from that one coyote and not the others. The other thing going on is that this trio of coyotes, by their extended presence here, has claimed the area as their own in opposition to the dogs who have been banned from congregating in the area due to the coronavirus. So dogs and owners are actually looking in on this activity and the coyotes are knowingly “performing” for them.

© 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.