Advancing Best Practices . . . , by Lesley Sampson & Lauren Van Patter

I am pleased to post this original research paper by Lesley Sampson and Lauren Van Patter. The paper is logically and well written, and emphasizes precision in use of language as well as precision in defining and dealing with human-coyote conflicts. Most importantly for me, it counters the misconception that there is a “progression in habituation which leads to aggression” — a fabricated dictum that suggests “removal” of coyotes is appropriate when an arbitrary “threshold” of “habituation” is reached — something that has no basis in reality. “Habituation” is a nebulous term which has been misused and has been historically convoluted so badly, that Lesley and Lauren eschew it entirely and instead use the term “proximity tolerance”  which is a much more accurate term. This will become clear to you as you read the paper. If your community is looking for a ‘coyote management plan’, this paper alone could serve as the backbone of such a plan. By the way, prevention of antagonistic situations in the first place is much easier than dealing with a problem once it comes up: keep your distance, leash and walk away from coyotes, don’t interact or befriend, never feed. Prevention is that simple. Scaring coyotes off should be reserved only for when they are actually approaching you and in your space. Once there is a problem, authorities should handle the situation, as the paper states.

Downloadable: press image to view original article

Advancing Best Practices for Aversion Conditioning (Humane Hazing) to Mitigate Human-Coyote Conflicts in Urban Areas, by Lesley SampsonCoyote Watch Canada and Lauren Van PatterQueen’s University, Kingston, Canada

Coyotes (Canis latrans; Figure 1) are increasingly recognized as a permanent feature of urban environments across much of North America (Hody and Kays 2018). As highly adaptable generalist omnivores, they are proficient foragers who make use of a range of natural and anthropogenic foods within cities (Gehrt et al. 2011, Murray et al. 2015, Poessel et al. 2017). Heightened public awareness of their presence and concern over the potential for negative interactions, especially with domestic pets, have increased community interest and the dialogue surrounding human–coyote conflict (Alexander and Quinn 2011, Elliot et al. 2016, Draheim et al. 2019).

Continue reading here:

Our Beagle Attack, by Lisa Febre

Little Beagle at the vet, still in shock, and waiting to be seen. The attack happened on Friday, April 13, 2018 (yup, Friday the 13th!)

Our former 3rd dog (he died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 19 years old, in June 2019) was a mix of beagle & dachshund, so he was shorter than a beagle, but still weighed around 26 pounds. Solid little bowling ball!

The attack happened on Friday, April 13, 2018, at almost exactly 5am, and was 100% my fault. I was getting up with my son for school, and let the dog out alone, my two basenji mixes stayed inside. I was not paying attention, I just opened the door & out he went. I have since made it a habit of never letting the dogs out without looking first — turning on lights, flashing the flashlight around the yard, and in some cases, I go out first and walk around the yard (especially in the middle of the night if someone is asking to go out) to make sure the yard is empty!

So, within just a few minutes, I heard the beagle screaming (I’m sure you’re familiar with beagles and their very dramatic noises!) and ran out there. The coyote had grabbed him right off the back patio and tried to drag him away — but being 26 pounds, he was just about as big as the coyote and I’m sure the coyote quickly discovered he couldn’t make off with someone roughly his own size!

When I went to pick him up after the surgery.  He had a drain & a ton of stitches, heavy pain meds.

When I got out there, the coyote was about 10 feet away, and my poor stunned little beagle was wandering slowly away in shock. I picked him up in my arms and faced down the coyote. It was watching me pretty intently, I just stared at it, I didn’t make any noise except to speak to it. I don’t remember what I said to it, but it decided to turn around and jump back over the wall into our neighbor’s yard.

Our little beagle had a rip in his neck and had cracked his jaw on the patio during the initial grab. But he survived, though he was never quite the same after that.

This last picture is of his best friend (one of the basenji mixes) who I believe was either nipped or sniffed by the coyote this summer on our walk.

I guess, between the beagle attack and the close encounter I had this summer, I have become more fascinated with them. Both situations might have been scary at the time, but looking back and analyzing them, I see where I went wrong and never in either of the situations was the coyote doing anything outside it’s instinct. I’ve learned more about coyotes thanks to both of these!

Thanks again!




I LOVE the advice at the end!!

So… after, when I told people what had happened to the beagle in the attack, the first reaction was “did you call animal control?!” NO! I did not and I never would!! OMG. Just the thought of that made me so upset.

The vet, actually, gave me some great wisdom when I went to pick him up that afternoon. He said a few things saved the beagle: the noise he made would have startled the coyote, and his size. I didn’t get a picture of the wounds before the surgery (as you can imagine, we were very stressed out at the time) but the vet said judging by the puncture wounds, the coyote would have been a young one, between 20-25 pounds, and got overly excited seeing a “small” dog it thought would be easy pickings! Not so!

I think it’s really important for people to understand that coyotes just do what they do. They don’t do anything out of malice, or to “terrorize” us, they are just coyotes.

I still keep coming back to the day the coyote “escorted” us out of her territory on the mountain in July — she was so close trotting along next to me, I could’ve reached down and petted her!

It’s really no wonder why these animals are revered. I’m so glad to have “met” you even if it is just online!

I think the more people who show that there’s nothing to be so upset about, the more people will realize that living near coyotes is actually a fantastic thing!


Note from Janet: This was a hard learning experience for Lisa. She and I are hoping you can learn from her experience instead of having to learn from your own personal experience. Please, in a coyote area: Stay vigilant. Don’t allow pets to roam free. Always walk away from a coyote with your leashed dog. Pick up a small pet as you walk away. Learn how to scare them off effectively from your yard. Follow these simple encounter precepts on this card to help coexistence work. And press this link for more details on How To Handle A Coyote Encounter: A Primer.

Coyotes and Natural Disasters, by Lisa Febre

Can animals predict disasters? I’ve heard that Native American and Mexican cultures tend to believe that coyotes can give us non-scientific, anecdotal clue as to when something is going to happen. Most times, this has translated to increased coyote activity indicating a weather change: maybe a cold snap or a heat wave is on it’s way. It may be coincidental, but it is fun to hear coyotes at night and the next day an unexpected afternoon rain happens. 

This month, though, we wondered if the coyotes were giving us the head’s up to a bigger disaster on the way: a wildfire. For a few days in a row, there was a noticeable increase coyote vocalizations during the night. It’s not uncommon to hear howling & yipping, but it seemed like they were louder, there were more coyotes involved, and their choruses were lasting longer overall. In the wee hours of the morning of October 14, we captured this on our backyard security camera: 

And 8 hours later, this happened:

Were the coyotes predicting the fire or just an impending change to their world? Possibly. But since the fire, which burned about 2 acres of our Santa Susana Pass Historic State Park, it isn’t difficult to imagine that a bit of their territory has been disrupted and they are a little off balance. My ears tell me that they are not down in our neighborhoods during the night following the fire as much as they were before, and their calls seem to be coming more from inside the park now — distant and a little less frequent. 

We are lucky that CalFire hit this wildfire so quickly, they knocked it down in about 3 hours, but the devastation to the area is obvious. The animals of the park are certainly displaced, and in time all will regrow and repopulate. But until then, we have some incredible, other worldly landscapes to walk through.

Thanks Janet! 

“Sniff”, by LWren Walraven

Through art, we are given new ways to look at reality — it serves as a kind-of filter. Here, LWren beautifully captures a coyote in all the glory of fall colors which in reality serve as camouflage for them . For more, visit her website at

LWren Walraven has been painting mostly animals for over 20 years. Only recently has she begun to incorporate abstract principles into her celebrations of wildlife. Before then she created graphic, illustrative animal paintings that have been used commercially from logos to images for promotional materials. She is thoroughly enjoying her art journey as it evolves and changes.

This painting was inspired by a beautiful photograph of a coyote with her nose in the air by Janet Kessler.

Coyotes September 8, 2020, by Lisa Febre

Hi Janet!

[This] is the video from our backyard security camera in September.

We sleep with our window open in our bedroom mostly to be able to hear the coyotes during the night. As an insomniac, I admit that I love hearing them. They walk up & down our street (and in fact, some have actually walked along the cinder block wall between our house and next to our bedroom window) all night long, so we often hear very close howls. This video, when I was listening to them “live” at the time, I would say that the “gang” was right in our front — maybe not in our yard, but definitely on our street.

The thing that caught my attention with these vocalizations was the almost human-like yell that seemed to be coordinated — hearing them live, that was the only group I was hearing, but when I went back to listen to the camera recording, that’s when I heard the 2nd, and possibly 3rd, group. It’s hard for me to tell if there are 3 groups (the yellers, the yippers and the howlers at varying distances).
Anyway! I thought this was an exceptional capture for our camera — we have many like this, but never this clear or close. 

We live about 3/4 mile from the Santa Susana Historic Pass State Park in Chatsworth, CA (far Northwest of Los Angeles county), so it’s obvious they live up there in the hills and come down at night. 

And as always, so happy to have ‘found’ your blog and you as well! Hope you are staying healthy & safe, and of course sane. Always read each entry even if I don’t comment. I love it!
Thanks again!


Family Interrupted

Seemingly-bucolic coyote family life can be interrupted when one of the adult alphas dies, and that is what happened here. Mom had been the front-guy and always on safety patrol. She always made sure the rest of the family remained hidden and out of view — she didn’t want anyone even looking in the direction of her pups. Shy Dad tended to hang back with the pups — I would see him only occasionally, and then only as dusk approached. And the pups I had only ever seen once. This was the situation when Mom was still there.

Then Mom disappeared, leaving Dad and three youngsters. Several weeks after Mom disappeared, it looked as though the new motherless situation had been accepted by the family: for the first time I began seeing the youngsters playing out in the open during daylight hours, even with Dad nowhere in sight — they were not being supervised like they had been, though they stayed in the distance. I don’t know what control Dad had over them, if any. I only saw him with them at dusk, when they obviously headed out together to hunt. This situation lasted only a few weeks.

Suddenly, into these circumstances there appeared a threesome family unit which I knew from several miles away.  They had come together as a family 10 months earlier: two brothers joined up with a female who became the older brother’s mate. These two males happen to be related to the pups’ mother and had lived with her as a threesome on this territory the prior year, but they had not been around there since then. It’s a small world after all. 

Did they know that Mom had gone missing? Is this why they had come? Or were they attracted by the ever-present garbage which was a food source. Being by a picnic area meant food scraps could constantly be found. OR, speculating further, had they come to take over the territory? I didn’t know the answer, but I wanted to think there was altruism involved: that the two males might have come back to finish raising the youngsters. But this appears not to be the case.

The bolder pup

At the arrival of this threesome, Dad went deeper into hiding, and when I did spot him, only a couple of times, always when the threesome was not around, I could see that he had new facial scars — not major ones, but scars nevertheless. Had he tried battling the newcomers away? The pups no longer frolicked and played out in the open. Two of them disappeared from view — I stopped seeing them altogether. But the boldest pup, interestingly, tried repeatedly to ingratiate/integrate himself into the newcomer pack. But the female would not have it. 

The new males treated that pup neutrally, ignoring him for the most part, and the younger male seemed almost kind to him, allowing comfortable proximity. I wondered if these adult males knew these pups were related? Would it make a difference? 

This neutrality was not the case with the new female. She wanted nothing to do with the pup and was overtly hostile towards “the little twerp”. I use this phrase because she never really appeared to hurt the pup physically, rather, she treated him as a repulsive irritation: she assumed fearsome facial expressions including gaping, snarling and baring her teeth, she charged at him with hackles up, and she even appeared to bite him — though it was probably just a pinch — which resulted in high pitched squeals of hurt, be it physical or psychological: her visceral ire was intense. Pup repeatedly hit the ground in submission and turned onto his back revealing his vulnerable underside with legs splayed: the ultimate white flag. He seemed so badly to want to be accepted.

But the new female wouldn’t have it, she was relentless in spurning him. If she were simply imposing her dominance in a new hierarchy, she would have accepted the pup’s submissive gestures, but she didn’t. The pup further responded to the intimidation, after the put-downs, by repeatedly slinking away with his body hugging the ground, tail held low, as though his feelings were hurt, and then repeatedly came back — inviting more of the same treatment. 

Then one day, I stopped seeing the pup and the father at all, and just saw the threesome at that location, usually together. I thought Dad and pups had been driven from their home totally. But the story continues after this and I’ll need time to stitch it together. For instance, I’ve seen Dad and Pup a couple of times, within the bat of an eye, slinking around the periphery of their homestead, so they still are around.

Also, I’ve seen the threesome back at their own territory every night for the past week — they have been trekking regularly between their territory several miles away and this one at twilight most nights, but not every night. AND, an even newer development, I’ve now seen the pups’ Dad twice, within a flash, at the threesome’s territory where I had never ever seen him before. Maybe what goes around, comes around? OR, I’m conjecturing here, I’m wondering if is it possible that Dad, soon after his mate’s disappearance, might have been searching for a new mate in the threesome’s territory? I’ll review some footage I have during that time slot. If this is the case, he would be the one who provoked the threesome’s visit to his territory. It’s just a thought. The story is already getting pretty convoluted and tangled!  Let’s see what happens!

All photos were taken at late twilight — I’ve been able to lighten them for visibility.

© 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/

I thought pup was pretty brave to face the threesome like this, even if it’s submissively.

Some Dispersal Routes and Family Situations Over The Last Two Seasons

This dispersal diagram on its own, with the several paragraphs that follow it, will give you a nice visual summary of what happens to our coyotes when they leave home. Individual family situations/histories follow [press MORE to read on]: this section is long because I’ve tried to include all their connections. I know each coyote: their personalities, behaviors, family situations and relationships, but it might be tedious reading for anyone who doesn’t. So know that the dispersal diagram section is enough to get the idea across.

A Dispersal Diagram

Have you ever wondered where our coyotes go once they disperse from their birth territories, and what their situations are?

When individual coyotes disperse — leave their birth territories — or for that matter, in one case here, abandon their long-claimed established territories totally — they disappear into the ether almost always never to be seen again by me. Only by chance had I ever seen a few of the dispersed youngsters again, but I didn’t follow through — I’ve always been more concerned with family life, relationships, and individual interactions. However, very recently I’ve been noticing my dispersed youngsters again somewhere else, or on their way somewhere else, and gone from home, so I’ve made a point of following or following-up on a number of these to what appear to be their final (final for now) territory destinations.

Dispersing coyotes are the ones who wander in order to explore their options, find their own territories, and pair-up long-term with mates: their routes are the thin red lines in the diagram. Once they find a territory — be it a vacant or vacated niche, or one they’ve had to fight for — they pretty much tend to stick to that general area: these are the colored circles on the diagram. Most of the dispersals are youngsters, heading out to make it on their own in the world, but I’ve also seen older mated pairs and even an older individual leave a territory to find another. Sometimes a couple of siblings may leave together, but mostly they leave alone, as far as I have seen. Most of the time the breakaway from home is complete and final, but I’ve also seen several individuals repeatedly return home for a period of time before taking a final leave. I’ve seen youngsters leave home slightly before 9 months of age, and as late as 2.5 years of age — they leave of their own accord, when they are ready and without any prodding from parents or siblings, or they are driven out by either parents or siblings. Please remember that what I say here is based entirely on my own first-hand observations: there are going to be situations that I myself have not seen.

I’ve depicted some of these routes and destinations in the diagram above. The colored circles on this map show some of the territories that I’m most familiar with — these are the territories from where or to where these coyotes travelled. The connected circles are fragmented but constitute one territory centered around a park or around one large open green space or an accumulation of smaller green spaces. Park or open-space boundaries hold no meaning for coyotes, so of course the surrounding neighborhoods are a part of these territories. General routes, from their birth territories to their new permanent territorial homes are shown on the map by thin arrow-headed red lines. Naturally, their movements were not smooth lines at all, but rather jagged, erratic, interrupted, and with diversions along the way. In the case of “Wired”, I left off her full-city-length circuits to avoid cluttering. The arrow-head itself is where individual coyotes ended up at their new “forever” homes where they have remained — or in one case remained for a full year and raising a new litter of pups before picking up and moving on again. I haven’t had the time or bandwidth to follow dispersals in the blue circles, but I’ve included some of these in the diagram simply to show there are more dispersals going on than covered in this posting. Two of the coyotes I talk about I had never seen before — they would have come from one of these blue areas or an area not depicted on the map.

Several years ago, before the time-frame of this posting, I saw dispersing youngsters meanly driven away by territorial owners. The flip side of this is that this year, I’ve seen a couple of youngsters warmly welcomed into territories by the resident coyotes. This goes to show that what you might see as a family with pups isn’t always a genetic family!

Then, below, in the second section, I tell a little bit more about the family or territorial situations of the recent dispersals diagrammed above — just bare-bones “to”-and-“from” situational summaries to help round-out their dispersal stories: there are a lot of coyotes and a lot of stories. The diagram covers dispersals over just the last couple of seasons, and one from several years earlier as a precursor to her last year’s story. A number of the individuals I watched grow up from different territories ended pairing up in new territories with others I had watched grow up elsewhere, so in many cases I’ve been familiar all along with both partners of a new pair. In a few instances I know the origins of only one of the new pair. The weft and warp of intertwining individuals has resulted in a tangle in the telling, as you’ll see below!  Any repetitions are to ensure you catch the connections. I’ve grouped these descriptions by family of origin, and maybe this will make it easier. And remember that all of our San Francisco coyotes came from just four original coyote founders.

Several consistencies pop up in my descriptions below. I mention “long-entrenched families on the same territories for many years”. This, along with coyotes’ propensity to mate for life are elements of permanence and stability which can last many years. A stable family can better defend its land than can a loner coyote: having a mate helps. And an intimate knowledge of that land which goes along with ownership better ensures survival because resource locations are known and there are fewer unknown hazards than in the unfamiliar world beyond. Keeping other coyotes out of this territory eliminates the competition for these resources. I also mention “vacated territories” and “forced ousters”, and the “disappearance” of stable oldsters from their lands, which are elements of impermanence and change. Please note that each coyote is an individual: no two stories or situations are the same. So these are some facets involved in coyote dispersal. I’ve sprinked in photos, even though most people can’t tell one coyote from another, but I can, and part of who I’m writing for is myself!  :)) 

The Dispersed and their Family Situations


Sparks, born last year, dispersed at 11 months of age, wandering around for seven months, and even stopping or resting at several locations for 3 weeks to a month along the way (he had a fractured wrist), before settling 5 miles away from his birthplace where he moved in with a 3-year old, Cai2, a mother with 5-month-old pups. Cai’s previous male companion, Stumpf, had disappeared a month earlier and may have been “the sick” coyote that several people had seen but I had not. Into this situation came Sparks who had come from a long-entrenched family that owned the same territory for continuous generations over the last 13 years. He was one of 6 siblings born in 2019, and it was probably sibling rivalry between brothers that drove him out, judging from what I saw. Whether these two coyotes are forming a pair-bond, or Cai2 is simply taking care of a youngster in need, only time will tell. I don’t normally see males pair up at just 18 months of age, which is what Sparks is.

[press the “more” button below to bring up the rest of the posting if you can’t already see it]


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