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

FAMILY ONE

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]

Scout, who is now five, initially dispersed at 9 months of age from the same territory as Sparks, but a number of years before him. Scout left home probably due to continual harassment and domination by her father, which is what I saw, and soon found herself in a vacated territory — the previous alpha there having been killed by a car several years earlier — which she claimed and inhabited as a loner for three and a half years before a “suitor” came along, and that was Hunter. But after just 5 months of this glorious pair bond — as seen by their enchanting behavior — a dispersing intruder female, Wired, 2+ years old per the Presidio, moved in and viciously forced Scout out. It’s at this time, during the first half of 2019, that Scout was forced to flee and wander,

pursued by Wired — this is the “dispersal”, of sorts, that took place during the time-frame of this posting. But Scout always tried coming back. Finally, after 6 months, the intruder Wired seemed to have found greener pastures elsewhere, and Scout returned to what had always been her property. Within months of her return, we saw Scout with newcomer Scooter — ~ 3 years old — who became her mate and the father to her pups. I haven’t figured out Scooter’s origins yet.

Vida, born last year, dispersed at 9 months of age, a number of months before her littermate brother Sparks left home. For months she lived all alone in a small open space just a few blocks from her birthplace — she was there alone for many months. And then one day she was not there. The next time I saw her, she was two miles away, in the original abandoned-and-now-reclaimed territory of Monte and his son Cape. They had accepted her into their circle with open arms! Their unusual family consists of an older father, a two-year-old son and a one-year-old female youngster adoptee!!  I’m wondering if Vida just might grow into the alpha female position?  :))

FAMILY TWO

Puff — pictured months before his dispersal here — began his dispersal at around 18 months of age, remaining an interloper for about a year before pairing up with a tough female, Wired. They moved into a territory about 5 miles away from Puff’s birthplace where they drove out, as captured on a security camera, the long-time territorial residents, Pete and Petra, who were getting along in years. Indeed, I hadn’t seen Pete for a time and his absence may have opened the door for a fight with Petra and the takeover. Puff came from a family that had been on their territory since before 2007 — that’s when we first noticed them. Puff was one of seven siblings born in 2017, 4 of whom survived infancy to disperse to new territories, all within the city. Puff and Wired had three pups this year.

Blondie, a brother and littermate of Puff’s, also dispersed at 18 months of age together with his brother Puff. In 2019 I saw them separately wandering the territory that would be taken over by Puff. Blondie moved on and eventually found a mate, Pipa, a year his junior and daughter of Pete and Petra, who joined him in his meanderings and soon the two settled down in what appeared to be a recently vacated territory — neither I, nor people I spoke to, had seen those coyotes for some time, but it could be that the land was fought for from a single hanger-on coyote. This territory had been occupied by members of the same family for years, and is where I had documented an old-timer coyote in 2007 who obviously would have been one of the original coyotes brought into the city in 2002.

Hunter, another brother and littermate of Blondie and Puff, dispersed earlier than his brothers, having been driven out forcefully by them in a fight that I observed which involved vicious tail-pulling. Hunter wandered a short time before coming upon a 4-year-old long-time loner, Scout, on her territory about five miles away. They hit it off. For months they could be seen frolicking happily together, a union made in heaven, until a hostile intruder female, Wired, came into that arena forcefully driving Scout away. At that time, Hunter bolted from the situation and territory, and ended up in a neighborhood territory several miles away, claimed by a female, Mouse, who had lost both her litter* that year, and her mate shortly before Hunter’s arrival. Hunter and Mouse have been loyal mates since then and are raising a family. [*A man had sealed off the area under his porch hoping to keep coyotes out, only pups had already been born there, so parents could not get in to feed them and they perished].

Cai2 is the 4th littermate and a sister of  Puff, Blondie and Hunter. Although she was seen during her dispersal far from home, in the territory that Puff would take over, she in fact returned to her birthplace to become the reproducing alpha there, sort of “inheriting” the territory. Her older parents, Cai and Yote, had abandoned the premises — they are not around and I do not know where they went or why. I’ve been noting that aging parents as a rule move on or are driven out at some point, and particularly when only one of them remains. Cai’s male companion until a month

earlier, Stumpf, two years old and very likely Monte and Ma’am offspring from 2018, not confirmed, didn’t really appear to be her mate, and if he wasn’t he would not be the father of her pups born this year — this “guessessment”, not confirmed, on my part is based on his physical appearance and behaviors. In August, dispersing Sparks, only 18 months old, arrived at this location which had no male.

Wired is one of the coyotes whose origins I’m not sure about. I did see her in Cai and Yote’s territory several years ago, but I do not know if she is related. I started following Wired when she drove out Scout, four-years-old at the time, from the territory Scout had claimed for three years. It was a dramatic and vicious ouster with Scout repeatedly trying to return over a six month period, even as she was being pursued by Wired. After about 6 months, Wired abandoned that place, opening the way for Scout to finally return. Wired moved north where she along with her new mate Puff forcefully took over another territory from an older coyote pair.

FAMILY THREE

Pipa dispersed at 2 years of age. Her parents, Pete and Petra, who were getting along in years, had been forced out of their vast and long-term territory by Puff and Wired in 2019 and this seems to have kept Pipa from returning there, though she remained fairly close to the area as she continued to wander. During her wanderings, she met Blondie and together they soon found a vast, either vacated territory or one where they drove the residents out, which they now occupy as the mating alpha pair — there is only ever one alpha mating pair on any given territory.

FAMILY FOUR

Monte and Ma’am were a pair that already had a litter when I first got to know them many years ago. Interestingly, I had seen Ma’am at Spark’s birthplace, during breeding season, just a few years after I met them, even though she had a territory and a mate, Monte, elsewhere. So why was she there? I’ve speculated that it might have been for reproductive advantage — it’s just a thought, unconfirmed, that occurred to me. I’ve called Monte and Ma’am a “gypsy” family, because they have moved regularly before each new litter, moves which I attributed to increased intrusiveness of dogs in one instance, and habitat encroachment by humans in another instance. Within the last few seasons they moved at first 2 miles away from where I had originally met them, and then five miles further away from there, this second time taking along one son, Cape, of the four youngsters they bore in 2018 (and dividing the long journey into two phases with a two-week stop-off

spot) and raising a litter of pups at both locations. Interestingly, and as I’ve posted before, human feeding seems to have interfered in Monte and Ma’am’s relationship, keeping Monte away, so that Ma’am ended up taking on a new mate, 3-year old Blue — in effect, “divorcing” Monte after years of having been with him and producing many litters together. Monte gave one last mournful howl before leaving Ma’am and that territory behind, and then reappeared where I originally had gotten to know him years before, where his son Cape had preceded him by a month.

FAMILY FIVE

Bonnie, Buff and Blue two years ago all migrated together as a family unit from one golf-course to another. I don’t know their exact relationships but Buff was the youngest, born in 2018. Blue and Bonnie appear to have been older siblings of Buff, judging by their behavior. The alpha male of their birth family had disappeared: he was old and stiff and limping when I last saw him, apparently on his last legs. There is a new family in the place they vacated, but I have not kept up with them. Bonnie, Buff and Blue moved into a golf-course territory that had been occupied by a long-entrenched family for at least 12 years and then recently was vacated incrementally, first by the youngsters at different ages — almost one year, almost two years — and then by the aging parents — the only one to remain there was a female 2.5 years old, Sissy. You would have thought that with such a vast dowry left to her, she might have attracted a mate and stayed there, but that’s not what happened. She tried forming a bond with Blue, claiming him with her paws on his back. But one day Sissy was gone — she had become incessantly nervous, with fearful, darting eyes: she appeared fearful of the three immigrants. The three immigrants to the area, Bonnie, Buff and Blue continued to stick around. And then one day only Bonnie remained,

and she had a new mate, Clyde, and new pups. (*The story of Buff and Blue is continued below.) I don’t know where Clyde is from. Just a few weeks ago, when the pups were 5 months old, I stopped seeing Bonnie there — something happened to her. Her pups were then being minimally supervised by their dad and . . . and then I started seeing a new male and female, and maybe other newcomers, coming around every night. I wondered what would happen next: Would the rest of that family leave? Finally I was able to tell who these newcomer coyotes were: none other than Buff and Blue, returning to their old haunt, along with Ma’am. What will happen now? Buff is getting along fine with Bonnie’s pups, but Ma’am appears to want them gone. Let’s see what happens.

*Blue and Buff, who I think are older and younger brothers, dispersed together earlier this year, out of what would then become Bonnie’s territory, to an area two miles away from that. This would be their second dispersal together. They took over Monte’s and Ma’am’s location, whereupon Monte left: Blue is the guy who “stole/won” Ma’am from Monte, causing Monte to return as a single divorcee to a previous territory. Blue and Ma’am raised a litter, and Buff is still with them. AND, as of a few days ago, this family re-appeared back in what had been their and then Bonnie’s sole territory, after a year’s absence.

These, then, are some of the more recent dispersals I’ve followed.

Then there are those coyotes who dispersed who I’ve not seen again, and the situations they left:

FAMILY SIX

Maya and Ivan were older parents. They, along with their yearlings, Sissy and Sonny, and a new litter which included Hawk, lived on a golf course which Ivan had occupied for at least 12 years. Sonny dispersed at two years of age and Hawk at one year of age, but I  do not know to where. I assumed both have been killed by cars since several coyotes were picked up from the roads around there at that time. Sissy had a contentious relationship with her mother, Maya, who kept trying to drive her out, but Sissy would not go. Eventually, it was Maya and Ivan — the older parents — who left. Did they leave because they were old and beyond reproduction age? I don’t know. They were spotted one last time about a mile away, looking old, worn out and decrepit, and we never saw them again. Ivan was 12 years old at the time he disappeared. Sissy remained on the land a few more months when Bonnie, Blue and Buff arrived, but then she was gone.

from FAMILY FOUR

Monte and Ma’am’s singleton offspring born in 2019, Monticella, stayed with her mother Ma’am and ‘stepfather’ (not her biological father) Blue until she was a year and a half old, and then she dispersed, never to be seen again by me.

from FAMILY TWO

Cai and Yote were older parents whose last litter I was unable to follow. After this last litter, they themselves dispersed and disappeared last year — I do not know where they went or why. Possibly old age was involved.

from FAMILY ONE

The most long-lived family (above) on one territory I’ve ever known has been that of Chert and Silver and their predecessors who included Maeve and Toughy: this family has occupied their territory for 13 years, generation after generation and through old age, except Toughy who was killed by rat poison, leaving Maeve as a single mom for four years. This family still occupies its homestead after all these years!

GumNut, from this family, is the very first coyote I found elsewhere after his dispersal. It was a real surprise that I recognized him after many months of not seeing him at all. I could tell that he actually recognized me as we examined each other with that flash of recognition. I did not follow up on his situation, but just noted it as a magical moment. He was forced out of his family at 2.5 years of age by his father, due to his strong bond with his (GumNut’s) sister who had become the father’s mate. Coyote history is every bit as intertwined and interesting as ours!

Sparks’ littermates, all born last year, Too and Squirrel and Scowl still can be seen at their birthplace, but also, they’ve started wandering greater distances, exploring their future options. These siblings are all 18 months old now. Their other sibling, Wolfie, either dispersed early or died.

from FAMILY FIVE

On a sadder note, within the last month I’ve watched one of my alphas disappear from her lands: Bonnie has not showed up in three weeks. Permutations of both the permanence and lack of permanence in these families I think can only be understood by watching them for hours-on-end, each day.

Again I want to emphasize that all of my information comes from direct observations along with the aid of my camera. I do not use invasive gadgets such as ear-tags which can cause infections or radio-collars which are cumbersome and intrusive to the coyotes and can alter the course of their lives. I label each coyote with a pronounceable name instead of a number — it’s easier for me to remember, and it doesn’t “de-sentient-ize” them as a number would. Also, I work completely by myself: this is not a paid job, I’m not part of an organization which might help me, it’s simply a passion and an interest of mine which I’ve been doing on my own for the last 13+ years.

© 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.

Just a handful of the many five-month old pups born this year, each of whom will live out their own individual stories, and hopefully, I’ll be able to document some of those.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jo Thompson
    Oct 04, 2020 @ 10:58:44

    Fascinating read. But yes, the diagram is very helpful. Thank you.

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Oct 04, 2020 @ 14:24:05

      Yes, there’s a lot more going on with them than anyone ever sees, and much more than any of us could ever imagine! Thank you, Jo, for being so supportive of them. Janet

  2. Gina Solomon
    Oct 06, 2020 @ 18:40:11

    Wow, this is really interesting! Also quite complicated! I’m so interested in these family histories, and so curious to fill in the blanks. It’s sad that so many of the coyotes have ‘disappeared’, and probably died. I look forward to hearing more about the family sagas in the coming months!

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Oct 06, 2020 @ 19:15:49

      Hi Gina — Thank you for your comment! It’s taken a lot of observation time to pull this all together: all that time paid off with these observations and findings. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to continue at the pace I’m going . . . but let’s see. :))

  3. Leah
    Oct 09, 2020 @ 04:06:21

    I have been following your blog since I first stumbled on it, for a long time. I’m not one to comment, but I enjoy every post. This post however, I especially enjoyed. And to me, they can never be too long. I was hoping that someday, you would create a post more like the soap opera saga if you will, to get to know the coyotes you share with us a little more as individuals with the family connections and you did just that! I love how you put it all together for us :)
    Thank you very much for sharing all that you have, and the time you have invested is appreciated by more people than you realize.

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Oct 09, 2020 @ 04:47:58

      Hi Leah —
      Such a wonderfully supportive comment! I’m beaming with appreciation! Thank you, thank you, for sharing this with me.
      Warmly!
      Janet
      PS: Yes, their lives run like a soap opera saga!!

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