My Profile in SFGate

Journalist Paul Krantz — he’s interested in environmental issues and in speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves, i.e., the animals — asked if he could write a “profile” about me for SFGate. I had no idea what a profile was, but I agreed, as long as it would promote the coyotes, help with understanding them, and delineate guidelines for coexistence. Then I balked when he wanted to send out a photographer — I suggested that we could use an old photograph? He tried, but that photographer was off in a remote area and could not access the contracting papers that are necessary. So I reluctantly agreed to a photographer. And look what I got! A fantastic writeup by Paul and fantastic photos taken by Doug Zimmerman! And hopefully my message will reach more people. Thank you both!

Janet Kessler has been watching San Francisco’s wild coyotes for 16 years.

She knows individual coyotes by their faces, has assisted with genealogical studies, and spends time observing them almost every day. The 73-year-old self-taught naturalist is known to some as San Francisco’s “Coyote Lady” because of her efforts to document and advocate for what some would say are the city’s least appreciated residents. To read on, click here.

Old Habits, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet.

Kinky Tail moved her litter again and it reminded us of her Father’s moves and habits. 

Her father in times of vulnerability and old age sought the company of a captive herd of bison. He not only found the stirred up voles easy meals..the bison seemed to keep canines away. 

Kinky Tail’s observers feel she’s nervous more so with pups starting to dodder about. She moved them to a hilly area with cut wood piles…and smack dab in Longhorn pastures. These are range cattle held temporarily as they calve or get checked on. They aren’t afraid of wolves, bear, cougar…arent really fans of dogs but pretty much ignore coyote. 

With such neighbors she can still easily go and scavenge her dead cow as live ones provide horned deterrents to any predators or dogs that pass close to her pup dens. 

It could be coincidence. But it sure seems like her father’s moves. His last few vulnerable months were always with Bison. 

2nd pic…white bull….pile of logs is one of the puppy dens. 

Horns work!


Kinky and her Mate can move here and cattle won’t even look up. If a dog or wolf trotted thru, different story. 

Scout: Moving On, An Update

Scout is eight years old now and just had her fourth litter.

Recently, I’ve had only short glimpses of Scout, but that’s been enough to update me about some of her changes. She’s 8 years old now and at times looks worn: her scar-studded face (which is not all that apparent until you look closely), her about-to-be-shed old winter coat, and her slow pace at the time may have influenced how I saw her: maybe she was just having some “tired-fur-days”. She’s usually alone, trekking through one of her territory’s main hubs of which she had two. Notice I used the word “had”.

This is a good time to bring her story up to date. If you don’t know Scout or haven’t read her saga, you might want to. It’s the stuff movies and books are made of. In fact, her story has been recounted in a documentary, and is coming out as part of a book, not by me, but by someone who has interviewed me — I’ll write more about it when that comes out. The last time I updated her story was on December 21st.

From rotund on the left, to lactating on the right within the first week of April.

What’s new? Scout has just had her fourth litter. Of course, I haven’t seen any pups, and won’t for months, but I saw her balloon up in size over the last several weeks in March, and then in early April deflate in size and show signs that she’s lactating.

Scooter, her mate from the previous three years and father to her previous three litters, is no longer around — I have no idea what happened to him. He just stopped appearing — I last saw him on January 17th. The most likely scenario is that he met his end in a car accident. A car killed one of his pups only a few months earlier on a high-speed, busy roadway not far from last year’s den. In 2021, San Francisco picked up 24 coyotes killed by cars in the city. Although I’ve seen a couple of coyote “divorces”, these are extremely rare, so I don’t think he just left Scout or vice-versa — this was a very openly devoted pair of coyotes.

With Scooter gone, Scout has retreated to within the boundaries of her old territory. Last year, with him, her territory had expanded into a vast area that was new to her. She didn’t give up her old territory, rather, she retained both! A yearling daughter remained at the old place, and since both Scout and Scooter returned there nightly, there were plenty of scent markings to deter any potential takeovers by other coyotes seeking their own territories there. It became my belief that Scooter may have originally come from that new territorial extension and possibly even led Scout there. But as I said, he is no longer in the picture and Scout no longer returns to that area anymore. This is why I think her lost mate and the extended territory they held were connected somehow: she has moved on from both.

I last saw Scooter on left on January 17th; Skipper, Scout’s new mate on the right, appeared at the beginning of March

By March 2nd of this year, there was a new male in her life and I’ve seen Scout with him enough times to know this is her new mate. The question is, who fathered her pups this year? There are six weeks in there where I only ever saw Scout, and never with either of these males. Without knowing which one was with her 63 days before giving birth (the beginning of February), we won’t know who the father is. I am no longer collecting scat for DNA identification, so this will never be known, unless the pups somehow bear a strong resemblance to either male. Some family resemblances are uncanny and this might give it away, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Here are a few seconds showing Scout happily greeting her new mate after the birth of her pups. She seems to be saying, “I did it!”

I occasionally see her two-year-old daughter, see: Strictly Monogamous?. Scout’s one surviving offspring from last year’s litter, a male, can sometimes be seen in that abandoned new territory where he was born.

Over the years as she has aged, Scout has become more and more circumspect. I believe this has to do with aging: as coyotes get older, they are less willing to take chances — I’ve noticed that the same happens to injured animals. It’s probably a self-protective measure.

At the same time, reports have again begun about “aggressive” coyotes in the vicinity: these reports come out regularly during every pupping season. Specifically, it was reported on Facebook that a leashed dog pulled away from its owner and was chased all the way home by an “aggressive” coyote. First, any dog that’s not attached to a person will be targeted to “leave” the area by coyotes. They aren’t interested in engaging or mauling, their intent is to drive these “pests” — because dogs indeed are pests in a coyote’s eyes — out of the area. Even leashed dogs could be approached by an alpha (parent) coyote for this purpose: it’s best to just keep walking away from the coyote, showing that you aren’t interested in a territorial conflict, and that you are abiding by its wishes to move away. This coyote behavior is more correctly a “protective” behavior and is displayed within about 1/4th mile of any den site by all coyote parents.  You can eliminate scary situations by keeping away and then walking away from a coyote the minute you see one. 

Your best option might be to try a different route for awhile. If this is not possible, keep your eye open for any coyotes and walk away from them the minute you see one, especially if you have a dog which should always be leashed in a known coyote area. If you have a little dog, pick it up as you leave. If you haven’t kept vigilant and a coyote comes into your personal space, you’ll have to try scaring it away — but know that prevention is much easier than dealing with an angry coyote up close.

You can see an enlargement of this poster by clicking here.

Bonanza for Kinky and Fam, by Walkaboutlou

[For those interested, Kinky Tail has a history. Enter “Kinky Tail” into the search box to read more about her and her family]

Hi Janet,

An update on how strange life can be, and how coyote take instant advantage.

On our patrols early in morning we saw a cow had died during calving. Unfortunately it happens with these range cattle.

Her last movements put her in view of the Ranch Patriarchs home. He’s housebound bit scans his land incessantly with scopes and binoculars.

It’s customary now to burn or bury a dead cow if possible. Especially with wolves now usually we want to limit exposure for taste of beef. 

But the timing and place of death also lead to the ranches college kids who are becoming biologists, to conduct experiment.

The hypothesis is..the spot is too open and noisy for wolves to scavenge. LGD are literally next hills over as well. So permission was granted for experiment on the basis if wolves arrive they have to remove cow instantly. 

So far…trail cams and Ranch Patriarch have noted…a lot of scavenging. No wolves as of yet. Golden Eagle, Vultures, Raven, Jays, 1st came. Then a Badger literally burrowed under..and in it. It seemed to be there days. Racoon. A fox. Mink, Weasel. 3 dogs. (Someone’s Doodle got very filthy) 

The highlight is….Kinky Tail.

Kinky Tail and her Mate realized…a cow dropped dead within sight of pup den. Bonanza. But problems too. A lot of company visiting too close to den. 

That of the kids showed Patriarch how to use night vision scopes.

He scoped and watched Kinky..from 9:14 pm to 1 a.m. moving NINE! 9 pups from hillside den to old shed foundation many yards away. 

Then at 3 a.m. her Mate came..fed doddering pups at new spot and curled up to sleep. Kinky went off to feed and cache food 3:15-5:56a.m. Then went inside new den and didn’t emerge until late afternoon.

Also noted…3 strange coyote came to cow..chased off by Mate but returned later. Territories don’t seem to hold much force when huge meals are available. At least for some coyote.

The kids are charting up facts and trying to apply science with realities seen..and possibilities thought. We never know whole picture. But tentatively..locally..we see coyote seemed to have disappeared large scale. We see wolves traveling widely after deer and elk. We see a dead cow not utilized by wolves… we suspect site too open and with homes and LGD in view. We see one of the few remaining known coyote have huge litter. And we see them take instant advantage of cow dying at den site…but 1st moving pups. 

The hypothesis and info gathering will be intense next few weeks.

The Patriarch has his own predictions.

Those are going to be the fattest coyote pups for 100 miles.

Take care, 


PS: I think Kinky will be a superlative Mom. Her Mom and litter siblings were wiped out by wolves. Her aging father and land lessons molded her fast. She bred early and denned in Sun scorched cliffs..raised 2 pups and instantly left cliff area when wolves trotted thru this year. She’s only 2 but has learned a lot. I feel biologically her body did just as we have heard…coyote population locally dropped…she had huge litter. 

She is a small slip of a coyote but of immense mind. Her mate seems small in her presence though he’s big. Making meat caches all night then gorging then feeding pups all day…shes busy. And the type of coyote that embodies this indomitable flame of canine species.

Wolves are Top Dog Here

Dogs Rule The Ranches

And Kinky Tail Navigates Them All.

Irony, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet,

Spring is in full swing here as calves and lambs and kids are all over ranges. The birds of prey are nesting and all over animals are prepping for young or starting to raise them.

Coyote wise it’s been the quietest we have ever seen or witnessed.

It’s ironic that I think all of us want more wildlife. More balance. More natural lands. But when we get them, it isn’t always what we expect.

We slowly have realized, the reason we aren’t hardly seeing or hearing our customer hillsides of Coyote is…they aren’t here any longer.

Wolves are.

Wolves have established multiple packs in our areas. And this is a game changer if you are a wild canid.

Before I start, I’m not speaking against wolves nor am I making any suggestions for “wildlife management”. 

But wolves change the scene because that is what they do literally to survive and raise pups.

It was a slow realization for us the past few weeks. The consistent coyote chorus of individuals and territorial packs…dwindled. Now they are sporadic and very scattered.

Trail Cams, tracking and a lot of studying and listening helped us realize, a pack of 5-7 resident wolves are now here. Such a pack can claim vast areas.

They need these areas to get enough meat to sustain pack and pup survival. So without invoking emotions we relearn wolf biology and math.

5-7 wolves. Each one 80 to over 100 lbs. Each needing a great deal of meat and space. With pups coming. 

Wolves and Coyote are…normally…enemies. Wolves absolutely will hunt down adult coyote or displace them. Some wolves dig up coyote dens. They scatter coyote. The coyote respond by being coyote. Faster. Scatter. And quieter in some ways. Some coyote scavenge wolf kills. It’s very dangerous.

It’s natural. It’s nature. But admittedly…its learning to accept a new Top Dog. 

With the exception of Kinky Tail young female we knew of…all the other coyote we used to hear…stopped. They may have been killed. They may have left. Trail Cams show weekly 1-7 different wolves trotting thru. They don’t stay. But are performing hunting and territory patrols. Any canine found by them…lone ranch dog, coyote, fox, is in mortal danger if they don’t quickly escape. It’s 101 wild candid biology.

It doesn’t mean coyote are wiped out. But…there are way less of them. And the ones that remain are covert coyote indeed.

Kinky Tail left BOTH former denning areas this spring and seems to have pupped ironically close to a Ranch though she’s safe. They won’t bother her. Wolf tracks regularly are seen in the cliff areas, hence likely her decision.

Her mate has been feasting days on 2 road killed deer that were taken by humans to woods. (Ranch dogs like deer too hence deer are removed to woods) 

He’s obviously bring her venison and burying it all about. A brook revealed Kinky drinking ravenoulsy and deflated to pre preggo proportions.

We wish them best.

So…Irony. A lot of people say they want wolves. But I think Coyote would say different lol. Still..we are seeing yet another aspect of Coyote adaptation. They’ve been dealing with wolves millennia until last 100 plus years.

Take care Happy Spring


For comparison: a coyote weighs between 25 and 35 pounds; a wolf weighs between 80 and 130 pounds.

Dispersal Maneuvers

Dispersing youngster.

Yesterday at dusk, I saw a dispersing youngster wandering through a neighborhood. He was not fast-to-flee, but rather carefully deliberate and much more aware of his surroundings than he let on. He kept out of the way and to the edges when the couple of people or cars were around, otherwise he used the street. He found a baggie and attempted “milking” it for what it was worth. It looked empty, but it must have retained odors from its previous contents because the coyote was interested in it. As I observed, I became aware of the coyote’s right hind foot: it was compromised, which you could see only from certain angles. Coyote legs in particular are thin and subject to injury — I’ve seen such injuries mainly from being chased by dogs. This guy soon headed to the bushes and I didn’t see him again. That’s about par for me for observing a dispersing coyote: I only ever see them fleetingly. This is because they are not in their own territories, but just passing through what might be another coyote’s claimed territory — in other words, trespassing.

If you look carefully, you can see his injured hind right leg in these photos. This did not appear to impede his movements, so the injury probably happened long ago.

Dispersal here in San Francisco seems to take place mostly during a youngster’s second year of life, although I’ve seen it as early as 9 months of age, and as late as 3 years of age. It takes place at any time of the year: there’s no actual “dispersal season”. The new pupping season has begun, with new pups having just been born — this is one of the times when some yearlings, due to big changes in the family, may decide to, or be prompted to, move on.

Coyote population is like a breathing bellows, expanding during the pupping season, and then shrinking back down after dispersal to the alpha pair, with possibly a couple of yearlings lingering a little longer before moving on. The yearlings who remain at home — and these can be either male or female — it’s not limited to just the females — serve as a great help in raising a new litter and in defending the territory, and they themselves eventually move on.

What are the features of dispersal — how is it achieved? I’ve seen parents drive youngsters out, I’ve also seen youngsters just pick up and leave when they are ready without cause, and I’ve seen siblings driving siblings out. Interestingly, opposing this process, I’ve seen parental feeding keep youngsters around well into their second year.

When a parent instigates the dispersal process, it appears to me to be driven by reproductive jealousy, as well as, sometimes by a crack in the hierarchical order. For this purpose, parents use silent intimidation (such as intense and prolonged intense staring) or physical intimidation (body slams, punches, bites) as well as hierarchy demands. Hierarchy is strong right from when the pups are born, with pups learning to lay low and hit the ground submissively at meetings with the parents. Sometimes I’ve even seen youngsters appear to shrink into themselves to look smaller when greeting parents, possibly in hopes of looking younger and thereby sticking around longer? It is mothers, or alpha females, who mostly intimidate their female youngsters — especially those who show an interest in Dad, and alpha males appear to intimidate and drive out the younger males, particularly if they show an interest in Mom. I saw the process begin with a youngster at 7 months of age in one family.

A form of sibling rivalry seems to include who is able to be next to a parent — it’s almost a kind of jealousy. I wonder if regular proximity might influence a parent’s decision to allow a certain youngster to stay on a little longer. Certainly that individual would have a survival advantage over a sibling who left — that’s one of the survival perks of having a territory to stay on. I just read in Wikipedia about starlings kicking their siblings out of the nest to insure they get all the parental attention and therefore a better chance at survival and reproductive survival — their rivalry goes as far as siblicide. Getting a sibling out of the way, out of the picture, seems involved sometimes with coyotes. Interestingly, Wikipedia even uses human step-siblings as examples of a siblings’ need to displace other siblings for their own advantage: did you know that murders in this group are higher than between other groups? This is how intense these rivalrous sibling feelings can be.

I’ve noticed that youngster males are allowed to remain in a family much longer when a Dad isn’t around — say, he died and another alpha male didn’t take his place — or when dad has become enfeebled by old age and may need the youngster to help defend the turf. I’ve seen such a male then move up into the alpha position — yep — becoming his mother’s mate.

It’s after leaving home that dispersal becomes dangerous for urban coyotes. This is due to cars — cars are their chief killers in cities, due to hostile territory-owning coyotes who drive them away, and due to unfamiliarity with new terrain. They appear to search for new homes mostly at night, when it’s safest for themselves.

BTW, a couple of times, I’ve seen a dispersing, “foreign” injured yearling youngster accepted as a visitor by an alpha female in another territory: it’s really altruistic behavior. I don’t know how common this is. More often, I’ve seen dispersing youngsters being repulsed by territorial owners.

Here are some dispersal directions and final destination I’ve been able to track in San Francisco (center photo — clicking on it will enlarge it for you):

To the left: rivalrous siblings duke it out. Center: some dispersals that occurred within the city (most youngsters move south and out of the city); Right: dispersal is a dangerous time for coyotes — cars are their chief killers.

During dispersal, a brave and strong yearling could end up fighting for a territory within the city where they detect weak or aging alphas — this happened in the Presidio in 2019. Or, a lucky coyote just might find a vacated niche here in the city — this happened at Bernal Hill in 2016. A youngster may wait it out on the periphery of a territory having assessessed one of the alphas to be weak, and then move in when the opening occurs: this happened in the Presidio only a couple of years ago. However, most dispersing youngsters seem to move south and out of the city because all territories within the city are already taken (per Presidio study).

In this video, a mother coyote wallops her yearling daughter to either disperse her or to instill fear in her so she won’t reproduce. Notice Mom is being aided by her son, her daughter’s younger brother, who appears to be simply copy-cating his mother’s mean behavior. In this particular instance, daughter was regularly cozying up to dad. This particular situation ended up with the parents leaving the territory to their daughter because she would not leave.

These next two dispersal maps come from the Presidio (©Presidio). The first map to the left details one coyote’s months of criss-crossings in search of a territory, even out of the city and back, and, the next map (in the center, below) shows her journey’s end in the Presidio: note there is no more wandering, she found her niche and sticks to it and keeps other coyotes out. Of 15 coyotes tagged and collared in the Presidio over a three year span, all apparently were killed by cars except one. In addition, the radio-collars and tags themselves created problems. Here (below right) is a deformed ear due to an infection caused by an ear tag, and her collar was supposed to fall off after one year for humane reasons, however, it malfunctioned and she has been burdened with it for 6 years and will be stuck with it probably now for the rest of her life. I’m not a fan of these gadgets, but the maps are fascinating.

The two maps to the left are from the ecologist at the Presidio©, based on recordings from a tagged and radio-collared coyote. To the right is what these gadgets look like: The ear-tag became infected and caused the ear to permanently flop; and the radio-collar itself was supposed to self-release after a year, for humane purposes, but it malfunctioned, so she’s been stuck with the collar for the past 6 years.

Family Communication Howls

This five minute video is of a family interacting vocally in the late afternoon. It’s actually two interactions within about an hour of each other, starting at about 6:30 p.m., with napping in-between.The wind noise during the first minute and a half is really off-putting and painful to listen to. You can turn the volume down during this section or jump ahead. I wish I knew how to take out the wind — I’m sure there’s a way.

The video starts out with Mom calling out to her family — no sirens were involved. At :40 seconds into the video [the numbers below refer to the progression of the video], the rest of the family responds, and Mom then intensifies her own calls as she replies to them — you can see and hear this uptic in sound. At 1:15, satisfied with their responses, she heads off to another location nearby but does not join them. Some people have speculated that this type howling is a “roll-call”, but it isn’t, since repeatedly I have seen some family members absolutely ignore the sounds and continue with what they were doing.

By 1:23 the rest of the family is sleeping on a hillside without Mom. If you didn’t know they were there, you would not have seen them — they pretty much blended into the hillside and looked like part of the landscape. Dad looks up briefly at 1:53. Of course, I didn’t stick around to video them sleeping (!) but the minute I heard them again, I returned.

By 2:05 the family is howling again, this time in response to sirens. If you listen carefully you can hear that each coyote sounds different, and you can hear Mom’s deeper voice in the background. Howling is often set off by sirens, but just as often it’s initiated without them. Possibly they are simply confirming their family unity and their family separateness from any neighboring coyote families. If sirens occur late in the afternoon, as in this case, the coyotes may use it as their signal to meet up at the rendezvous — a nightly event — which begins their activity together through the evening. Coyotes sleep mostly during the daylight hours in urban settings as an adaptation to avoid people, even though they are not at all nocturnal. They are as diurnal as we are.

By about 4:07 the howling has stopped. They interact minimally, and then they head off to meet Mom for their rendezvous.

At 4:36 you may have to turn the volume up to hear their squeaky voices during their meeting: this part is hidden from view because they are deep in the bushes.

Within a few minutes of hearing these high-pitched voices from the bushes — it was dusk by this time and difficult to see them — I saw three of them headed out together with purpose and direction to their steps — they were on their way to patrol and hunt and mark their territory in order to keep non-family coyotes out. One of the youngsters, the female, seems never to come with them during these treks. I’ve seen this stay-home behavior in a number of younger females. I don’t know if they remain home due to not feeling secure away from home, or if there is some other reason.

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