Finding Scout

Scout is one of the coyotes — a 7-year-old — whose life I’ve been following and whose story I’ve been telling. However, she has pretty much been off of my radar for the last six months: she all but disappeared from her territory during that time-frame. I knew she was not far away because she appeared regularly in her old territory, even if only briefly, in the dead of night, with her mate, Scooter, and sometimes one of her yearlings: I have been able to capture this because of a field camera I put out in her old territory. And, through the field camera, I’ve been able to capture a little about her continued story. Here is an update and summary of her story.

Update: What the field camera showed about Scout was her rounded shape back in March and then in April her losing that roundness and gaining the lactating tits of a nursing mom. Ahh, so Scout had another family — her third litter. But she had them elsewhere, not in her old long-time claimed territory — the territory she had battled for so valiantly when an intruder tried taking it from her in 2019. Few coyotes, once established in a claimed territory, move away, so this is an unusual situation. Of additional interest is that she returns almost nightly to her old territory where several of her yearling pups still remain.

These are field camera photos taken at the old territory, showing Scout fat to the left, Scout svelte again in the middle, and Scout lactating to the right the camera is on a path she habitually frequented and apparently still does.

Video allowing me to identify her

I kept my eyes and ears open for any clues as to her new location. People told me about coyotes they had seen, but either they didn’t have photos, or the photos were not of Scout. One lady I met told me she had taken some videos of a coyote on the street and offered to share them with me. I sent her my email, asking to see the videos, but she forgot to check her messages until just a week ago, six months after our exchange! So a week ago I saw the video to the right where I was able to identify Scout! I then spent several mornings talking to more and more people where the video had been taken, and within a few days who should I come across but Scout herself!

I gasped, and Scout saw me. She of course must know who I am from my documenting her movements and behaviors over the last seven years. She stopped and looked at me, knowing I would not approach, and then she lay down for a few minutes, allowing me time to watch her. After a few minutes, her mate, who is much more flighty and wary, appeared and then fled when he saw a group of people nearby. But he stopped when he saw Scout watching me — her calmness seemed to calm him. After a few minutes, he must have beckoned her because she turned to go with him: he and she are a tight team, and work and communicate seemingly telepathically as a unit. It’s really nice to observe this!

Scout and Scooter at their new location a few days ago. Please remember that I don’t reveal locations for the coyotes’ sake: for their privacy and security, but I wanted to share Scout’s continuing story, which many people have followed on my blog.

Over the next few days I found that they were there with one of their yearling sons born last year, Cyrano. Over those next few days, I observed them patrolling the surrounding area and I observed some of their food sources: pizzas left out for them, I saw them hunt and eat gophers, and a cat (yikes!). There are ducks not far away and squirrels all over the place in the immediate area, and I know they trek over 2 miles each night to mark their territory as they search for and return to food sources they know about: for example, they’ll return to fruit trees, once ripened, until the fruit is gone.

To the left is a one-year-old son who migrated with them to their new location, and to the right is one of their new pups — I’ve counted two (there may be more) in the litter born this last April.

And I even glimpsed two pups hanging around what must be their densite. I make it a practice to stay away from dens, but this year I literally and inadvertently tripped over a handful of them. These particular dens are minimally hidden and placed where anyone would walk. If there had been predators around, these pups would have perished long ago. Then again, maybe the coyotes comprehend that there are no real predators around. Loose dogs could injure them, but most are not actively looking for them as prey to eat.

There’s plenty of food in the area

The den is a hollow under a fallen tree

Parents patrol the streets and fields — they know everything about their territories.

They visit their old territory at night where this, their two-year-old offspring appears to be holding down the fort!

A little background for those who haven’t followed her story here. Scout was the first *litter* if you want to call it that — she was a singleton pup — born in 2015 to a young 2-year-old mom and that 2-year-old’s 6-year-old father. Yes: inbreeding. There was a lot in that family. There are stories about her birth family on my blog.

I watched Scout grow up as a defiant little rascal — her father was constantly chasing her and throwing her on her back because of her defying him. I guess she had had enough of it by 9-months of age, because that’s when she dispersed. It’s one of the earliest dispersals I’ve seen — most take place between 1 and 2 years of age. I last observed her in her birth territory in January of 2016, and two weeks later, in February, she had appeared where she would remain for the next six years. It was a vacant territory 1.6 miles away from her birthplace. There had been territorial coyotes there before, but the last alpha was killed by a car, and not until Scout arrived was that vacancy refilled. Luck was with her, considering that the majority of dispersing youngsters move south and out of the city due to a lack of territorial vacancies within the city, and on top of that, while dispersing, many, many get hit and killed by cars. Cars are their chief killers in cities.

Scout remained a loner for three more years. Remembering that coyotes are highly social, this must have been difficult for her. She filled the void by watching humans and their dogs. Some people fed her. Some people fed her from cars. This caused her to hang around, wait for food, chase cars. If she saw you eyeing her, she would perform — she seemed to like attention, which most coyotes do not: she would start playing with a stick, or a ball, or do zoomies — almost in imitation of all the dogs she had been watching. She seemed to smile more often than other coyotes I see — maybe she was imitating her human and dog neighbors?? There was one dog she hated and would bark at when he came into sight, there were other dogs she ran from, and others she would test: people thought she was playing with their dogs, but I could see it was simply *testing* behavior.

Finally, into her 4th year at this territory, a strapping young fellow appeared and both she and he hit it off. This was a fellow I had watched grow up in North Beach, over four miles away. He was dispersing now, at 1.8 years of age. Their immediate friendship was amazing to watch: this previous loner was now smitten with the company of another coyote. They walked around together gazing in each others eyes (I’m not kidding), they played and cuddled and teased each other. They hunted together and howled together and she looked after him and would get worried when she felt he was endangered. Rightly so: he ended up acquiring a broken ankle (diagnosed by my wildlife vet based on videos I sent her) after being chased by a dog. I had to convince everyone to please leave that coyote alone, that the injury would heal on its own, which it did. Several people went so far as to hire a trapper so they could *fix* the coyote. People simply didn’t realize how powerful nature is as a healer. But also removing a coyote from his social situation would have been absolutely detrimental for both him and Scout, disrupting the relationship and opening the way for another coyote to take his place, which his absence would have done.

For four months, everything went smashingly well, with Scout paying less attention to people, dogs, and cars, and spending more time learning to be the social coyote she was meant to be, and then suddenly everything was turned upside down for her: another powerful little female showed up who decided to fight for Scout’s territory. There was a skirmish under a car and blood spurted out. The intruder had been radio-collared and tagged only a month or so earlier in the Presidio. Unfortunately, the radio-collar gave that intruder, I call her Wired, an advantage: it served as protective armor. I next saw Scout with bloody gashes on her neck and forehead. And then I saw her flee as she was pursued throughout a lot of the city by this single-minded female intruder. I followed their trajectory into Diamond Heights, Dolores Heights, Noe Valley, McLaren. Scout attempted to return to HER territory several times, but each time she was repulsed by Wired. This exile lasted about 6 months, and then suddenly one day, Wired was no longer around. It turned out that Wired had found a better territory in the Presidio, which is where she has been living with her mate born and dispersed from North Beach. They’ve had several litters of pups.

So, I think to her great surprise, Scout found herself returning to her territory without having to face Wired. She carefully allowed herself to become more and more visible and then more and more at ease there. That was in June of 2019. That fall, a new male appeared. Although the relationship was nothing like her first love (!), her bond and devotion to him, and his for her, has grown. In 2020 they had their first litter of four pups, three of whom survived to adulthood. In 2021 they had a second litter of 6 pups, one of whom was killed by rat poison and one by a car. You can read about all this here.

It is during the fall of 2021 that everyone who knew her started seeing less and less of Scout and Scooter. They stopped their sentry duty where they had been seen daily for years. Everyone began to see them more sporadically and for shorter periods of time. And then I noted, they no longer appeared at all, except in the deep of night caught on a trap camera. That was six months ago.

Addendum: I can speculate on what might have contributed to her move based on what I know was going on, but of course we’ll never know for sure if these were contributing factors. *The huge number of dogs in her old territory didn’t seem to be an issue earlier on, but as Scout got older they may have become more of a problem for her — harder for her to deal with. *Last summer one of her pups born last year died of rat poisoning and we noticed that she herself became slow and lethargic at that time — and it’s shortly after this that we stopped seeing her so often: might she have ingested a less-than-lethal dose of the same rat poison that killed one of her sons? It’s something that might have influenced her to move. *Then, a large fenced-in area — and therefore dog-free refuge which she often retreated to — became a construction zone so she no longer had a totally safe place to go, especially if there were to be more pups. *Most of the holes under the fence of that sanctuary were boarded up at the time construction began: she might have feared total blockage and so had to find a new place. *Most importantly, a vacancy would have to have occurred in her new territory, and in fact, a coyote was picked up DOA, hit by a car not long before she moved. *The new territory is much wilder and has water nearby — it’s definitely a *step up* for her, which may also have contributed to her deciding to move. *Might she have wanted to leave her old territory to a youngster? This is actually what has happened, but was this by design? We don’t know. *Lastly, although I won’t know until all the DNA results are in from my population study, I have a feeling that her mate, Scooter, was probably originally from the new park — was born there — and it possibly is because he led her back there that they moved there. All these things were going on and may have contributed to the move, but ultimately, we simply don’t know why she moved, keeping her toe in the old territory, so to speak, by visiting almost every night.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hilary Cole
    Jun 18, 2022 @ 04:14:58

    Hi Janet..

    Such an amazing story to reread .. I’m so pleased she’s safe and w a new mate…
    Beautiful to hear..

    Thank you Janet for this beautiful article 😊💖😊

    Reply

  2. Gina
    Jun 20, 2022 @ 19:14:43

    We have been wondering where Scout has been. The neighborhood isn’t the same without her! We were a bit worried, and it’s good to know that she’s safe and well. I hope the new area suits her and that her current litter is thriving. Thanks so much for the update!

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Jun 20, 2022 @ 21:34:11

      I was hoping she’d pick a spot that was much less exposed than her previous area, and she may indeed have, generally, with fewer people and dogs around. Nonetheless, she seems to have picked an area which is not all that different from what she had before, in terms of an exposed slope. Professor Ben Sacks at UC Davis did a study which found that coyotes tend to like to disperse to areas very similar to what they had as youngsters. It seems like this is exactly what is happening! Thanks, Gina, for caring about her. I’ll keep posting intermittently about her as long as I am able to keep up with her. :))

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