Madeline Woodbury’s Follow-up from F&W

Janet,

I’m comforted knowing you are there fighting for wildlife as I am.

F & W called me this morning; they will go over and call these neighbors.

On the other hand I realized The Sergeant’s own dilemma: she is just one of two F & W police.  This is a problem in itself: we need more enforcement and responsibility of humans.  I asked her calmly where does one begin to speak out, shift laws currently in place…. 

We both uttered Snohomish County Council.  I will begin here; I must speak out for the lunacy in which humans can get away with murder and the wildlife will lose every time.  Safeguarding your own animals is one place to begin.

I’ll find the next County Council meeting.  

But she has the address of the responsible neighbor.  I asked for follow up; she said I will not get a return call but to call later for an update.

I didn’t see blood [on the dead coyote] even when I turned it over, so it probably was not shot; it was in such a state of decomposition with the heat and blow flies and their larvae.  I wore a mask, gloves and brought a Native American smudge stick already lit and smoking.  If ever one needs aid for masking the smell of decomposition, bring this with you in a safe carrier, glass, metal, etc. it can help but nothing will mask the smell of death unless wearing a gas mask.

The wildlife officer stated exactly what you did about it’s being too late for a necropsy: the coyote was already too decomposed to perform this.

I would like you to post about this.

Thank you as always,

Madeline


Janet,

I had another follow-up with F & W; she did go and visit the coyote killer’s residence.  Before she visited them, she visited my site; we walked the property, saw where the woods meet boundary lines.  The residents who live there are treating my land as a park or woods that is public or as if it isn’t owned, or walked by other humans and pets, or perhaps other neighbors; they just don’t care. 

Postings such as: Keep Out, Private Property, No Shooting, etc. are what the F&W Officer recommends right now and cameras that send instantaneously to my phone or computer.  Do you have a camera that sends data to your computer or phone straight away?  And you like?  No red-eye, she recommended.

Would you believe the F&W suggested I fence the back woods?!  I was in dismay with her.  First, the wildlife should have free access coming and going.  Placing 6′ fences really sucks to me.  She could tell by my response fencing the woods was not going to happen.  So much for keeping it wild!  Damn, if we walled, fenced, wired all land – where would the wildlife go?  See, it’s this type of insensitivities that bother me.  Fence out the illegal activity.  But what about the wildlife that depend on roaming.  She could see I was very irritated at the suggestion of fencing this in.  

Instead of reprimanding gun-nuts and poisoning wildlife, she wants me to install fencing to keep the illegals out from shooting and killing wildlife?!  It more than stinks as suggestion!

Yes, please post this.  We can’t wait for someone else to do the thing that needs to be done, if something is egregious and we can take part in changing the egregious act – we need to be involved.  Change will not happen on its own.  We need to be involved.  I believe the more eyes and minds that read your site will see and learn too they can be the change against egregious acts.

For wildlife – thank you!

Madeline


  • To report a violation in the state of California, press here.
  • To report a violation in the state of Washington press here.

Bear With Me, by Madeline Woodbury

Madeline knows her coyotes through her field cameras. Above left: a limping youngster; middle: that same limping youngster acknowledging another family member whose eyes are all we see; right: a coyote who got some debris caught around his neck — it looks like a radio-collar, but isn’t! “They are so beautiful in their wildness.  And they’re so clever and smart; committed to their pups and family, aware, cautious, playful, determined, continuously searching for food and safety; they work hard staying alive in this world.  I admire them beyond compare.  Why they have been so persecuted; it’s as taking any group (people) many decide to trounce on, demean – torture and kill. I see them and they fill me with happiness.” 


Hi Janet,

Two days ago, Mostly and I, he’s my dog, found a deceased young coyote.  He or she was down by the creek.  Prior to this, for the past few days we’ve been smelling a corpse smell but weren’t sure where.  He and I searched a couple of different places.  But just this past Thurs or Friday we saw a turkey vulture land.  I happened to be sitting on the deck and just taking in nature when it flew in and landed.  It was around the area Mostly and I kept smelling the smell of death; I thought it was larger than a rat or rabbit or … but this was to the right of the deck.  *Note: we’ve gone back through this area searching, nothing yet.

Yesterday Mostly’s nose was going; I followed.  Behind the garage, down a small ravine and there on the other side, a young coyote.  I just teared up.  Of course, the smell was overwhelming, we’ve also been under fire watch, ashes pouring down on us for 2 days.  It was late and I figured I’d go out today to bury her.

I called Fish and Wildlife on Saturday.  They took my call and got right back to me.  Wasn’t sure I’d see anyone that day but had requested someone look at the body to establish: poison or shot.  

I wrapped him/her in a large paper compost bag and buried for the smell.  I don’t even know if F&W will follow-up.

It’s the bloody neighbors I just know it.  We haven’t had this issue since a few years back since I had it out with the neighbors to the south; I haven’t heard them trap or shoot a coyote since, and they own no livestock.  But these people.  I did tell you I ran through the woods when I heard gunshot a couple weeks ago?  We had it out.  They shot again and I yelled and threatened to call the sheriff in which I have and made a report with them.  What’s illegal is firing in to my woods: he could kill more than his designs such as me, my dog, a neighbor…

I called my neighbor who is also empathetic to animals.  I recounted what happened.  I told him I have a young coyote dead down by the creek.  He’s not happy about it; he told me years ago a neighbor’s dog was shot and killed for running after another’s cows.  He told me that neighbor who owned the dog was not happy.  What we knew of this neighbor is, his dog was abused by the family, it was mean, it ripped up a person’s arm needing stitches.  Why is this even worth mentioning: irresponsible again expecting a different outcome or not even being involved with your animal as it’s chasing down cows.  This dog was not even put down after biting people several times.  My heart went out to the abused dog with the idiocy of so-called owners.

A call in to F&W.  So, a respite on gun shooting but now poisoning, luring in an animal with meat/poison?  This is a first from them.  I told you these people are less than smart on how to keep their animals.  Makeshift tarps for keeping them in, etc.

I’ll call F&W tomorrow if I don’t hear from them.  The shooting, I have filed a report.  This is on my property; the woods run right up to where they keep their chickens and ducks.  But they will not continue to kill coyote because of their less than intelligent ways of keeping poultry.

I will reread F&W for Western WA and find out about poisoning, etc. wildlife.

Due to man’s idiocy wildlife pays for his ill-keeping of animals.  It’s not right; they list coyote as nuisance wildlife as a raccoon, bobcat, and you can dispatch any time?!  Man or woman does not even have to act accordingly they have the permission to kill any of these animals listed as nuisance.  I have work to do and to stand for.

I’m a little set back with my own health though as soon as I’m on my feet again, “nuisance” tagged on wildlife is ill-informative, hurtful to them; it’s brushing them off so someone doesn’t have to act responsibly.  Not right.  I won’t stand for the abuse, the carelessness.

I wanted to try to see if she was shot and it was extremely difficult today.  But it’s why I wrapped her in case F&W wanted to view.  I’m asking too much right now, aren’t I?  This just is not in their league, is it?  It’s why these entities need replacement with thoughtful and responsible persons fulfilling this work.  All around care especially for wildlife.  Not thrown off random acts of violence and poison.  Safeguarding your own pets, livestock, etc.  One needs to stand and be responsible for how they keep animals.

I’m frustrated, sad, and tearful.

Thanks for being there to talk it out,

Madeline

Vida Eliminated — with input by Walkaboutlou

[The first part of this is re-posted from my Instagram account, and then I explore a coyote territorial “takeover” scenario with input from Walkaboutlou].

Vida was a three-year-old first-time mom who suddenly went missing on July 25th, and we’ve not seen her again. She was a tiny and easy-going coyote who minded her own business and stayed away from people and dogs in her park. She was an absolutely ideal neighbor.

She had two four-month old pups whom she would not have just left. No, something happened — but what? There have been no DOA coyotes picked up by Animal Care and Control since then, so she doesn’t appear to have been hit by a car. The one hint as to what might have happened is the incredibly intense distressed coyote vocalizations every night around midnight close to her denning area over the period when she went missing, the kind I’ve been hearing, not after a simple chase by a dog, but after a much more intense and relentless hot pursuit by a powerful dog bent on “getting the coyote”, as I’ve recently posted.

I can’t help but think of the possibility that her disappearance might have been due to such foul play. The disturbing vocalizations went on intensely for many nights and pointed to violent upheaval of some type. I know it sounds far fetched — and this would be a worst-case scenario — but I wouldn’t put her disappearance past someone with a hunting dog who hates coyotes — maybe even brought into the city by a seriously disgruntled park-going individual. More than once I’ve heard several individuals say they were going to shoot the coyotes — take the law into their own hands because they didn’t like the law — the law didn’t suit them. The law, BTW, here in San Francisco, is that you can’t harm or harass wildlife.

There are a number of humans who are outraged and outspokenly livid that trails were closed by the Park Department this denning season, having been closed off to keep both dogs and coyotes out of each other’s way and to curtail conflict. In their minds, “whole sections of parks were turned over to the coyotes.” The people who think this way are not many, but they sure are vocal, loud, and self-righteous about it. They are individuals who feel THEY have a handle on how things “should be” and are unable to accept anything different — anything inconvenient to them. I want to point out to them that until the 1920s, Bald Eagles were considered vermin and shot on sight for hunting small animals and as a dire threat to children — they were one of those animals that “shouldn’t be here”.

I have seen large dogs sicced on coyotes by their owners in other SF parks — I was there and stopped it. What I do know is that Vida is gone and there were intensely distressed vocalizations tied into her disappearance, and then another female suddenly appeared and filled her niche. Fortunately, last I saw, Dad was still regurgitating food for the pups, picked up by a field-camera, so they are continuing to be taken care of. Vida has never reappeared.

As I said, I don’t have absolute proof that dogs were involved, I’m just speculating, as a possible scenario, based on my observations of the overall situation and all the input I’ve received. On the face of it, that’s the most likely scenario of what happened. But I want to interject another script or storyline possibility, no matter how unlikely, to show the breadth and depth of coyote behavior more than anything else.

A full month after Vida disappeared, my field camera in the area captured a pummeling fight between two female coyotes. The aggressive victor of the fight turned out to be none other than Libe, the new alpha female in the territory — the one who replaced Vida. I had no trouble identifying her. As I watched the video clip a thought passed through my head: What IF the smaller coyote had been Vida? This potentiality came to mind because the smaller, losing coyote had a similar size and body configuration as Vida. In spite of that, in Vida’s case, there appear to be too many negating factors: Vida has always been easy for me to identify, but I was unable to in the clip; the fight happened a full month after Vida stopped appearing, whereas if she had been forcefully driven away she would have tried repeatedly to reclaim her territory and family, but she didn’t — coyotes are intensely tied to their families; and she would have been more the aggressor rather than simply putting up a defense as might a dispersing coyote, as seen in the video — in the video it’s Libe who is doing all the pummeling.

So, more as a point of interest, I want it to be known that “takeover” situations — i.e. “stealing” — though exceptionally rare when there are pups, appear to be remotely possible.

Duking it out

I asked my friend, Walkaboutlou, who has revealed his deep understanding of coyotes from years of first-hand interest and observations, if he had ever heard of, or thought it possible, that an outsider single female could come in and fight and oust a mother with four-month-old pups from her territory? Could this happen? Do coyotes “steal” each other’s families? Ever? Commonly? I’ve never seen it. I myself had seen single coyotes ousted from territories, but in those cases, there were no pups and there was no mate, and I’ve seen the territories of older coyotes who have lost their mates taken over forcefully by a more robust and younger coyote pair.


Hi Janet,

I’m not a canine behaviorist professional in domestic or wild canids. However I always say …

Almost anything is possible.

I’ve seen seemingly stable and generational coyote packs that all have degree of relatedness and various affiliations too. Most areas are extremely fluid because coyote typically on average live rather fast lives. If you only have a few years to live, hold a place and have some pups hopefully … you live intense.

The ranching family I know who has known their coyote packs decades has mentioned take overs or changes. Sometimes a male or female is “driven” out. And their mate leaves with them. 

Other times … it seems some mates are determined to stay in territory, and join the victor. Much like cats.  The territory holds them more than the bond. 

I think any outcome or dynamic is possible. The contact calls and stress vocalizations would happen with dog aggression, or coyote take over. Its upheaval. 

I also know some coyote depart like ghost never to be seen again if they lose territory. And others are very stubborn to relinquish old stomping grounds.

However … the intensity of take over merits … usually … short term stuff. It’s usually just so stressful to both hunt and survive the usual … AND wage battles for turf it’s usually too much to maintain any length of time.

That being said … a Mother of pups and with mate is rarely usurped so early. It would be very interesting to know the history of challenger and her relationship with the current male. Some coyote …(like some people) don’t care about property rights, laws … or bonds. They see a place. A territory. A pack. And say…MINE. Take it or leave it. I’m coming in. You are leaving or submitting. Its mine.

It seems harsh. But many coyote feel impelled to take actions asap especially in areas where territory isnt easy to find.

I think there are outsider females and males that absolutely will take over everything. They may drive out the whole family. Or just the same sex target. (Mother, Daughters)

Fascinating stuff. 
Lou


BTW, the new female, Libe, two years old I would say, had been living in an adjacent territory as a loner for at least a year. That adjacent territory was not ideal in that it was entirely on the urban residential grid, composed of 25×100 foot lots with houses and apartments, and little open space in addition to small backyards, whereas Vida’s territory had it all: neighborhoods to trek through, a vast wild open space, a mate, pups. Libe trekked through her urban territory daily, usually at night, dawn or dusk, and kept away from people and dogs but allowed herself to be seen without any fear. I had seen her trekking right up to the periphery of Vida’s territory within a month of Vida’s disappearance, and may have been entering and assessing the situation. The only real interactive “behavior” of hers that I’ve ever seen is that fight in the field camera where she showed her mettle: she was pretty darn spunky and in control there. But recently she also has shown a spunky defiance towards dogs, challengingly occupying their play-space for short spells.

So, what I’m saying here is that Vida was most likely brutally eliminated/killed by a dog. BUT, almost anything is possible in the coyote world, as stated by Lou, including for an outsider coyote to come in and steal — lock, stock and barrel — what belonged to another coyote. Another circumstance diminishing that latter possibility here is that Vida and her mate were extremely supportive, playful, and affectionate with each other. It seems he would have defended her. But maybe not?

Claiming a Disputed Area

On the surface, this photo might look like fun and games to everyone, and it is: two coyotes charmingly playing with an old torn up ball. Coyotes love finding novel items. Playing with the items is a way of finding out all about the items and working together, even if competitively. However, as usual, there’s much more going on here than meets the eye at first glimpse.

This coyote parent-pair, whose den is close by, purposefully scared a dog and owner out of the dog playpen and then claimed the area as their own for about half an hour before trotting off.  I heard the dog-owner scream her surprise, and looked over as she grabbed her dog while two coyotes who had hopped the fence were facing her with arched backs and wrinkled noses, no more that 15 feet away from the dog. It would have been a frightening situation for anyone, not only because of the menacing-looking coyotes who had come so close, but because it was so unexpected: the dog-owner was startled and unprepared. Within seconds, the dog and owner, and both coyotes, went in opposite directions, clearing out of the pen. The coyotes had as little interest in actually “engaging” as the dog and owner: their purpose had been to “message” the dog to leave, and they succeeded.

However, the coyotes soon returned, hopping back in over the fence where there now were no dogs or people, and where they now appeared to celebrate their victory by hanging around and playing ball, no different from the way dogs do: they chased each other, had a tug of war, tossed the ball and even tore it apart. There was an aspect of defiance to the dogs’ perpetual claim to the area. They kept an eye on a couple of us onlookers as we watched behind the fence until they hopped back over the fence and out.

The quandary is that this particular dog run is adjacent to a denning area and there is no buffer zone: i.e., dogs and coyotes who notoriously don’t get along are literally forced to be in close proximity to each other. As Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors”, but the fence here is useless.

The fenced-in dog run has been there for years, but the fence itself is only 2.5′ feet high in places. The area adjacent to it has also been there for years: it’s a steep, rocky drop-off with dense thicket growth including poison oak and thick impenetrable tangles of blackberry brambles: people and dogs can’t and don’t go there, which is why it was chosen as a denning area by the coyotes at least 8 years and possibly longer ago.

Back eight years ago, the coyotes in the city were still much more secretive. Issues were few and far-between. But several years ago, several dogs became very aware of the coyotes and started looking for them. At the same time, feeding and even worse — hand-feeding — began bigtime in this park. Coyote fleeing-distances shortened, and the timeframe for doing so lengthened, as coyote youngsters learned increased proximity tolerance from their parents. How to deal with other species, be it dogs or humans — with all the inherent subtleties and with the variety within each species — is passed on to the youngsters by parental example as well as by experience. Dislike of dogs is a constant — how could it not with the continual chasing, barking at, lunging from dogs. The coyotes look for openings in this perpetual boundary dispute with dogs — it’s part of their opportunism and self-defense. By entering and remaining in the dog run which is at their doorstep, they were claiming the spot, even if not for very long. It happened to me once.

Coming up with a solution for the dog park vs. denning area is difficult. BOTH dogs and coyotes have jumped over the low fence, into and out of the dog enclosure area — not that frequently, but it happens: dogs jump out to chase coyotes who keep an eye on them from a nearby hilltop; coyotes sometimes, as today, have jumped INTO the enclosure when there are only one or two dogs and owners in there. 

I hope I’m not making it sound like a war zone or even a battlefield. It isn’t. Rather, there are occasional “skirmishes” as described by Walkaboutlou, instigated at times by the dogs and at times by the coyotes, which let their true feelings be known. A functional fence would help — the current fence which is just 2′ high in places does not work. 

Fence hopping that occurred during a half-hour play session

Please understand that designated off-leash dog areas, whether fenced in or not, ARE NOT designated coyote-free zones, and you should always remain vigilant for a coyote’s unexpected appearance in these areas. Even when and if a full high fence is in place, we’ll still need to stay vigilant to see if this kind of solution will work. Not until we find out if it totally keeps coyotes out should you let down your guard.

But also, please realize there frequently are altercations between dogs and dogs in these enclosures, so vigilance HAS to continue for this reason. I myself was viciously barked at and then charged by a dog who grabbed my ankle in her mouth and bit me within that enclosure. My heavy jeans prevented the skin from breaking. The point is, we have to stay vigilant and be prepared to quickly extract our dog(s) and ourselves from all sorts of situations. 

One Family Documented Virtually

Hunter (previous alpha dad) with wounds and limping on January 5th, 2022. I knew Hunter and his family first-hand, but after he left, my documentation became based on field cameras in this location.

Hunter on left was last seen on January 24th, HarryP (r) the new alpha male started appearing regularly on February 5th.

Use of virtual cameras: I have been able to follow one of my coyote families only virtually with trail cameras. It’s the only family I’ve been tracking this way, where I haven’t actually seen the coyotes in person, first-hand. I use field cameras in a number of the other territories, but in those others I know all the coyotes first-hand. Not here. I hadn’t intended it that way, I had actually hoped I would see them often on an 11 acre section of their territory in the city, but it hasn’t happened. So I’ve come to know them only through the cameras, except for a single short observation session when I saw one of the pups for a couple of minutes. I thought I’d give a short summary of what’s going on there based on the virtual information retrieved from the cameras and that two-minute first-hand viewing — what I already know about coyotes helps fill in the gaps.

Nickie, alpha mom to the left and HarryP, alpha dad to the right.

Identifying the alphas: This, above, is that alpha pair: Nickie is mom — so labeled/named for the nick in her ear — and HarryP is dad, so named for his numerous facial scars. Mom was pregnant in March and then lactating in the months thereafter, so it’s obvious what her position is in the family. Dad is the only other adult around, and he’s displayed that he’s a male.

They had five pups who first emerged from their den on April 28th. They all started as a healthy bunch but only four survive to date, and one either sustained an early injury or contracted an early ailment which left him lame.

Originally there had been five pups, and here they are following Mom. Only four have survived to date.

One lame pup: I consulted my wildlife veterinarian about the lameness. Based on how the youngster walked as shown in the videos, the vet was inclined to think it was some kind of spinal injury with resulting ataxia and loss of coordination, either a birth defect, or due to an actual early physical injury, or even the result of an early illness. Since reviewing the early videos shows all pups were fine to begin with, it has to have been an injury or even some kind of illness contracted after birth that caused the limp. The vet suggested it could even have been distemper which has been going around in the wildlife of this area, though I myself have not seen it in any of the coyotes that I observe. The vet and I decided the best thing to do was allow the animal to live it’s life naturally with its family. Removing him just to keep him alive was not an option.

Here is the vet’s exact prognosis:

Not fixable by human doctors if it is distemper (which is a possibility) — he will get worse and more neurologic and then die possibly from seizures — not pretty.

If it’s a spinal injury — it could improve with time and with rest — but I don’t see him resting — but coyotes are tough. Is he eating enough?  Keeping up with the group?

All you can do is watch and wait. If he would not do well removed from his family, I would leave him — and if his neuro signs are worsening, then call for some help for humane euthanasia.

I call him Tiny Tim, from Charles Dickens’ story, “A Christmas Carol.”

These first two videos show Tiny Tim early on. #1 is when I first became aware of the severe disability and #2 shows his indomitable will to join in and live.

#1 Tiny Tim has walking issues.
#2 Tiny Tim with his siblings.

Below are two more recent videos, #3 and #4, showing what a long way he’s come. He’s small, but has the personality of a winner: he absolutely keeps up with his three surviving siblings. The kind of active play depicted here is perpetual in coyote pups!

#3 At four months, Tiny Tim keeps up with his siblings!
#4 This is the whole family just a few weeks ago: Mom, Dad and four pups including Tiny Tim keeping up with the rest of them!

Territorial Extent: Identification of coyotes from nighttime infrared images of field cameras can be difficult because facial features are whited out by the “negative” image. But because I’ve been able to identify the scars on Mom’s legs in the images taken on her home turf, I have been able to determine that it is this coyote who I see regularly in a field camera at a location about to a mile away, indicating that this is part of her territory. This distant area used to belong to another coyote pair who no longer ever appear there, and now it has shifted over to this pair. What this indicates is that there has been a re-defining of territorial boundaries in this area. It’s not a big change, rather it’s just a “tweaking” change, but it’s a change nonetheless.

The recent intruder who I have seen scoot between various territories in the city

An Intruder: There has been an intruder caught by the field camera in this territory — a dispersing youngster. They pop up, pretty infrequently, but when they do, it’s for as short a time as a day, or sometimes for as long as two weeks. I’ve seen THIS particular intruder has been as far away as the city limit of Daily City and at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. He appeared only once at this territory’s home base, and only once at each of those other two locations: dispersal takes these youngsters all over the place in a very short period of time as they look for new homes. Most end up moving south and out of the city, as documented by the Presidio ecologists.

Frankly, I don’t think I would have gleaned any more information about this family from first-hand observations than I have virtually.

One real-time observation: A few weeks ago, I actually SAW a pup briefly for the first time for about two minutes. I was watching him carefully groom himself when sirens sounded, and I was able to capture this 25 second video of him responding in the video. To begin with, you hear the whole family’s short response. Then this little guy alone with his tiny little squeaks, and at the 12 second mark you can hear one deep and loud howl from an adult: that is his father’s.

A four-month-old youngster howls in response to sirens. Note his tiny voice!

Relationships: I got a couple of good shots of this pup’s facial features (above left). I was really surprised to see how much he looks like his uncle, the brother of Hunter, the previous territory’s alpha male (above right) — I know few people will see the resemblances I see, but I definitely see them. Anyway, this has potential meaning for me. There are resemblances in different families that are rather striking, and these often lead me to genetic relationships that that I couldn’t have picked up in any other way except DNA. I’m guessing that his Mother might be Hunter’s daughter OR that that, Hunter, actually sired the pups before disappearing.

So: identifications, intruders, family dynamics, redefined territorial boundaries, possible genealogical connections, health and howling — all through field cameras and one two-minute observation time!

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