Zoom Talk: Coyotes in San Francisco: Population, Family Life, Stewardship

For those of you who wanted to come and missed it, here is the Zoom Talk I gave on Tuesday for the residents of North Beach in San Francisco. It covers the coyotes generally in San Francisco, with a short aside about the coyotes in North Beach. I received great compliments on the talk, and I’ve been asked to give it again in several other neighborhoods, with asides on those coyotes, so I will post dates for those talks as they come up. My presentations are all based on my own first-hand observations, along with my own photos, videos and maps of those observations, with just a few exceptions. New in this video (not covered in my previous talks or videos) is a section on my observations and documentation of coyote population dynamics here in San Francisco: how the population is divided and situated into discrete territories, and some of their dispersals. I am now collaborating in a City-wide population study at UC Davis.

Coyote Courtship, by Walkaboutlou

[Here’s a “Holiday Special”!  Hope it makes you smile as much as it did me. ]

Hi Janet,

I recently spoke with a good friend and ranch patriarch. His sunset of life is nearing. His fire turning to warm coals. But he is very comfortable and content. His sons all have taken up ranching. And ranching in time honored ways as well as innovative. One of these…is leaving coyote alone.

For over 90 years, coyote have not been allowed to be hunted or harassed on this vast ranch. They were taught…almost like dogs…lessons. By the ranchers and LGD and a culture of mutual respect..and enforcement…coyote have thrived here. The land has been utilized in ways that spacing and wild areas are maintained or created. It really is a place of balance for livestock and wildlife.

The Patriarch, especially..enjoyed coyote from childhood. He has known every coyote pack and most coyote there his whole life. He knows their family history and eras.

One story he loves to relay is watching a young coyote he knew since pup pick her mate after weeks of male courtship.

The images added to this story are not the of coyotes written about, but hopefully they will trigger your imaginations as to how those coyotes might have appeared. This is what I imagine  two-year old Chica to look like.

She arrived at a clearing in December, away from her very strict and territorial parents. She was almost 2 years.

She would mouse and listen to calls. Answer with her own. Within days..a pattern developed. She would arrive early..mouse and lounge…and the males would come. 1, 2, 3…….3 males eventually. Following her. Laying about her while she rested. Trying to play.  Trying to lure her away. Trying to disperse each other as rivals.

Each afternoon, she returned home. The courting males stopped at edge of her territory. There, Chica would endure hip slams from younger siblings, and slams from mother. Her mother seemed incensed by Chica’s scent of other males.

Chica would flee apologetic..and rest faraway from pack.

And the next day….same all over.

For over a month…this happened.

The Rancher noted the males. Handsome was new and big and very impressive. Big and robust. He was taller and bigger than most coyote. And had a grayish hue instead of the tans.  Then another male, named Zip. He seemed so fast and very restless. He literally trotted circles all day around the others and seemed almost overheated. The 3rd male was Slim Jim. Widowed in past year, 8 year old Slim Jim was outclassed a bit. His tattered ears and dull teeth didn’t better his impression.

The males increased competing. No fighting but definite jockeying for position and time with Chica.

Late January, only Handsome and Slim Jim were at hand. Zip had left…seen miles away days later. Slim Jim had bite marks on face. Hmmmm

The males followed Chica endlessly. She stopped going home. But Handsome seemed the right choice.

But then…Handsome and Slim Jim fought very briefly. It seemed Handsome won. But then he was pushy and aggressive to Chica in the next few hours. She ran from him. And Slim Jim hovered about. When Handsome was distracted, Slim Jim quietly groomed her neck. Just a moment.

That evening Slim Jim returned, JackRabbit in mouth. Chica ran to him and begged. He dropped the whole prize to her. And when Handsome tried to smell and take some…Chica turned on him…joined by Slim Jim.

They drove Handsome away hard. And with the jackrabbit and subsequent Handsome drive off…they became united.

Tattered Slim Jim had won a mate. He seemed renewed. His coat improved with her attention and grooming in the weeks to come. And Chica got to be Queen of a large and good territory.

The Rancher says seeing the courtship is one of his favorite memories. He had no clue….selection could take…..weeks!

Slim Jim and Chica showed him…every coyote..has real stories. Like us.

Enjoy the stories Janet!


The images added to this story are not of the coyotes written about, but hopefully they will trigger your imaginations as to what those coyotes might have looked like. This is what I imagine Tattered Slim Jim to look like.

San Francisco COYOTES: WHERE they are, WHO they are, and HOW to get along

I’ve been invited to give a Zoom presentation at the end of the month on December 29th at 5pm.  I’ll talk about coyote population in San Francisco, family life, and guidelines for stewardship and coexistence — all based on my first-hand documentation work. Attendance will be limited, so contact me (jannyck@aol.com) soon if you’d like to be admitted.  Janet

Canine Interchange, by Walkaboutlou

Dogs and coyotes normally don’t like each other, and certainly don’t mingle, but this particular dog had enough “wild” in him to actually almost become a coyote for many years.

Hi Janet,

I recently touched base about a dog I knew. He was very unique in multiple ways. And worth noting…because he is father of many coyote.

Fuzz was husky x malamute x Australian shep x wolf mix. He lived on an enormous ranch. Very early on…Fuzz showed himself different. He could actually drive and work cattle with the other ranch dogs….but as he matured, he grew bored of cattle. He kept apart from the other dogs..and was allowed to roam as his family owned thousands of acres.The owner realized Fuzz wasn’t a worker and sold him. Fuzz went to a very good home.  And ditched his new owner asap on a hiking trip.

He traveled 200 miles back in 3 weeks, a little dirty and tired. But calm and looked at original owner like “oh hi”.

He was allowed to stay. He remained aloof and roamed his vast range. When he was around 3 years old, different family members [humans] kept seeing Fuzz…with coyotes.

This happened for weeks during the late winter…then it was just Fuzz, and a small female.

The owner realized…Fuzz was likely..courting this female. He had dispersed other male coyote. He was seen interacting with various coyote…and was part of that scene. A pattern developed. Fuzz stayed at ranch and slept at barn with cats often. But at evening..he left. Trail cameras showed him traveling with same female. Also mouse hunting. Fuzz also showed the female how to utilize LGD feeding stations, and interacted with LGD while she fed. One pic showed her eating cautiously and obviously lactating.

That Fall, Fuzz was seen with 5 very unique looking young coyote. One had a blue eye. And little Mom Coyote leading them all.

For at least 4 years, Fuzz and this coyote called Little Mom seemed to have litters together. There are many “big” coyote in the region [his offspring]. Unlike other coyote, they seem to fight ranch and hunting dogs hard. They are coyote..but with more “oomph” and boldness.

I was both bothered and intrigued by Fuzz consorting with coyote, and actually taking a mate. The genetic exchange has happened many times in east. And wild coyote genes absorb the influence smoothly.

But..obviously, locally..it affects the genetics of coyote. Behaviorally too. I do believe the Pups of Fuzz learned some boldness and craft from dad. They associated with him off and on years into adulthood. Trail cams show them traveling together. Eating road killed deer. And showing up in dispersal for years in other places.

I wish I could truly know…how the genetics of a husky malamute Australian shepherd wolf play out after 4 years and 4 litters. How long will those genetics persist? How far will they spread? And will they create “better” or “worse” coyote?

Ironically….Fuzz disappeared when wolves started traveling through the area. Little Mom seemed to disappear too. There were at least 4 wolves in area for several months. It would seem..Fuzz might have met his fate among them. But we’ll never know. He could have been shot far away, roaming. Or met a bear or cougar. Or an LGD he didn’t know. These free ranging dogs are mysterious sometimes.

What we do know…is that Fuzz was part of the coyote community 4 or 5 years. He bonded with a female. There were years of pups and strange dispersing. It’s not common. But it happens…more than we realize.

His owner says “sometimes family member’s go crazy and run away to join a carnival. You gotta let um be.”

I don’t think Fuzz was crazy. But he truly created some carnival canine coyote. I wonder at their futures. And at the convergence of canine genetics.

Always amazed….


Intruder Driven Away by Resident Yearlings

Coyotes usually yip, howl and bark, making all of these sounds altogether. But this time, all I heard was a single coyote barking. If you’ve read my Coyote Voicings posting, you’ll know that this “raspy” type of vocalization is one of anger, distress or upset, and it is used as a warning to other coyotes or dogs. It went on for some moments before I started recording and videoing it. I wondered what was going on.

At close to the two-minute marker in the video, the yearling female starts looking around. Then she crouches low and hugs the ground as she hurries towards one of her brothers who had been alerted by her distressed distressed barks. You can tell she’s angry, not just by the tone of her barking, but also by her defiant stance and almost ‘kicking dirt’.

She greets that sibling and then they both look up to see a third sibling male appear. These three yearling siblings are best buddies, and are there for each other. At 19 months they still play incredibly well together and would come to each others aid, as I believe happened here, and as I’ve seen before. The three of them all run towards each other in a sort of ritual huddle of solidarity, and then run off together. The female was reacting to something, but I had no clue as to what this could be.  I wonder if she was able to communicate what it was to her brothers. Even if the communication hadn’t been precise, it did communicate her distress and anger, and they definitely picked up on that.

The very next day, though, I had my answer. I saw two coyotes in the same bushes: one was following at the heels of another and biting its hind legs, while that other was walking away in a crouched down, self-protective and submissive posture. I could only see their backs, so I couldn’t tell right off WHO these two were. The crouching coyote was clearly being driven away by the coyote in back of her.

And then I saw their faces. The male coyote doing the nipping is one of the remaining resident yearlings — a mere 19 months old. And the coyote he was attempting to drive out was a female I hadn’t seen before. I wonder where she’s from. The resident coyotes were successful, which makes sense because there were three of them against one. Also it’s their home turf. I haven’t seen the intruder female again.


Don Qoxote Battles a Windmill

The book whose title inspired the title to this video posting is Don Coyote, by Dyton O. Hyde. The book is a soul-warming book that’s as good as its title. It’s the story of a coyote and a rancher and is subtitled, “The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Maligned American Original”. I highly recommend it for all you coyote lovers out there.

The title I have given this video says it all. In the original Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes, the main character, Alonso Quixano, sets out to battle evil, including windmills who he imagines are ferocious giants: i.e., imaginary enemies. So in this video you’ll see our mighty 8-month old coyote exhibiting a lot of spunk as he takes on something he doesn’t understand and doesn’t like, and he indeed is able to knock it down (but not kill it). The coyote uses his paws and snout to bat the contraption. He also kicks the camera once, and he uses his teeth.

In the video, at first the youngster is really afraid of the field camera and keeps his distance. But within a few days, he becomes brave and takes on the camera he doesn’t like. Field cameras are intrusive: not only do they project light — coyotes can see the infrared — but the mechanism, although at first listen is fairly inaudible to us, in fact, if you put your ear right up to it, can be heard by even humans. So coyotes hear these things and see lights — they automatically are triggered by motion — which react to their presence — only when they are there. Must be perplexing to the coyotes.

I’m posting this both to show the coyote’s mettle and determination, his persistence in the face of perceived danger, and to show how intense their dislike of something can be. Coyotes indeed have very strong feelings about things, including other things in the environment, such as temporary plastic fences which I’ve seen them pull down and even tear at. We need to acknowledge them as having these super sensitivities.

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