Sibling Rupture

[The smaller photos can be enlarged and scrolled through by clicking on any of them]

Fighting between a two-year old older brother and his one year old sister.

I found the 2 year-old male coyote with his nose to the ground, sniffing the area. I walked away and over to the perimeter, but this fella came towards me in a circuitous way to check me out. He projected to me that he was simply wandering around this area, but he was actually getting closer and closer and had his eyes on me. As he wandered over, he slurped up the morning dew from the grass. Then he picked up a dead gopher and tossed it up and caught it several times and then left it, watching me all the time as if to see if I might come and grab it. He must have wondered why I wasn’t interested in it, so then he began coming straight in my direction with squinting eyes. He might have been attempting to intimidate me, or maybe test me. Although I don’t see this family often, he is well aware that my focus has frequently been on him or the other coyotes. Suspicions run exceptionally high during pupping season, which we are smack dab into right now. I was about 100 feet away and squatting against the wheel of a parked truck. Since I diverted my focus and didn’t react in any way, I guess I passed his test because he soon walked away and began to ignore me. He wanted to make sure I didn’t want anything to do with him. Of course I did — I was going to be observing — but I apparently succeeded in hiding that.

Older Brother patrols the fenceline, eyes me with squinty eye, and then slurps up morning dew.

He then hurried over to the fenceline at the other end of the lawn and sniffed along that. I thought he was assessing which dogs had been there earlier — he seemed unhappy with whomever he was detecting through his nose. There were no dogs there now, but he kept looking around as if looking for one as he walked away. This two-year-old male had remained with his birth family, whereas all his littermates — of which there had been two — had dispersed long ago: the age difference conferred a hierarchical advantage over his one-year-old siblings born last year.

Just then one of the one-year-old brothers appeared at the other end of the lawn. This younger fellow lay down and remained there, keeping his eyes on what Older Brother was up to — he seemed not to want to be involved physically but was very absorbed in watching it.

Younger brother watches intently from the distance. In the middle is Li’l Girl eyeing her tormentor. To the right she has jumped up to perform *zoomies* to help dispel the tension.

This is when I noticed the third coyote approaching the fenceline where Older Brother had been searching earlier. Older Brother probably had been looking for this, his one year old sister. When she spotted him, she sat down close to the fence and watched him. I sensed tension between them: Older Brother was prowling around and sniffing, with occasional glances towards her, and the two younger coyotes remained distant without moving or making signs of wanting to approach or interact. They normally would have run enthusiastically towards each other to play and interact, but they were obviously in some kind of a standoff. So something was going on from the first moment when I spotted them this morning.

Li’l Girl is tiny compared to her brothers — a good 1/3 smaller — and not at all demonstrative or assertive. I think because of these *small and mellow* qualities, she has remained in the park rather than venture out — it was the safest place for her, whereas her more robust — more robust in size and personality — brothers were out exploring beyond this place long ago: coyotes mature at different rates. This is where her parents had brought her and her siblings when they were just two months old and she has never left. In recent months, we have been detecting her alone in the area, long after her brothers were on their forays to discover the world, so the area, in a certain way, had become hers.

Li’l Girl was nervous at times this morning as she sat and then lay at the end of the lawn. Every once in a while she got up and raced wildly around in circles, almost uncontrollably, picking up a frisbie and then dropping it and then returning to her previous sitting or lying down position and watching her brother: she appeared to be releasing tension as she performed what in the dog-world are known as *zoomies*. She did this several times, always returning quickly to her lying down or sitting position, and staring at her brother in the distance. His presence was undeniably causing her distress.

As she sat there, scrub jays harassed her. She could have easily caught one if she had wanted to since they walked on the ground only inches from her, but she had other things on her mind. She continued to watch Older Brother and ignored the birds, foregoing a gleeful pursuit if only for the fun of it.

Older Brother continued sniffing the ground, seemingly nonchalantly, slurping up the morning dew and now moving slowly and zig-zaggedly in his little sister’s direction 200 feet away, the way he had towards me earlier. He did not head straight in her direction, but headed there circuitously.

Not until this observation had I noticed negative interactions between these two. It’s true that all her brothers tended to teasingly pick on her — they pulled and poked at her — and she let them without retaliating, and maybe that’s why they continued to do it. I also think that the interacting allowed her to be part of the group — it was better than being left out. She had been one of six pups in the litter — all the rest were boys — and Older Brother remained from last year’s litter. It has been a big family.

Older Brother approaches Li’l Girl directly when he is within 40 feet of her.

So, Bigger Brother wandered casually in Li’l Girl’s direction. I watched as he got half-way there, and then he was 3/4ths of the way there. Finally he stopped and stared at her and then headed in her direction directly with long strides and hackles up and squinty eyes, wrinkling his nose and raising his lips enough to show his teeth. When he reached her, he sniffed her, and stood over her stiffly and threateningly. He was daring her to submit or react.

When he reached her, he snarled his displeasure at her with bared teeth. She used her arm to keep him away and stayed low and on her back, offering no resistance beyond returning a snarl of displeasure.

SHE responded defensively by curling up tightly and keeping down, but she also gaped and bared her teeth with lips pulled back over a clenched jaw, and she thrust nips at him every so often. At times she extended a paw towards him to keep him an arm’s length away. Older Brother’s attacks came in brief spurts: bursts of actual body slams and nips between longer periods of dominant intimidation and then spells where he would walk off. But the pressure of Older Brother’s presence was palpable continually even as he walked away from her. I sat in the distance taking it all in and mesmerized by it all. Occasionally she would run off with her tail tucked under, her back arched protectively and keeping low to the ground. She never went far before lying down again: she seemed to be holding her ground. Another self-protective stance of hers as she was poked at, was to put her head down under herself with her backside up which often resulted in her toppling over in a sort of somersault — she was protecting her face at the expense of her rear.

Here she resists and defensively bites back after he intensified his attack with body slams and bites.

And this interaction repeated itself aver and over again, with Older Brother walking away some distance after each interaction, and Little Sister also moving off some distance and then lying down again, and then Big Brother approaching again. The activity continued for about an hour. She was taunted and bullied like this repeatedly. But she didn’t run off, she just moved out of his range of contact, so the activity continued.

She slinks away, keeping low, with an arched back and ears back.

After an hour, Younger Brother, who had remained in the distance watching, now came forward and joined the interaction. He approached Li’l Girl several times caringly, as if to offer solace. But he also seemed to be conflicted about where he stood in this situation. One moment he stood by her gently consoling her, yet at the same time, he seemed wary that Older Brother might dish out the same treatment to him, and I could see that he was being pulled into Older Brother’s camp. His hackles also went up and he ended up poking Li’l Girl a couple of times — I would say more playfully, but possibly also showing solidarity with Older Brother — this would be for his own self-protection from Big Brother. I’ve seen this *imitate and join* behavior in other coyotes as they either go after another family member to disperse them, or against a predator when they hunt. She, again, got up and ran off a litte distance and then lay down in her low, curled up position. 

More interaction, with Older Brother dominating her space, jumping on or over her. She does her somersault roll, keeping her face out of his reach.

Shortly thereafter, I suppose she had had enough, because she grabbed her chance when both males were at enough of a distance to give her a lead, and she ran off. Both brothers followed her. I was not able to keep up. However, I was informed by another observer that Li’l Girl was seen running back into the area within only a few minutes, followed by the others. She continued through and out of the area, while the two brothers stopped there and remained there. The next day, the two males were seen there, but not Li’l Girl, and we have not seen her there since.

Above you’ll see Younger Brother’s attempt to console her, and below he might have thought of interference, but he seems to have thought better of it and then moved away.

Li’l Girl has not been a threat to either brother, so why was this happening? Did Older Brother not like her claiming the area as hers — if in fact she was doing so? Had she started exhibiting territorial behavior towards him which might have caused him to react? If she had, I never saw it. Then again, I have found that coyotes tend to pick on the weaker individuals in their families (just like they pick on weaker prey), simply because they can get away with it without reprisals.

On the left she tries calming Older Brother, but he won’t have it; in the middle photo he tries mounting her (a domination behavior); whereupon she bares her teeth and moves away from him (right photo above).

I don’t recall another instance of a little girl coyote picked on like this by a brother. The little girl coyotes that I’ve seen seem to become their littermates’ best friends and protectors, and are usually sought after for easy companionship when other brothers might be roughhousing too intensely. It’s usually same-sex littermates who become rivals as far as I have seen. Then again, I have found exceptions to every generality I’ve made or heard about regarding coyotes. They truly are individuals and march to their own individual tunes.

Note the stare of intimidation in the upper left photo. Upper right she hurries away with lowered head. Lower left he bites her leg and then in the center photo stands over her dominantly. She retaliates in the lower right photo as he body slams her.

Growing animosity between siblings often leads to dispersal. Was Older Brother meanly trying to push her out? Then again, it occurs to me that Big Brother’s bullying her may be exactly what she needs to get her exploring the larger world. The worry is that her slow maturing may mean she’s not ready. Anyway, these are some of the images I captured during that hour.

She sits with clenched jaw, not backing down. But then Older Brother comes at her like a bullet (center photo), and she decides it’s time to split, at which point she runs out of the field with brothers at her heels.

Slide Presentation at the Rotary Club, SF, May 17th

I will be giving a much-shortened 20 minute version of my normally 50 minute talk at the Rotary Club of San Francisco on May 17th at noon. You can attend in person and receive a three course lunch (yes, there’s a fee), or you can sign up virtually. Click the link below for more information.

For more information, click here: https://sfrotary.com/event/rotary-luncheon–citizen-coyotes-of-san-francisco–where-they-are–who-they-are–how-to-get-along/

Slim Jim’s Bigger Picture, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet,

I recently mentioned the old nearly blind former pack leader, Slim Jim, and him joining his daughter over 8 miles away from his core area.

The move mystified me because I felt he had it all. Safety in landscape and Bison herds. 

The bigger picture with wild animals is almost really never known. We cannot know every detail, trajectories or reasons. However..I realize more now about Slim Jim with help from others and some analytical thinking. (And it’s still guesswork)

Slim Jim had a very nice area and kept following bison for some months. However. . .2 things changed the Bison scene:

1) The Bison cows are heavily pregnant or giving birth. Their tolerating ANY canine..including elderly Slim, is over with motherhood. At least when calves are tiny 1st couple weeks.

2)The bison are a captive herd. They may have 7,000 acres to range. But they are moved periodically. Early calving season the bison are moved out of hills to watch until all calves are born and birthing season is over. Slim Jim wasn’t about to follow Bison in hemmed in fences. 

Why he didn’t stay in the area when buffalo left is likely a few wolves passed thru. Rolling in bison patties apparently is a wolf pleasure when herds aren’t about. Trotting wolves even distant would likely unsettle the old guy. 

We will never know how Slim Jim made it to Daughter Kinky and her family. Did she fetch him? Did he somehow know where she went and begged admittance? 8 miles is alot when you are blind and not fast. He made it. 

He is now officially pup sitter of 3 pups.Kinky had a tiny litter. (Her being a yearling might be partial reason) 

He is with pups constantly. He likely sees a little and stays very close to the massive cliffs and crevices that are now home. 

He went from green foothills and range to stony highlands. 

I wish his scruffy little body well.

Regards,

Lou

Creating Structure and Keeping Culture, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet, 

As spring and pupping season rockets fwd, a sort of dilemma appears and really goes to the core of who we are. 

My pack and I do am approx 150 miles of ranches bordering vast public lands. It’s a place of many cultures and types of peoples lives. 

The same can be said of the Coyote.

There are people who will indiscriminately kill any coyote they can. There are areas of hard core incessant coyote warfare.

Then there are areas of careful land management. Ranch bisons or wheat farms or LGD premises where dogs control and repel predators naturally.

Hardcore Areas produce hardcore Coyote. Plain and simple. There are coyote that will become nomadic, erratically wild raiders of sheep ranches. They will bankrupt a ranch’s yearly lamb production. Ironically…left alone and allowed to have land of natural hunting (mainly rodents) you get structured packs. You get long bonded pairs. You get strict territoriality among coyote families that develop learned culture. They can be taught…do not go to certain areas. They can be influenced generationally. 

Humans create the local coyote. 

Coexistence and knowledge can create stable coyote, and structured behaviors.

Ceaseless persecution creates legendary canines ready and willing to become the wild erratic hardcore raider that brings financial and personal issues.

Anyhow….many coyote this year never seen. Fire refugees likely.

The Bad Ear Pack

One pack is called Bad Ears. From a ranch hunted ceaselessly. Hemmed in to hold territory in swampy refuge. The bugs in summer bite ears ceaselessly. Hence bad ear pack. The Bad Ears seem to produce hard core behaviors.

Left: Kinky! Right: Kinky saying she sees us.

Wheras Kinky tail and others…rodents and deer killed and lost by hunters are their mainstay with berries and grasshoppers. Kinkys family hasn’t killed livestock in 30 years.

I love all dogs. But I will not allow this pack our knowledge of coyote homes. It’s a locally divisive subject.

A local rancher asked us to help locate the bad ears and others for greyhounds to hunt.

We simply can’t do that. To scatter our local packs will create unstable coyote for many years. So..it kind of reveals who you are and how you feel about coyote, land, and culture. 

Who am I creating or betraying? Going after all Bad Ears means endangering Kinky, Slim Jim and every coyote who never did any livestock wrong. 

We won’t do that. 

Anyway….coexistence. It is our pack mantra. 

Lou

Pups Emerge from their Den

Less than a week ago, on April 28th, these pups emerged for the first time from their den. The timeline is about the same in all the territories here in San Francisco. I wanted to share what the brand new pups look like, taken with a field camera. These are three weeks old and Mom is already regurgitating solid food for them, though they’ll continue nursing for another month.

Stewardship and guidelines for coexistence are easy, but you have to abide by them to keep coyotes, dogs and people happy and safe. The important thing is to keep away from them and their denning areas. They will be extremely protective especially during pupping season: the only thing they own and care about is their families right now.

Dogs are their biggest problem — dogs go after them constantly. As far away from their dens as 1/4 mile and more, they will approach dogs (as they do non-family coyotes) to message them to keep away. This is why it’s much less important for folks to know exactly where a den is than to know that it’s denning season. If you’ve been seeing coyotes in your area, you can pretty much be sure they are pupping and therefore will exhibit protective behavior which extends far beyond the den itself.

If you stay vigilant and keep your dog leashed, and then walk away from a coyote when you see one, you will be protecting both your dog and the coyote. You will probably not run into a coyote that often, so this isn’t a lot to ask. Any dog that isn’t leashed in a coyote area is actually free to chase coyotes: the owner is allowing it. Every chase (but also barking at and lunging at the coyotes while on a leash) sends the message to the coyote that the dog is an attacker — that’s how they see these things. And every such incident erodes the dog/coyote coexistence interface. If the coyotes are chased, they learn that’s what dogs do and they come to expect it and become more ready for it and willing to put up a defense. Respect is granted when it’s earned.

Small dogs and cats are a totally different issue because they can be seen as prey, no different from a rabbit or skunk. When you walk your small dog, please keep it leashed and close to you — not on a long extended leash. And, again, when you see a coyote, shorten that leash even more and walk away. You might have to pick up the small dog as you go if the coyote comes towards you. So please, be safe, keep your dog safely away — far enough away to keep them from reacting to the coyote by barking and lunging in their direction: this is the best way to respect our wildlife and to build respect from them.

Small children have been in the news recently as the result of coyotes approaching and biting them. This is not only rare, it is extremely rare. Humans feeding coyotes may be behind this, but also just the fact that it’s denning season I’m sure is an influencing factor. Again, please stay vigilant and keep small children close to you at all times.

Shot With Paintballs

I found one of the dads I observe this way a few days ago: covered in blue paint. It’s very apparent that he’s been shot with paintballs. This constitutes harassment and abuse of our wildlife and is illegal. If you know, or get whiff of, who is doing this, please report them to ACC. This is in the Lake Merced area.

A paintball gun can cause serious injuries. It’s unlikely that a shooter could actually stop an animal’s heart, I read, but they could cause internal injuries like bleeding that could kill the animal over time. A paintball bullet causes unnecessary pain and suffering for an animal, and more so if one of the more powerful paintball guns out there is being used.

In addition to internal injuries caused by the impact, other common injuries from these guns include traumatic eye injuries, some leading to partial or complete blindness. Blunt forces to the eye can permanently impede the eyes’ ability to create clear images and can lead to cataracts. Knee and ligament injuries also can result from the the blunt force of the paintballs, as can broken bones, all of which, in turn, can lead to Infections: our wild animals are not privy to the medical care we are.

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