Neighborhood Coyote Chat

ad photo.001

Come hear about our SF coyotes! Janet Kessler will give a crash-course on their population and population  dynamics, their family life and interactions, and guidelines/stewardship for coexistence, with plenty of time for Q&A. This is Janet’s first out-of-doors talk, and she will be using posters instead of slides because there is no outlet for a projector. Let’s see how it goes!

About Janet: She’s been documenting our coyotes daily over the last 14 years here in San Francisco — she’s likely the only person who knows just about all of them individually, their families, and the extent of each of their territories. She will talk briefly about the neighborhood coyotes, as she has done in her recent presentations to West Portal and North Beach.

  • WHEN: Sunday, June 20th, 2021 at 11:00 am
  • WHERE: St. Mary’s Park Bleachers – wear your masks
    • Enter from Murray Street, either at the intersection at Crescent or on the other side of the park off of Justin Street. You can’t miss the bleachers once you enter the field.
  • CONTACT: Nancy Ganner through Bernal Heights NextDoor, or Janet through coyotecoexistence@gmail.com

Pack Strategies, Growing Pups, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet!

I hope all is well with you as the season progresses. This time of year flies. I am walking well after hip surgery and slowly recovering.

The updates on the 2 mom coyote pack continue thanks to the careful work and amazing skills of the knowledgeable ranch family who have allowed coyote to share their massive ranch properties. Decades of tolerance and behavior modifications have created a land where coyote, livestock, wildlife all thrive. (LGD dogs are big part..but thats another story) The extended family all take turns monitoring and studying the coyotes. They are documenting great stuff.

Old SlimJim, (father) Chica (Mom) Janet (daughter and 2nd mom) and Big Brother (yearling) all thrive. They indeed, moved the pups from the rocky cliffs to the open Oak Savannah ecosystem. Incredibly, all 9 pups have still been accounted for. Originally 11, it’s still a big group of pups.

One adult is almost always with or near pups. They have had several moves and it seemed Slim Jim initiated every move. The family discussions about why Slim Jim moves them so much are awesome to hear. Was it because the local cougar made fresh marks nearby? Was it because soon a salmon run will deliver salmon to a riverbank where Slim Jim gathers the expired fish? Is it because the wolves come around and scout? One ranch youngster has an observation. “Bigger Grasshoppers and more Voles” he says. “Slim Jim took the pups where the grasshoppers are already big and the voles are everywhere there”.

It’s true-the pups are already foraging and catching rodents and grasshoppers. It is very important for pups to forage and feed themselves ASAP. 

It’s likely a culmination of all these and more. Slim Jim is an old coyote who knows all these areas. And the food sources. He has literally moved his pack where this summer, rodents, insects, wild plum groves, and expired salmon all will be. Slim Jim also has a unique skill which he’s shared with Big Brother his son. A few miles away a ribbon of country road unfortunately delivers deer being hit and killed, or running off to die. Slim Jim takes full advantage of such road killed deer. And delivers huge meals of venison. It is very rare for pups to eat so well. Big Brother and Dad have hugely impacted pup nutritional provisions.

Other note: All the adults are super lean and seem exhausted at times. They seem to take turns pup sitting. Big Brother the most. Pups are weaned it appears. Of the 9 pups, one with kinked tail sleeps with adults rather then littermates. Kinky Tail seems a favorite. It is groomed more than any pup.

Turkey Vultures make the pups duck or hide, indicating the local golden eagle may be why 2 pups are gone. 

Pups also seem to hunt then bolt at times.  Its suspected snakes are instinctively avoided at least by pups. Many rattlers here. So snake aversion is good. 

The Patriarch of Ranch family has studied “his” coyote over 60 years. He is house bound usually. But still listens to coyote news and gives his thoughts. 4 generations of family discussing coyote packs is very special.

His thoughts: “That’s a really big litter. By summer’s end the adults will be tired and ready to stop providing. The pups will develop extra fast and really scatter about. And Big Brother will be a great dad after raising all those pups. Janet the Daughter will get a new hubby. Old Slim Jim…well, let’s hope best.”

Big Litter, lots of food, and tired but skilled adults here. A structured but unusual pack going fwd. And a Ranch family sharing it all from 10 years to Great Great Grandpa.

Take Care Janet, 

Lou 🐾

[All photo credits are from the author, Walkaboutlou]

Four-Year-Old Sitter to the Rescue?

1_zeGiFJgFUZaRd4-pubu0gQ

Photo credit: The Chronicle

The above photo appeared in The Chronicle a week ago, caught on a field camera by RPD in Golden Gate Park. Of primary interest is that there are SEVEN pups — that’s a huge litter — it’s a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of bodies to take care of.

Often, yearlings — those born to the family the year before — remain on a territory as part of their birth-family and help raise the new litter. But none of the yearlings born last year to the mom are around to help and the dad didn’t even have pups last year, so the only caregivers in this family are the parents. Unusually, BOTH of these coyotes were attached to OTHER mates last year. Although  the vast majority of coyotes mate for life, there are exceptions, and this is one of those. The upshot is that no yearlings are around to help out. And, although each of these parents is seasoned at pup-rearing, neither has had seven pups all at once. Yikes!

Outside help? Intriguingly, a 4-year-old at-this-point unattached female — I’ll call her PETAL — appeared on the scene about a month ago, and I’ve seen her within the denning area. Might Petal have offered herself as an additional caretaker — a nanny? I can’t think of why else she has been allowed to stay.

18617

18519

Petal indeed served as caregiver to her own younger siblings in 2018 — this is a very normal situation — so she knows what’s involved. Therefore I’m wondering if she might be related to this Golden Gate Park hepta-mom — this might explain her acceptance there, but we’ll have to wait for DNA results to find that out. Then again, maybe a close genetic relationship isn’t necessary for such an arrangement. ?? I use the word “close” because, based on scat analysis to date by Monica Serrano in Benjamin Sacks’ Lab at UC Davis, it appears that all of our San Francisco coyotes come from just four founding individuals.

Petal was born in 2017 in the Presidio where she was tagged and collared. Through the first half of 2018, as a yearling, Petal remained in the Presidio attached to her birth-family where she helped out with the pups born that year.  By fall of 2018, during her second year, she began long forays out of her territory for several days at a time: I spotted her in and around Golden Gate Park for short periods over the course of several months. She appears to have ended up with a companion coyote at Candlestick Park, the closeby shipyard and Bayview Park. I assumed she had a family in that location, but her move back to and remaining in Golden Gate Park indicates maybe not, or that her companion/mate was killed, possibly by a car along the freeway there. Cars are one of the chief killers of coyotes in urban areas. Candlestick is one of the parks I don’t normally visit, so I did not keep up with her.  If/when I find out more about that situation, I’ll amend this posting.

So, is she an outside babysitter, an insider babysitter, or will she soon move on? We’ll have to wait and see. If she stays, I have a couple of questions:

I’m curious as to how this apparently unattached female discovered the large (needy?) family, or how those parents found her? Was it purposeful, or serendipity?  Communication in the coyote world is on a level humans don’t and may never fathom — it’s below our radar. Coyotes communicate through eye contact, facial expression and body language. You can see all this easily if you watch them. They also use vocalizations. But maybe there’s more than that? We are limited by our five senses which are very weak ones. Our hearing is poor (compared to that of animals), we practically can’t smell, and our sight needs lots of daylight with practically zero nighttime vision without light. In this regard, coyotes operate on a higher plane than us. And I’m wondering if their GPS navigation system, if you want to call it that, may in some way have aspects similar to that of migrating birds: coyotes have been navigating through and then out south of the city when they disperse. Is there something guiding them besides trial-and-error and memory? By the way, coyotes have fantastic memories. I’m hoping to post an update at some point.

© All information and photos in my postings, except where indicated, 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.