He’s An Old Man




I got to the park and noticed one of my coyotes in the distance walking behind some bushes. So I rushed down the hill so as to be able to “capture” which coyote, WHO, it was. Two men saw me and said, “one is over there”. I asked, do you know who, which one? No, of course they didn’t. I put up my camera, took a couple of shots and examined the image. It was Silver. They said he looked so calm over there; that he got up slowly and was now stretching he was so relaxed. And, “do coyotes always walk like that?” I knew what they were talking about — there was stiffness in this fella’s pace. I answered, “he’s an old man, and I’ve got to run catch it — I don’t want to miss it.”

“I don’t want to miss it” is my usual approach to coyote viewing, and in this case, this “old man” would be slipping away at some point and every moment I had with him was valuable to me. I followed. I knew his path. Several other people stopped to watch, but I asked if they could move out of his path — the path I knew he would take — and they complied. He kept moving, traveling for about 1/4th of a mile through the park and then stopped in an overgrown spot for several minutes where he listened and sniffed with his head down and finally dove in. He came up with a tiny garter snake.

Usually coyotes “toy” with garter snakes and leave them, as far as I have seen, but this time the snake was carried off. Maybe it would be a toy for his litter born that year, or maybe it would be food for them. He disappeared into a thicket and I didn’t want him to feel followed, so I turned the other way. On the way back I crossed paths with one of the people who had stepped aside for him only a few minutes earlier. We talked about “the old man”. I mused at what he might be like in a year. “A year?” was the response I got. “This guy isn’t going to last a year”, was the answer I got. I could feel my eyes fill up with water. He was eleven-and-a-half years old at that point — I’ve known him all his life. The coyote had walked very slowly. He sometimes looked like a pile of rags. My friend suggested that he was probably going blind. I hope you can understand the urgency of not wanting to miss it.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MelindaH
    May 02, 2021 @ 15:33:08

    And clearly an old friend of yours…💕💕💕


    • yipps:janetkessler
      May 02, 2021 @ 15:43:43

      Absolutely! As are all the coyote I write about: I know each of their situations, most of their ages, their families, and their personalities, so, really, these are like extensions of my own family. I don’t have time to watch them all, but It’s hard to say, “well, I’m done with you.” Instead, I only get 6 hours of sleep in my attempt to fit them all into my observation time. :))

  2. Lisa Febre
    May 02, 2021 @ 15:44:42

    Hi Janet!

    I was trying to comment on this post, but now I’m worried that the comment posted 3+ times!! I apologize for that and hope you can fix that.

    If it doesn’t post at all, here’s what I was trying to say: “ This post left me crying. What a beautiful relationship you’ve had with this old guy so much so that the urgency of feeling the passage of time is speeding up is felt by those of us just reading this post. I know he’s not your pet, but he is a friend and the planet will feel his loss, whenever it happens. Thank you for sharing him with us.”

    We recently found a decaying body of what appears to be a grey Fox in the hills behind us. I sent a photo to our park director (I am on their volunteer roster, so have access to more people than the average hiker up there) and they are absolutely baffled by this body. Even the naturalist on staff said that she was not aware that there were any grey foxes up there. When I went through the training programs, there was never even a mention of them! So, at this point, we’re just waiting to hear what comes back from the park people.

    Hope you’ve been well! I’m always reading the blog even if I don’t always comment. For some reason my WordPress login doesn’t always work… not sure why!

    Have a wonderful Sunday! Be well! Lisa


    • yipps:janetkessler
      May 02, 2021 @ 15:54:38

      Hi Lisa! This is the only comment that came through: I don’t why you might have been having trouble. I’m glad you were touched by the post — yes, I’m kind of “involved” (from the outside looking in) with what is going on in “my” coyotes’ lives. So pleased that you like and follow the blog! :))

      Fascinating about the gray fox. In fact, I NEVER see gray foxes here in San Francisco, but one showed up on a trap camera in the densest urbanized part of the city a while back. Yikes! Yes, I am well, and I hope you are too! Warmly! Janet

  3. Maura Lucus
    May 02, 2021 @ 15:45:39

    Thank you!


  4. Jo Thompson
    May 02, 2021 @ 16:35:20

    What a moving and heart-touching post.
    As someone with two super-seniors (both are 14+) in my domestic pack, I teared up at what you must have experienced. Yes. We cherish every instant that we have them and know them.


  5. lancer223
    May 02, 2021 @ 19:35:59

    Thank you for another wonderful article. I am so happy you are so involved in coyotes. I love to watch them in the park too. My biggest concern for them is the over-cutting of trees in and next to the park as well as the felling and chipping up of old dead trees. R&P does not seem to understand how important it is to leave dead trees to rot. They do not seem to understand how important it is to the flora and fauna to have that tree complete it’s life cycle by dying, becoming an owl’s home, falling to the ground, and becoming a coyotes den, a garter snake or fence lizards home, a salamander and earthworm’s home and finally food for the worms and millions of microbes of the forest. Rather they all seem concerned about getting sued by someone that gets hit by a falling limb. Yes, it’s possible. And it’s possible to get struck by lightning too.
    PS I have been looking for a San Francisco garter snake for years and yet have never seen one-my hope has been resurrected by your article and wonderful pics. KUTGW!


    • yipps:janetkessler
      May 02, 2021 @ 19:52:09

      Hi Lance! Thank you for your very positive comment. I agree with you 100% about the trees. Another factor involved here in San Francisco is that the “nativists” took over and want to return the area to what they consider a native habitat. They define that as what was here before white man came, even though the Ohlone Indians themselves altered the natural landscape profusely. There were no trees here originally and it was covered with sand dunes: this is what was “native”. Another reason the trees and thickets have been thinned out is to cut down on homeless encampments. As you can see, their rationale does not involve the needs of wildlife. BTW, we used to have LOTS of garter snakes in the parks: I used to see them every time I came to the parks, those and small lizards. I think the sheer increase in human usage of the parks has decimated their numbers, but as you can see in the photo of the coyote with the snake, we still do have some! Thanks for being supportive! Janet

    • lancer223
      May 04, 2021 @ 03:55:49

      Thank you for your reply, Janet. I also am very aware of the nativists in this city. We are in a fight right now to save a small woodland next to the Mclaren Park (and next to the McLaren Community Garden on Visitation Street) with large Monterey cypress, Monterey pines, locust, CA buckeye, eucalyptus, and other trees. It is owned by the city. Lauren Chavez of Rec and Parks and Fran Martin have received a grant to put in a native garden at the end of a trail that they are proposing which runs through the park. They propose to cut down dozens of large trees (80% of the trees) and replace them with native tree seedlings. We do not mind so much that they are wanting to put in a native garden but we can not agree to them cutting down dozens of large beautiful, healthy trees. They have come up with an arborist report that is stating that 80 % of the trees proposed to be cut are not healthy trees. They say they are leaning. The large tract of land which is to the north and south of our community garden show only a healthy, rich ecosystem with perfectly healthy trees except for maybe the one large Monterey Cypress which is starting to decay (and is an incredible tree for animals such as owls to nest.)
      We have approached Lauren Chavez with Rec & Parks and have at least gotten a postponement of the tree cutting. She said there was not much input from the community to save the trees. I live in the community and I never heard about the project and many other neighbors tell me the same thing.
      We love those trees and need any help and support we can get from the community in saving them. The pandemic caused a postponement but the day will soon arrive that it will be put on the table again. I have brought this up with the McLaren Park Collaborative (mclarenparkcollaborative@googlegroups.com), and Conservation Sense and Nonsense which you may be aware of. They just published another wonderful blog here: “https://milliontrees.me/2021/05/01/michael-soule-the-consequences-of-crisis-conservation/
      The assault on the park with chainsaws, herbicides, and nativists is all harmful to coyotes and the whole ecosystem on the park.
      Thanks for reading.
      Lance Mellon

    • yipps:janetkessler
      May 04, 2021 @ 05:43:51

      Hi Lance, We are on the same page about this. Have you tried contacting San Francisco Forest Alliance? This is their website: https://sfforest.org/ — they might be able to help out with letters and support. Death of a Million Trees is a fantastic site. Janet

  6. Hilary Cole
    May 02, 2021 @ 21:46:24

    Such an interesting article – thank you Janet – tho all yr articles make such amazing reading!
    He’s such an old friend of yours, the years following him will mean so much to you, as is evident in yr article. Such amazing animals…
    Hope he stays safe during these latter years…

    Hilary Cole 😊💖


  7. Sarah
    May 02, 2021 @ 23:17:02

    So beautiful. Made me cry. <3


  8. Linda Bolon
    May 03, 2021 @ 16:28:54

    Your descriptions and choice of words in this story made me feel as if I was right there with you experiencing the entire adventure. Thank you for all you do.


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