Crossing the First Divide: One Milestone at a Time

The video depicts 11 week old pups at the end of June, two months ago. It covers the week before they abandoned their denning site entirely. 

This is a time-lapse video sequence taken over a week’s time, showing coyote pup and parent behavior at the entryway to their denning area. This is not a “video” but a “time lapse” sequence.  I’ve speeded it up to 2.5x — so please remember that the action actually was occurring at less than 1/2 the speed which you are seeing here. Time lapse at original speed is excruciatingly slow to watch. All of the activity occurred in the dead of night when it was safest for them — and with only a distant dim street lamp for lighting for the video: this should explain the jerkiness and the blurriness. But the story is captured! It turned out to be a milestone in their lives, i.e., practicing and first steps for moving out of the den. 

The camera was placed at the periphery of their denning area. The “outerworld” — dangerously full of people, traffic and dogs — is past the stake to the right. Before the video even begins, there was one wise little pup who had caught onto parental departures and returns. Hmmm. So, “Where were parents going? What’s out there? Why can’t I go? Looks scary!” Coyotes, even youngsters, are curious. Sneaking past the pups started not working. Mom or Dad had to turn around, turn them back and distract them, thwart them by carrying them and then leading them back to safety.  This is how they began to learn that “out there” was not safe. Boundaries seem to be understood early on, as they later are in territorial divisions between adult coyotes: coyotes firmly understand these.

The videoed part of the adventure, then, begins with the pups going to, and hovering around, this “exit” area. You can see that they are both apprehensive and excited, as they look around hesitantly. They repeat this approaching of the boundary line in the same way for several days — both fearing the outside world and at the same time drawn to it, encouraged now at this age and stage by their parents. Finally Mom or Dad begin leading them out a little way, but one pup is afraid and opts not to go, sitting down and looking back over his shoulder at Mom and siblings beyond the exit. The two beyond the exist see their brother and also get cold feet — decide to hold back too, and they hurry back. It takes a while to get the minds and bodies of the pups all moving in the same direction at the same time! This “sticking their toes out the door” happened once a day. They were getting used to the idea and any new stimulation right there close to home. It’s probably overwhelming to begin with.

By 1:50 in the video, the pups have now finally begun venturing out as a family and this is them returning. Mom anxiously makes sure everyone is in. You can almost hear her “Whew!” She lovingly mouths one of the youngsters (2:40 in the video) over and over: “Good job, Kids!”

The sequence after that, which is the next day, shows them now returning without too much fanfare — it’s old hat by now!

The move obviously required forethought, aim, intent, and direction on the part of the parents who were on the same wavelength with each other, working together and in unison on the project. They were able to communicate this to each other and then to the pups. Their communication isn’t something humans have a handle on — it’s too complicated for us!  I know that the ultimate goal and objective had been to prepare the pups for the move — the area was vacated the very next day. It took over a week of working on this project before it was actually carried out. Coyotes think ahead, plan, retain the plan in their minds, and communicate to each other about it!

Most “denning areas” I’ve observed remain “home” for months, but not in this case. After abandoning this site, the pups were moved every few days to at least four locations until they settled down in the safest spot, where they now have remained through 4 months of age.

The Coyote and The Buffalo, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet!

Somewhere in times past I saw this pic somewhere on internet in regards the true nature of coyote among cattle. I kept it because it was so true. I’ve seen this many times. Coyote enjoy how cattle stir up rodents/grasshoppers etc for a snack.

I wanted to share a development witnessed by a rancher who has switched to bison. They range an enormous area now and are the core group that hopefully turn into large herds.

This area was where Bad Leg aka Gimpy went when he was ousted from his old territory. He has done well. Even white faced, old and limping, he has a loyal mate and has been raising a litter this year. The rancher has really enjoyed watching this ancient male defy the odds and still be a Pack leader. He also enjoys coyote because…they are no threat to his bison.

He has seen Bad Leg hunting, walking and napping all summer among the bison herd. And rolling in bison chips.

However, a true danger approached Bad Leg one day.

2 Anatolian LGD roamed onto the ranch. Sometimes in the growing territorial integrity they have, they seek more places. And they also seek predators. Likely the scent of Bad Leg and his family was discovered. And silently walking around, they found Bad Leg literally napping.

According to the rancher, Bad Leg’s mate actually raised the alarm, barking and calling frantically. Bad Leg awoke, and rallied. The pups were further away in a rendezvous, but the danger to his pack was real. These dogs can and do hunt down and decimate/scatter coyote.

Bad Leg’s mate seemed to make a run for the pups to lead them away. (they were later found a few miles away resting safe)

Bad Leg limped toward the 2 massive Anatolian, barking and challenging the giant dogs. The rancher yelled to no avail. He was too far to be effective.

But the bison were there. And responded. Likely the dogs annoyed them and stirred them in anger and defensive mode. Also, these bison have met and rebuffed wolves. They know the drill.

In addition, the rut is starting in bison. The males are surging with testosterone. And looking for a fight.

2 bulls came alive and charged the dogs. And Bad Leg stepped gladly aside. The rancher saw the Anatolian dodging and running while the bulls and whole group of 25 chased the dogs. Bad Leg ran behind the herd, barking and yipping the whole time down a valley. Then he swerved up a hill, his panting, white face alight in victory.

A bison herd can not only stomp up the mice. They can be great allies for an old, tired coyote.

Bad Leg triumphs again. Surely, there is magic in an old, surviving coyote. To Bad Leg. May the white fur on your face see many more days and moons.

Lou🐾


Hi Janet, I have heard, and believe, that coyote and bison instinctively just meld. They have been coexisting untold thousands of years. All their behaviors and “vibes” meld naturally.

Incidentally, the rancher has reported a vast increase in wildlife since he removed sheep, created more acres of native grasses, and allowed the bison to range. Deer have increased. The ponds have deepened with wallowing-and frogs, fish and turtles have appeared where he never saw them. Elk are seen resting with calves near the bison. Wolves have visited, but quickly seem to leave. It seems bison are not in the menu, and often escort any large canine off quickly. White Faced Bad Leg, and other coyote, and finding such transformation welcoming. Bison create a very vibrant grassland ecosystem. The coyote find wonderful territory where buffalo range. There is over 5,000 acres here that will be range for growing, free ranging herds. Coyote heaven.
Lou

©linaizzie: the buffalo and coyote

Dispersal: One Youngster’s Trajectory Over The Last Five Months

All photos in this posting were taken after his dispersal from home.

We’re on another leg of the dispersal of a coyote I call Sparks. He and a sister, at just about one year of age, stepped away from home [see map below (1)] and out into the wider world where they came to rest and stay about two miles from their birthplace (2).They remained here close to two months — long enough to make me think that this might become their new home, but they did not remain there at this point in time. Maybe they weren’t ready to claim the area as theirs? Maybe they wanted to explore greener pastures, possibly less fragmented pieces of property? Anyway, Sparks’ dispersing “walkabout” — which I think is an apt term — was not over yet, apparently.

By the second week in July Sparks was spotted way up in the Presidio — a full six miles away from his birthplace, whereas the sister returned to their birthplace where I continue to see her romp with her other brothers who vie and compete for her attention. But Sparks had been dominated by these brothers — there may even have been a battle between them — and there was no going back for him.

So Sparks continued to roam in that area for the better part of a week, and by the third week of July found himself in the north-western corner of the city (4), where he was seen limping severely again on that left front leg. It was either a new injury, or the original injury was acting up. The original injury had occurred way back in mid-February and was severe enough — very likely a break, and very likely caused by chasing dogs — for him to retain a severe limp and keep off the leg entirely for over a month. I don’t think he ever fully recovered from that injury even though he regained use of the leg.

By July 31st and through August 5th — possibly because the new leg injury had deteriorated so badly from continued use — he returned to that two-mile distant spot (5). This was a space he was familiar with and where he felt safe, including from other coyotes. Here he was observed numerous times with what now had become an identifying characteristic: the severe limp. A worried neighbor spotted him on the hill in back of his house curled up in a ball. The last sighting was of him running, three-legged, licketsplit through the main park of the area on August 5th. UPDATE as of August 15th: Sparks left his neighbor’s yard at the beginning of the heatwave, after almost 3 weeks in a neighbor’s backyard. The neighbors have been worried about what became of him: well, he is now again roaming around in the Presidio! His leg has not healed.

Dispersals, as we’ve seen before — and again, these insights are from my own first-hand observations over the past 13+ years, but also include several photos sent to me — have coyotes exploring through distant corners of our city and some even exiting the city to the south. On the other hand, coyotes who are entrenched territorial claimants seldom have a need to travel such distances, so they don’t: although they still trek away from their homes, it’s not usually the vast distances as the dispersing/exploring youngsters. The territorial owners seem to stay nearer to their homes where it is safe and they know the terrain.

When do coyotes disperse and what causes them to do so? They leave home, as far as I have seen, anywhere from about 9 months of age and up to 2.5 years of age. They do so either on their own initiative and timeline, when they themselves get the urge and without any prodding or provocation from other family members, or they may leave because of growing rivalry and repeated battles aimed to drive them away.

This dispersal period might be navigated with ease and little danger — it could be a piece of cake — or the opposite, with extreme difficulty and constant danger. Territorial claimants might fight them off viciously, or might welcomingly invite them to stay a while — the latter is something I’ve seen only with young dispersing females. Many of the dispersing youngsters have miraculously found vacant locations right here within the city limits itself — spaces either vacated by other coyotes, be it because they moved or died, or some of the maturer dispersers might have fought the resident coyotes — the ones who may have become weak due to old age or even sickness — and won. One of the biggest dangers for dispersing youngsters in urban areas is traffic: they regularly get killed by cars. The city counts about ten such deaths a year officially, but you can be sure there are more that were not reported.  Those youngsters who can’t find vacant spaces within the city have been found to move south and out of the city according to the ecologist at the Presidio. Dispersal is a treacherous time for coyotes and contributes to their notoriously low survival rate: it is claimed that only 30% of coyote litters survive to adulthood, which is their one year old mark.

I don’t know where Sparks will move next. I don’t know if the injury will hinder his ability to survive. I don’t know if I’ll be able to come across him again. If I do, I’ll post about it.

By the way, it’s not necessary to know the dispersal trajectory of every single coyote to understand the process. A few examples give the idea, and I have provided a number in this blog, with maps. The coyotes I’ve been able to follow I do so visually and by examining photos: I recognize them each by their unique faces, so that radio-collaring and tagging are absolutely unnecessary: these heavy and bulky contraptions are intrusive, hampering and even harmful, and not needed to find out what indeed is needed to coexist with them.

Photos taken by other folks during this part of his dispersal “walkabout” [click on any of the photos to scroll through them]

© All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share, with permission and with properly displayed credit: ©janetkessler/coyoteyipps.com.

Fed Up

I’m reposting this from two neighborhood sites here in the city — two places where feeding coyotes is out of control. In both cases, we have coyotes who are being perpetually fed. It has altered their behaviors which have become increasingly troubling and alarming not only to neighbors and dog-walkers as evidenced by their reports, but also to authorities. If you love the coyotes, you’ll leave them alone and walk away from them as soon as you see them, if you don’t, you may be contributing to their possible death warrants.

Dear Neighbor:

There has been increased feeding of our coyotes, inclusively along roadways and from cars, and humans are approaching and being “friendly” towards them: This not only endangers their lives, but it’s altering their natural behaviors, causing these coyotes to hang around, including in the streets, waiting for food and approaching people and cars for food, instead of hunting which is what they should be doing.

People tell me that these coyotes look as though they are “starving”. They aren’t. Coyotes are thin, scrawny, and lithe so that they can move quickly and efficiently — more like a whippet than a bulldog. Please don’t be deceived by their naturally skinny builds, especially now, in the summer when they’ve lost their 3″ fluffy furry coats. These will grow back in the fall.

In addition, coyotes have been approaching dogs with insistent “messaging” displays, and/or following or “escorting” dogs: these are DEFENSIVE MESSAGES aimed to move your dog away from them, members of their families or an area. Please heed the message: walk (don’t run) away from them, and stay as far away as possible with your dog. THIS IS WHAT THE COYOTES WANT — it’s what they are asking you to do and it’s so easy to do.

Please be an ambassador for them: help others understand what is going on and what to do.

Thanks!

Janet Kessler
PS: If you have questions or need one-on-one help in dealing with a coyote issue, please contact me directly through coyotecoexistence@gmail.com

Two Youngsters Take A Tentative Step Towards Dispersal

[Note: This posting has been revised! After revisiting my photos, I realized I had mistaken a coyote’s identity. This is so easy to do among siblings who very often look very much alike, and whose facial bone structures continue to grow and therefore alter their appearance, even if ever so slightly, even after a year of age. The change is that Sparks did NOT return home with his sister, which is what I had written, but continued his dispersing “walkabout” to the north of the city. I have edited this post to reflect this].

These two siblings — a brother and a sister — left home together in March when they were just about a year old. I assumed they were leaving for good — dispersing. A couple of months into their absence, I was thrilled to recognize the male when he showed up in another park about two miles away: I’m always exhilarated when I find dispersing youngsters who I’ve watched grow up because most, of course, I never see again after they leave. This male comes from an exceptionally large litter, most of whom I was seeing very irregularly and sporadically recently, so now I had to figure out which sibling was accompanying him, or was it someone he had met and hooked up with from a different family?

That second one remained too distant and seldom appeared in daylight; it was always at the darker end of twilight when I saw them, and this one always seemed to be moving away from me, so it took me a while longer to figure out which individual it was: I have to see their faces to know who each one is. To help me (though it didn’t help) I put out a trap camera on a narrow path close to one of the entrances to the park where I had seen them, not really expecting anything to show up on it.

Apparently I placed the camera well, because I caught these few seconds which, although they didn’t help me identify the second coyote, they did tell me how much fun these guys were having in their newfound freedom! In the video below you’ll see the two youngster coyotes who had been running along a narrow, sandy path. They’ve just jumped over a bush where the camera is hidden, and this is where the short video starts.. They stop to communicate their joy through eye contacting, touching and joyful jumping before continuing on. It’s only a few seconds long, but long enough to tell this part of their story.

People noticed them and told me about them: not only were they spotted in the fragmented parks of the area and on the streets in-between, but they were also seen in several backyards, where they were seen successfully hunting, once even with prey — a white cat — in their mouths.  They seem to have learned to navigate this new area well. Finally I was able to see her — the second coyote’s –face: these photos below have been substantially lightened to make the individuals visible —  they were essentially taken in the dark. Even so, the coyotes are very identifiable.

Far and away from home (above)

I pondered if these two would move on or become entrenched in this newfound location. The area has served as a sort of temporary “stopping off place” for several coyotes I’ve kept track of as they traversed the city, so would it be the same for these, or would it become a more permanent home — even though highly fragmented — since available territories within the city have been dwindling. I checked up on them only a few times as I continued to hear reports of them, and then, one day, suddenly, they no longer were being spotted. Where had they gone?

WELL, as of mid-July, the female, at 16-months of age, was back at her birthplace, after four months of absence! I guess she wasn’t quite ready to disperse lock-stock-and-barrel yet, even though she seemed to have a lot of fun and excitement during her AWOL adventure. And certainly the two of them escaped family tensions during that time “abroad” due to coming-of-age relationships which were beginning to show strain among the brothers.

Rivalry between siblings escalates over time, especially between brothers, and that seems to be kicking in and growing between these two stay-at-home brothers.One is more dominant and he’s displaying a lot of bullying these days. “Underling” brother kowtows towards him, and it’s precisely this kind of behavior that may have driven out Sparks, the dispersed brother this posting is about.

Back to family politics: the two remaining brothers vie for the affection of their sister

© All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share, with permission and with properly displayed credit: ©janetkessler/coyoteyipps.com.

PostSript: The information in this article was gained by simple recognition of individual coyotes and from a vast knowledge about them gained through first-hand direct observation — without the use of radio-collars or identifying tags which are intrusive and harmful. My direct observations engender a much deeper and more expansive knowledge and understanding of coyotes than can be provided by simply mechanically tracking their movements.  “Look, Ma, no hands”. Try it! My “hard” facts include both photos and DNA from scat.