Photography Equipment May be Hazardous to your Life, by Andrew Bland

photo credit (cropped): Benjamin Sander Bergum

I’m reposting, with permission, from Andrew Bland from his Facebook page:

Robbery in Golden Gate Park: On Thursday evening, I was witness to and nearly a victim of an aggressive robbery near the bison paddock on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. I was photographing great horned owls. Around 8:10PM, I was packing up equipment and putting it in my car. Another photographer was doing the same further down the road behind me. As this person got in their car, I saw a small white car pull up and abruptly stop right next to it. A masked man jumped out and began smashing in the rear window of the other photographer’s car.

By the time I got my wits about me and managed to get into my car and start the engine – no more than 10 seconds – they had finished robbing the other person and had now pulled up alongside me. The passenger-side door opened and the masked assailant began to step out, ready to smash his way into my car. With only a few seconds to spare, I stepped on the gas and pulled away, fully expecting that they would give up and flee. But they chased me, and pulled up alongside me, either trying to run me off the road or cut me off and stop me. I sped up and got ahead of them.

Probably going 50MPH with the assailants’ car right behind me, we ran through two stop signs and barreled over speed bumps for nearly a mile before they slowed down, made a U-turn, and disappeared out the 30th Ave gate. (Keep in mind, I bike this road nearly every day and am very respectful of more vulnerable road users when in my car. I gave the few cyclists that happened to be out a wide berth as we passed.)

I circled back and by then the cops were there. I gave a statement, along with the other victim and two witnesses. Nobody saw their faces or license plate. They were fast, prepared, and extremely aggressive.

The officer explained that these smash-and-grabs are merely considered property crimes and are NOT considered violent crimes (yes, you read that correctly) so they don’t really pursue them, and if they did hypothetically make an arrest, the judge would just let them go, including repeat offenders. He even said if police were to witness one of these incidents occur, they would NOT chase the culprits. He also informed me that if one were to fight back and injure (or worse) one of these thieves during a robbery, then that person would likely be charged with assault for using violence against a “non-violent” criminal. Unbelievable. So scary and so very frustrating.

So be careful out there. I am finished shooting pictures and video in the park. Way too dangerous, and the police are not going to be there when you need them. And even if they were, they wouldn’t help you anyway. I’m sharing this story as a reminder to others to stay in groups, and always be aware of your surroundings.

All for now.


photo credit (cropped): Alex Azabache

Two years ago I myself witnessed, only 50 feet from where I myself stood photographing, a small white van speed by another photographer, swerving towards her, and grabbing her long-lensed camera in broad daylight in the middle of the day. She struggled and screamed, but they got away with the camera. It was an absolutely stunning event.


There have been several murders here in SF for cameras, and several months ago thieves entered my garage and took an entire metal lockbox, cable-locked to the car, with camera equipment from my car, at the same time smashing up the car. And here’s another recent one: TikTok star robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco


And today, October 23rd from Jennifer (reprinted with permission): After a lovely day of birding most of the day, I decided to walk over to Fort Mason, where I bird frequently.  I am really sad to say I was robbed at gunpoint shortly after I arrived.  It was only 4pm, and I was on the sidewalk in front of the row of homes leading to the Battery, but not even close to the Battery. I did not have my camera out, but I think they saw me take photos a few minutes earlier in front of the Community Garden and followed me. They pushed me to the ground and kicked me to get my camera bag/sling off me, I really held on to my binocular — which is crazy cause they had gun and were really trying to get that too. But people came out of the houses and the guy ran to the getaway car waiting for him.

I know everyone knows this is something we have to look out for while birding – and hope this reminder helps people stay vigilant – I always keep this possibility in mind and look around but he ran at me from behind really quickly and shoved the gun in my face.

Please BE AWARE, and STAY VIGILANT.

Calling Forth the Troops at Dusk

Mom slept out in the field all alone — this is something she does frequently as evening sets in. After a while she propped herself up and began grooming herself. After that I could tell she was waiting. She kept looking over the hill to where she knew the rest of the family was and she kept staring in that direction for some time. She seemed to be expecting someone or something.

After a while, she must have become impatient. She got up and stretched in all direction and then began howling, seemingly calling forth the troops — her family. There had been no sirens to set her off. She yipped and barked, but there was no response except for an irritating dog who barked the whole time — three minutes worth — which rendered the recording of her unusable.

She began to vocalize – calling her family together. But they didn’t respond.

After another short while, she must have given up, because she trotted off into the direction she had been looking. I had heard my howl and thought I wouldn’t be seeing any more coyotes as it became dark outside, so I began heading out of the park. Just then, howling began — the responses. They came from three directions with one youngster visible as a silhouette against the sky. The family consists of the two alphas and three pups born this year who are now six months old. The silhouette belongs to one of these pups. Here is the video and recording I captured.

Tragedy Strikes an Urban Coyote Family: Goodbye Mouse; but Good News: Hello Hunter**

THIS REPLACES THE POST I SENT OUT LAST NIGHT, which suddenly had a drastic change.

[For those who know Scout and her story, and for those who have inquired about what happened to her first companion of two years ago, his continuing story is included].

It’s only the middle of October, and we’ve already had 20 coyote car deaths this year in San Francisco — usually we count about 10 a year. Two coyotes were brought in by ACC on July 1 from the same area, one was identified as a four-year-old male and the other as a yearling. It’s about at that time that the four-year-old alpha male of the West Portal family disappeared and was not seen for three months. I assumed one of the dead coyotes was him — until he showed up yesterday on a trap camera — three months later — almost causing my eyes to pop out: yes, it’s definitely him. That’s the good news. But the tragedy of the car deaths isn’t lessened because it’s not him or by not knowing who the killed individual coyote was or his story. Thinking it was Hunter, I wrote up and posted his story yesterday, which I’ve revised as an update, rather than as the obituary I thought it was. Mark Twain’s famous quote came to mind: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. But please remember that the killed four-year-old also had an individual story of his own which was probably as interesting as Hunter’s, so I’m penning down Hunter’s story instead. It’s this individuality, and the many dimensions involved in their lives that I want to convey.

Then, still within the summer months, only two weeks ago and almost three months after those deaths, Mouse, who was Hunter’s mate, was also struck by a car and killed: she was an alpha in the prime of her life, with a yearling still in her family group and three pups born this year — another of her youngsters was the other coyote killed on July 1st of this summer. Maybe these are just statistics to most people, but to me they are individuals: they have histories, families, habits, territories and personalities, many of which I know and follow. I am unable to identify the killed four-year-old, but I have known Hunter since his birth in North Beach, and Mouse since about the same time, though she was older. It’s a good time to jot down a short recap/synopsis of them, and remembering that the killed male four-year-old has his own version of such a story.

That individual coyotes are very similar to us on a number of levels is confirmed constantly by my observations of various individuals over extended periods of time. They are not like our dogs whose lives are directed and helped by their human caretakers: in a way, dogs are like perpetual children who never grow up and become independent. These coyotes, on the other hand, are in charge of themselves and must rely on their own ingenuity and intelligence to achieve their own survival: and they are wonderful survivalists, without any of the societal supports we humans can count on, except for their families. Like us, they work and play and have emotions including joy, anger, jealousies, rivalries, and very different relationships with each individual in their families. They are extremely social, family minded, communicative, and are always interacting. I see different character and personality traits in each: they are individuals. When the time comes, like in our own families, coyote yearlings either leave their birth-families on their own or are pushed out. Many then remain “loners” for awhile, until that special “other someone” comes along. Walkaboutlou tells a wonderful story about how Chica, between two suitors, chose the one who gifted her a rabbit. It doesn’t sound so different from us, does it? Sometimes catastrophes occur, and sometimes life is smooth sailing for many years. Eventually they get old with all of its attendant problems: they become hard of hearing, hard of seeing, arthritic and tired, and may be forced out of their homes by younger more robust coyotes who need the territory for their own families, or they just seem to fade away and never appear again. In my view, they live parallel lives to our own, similar to the “hobbits” living “over there” in the shire, with their own culture (culture is learned behavior that is passed on), goals, needs, and with the intelligence needed to direct their own lives as successfully (or unsuccessfully) as we direct ours. Each life is very different — and I enjoy discovering them and writing about them for everyone to know about.

HUNTER: Born April 2, 2017

It turns out he was not the guy hit by the car. I’m sure the killed guy had a story as rich as Hunter’s, which is why I’m including Hunter’s story here. Each coyote killed by a car has a story, even though we might not know it.

Hunter
Hunter as a pup is in the middle

Hunter was one of four surviving pups out of seven born in April of 2017 in North Beach to Cai and Yote who had been the long-term mated claimants to that fragmented territory. The four included 3 males and one female. The female was quieter, but the “guys” played roly-poly pell-mell interminably, roughhousing, chasing, playing keep away, etc., things all littermates do. They remained together for over a year and a half which is when signs of friction between the male siblings took a turn.

The first to disperse was Hunter. Hunter was mild and easy going. It’s his brothers who carried most of the energy, and maybe that’s why they picked on him.  He was driven out by his own two brothers in a fight on August 1, 2018 at 16 months of age: there was biting and tail-pulling and growling. I happened to be there to record it.

Razor sharp eye contact!

I lost track of him for a while, until he appeared on the territory of a lone female in 2018 about five miles from his birthplace. His dispersal travels may have taken him throughout the city before he found this place. Most coyotes, by the way end up moving south and out of the city with only a few being incorporated into existing territories within the city. Here, then, the camaraderie and togetherness between that loner and Hunter was eye-opening in an amazing way. It was absolutely obvious how smitten they each were with the other. They would walk along gazing in each others eyes — often with little hops and skips of excitement as they went along. Their play also was enchanting beyond words: joyful and caring. And here is a video of them playing and cuddling. This coziness went on for about six months, until a territorial challenger came into the scene. Both the female and Hunter fled in opposite directions.

A few months later, I found Hunter again, now hanging out with a cute coyote gal on HER territory about 3 miles away. They had obviously become a devoted pair, even if they didn’t show the intense camaraderie he had had with his previous companion. They settled down and had a litter of three in someone’s backyard, and Hunter spent every evening during the early part of that pupping season at his lookout post on a closeby lawn. His need to protect only came to fruition when dogs intruded into his space, or cast evil-eyes of some sort in his direction (this is how all dogs and coyotes communicate and it’s almost always well below our radar). It’s why I tell folks to keep their dogs far away from coyotes.

Hunter on sentry duty outside his denning area

Coyotes simply want dogs to leave them and their areas alone. Above is an image of him guarding the den area of this first litter — he’s on the front lawn with that wall you see right at the edge of the sidewalk. Those youngsters became yearlings and could sometimes be seen in person or on security cameras in the neighborhood. That den area became unusable the next year when the owner put up a fence, so Hunter and his mate moved to an expansive fenced-in community where no dogs were allowed: what a perfect setup! Two of the three youngsters remained to help tend the new litter of three which is now six months old: they are almost full-sized, but not at all grown up yet.

We thought this was Hunter hit by a car, but it turned out to be another coyote.

At first I didn’t miss Hunter. He had always been much less omnipresent than the others, appearing only at regular intervals which is how I kept track of him. I stopped seeing him altogether about three months ago and wondered WHY: was he ill — ill coyotes tend to make themselves less conspicuous, or had he abandoned the family to join another — I’ve seen a couple of instances of this now, or was he hit by a car? Then, I was given this photo, left, by Akio Kawai with the date and location of the image. It turns out that ACC had picked up this coyote which was identified as a four-year-old male. Coyotes have no idea how deadly cars are. I had seen Hunter trot through the neighborhoods and knew he did so regularly, where he seemed to have an ongoing oneupmanship relationship with one of the unkindnesses of ravens: A little fun with some alarmist ravens. My thought when I was given this photo was that possibly a routine had made him become careless. BUT, it turns out that killed coyote was not Hunter, though it easily could have been him. Rather it was another coyote with his own story which I was not able to capture.

MOUSE: ~2015 to September 30, 2021

Mouse

I did not know Mouse as a pup, so I don’t know where she came from, though the DNA I’ve collected will give us a clue. She had a harrowing and dramatic story of her own.

ACC tried saving two of the pups who died anyway.

Mouse first caught my attention when neighbors were complaining about “hostile” coyotes in their neighborhood in 2017. She and her then-mate were of course protecting their pups from dogs. I don’t think it was understood by everyone that they needed to keep their dogs away from any coyotes –FAR away from them, especially during the long pupping season. The next year the situation with the neighbors apparently worsened. And that’s when one of the neighbors decided to exclude the coyotes who had been coming around to his home. He sealed up the area under his porch to keep them out, not knowing that pups had already been born there. The parents were frantic and tried communicating their distress for about a week, but of course, no human understood until it was too late. The pups did not survive. It must have been an absolutely tortuous ordeal for these coyote parents — their pups are the most important thing to them. I don’t know what happened to that mate — he disappeared, and may have done so because of no youngsters: his job had been to guard those pups, but he failed.

That’s when Hunter appeared on the scene and paired up with Mouse. They ended up producing two years of litters together. I only knew two of the yearlings born last year, two males who, the next year, helped feed, discipline, play with, and babysit the younger litter born this year. This family for the most part kept itself below human radar during daylight hours, but could be seen in neighbors’ security cameras as they trekked through the neighborhood at night.

Surveillance cameras capture them trekking at night (courtesy Jon Guggenheimer)

Below are photos of the two yearlings who remained to take care of this years’ pups, and a photo of the pups born this year which I only ever saw on a field camera. Mouse was TINY but could appear ferocious when guarding her pups: that’s her in the posting I linked above about pupping behavior. Routine family life for them involved quiet daylight hours, and then the youngsters would play intensely at night while the oldsters went out hunting and marking their territories to keep other coyotes out. Being social, they interacted incessantly with each other, and had different relationships among themselves based on their personalities and position in the family.

When Hunter no longer appeared, Mouse was more omnipresent in the denning area of her territory — she felt secure there — no dogs were allowed in the area. The disappearance of a mate has huge consequences for a coyote. Without a mate, the territory is harder if not impossible to defend. And if she were to lose her territory, well, life without a territory becomes much, much more precarious: having a territory creates a lot of security and stability for coyotes. Within six weeks of Hunter’s disappearance, a new pair of coyotes had moved into an adjacent fragment of their territory. Hunter was no longer marking the area, and the new coyotes would have sensed the male’s absence. Mouse was tiny and alone with her pups and now only one male yearling who probably would not have been able to fight off the newcomers. I wonder if Mouse understood this situation as such.

Then, starting on September 30th, she herself no longer appeared at all where I had seen her multiple times daily. With Mouse’s tragic death, all exuberant play by the youngsters ceased, and instead, over the last two weeks they appeared pacing and waiting and sniffing. We’ll have to see how the story unfolds.

Please drive carefully. Cars kill many dispersing yearlings, but they Please drive carefully. Cars kill many dispersing yearlings, but they also have killed a bunch of alphas I had followed, including Myca in 2007, Maeve in 2013, the Unknown Four-Year-Old Male in 2021, Mouse in 2021, Bonnie in 2019. This year has been a big one for cars killing coyotes.

One last interesting point: Within six weeks of Hunter’s disappearance, a new pair of coyotes had moved into an adjacent portion of their territory. Hunter was no longer marking the area, and the new coyotes would have sensed the male’s absence. Mouse was tiny and alone with her pups and one male yearling who probably would not have been able to fight off the newcomers. I wonder if Mouse knew this. I’ve even wondered if Mouse didn’t put in the effort to get away from the killer car. Her mate was gone, and it takes two coyotes to defend a territory. Animals, too, become depressed — and yes, coyotes have intense emotions.

Kinky Tail, by Walkaboutlou

This is the continuing saga of a ranch family Lou is following. Lou, as I, zeroes in on an individual family, their relationships, and ordeals — all of which will help you get to know coyotes, not as statistics, but as very individual beings with very full lives and challenges of their own. Use the blog’s search box for Walkaboutlou’s earlier stories, and the last update of this family which is here.

Hi Janet,

Well..it’s October. Fires are nearly out. Mornings are foggy. Rains are starting. Better times. 

I’m able to go out more with my patrolling dog pack. You’ll remember Coyote Slim Jim, his daughter Janet, Big Brother, and the 3 surviving pups of 11 pup combined litter. Dominant female his mate Chica and all other pups fell to local wolves. 

Well…the pack moves on in flux as do territorial changes. [Here are] pics of us in Kinky Tails lands. 

Kinky Tail, the large bold female pup, has literally taken over with her Grandpa Slim Jim. Or is he her elderly Father? We don’t know.

What we do know by their constant ranch family watchers is…

Kinky is extremely close to Slim Jim and shadowed him all summer. As he recovered from injuries likely received from wolves..Slim Jim taught Kinky all about staying close to ranch bison herds and hunting rodents. He also fed off abundant wild plums, turkey, jackrabbit and scavenged deer that were hit by cars on country road but hobble off to die. The road caused deer mortalities were MAJOR feasts and boons to Kinky, Slim Jim, Janet, Brother, and Kinky’s 2 siblings..Batman and Robin. 

Also..they showed big shifts in relationships. Kinky..despite her puppy youth…was a real “bitch” to her sibling brothers at deer carcasses. Such antagonistic behaviors at food sources meant they ate and left fast with Big Brother. Mom..or older stepsister Janet was even less welcome.

Janet wasn’t one for conflict. By August..she found a great big strapping admirer (we thought they only found “partners” in winter.) Janet shifted ranges with her new male pal…and has not returned at all it seems. Big Brother returned to old ranges and his little brothers Batman and Robin followed him. Together they are a young bachelor band Brother of 2 and half years and 2 male pups. 

Kinky and Slim Jim have opted Bison herd areas.

Kinky is marking and calling and patrolling with Slim Jim way ahead of her puppy stage age. She has matured way more rapidly. We feel the wolves killing Chica and most pups…caused an incredibly increased rate of maturation in Kinky Tail. She went from bouncy pup to very intense young groomed princess to be Queen…quick. Months. 

Now…we will wait and see. 

Come winter…will Slim Jim seek a mate in his advanced age, or just try to eke out some more days? Will Kinky Tail become Territorial Female as a Yearling ? Or young mother??? Big brother surely will take a mate at years. Will he opt for old home range? And what will Batman and Robin do? It seems best they stay long as they can with Big Brother. When they “visit” Kinky she drives them away. But if she’s out patrolling..Slim Jim is very sweet to his….sons/grandsons. 

Kinky seems at the Helm. Slim Jim is Hale and Hearty but Old.
Big Brother and little Brothers Batman and Robin fine on old range.
Janet….moved on. Too much drama!

Take care human Janet, Lou

A Calm Rendezvous at Dusk: Family Life

Family members usually hang low during daylight hours, often resting and sleeping in very different locations, and then come together in the evening to begin their activity with their rendezvous which is a very social event where there is a lot of physical contact and grooming, and social interactions such as play and reaffirmation of rankings. Usually the entire family is involved — it might be the one time you are able to see the whole family together.

Alpha female and male greet each other after having spent the daylight hours apart, quietly resting

In the video, Mom, the alpha female, is already out in the open grooming herself when the alpha male joins her at a short distance in the grasses. These two had already greeted each other with nose touches and minor grooming about 200 yards away about ten minutes before this. They spend their time here grooming themselves and biting at gnats or mosquitoes.

Soon one of the youngsters arrives and flops on his back for a long and thorough grooming, mostly to his belly. Grooming serves not only to rid them of all sorts of bugs, such as ticks, but it’s a bonding mechanism as well, and also a control measure: the youngster, as far as I have seen, is required to put up with it whether he/she likes it or not. After the long period of grooming where the youngster lies perfectly still, the two other youngsters arrive. This is a family of five. These youngsters are almost six months old now. They look smaller than they really are because they are keeping low as required.

The controlling adult snarls and snout-clamps, and the pups remaining low to the ground and even crawling on their bellies are how the strong hierarchy, and therefore order, is maintained. When the youngsters start resisting this order is when it’s time for them to go.

As rendezvous go, this one is very calm. I’ve seen them where the youngsters are rearing to go and hardly able to contain themselves in anticipation of the family activity after a daytime of quiet. Parents will be leading them to new places and new adventures — all of it a learning experience for them.

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