Story of One of My Oldest Coyotes, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet,

Not quite 10 years ago I was living and roaming in eastern Washington state. The area’s ecosystems were called scablands, mainly made up of harsh, semi arid regions with natural pockets of green oasis. In these pockets you could find rare native swan, pelican, and Moose. In one of these pockets I took a rest, and in marsh reeds, found one of the oldest coyote I’ve seen.

He was a male, and newly deceased. I spent hours scouting and reading around him, as well as carefully examining him best I could. His face was literally grey/white. He was well fed but scruffy and looked worn down. To all appearances, he appeared to curl up in a reed bed, and die in his sleep. No grimace of pain, no kicking struggles or spasms. Just curled up in sleep, and in that position, the fire of his life went out. It was the most peaceful setting I’ve ever seen a wild coyote die in.

What shocked me was his teeth. Most were gone. The remaining teeth worn or broken. This guy was an elder.

I left him there. I collected old reeds covered him and hoped nature would keep him there awhile. I went back repeatedly, and nature absorbed him, leaving his bones in the reeds.

I have had some naturalists and a dentist look at his skull for any insights. All remarked he must have been fairly remarkable to survive so long. Estimated age between 9 and 14 years. Tooth loss was extensive but so was healing. The empty sockets were filled with bone regrowth (mostly) and infection was minimal.

Please click on the images to enlarge them so you can actually see the lack of teeth and how many of the tooth holes were filled in by his own body over time.

This old coyote’s teeth tell only part of an incredible story. The region he lived in fostered some of the most virulent coyote hunting I had ever seen. Every method to hunt and exterminate them was applied regionally. I wondered at his life, his eras, his times and stories. How many pups did he raise? Did he have a mate or mates as the years passed? What did he see and feel and know? To live that long in the tough scablands, he had to be strong, beyond smart, and full of strategic living. And to face aging-the inevitable aches of arthritis-who of us could carry on and keep healing as one tooth after another slowly fell out? No help. No dentist. No doctors. But the indomitable spirit of being a wild coyote was his medicine and support.

I feel honored to have seen his gray/white face at peace in his reed bed. He was absorbed into the landscape, instead of hanging from a ranch fence. When the land left only his bones, I kept his skull and often still look at it in wonder. The spirit of all nature is wonderous. But the indomitable spirit of coyote is still can’t adequately explain. We can only wonder, at such a survivor. And be glad there are many more out there…singing every night.

Lou🐾

Urban Denning Areas Within The City

Plenty of water found in streams, lakes and spigots, along with great hiding places can be found in large city parks, but so can dogs which are the main issue and problem for coyotes. Intrusive people come second.


More than enough water, vast grasslands and thickets can be found on golf-courses where it’s safer from dogs, but not totally free of them. In some golf-courses, as in the parks, the thickets which afford hiding places are being removed.

Habitat removal occurs in all these areas, either through felling of trees and clearing brush, to clearing for construction.


Backyards in the more spacious green residential neighborhoods and fragmented smaller parks also provide enough water and cover, but these offer more of a challenge for coyotes from surrounding traffic, people and dogs, yet that hasn’t stopped coyotes from moving in there. Water, as elsewhere is found in fountains, spigots and puddles caused by watering and fog.


Urban dens run the gamut from those nestled inconspicuously into remote lush natural areas with streams or ponds of water nearby, thickets, trees and grasslands — these include most the larger parks and golf-courses — albeit some more accessible to dogs and people than others — to the scruffy no-man-land dumps off the shoulders of freeways with their incessant and penetrating loud whirring traffic noise, pervasive gas smells, and human refuse which includes sharp metal edges, splintered wood pieces, nails, rust, plastic bags and bottles, broken glass, needles, etc. Most urban denning areas include some aspects of both extremes. Den areas are the cradles coyote youngsters are born into, and none is without hazards and dangers of some sort.

“Away from dogs and people” — i.e., “away from danger” — is the main criteria for coyotes’ choice of den site: this is what makes one den site “better” than another. In fact, the “dump” dens are often less accessible to intruders. Also, such dens seem to have more challenges so that pups born there begin learning about life — urban life — much sooner than pups raised in grassy green or woodsy settings. These neglected empty spaces, or junkyards, have more obstacles and stimulation of all sorts which might spur more and sooner learning and even opportunistic innovation for negotiating dangers — that is, for the 30% who survive to adulthood. So it’s not for us to say, of these two extremes, that one site is “better” than the other based on what we might like. Coyotes have different standards and criteria than we do for our homes.

Please note that coyotes usually also “own” the land in the neighborhoods surrounding their homes in parks or open spaces, even if they live in larger parks, so being sighted in the neighborhoods as they make their rounds, either “marking” (to keep other coyotes out) or even hunting,  is not uncommon.

Coyotes were deposited by a trapper in the Presidio in 2002, so that vast park is where they made their first home and where the first sightings occurred in 2003. By 2004 to 2007 they were already living in the variety of locations throughout the city where they live today, including other larger parks such as Golden Gate Park, McLaren and Glen Canyon, on our many golf-courses, and in smaller and fragmented spaces surrounded by a sea of traffic and people such as Bernal Hill, Coit Tower and even some backyards. Many of the areas claimed long ago are still occupied by descendants of the coyotes who first moved there, but some have more recent immigrants, including in the Presidio where a new family moved in after kicking out the aging coyotes who had claimed the area for so long, or Lands End as well as some of the golf courses where the newcomers moved into previously owned but now vacated spaces without incident.

Professor Ben Sacks of UC Davis found that dispersing coyotes tend to seek out environments similar to what they had been raised in: those raised in the mountains seek out mountains, those from the desert or from riparian areas tend to seek out those areas to claim as their own territories. When coyotes first re-arrived here in San Francisco, the larger parks would have been environmentally closest to the rural areas they were used to in Mendocino County. But even in these parks, people and dog visitors have increased substantially over time, so any coyote raised in those areas would eventually have grown accustomed to more and more traffic, people, dogs and have been more and more comfortable dispersing to areas that included these and even sparser cover.

Anyway here are some photos of denning areas, from large public parks and golf courses, to fragmented smaller parks and neighborhoods, to no-man’s-lands off a busy highway. Each and every den itself, within a denning area, is totally different from the next. I’ve included only one actual “den”. Not only have the dens themselves been abandoned by now — pups are 3 months of age — but in some cases, the entire denning area has been left behind.

By the way, dangers to urban coyotes begin at the den site and continue through life. Coyotes, especially youngsters, get killed by cars — it’s their biggest killer in urban areas. They break wrists and ankles or pull tendons after being chased by dogs, they die of ingesting poisons such as car coolant left out by humans or rat poison, they get cut and stabbed by our debris. Those are some of the human/dog impacts. One of the biggest human impacts is humans attempting to interact with them (feeding and befriending) which impacts their behavior and compromises their wildness. Beyond those impacts caused directly by humans or our dogs, are more “natural” impacts many of which, however, may at their roots be caused indirectly by humans: for instance a coyote/coyote territorial fight might be the result of habitat destruction by humans — not always, but I’ve seen it. Mange often takes hold due to weakened immune systems which in turn are caused by rat poison ingestion. The one big danger they avoid in cities, at least here in San Francisco, is they don’t get indiscriminately shot on sight: they are much safer than their rural counterparts.


Vacant out-of-the-way lots or junkyards overlooking freeways in many ways may be the “better” denning areas for urban coyotes.

A vacant right-of-way is ideal as a denning area, in spite of 2-inch rusty nails sticking up out of the boards the youngster is standing on.

Debris is not an eyesore for coyotes, though it includes many dangers unknown to them: poisons, rusty metals, sharp edges.

Constant whirr of loud traffic noise and gassy smells are less of a problem for coyotes than human and dog intrusions.

Wild Plums, Eagles, Runt and Big Sis, by Walkaboutlou

“We are entering wild plum season, with blackberry, raspberry and blueberry fast approaching”

Hi Janet.

I hope you are well as summer flies. We are already entering wild plum season, with blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry also fast approaching.

Of course, this is appreciated by our local coyote. I was talking with one property owner who has been spying on some coyote pups the last 3 weeks. I enjoyed his observations and here are some.

“The pack consists of parents and a female yearling daughter with 5 pups. The pups were moved to a “rendezvous” area at around 6 weeks. Immediately, they changed dramatically. They started foraging for, and catching crickets, grasshoppers and mice/voles. There are also several plum trees in rendezvous area and the pups feast on plums daily. They are so full of fruit, bugs and mice, they sometimes ignore parents returning with food. They were at first scared of deer, but now playfully charge at them.

An incident occurred when it was noticed the “runt” pup had lacerations to his back and it seemed had trouble with back legs. Evidence indicates a golden eagle, as the pups hid for at least 2 days before being moved again. And an eagle kept returning to site and sitting in trees surrounding area. On 3rd day pup seemed listless, and then the older sister carried it a bit then groomed it some time, then slept with it. For several days she stayed with injured pup while parents fed pups AND older daughter while she cared for runt. The pup, though stunted and weak, is rallying again and hunting bugs and eating fruit, as well as being fed by parents.

No doubt it wouldn’t have survived without big sister’s week long special care. When the parents returned with venison (from scavenging road killed deer) the big sister guarded the runt while he ate a slice of meat as big as himself! He might be an undersized underdog, but he is grabbing the chances his big sister gave him. We see a coyote trotting along….but are almost never aware of the family bonds and life saving deeds they often share.”

Lou🐾🌾

“Most people don’t realize golden eagle are more than happy to take a young fox, coyote or wolf. This pup was very fortunate to escape, and have a big sis. ❤🐾

Raven Comeuppance

“If a raven can alert a coyote to potential live prey or carrion, both species benefit.  Common Ravens feeding on other predators’ kills is well documented, but ravens leading predators, such as coyotes, wolves, bears, or cougars, to potential live prey or carrion, by using vocalizations, is not as well documented, but may also exist. See “Communication Between Common Ravens and Eastern Coyotes” by Joan Collins.

However, here in San Francisco, where we have no large prey such as deer, ravens don’t like coyotes: they constantly harass coyotes with their loud cries of alarm and by swooping down or skydiving them. Raven alarm cries consist of incessant, piercing shrieks, which in some ways have the same alarmist intonation that we might use as we warn a fellow human: “Danger! Danger! Danger!” or “Run! Run! Run!” And the cries seem to run in groups of threes.

I happen to love ravens: their supreme intelligence, their long-term family life, and that they also mate for life. A “flock” of ravens, by the way, is known as either a “murder” of ravens, or an “unkindness” of ravens. Flocks of other blackbirds are referred to as “clouds”. When you have twenty to fifty of these birds shrieking all at once, it can be deafening.

This mama coyote, below, put up with 20 minutes of unceasing bullying, cawing, and skydiving by a single raven, the raven pictured above. She remained on edge and alert as she watched it. She reacted, as seen above, when the raven came within reach: “Kiai!”

Coyotes and ravens share many of the same resources, and it’s the competition for those resources that probably is at the root of the animosity. But not entirely!

The day before I took the above photographs, I found myself in a park broadcasting the most horrendously loud commotion of ravens. There must have been 100 of them. It sounded as if a real murder was in progress. And then I glimpsed the fomentor: a coyote hidden in the foliage. The noise was deafening and unceasing. A couple of the ravens skydove her — it happened too quickly to capture on video.  Her uneasiness could be seen through her erratic movements. Besides dealing with the ravens, she also was maneuvering to avoid people or being seen by them, evading a kid and his dad bicycling through the rough terrain who didn’t see her and weren’t even aware of the significance of all the noise.

The coyote moved around nervously. And then she got mad and kicked and scratched the ground angrily before disappearing from my view, but the super-penetrating, shrieking alarm cries continued. I decided to video the tree from where the cries came to record the absolutely amazing intensity of the noise. Two runners stopped to investigate: they saw the coyote and wondered why she didn’t flee. They asked me if the ravens might kill her. I smiled and said she’d be okay.

I then located the coyote with my camera in the distance. I took a few still shots and then switched to video again so that I could continue to capture more of the sounds: the sounds were much more impressive than the images of the coyote.

As I filmed, . . . well, just watch the video. Maybe the ravens should stop harassing coyotes.

The FIFTH Generation of One Direct Family Line — Documented

Fifth generation: born April, 2020

Life just keeps moving forward, spinning and weaving itself out as part of nature’s inexorable web. I’ve been able to follow a tiny segment of this web with my coyote documentation work. I’ve been able to keep track of a whopping ten new litters this year here in San Francisco, of which there are plenty more.  Of particular interest to me is one family line I’ve managed to follow generation after generation (not to be confused with litter after litter, which for years will be part of the same generation) since 2008. The youngsters depicted above are from the fifth generation (or fourth, depending on which line you follow) of that family, born this year.

Background: Coyotes first re-appeared here in San Francisco in 2002 after many years of absence, having been exterminated as “vermin” in the 20th century. Times changed so that environmentalism (of which coyotes are a part) became the new norm by the end of that century: coyotes made a comeback after a trapper brought several into the city. They now thrive under the new ethos here. According to DNA analysis (from my ongoing scat study begun in 2008), all of our SF coyotes came from just four founding individuals — they can all be traced back to that point. This posting portrays the genealogy — or the underlying “scaffolding” — of one of the many families and individuals within those families whose unique stories I’ve been writing about.  That family’s stories as a whole might now constitute a sort of family “saga”!

1st Generation: I began following the lineage in 2008. Although I don’t know the age of that first coyote I started with, I would say she had to have been three years old or older when I first met her, based on her surpassing wisdom, and that she had a singleton pup at the time: so she would have been born sometime before 2005. Yet she was obviously youthful and could not have been older than 6, so that would place her among the first coyotes to be born here in San Francisco after their return (Nisei?).

An original emigrant coyote

Possibly an original founder: To the left is a photo probably of one of the original four to six brought in. He was an aging old man when I met him in 2007 — born well before 2002. I’m including his photo here even though I don’t know if he is a direct ancestor of the line I’m describing here — though chances are high that he is.

Born before 2005 — I’m guessing she’s from the first generation actually born here in SF

Depicted above is the coyote I’ve named/labeled as Maeve, born before 2005 — making her one of among the first coyote generation actually born here in SF. Her mate, however, may have been one of the original four. He was older than her, and very wary and reclusive which is why I have only a few fuzzy photos of him — my guess is that he was this way because he never recovered from the trauma of having been trapped and removed from his previous situation. Every coyote is different, and some are much more sensitive than others.

2nd generation born in April, 2009

2nd Generation: Maeve’s litters, then, born over the next several years became the 2nd generation to be born in San Francisco. These eventually included a son, Silver (above), born in April, 2009, part of a litter of just two. His father, as I stated above, may have been one of the original four coyotes: I say this based solely on his older appearance and incredible wariness. I called him Toughy. He died of rat poisoning (as did a domestic dog at the time) and it is Silver who then filled in his shoes (paws?).

This posting is simply a pulling together, in skeletal outline form, of a this family’s genealogy, a bare-bones scaffolding exclusive of the stories about them. It is the stories about these individuals that reveal the “WHO” about these individuals and which bring this scaffolding to life. Knowing the genealogical connection just makes their story that more interesting by adding another layer to it.

3rd generation, Chert, above left. Silver, above right, is a 2nd generation coyote.

3rd Generation: At the age of four, in April 2013, Silver produced his first litter, constituting the 3rd generation of this coyote line. This litter included Chert (above left) who was one of four pups born by Maeve and Silver that year, and the one to remain on the land, and therefore the one I would continue to follow in this line.

On the turn of a dime, events can occur and circumstances can change, without our necessarily knowing the ultimate cause. Maeve, who became Silver’s mate (she was also his mother) disappeared suddenly when their youngsters were only 7 months old, never to be seen again. And this is where the story gets twisted a little because within a year, Chert moves into Maeve’s position as the female alpha of the territory: her father Silver  (above right) becomes her mate (yes, there’s lots of inbreeding in this line), so we have now a 2nd generation and a 3rd generation uniting to produce the next generation, which could be called either 3rd or 4th. I’m calling it 4th.

In 2015, I put together a 275 page book with over 700 photos about the family up to that point. It was entitled and focused on “Chert: One Day In The Life Of An Urban Coyote”. I was asked by a would-be publisher to transform what they called a “field guide” into a “story”. I never summoned up the bandwidth to do this, so the manuscript/monograph languishes on a bookshelf in my study. With two more generations to add to it, the story would now become a true “saga”. 

Scout, above left is the 4th generation. I do not know her mate’s lineage (above right).

4th Generation: Chert and Silver’s various litters constitute the 4th direct generation of this line. Scout (above left) was their first, a singleton pup, born in April 2015. Scout dispersed from this territory: she is the first youngster I’ve followed AFTER her dispersal which occurred at an early 9 months of age, whereas the previous generations that I’ve kept track of in this line simply “inherited” the property on which they had been born, and that’s where they reproduced. So her story continues on a new territory not so far away.

Scout’s mate (above right) is a newcomer to me — I don’t know his background. We’ll have to wait for DNA to find out his lineage. Dr. Ben Sacks at UC Davis has, or will be, analyzing all of their scats to “scientifically” confirm the relationships I’ve documented, and to find the connections between the coyotes whose backgrounds I don’t know..

5th Generation: Scout’s is a long and fascinating history, many aspects of which I’ve written about on this blog. It was not for many years, until she was five years old, that she acquired a stable and faithful mate and had her first litter in April of 2020. This litter, then, is the fifth generation of this one family line: the pup photos in this posting are hers.

So the story as a whole continues with new generations continuing as they have from the beginning of time, and with my relaying individual stories that serve to individualize and distinguish each coyote from the next — it’s not unlike what goes on with us humans. :))

Below is a standard genealogical chart — just the chart without any stories — of the family from 2008 (or from before 2005 if you incorporate Toughy and Maeve’s birthdates) to today. The stories about the individuals, including their personalities and interactions, can be found in this blog. However, I never mention locations, and seldom have I used their names in my postings, and this has been done in order to protect them.

©  All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share, with permission and with properly displayed credit: ©janetkessler/coyoteyipps.com

Another Youngster I Knew Before Dispersal Seems to have a New Territory!

“Blondie” in early 2020, almost 3 years old, after dispersal.

After watching individual coyotes grow up and leave home, I resign myself to thinking that I will never see them again. So you can imagine my thrill in recognizing them in a new location. It’s like coming across a long-lost family member of my own!  Here you have such an individual — one of a growing handful of coyotes that I’ve re-discovered on territories within the city after they’ve grown up and dispersed. Many of our dispersing youngsters appear to move south and out of the city, and a substantial number are killed by cars. Those I find are survivors who did not disperse far.  [Here is a posting about some of the others].

This male is from a family of four siblings to survive into adulthood, ALL of whom I’ve been able to locate in their new territories. I use no collars or tags, just simple recognition. These are animals I had gotten to know well as youngsters through watching and documenting their family interactions as they grew up, including that of their parents and siblings, and recording their immediate family relationships.

The significance of this — its impact — is that I’ve been able to trace the major movements of a number of coyotes within the city, and I’ve been able to construct a limited genealogy of their relationships. Dr. Ben Sacks has extracted DNA from my scat samples and determined that all of our present coyote population here in San Francisco came from just four original founding coyotes: that means they are all related in some way and those connections which I’m unable to put together from visual recognition, his lab will be able to relate through DNA.

The fellow in this posting I named/labeled “Blondie” due to his appearance as compared to his siblings when he was a youngster. Here is his photo as a yearling youngster in 2018 before he dispersed:

Blondie, almost a year old

These photos are all somewhat blurry because they were all taken under almost no light, right at the break of dawn.

I’ve also followed the mate he hooked up with in late 2019, a female born in the Presidio in 2018. She dispersed permanently from that territory in 2020 when a new coyote alpha pair took over that property. When I first re-discovered Blondie and his new mate, they were regular trekkers to Lafayette Park and Alamo Square, but they abandoned that route early this year and moved on, looking for greener pastures. They’ve ended up at Lands End, close to her birth territory, but across town from his. Since they’ve been here a while and they’ve had a family, it is their claimed territory where they will remain. This is the same female with the infected ear which I wrote about in March earlier this year. The ear remains permanently damaged because the infection was not taken care of, but, hey, she still seems to be going strong!

“At home” in their claimed territory

©  All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share with permission and with properly displayed credit.

“Fait d’hiver”, a kinépoème, by Deylan Caylon

Here’s an enchanting artistic piece from France and in French! A Gary Snyder poem has been rendered in French, recited, and set to images in a video as “visual poetry”, or kinépoèmes, as Deylan Caylon calls these.  Beautifully and minimally, it captures and conveys a fleeting impressionistic winter scene at the edge of the forest — the frontier between two separate worlds coming together for one brief instant. For me, the multimedia was all-encompassing: I felt that I was there, that the experience was mine. As with all poems, leave time to contemplate and immerse yourself in the moment. :))

Deylan Caylon wanted his work to be in step with my approach, as well as with that of Gary Snyder’s: “It was difficult for me to find one of his poems that could fit with a visual & musical construction of mine. When I found this one, I thought,Yes, that’s the good one, but only if Janet agrees to give me some photos.'”

*A lisière is an edge or border, of a garden or forest or road or river, planted or where plants change from the type on one side to the type on the other — connotations of change, of frontier. For more about Deylan Caylon’s work visit his website: https://www.lisiere.com/

Coyote Pups are Now Two Months Old: What to Know If You Have a Dog, and What You Can Do [a reminder]

Two-month old coyote pup

We are smack-dab in the middle of pupping season: coyote pups are two months old now! Coyote parents will keep the youngsters hidden away if they can, and they will be very defensive towards any dogs and even people approaching their hideaways. These hideaways are frequently “moved” by coyote parents to keep the pups safe, which makes it hard often to know what areas for us to avoid, so you just have to be on the alert always for their presence and keep your dog well away from them. For a quick summary of what behaviors you can expect if you have a dog, and what you can do to avoid conflict, please click HERE.

Dad with three month old pup

Sacrificial Grapes mean no Sacrificial Lambs, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet,

I hope you are well at this time. I thought I would share a nice outcome we are seeing take shape in regards a coyote solution.

A local rancher has been diversifying his lands in regards stock and crops. However, one new venture was experiencing a lot of coyote conflict. The past few years a maturing vineyard has lost almost all it’s grapes…to coyote. It started with cameras catching several coyote raiding grapes. His answer was trapping 4 of them. This was futile, however, because that summer, 4 coyote turned into at least 14. I explained to him likely the scenario was he trapped the territorial pair/pack, and at the height of dry season (and pup season),  he suddenly opened a very rich food resource (grapes and rodents) and all peripheral coyote pairs flowed in…and with growing pups in tow. The result was a summer long feast and big loss of grapes. And more coyote than ever.

So we talked, and he implemented some changes. 2 years in, the results are showing.

He planted a long, peripheral vineyard along some woods at the distant end of his agricultural land. He then allowed native grasses to grow among the grapes. This created a rodent rich grassland within a season. In addition, he obtained a permit to collect road killed deer and elk on his road. He takes the road kill and disposes of it in woods adjacent to the peripheral vineyard. The result is in the last year, a pair of coyote has taken over this area. The scavenging from occasional roadkill in woods, and the hunting of rodents in created grasslands, curtails their roaming. They jealously repelled all other coyote as they claimed this rich area. They don’t even range or forage in the older, mature vineyards. Also, the neighbors sheep herds and free range chickens have not had any coyote predation. By changing the landscape and locations of resources, and by utilizing a natural weekly/monthly bonus (roadkill deer are natural…not trying to encourage feeding human foods to coyote) he has allowed a territorial pair to develop and become landlords. They aggressively chase out all other coyote in region. By the pics he’s shown, they are very large, prime sized and powerful. If they want grapes…the peripheral vineyard provides the sacrifice. But literally stuffed with grassland rodents and deer/elk leftovers, they leave most grapes and all livestock alone.

Not everyone can do this. I balk a bit about the roadkill, but he felt he took a situation, and created coyote contentment into better future behaviors. Nothing wasted, and I admit-this strategy created some home loving coyote that are very settled, yet still totally wild.

As spring turns to hit summer, the pups will grow in need. But these coyote parents will enter a grassland/vineyard, and hunt rodents by the thousands. The pups will start foraging here as well. And yes, likely feed on some sacrificial grapes. But between the rodents, the roadkill deep in woods, and some grapes, lambs and chickens are literally ignored. Apparently an abundance of rodents, a side dish of leftover deer/elk, with a dessert of grapes turns coyote into predictable, and full, good neighbors who keep riff raff out as well.
🐾🐾🌾🐀🍇
Take care,
Lou

Setting Up House in the Presidio

Puff at his birthplace at one year of age, months before dispersal

Here in San Francisco, I’ve been able to follow about a handful of youngsters after watching them grow up in their separate families, after dispersal, after finding mates and territories of their own and then raise their own litters. This is an update and a slight expansion upon what I previously wrote about the fella I call “Puff”.

When coyotes first disperse, I lose track of them — many I don’t ever see again — so you can imagine my thrill whenever I find any of them again as full grown alphas and territorial claimants in their own right.

Puff is one of those: At three years of age, he has become the new alpha male in the Presidio — across town from his birthplace — after dispersing at over a year-and-a-half of age. I don’t normally state locations, but the coyotes there have already been heavily advertised in the Presidio, which is vast in size, so I don’t feel I am compromising their situation. And it is there that Puff has now become a dad, with all the attendant responsibilities of that role, including intense patrolling, keeping outsider coyotes out, guarding against dog intrusions, and bringing in food for the youngsters! In coyote families, dads help raise the young on a par with moms. So Puff has come of age in a new territory!

About the label, “Puff”. All the coyotes I watch I label according to a characteristic which helps me identify them. I rarely share these, but here are a few more as examples: Chert is the color of the chert rock, Silver has a silver patch on his back, Squirrel sat below a tree filled with squirrels. Scout was an explorer. Puff was a puffball. When a new mate joins a coyote I’ve been watching, I pair up the name appropriately: Bonnie’s new mate became Clyde. Scout’s new mate became Scooter.

It’s my first-hand documentation work that led me to the connection between the new Presidio alpha male and the youngster I watched grow up: no one else in San Francisco is or has been doing this kind of family-life documentation work. My DNA study will confirm my observations with harder facts for the hard-core “scientists” out there.

July 12, 2017

As a youngster, Puff was a playful teaser — the prime mover and leader of his large litter of which there were four surviving siblings (several died before the end of their first year — killed by human negligent acts, including a car).  Play fighting was how they passed the time: this activity, as might be expected, segued into true fighting as the males matured, and at 1.5 years of age, Puff and a brother teamed up to aggressively drive out a third brother — I was there to witness and photo-document the event.

However, I did not witness the actual trigger that drove Puff himself to disperse, if indeed there was one. I’ve watched coyotes disperse anywhere from 9 months to 2.5 years of age, where some were forced to leave by other family members (brothers, fathers, mothers) and some moved away without incident on their own timeline. Amazingly, I’ve been able to follow three of the four all four [updated] survivors in Puff’s litter to and at their new locations where they all are now parenting litters of their own which were born in April. I stay well away from den areas because this is what the coyotes would want, so I have not yet actually seen any pups this year, but I see all the moms who are obviously lactating.

Puff’s new mate is a coyote I call “Wired” (so named because of the radio-collar). The two of them took over the Presidio territory by force from the previous long-time territorial coyote residents there (as per a surveillance camera video capture at the Presidio).

Pre-Presidio, Wired had quite a story of her own: I was able to keep track of her as she roamed, looking for a place of her own. She even viciously pursued another coyote throughout the city after taking over and claiming that coyote’s territory: it turned out that this would be only a “temporary” takeover. Coyotes are well known for being opportunists, and she found something better! She ended up with Puff in the Presidio.

Puff’s birth territory has been abandoned by his parents and inherited by a sister who now is the pupping alpha female of that area. His Mom is still around but keeps a low profile. I’ve seen his Dad around, but not as the alpha male he had been. Oldsters get pushed out by younger reproducing pairs either from within or without of the family. And I’ve actually seen an older territorial pair leave a territory voluntarily, thereby ceding it to a daughter! THAT pair was seen several months later about a mile away, looking decrepit, worn-out and old. I have not seen them again and guess that their lives ended. Might they have known this was coming?

Immediately below is a recent photo of Puff and one of his new mate, “Wired”, and below these, several of the many photos I took of Puff and his siblings months before their dispersals.

Puff on the left as a full-grown, three-year old alpha male, and Wired on the right is his mate. 

©  All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share with permission and with properly displayed credit.

For A Bit of PERSPECTIVE

Occasionally I like to post something a little different from my coyote focus. This posting was inspired by my neighbor who just saw a wild turkey run down his street — this is right in the geographical center of San Francisco! That’s a first in that neighborhood. Two years ago it was that same neighbor who first saw a mountain lion right in front of his house.

Two first photos by Greg Miscikowski, the photo on the right is by Eric Weaver taken in his yard.

In this neighborhood, we’ve also seen Great Blue Herons hang out on someone’s roof and Turkey Vultures circle around several times a year. This sporadic wildlife is in addition to our regular wildlife which includes five types of hawks, an uncountable variety of songbirds, opossums, skunks, raccoons, gray and brown and red squirrels, moles, voles, gophers, rats, two types of owls, innumerable snake types, lizards. We even had foxes before coyotes. Everyone is always enchanted and thrilled with what will appear next!

Back to the wild-turkey sighting: I’ve seen videos of wild turkeys attacking (yes, attacking) mail delivery trucks in other towns: they actually slam their bodies against the truck, which you might think would crush every bone in their bodies, but it doesn’t. They get up and do it over and over again. It’s a territorial thing. Anyway, after re-watching that mail-truck vs. turkey video, this video below appeared as a “recommended for viewing”. So I watched it, very bemused as I thought about our urban coyotes who don’t attack humans!

‘Till Death Do Us Part?

Introduction: That “coyotes are known to mate for life” is something most of us have heard. In fact, I think it’s the only reality I’d ever seen in 13 years. However, as events in one of my families unfolded in early February of this year, I had to question this. My own perception of the turn of events came in bits and pieces and in fits and starts as revealed through a field camera which was out only at night, and not always then. My own desire for this pair-bond to be everlasting caused me to latch onto any details to support my belief, and herein lies a sort of soap opera aspect to the story which I weave into the ending. My ‘hopeful speculations’, along with background history have grown this posting into an unusually long one — a mini-tome! Yikes! 

Please know that every single one of these photos, as all the photos on this blog, were taken as photo-documentation at the time these events occurred. I don’t substitute a photo from another time or place that might simply “do”. What you see, and what you read, are authentic and concurring.

Background.  The years immediately leading up to this story serve as an important point of reference for what comes later, so I’ll sum those up here.

More

Coyote Territorial Movements To Four Corners of the City: An Update

For 13 years I’ve been documenting coyotes and their families in the city. Last year, the life of one of those coyotes — a loner female — bounced into one of charmed companionship with the arrival of a friendly young newcomer male, and then, within just a few months of that, it spun downhill into chaos when her territory was invaded and taken over by an older female. This older female happened to be associated with her new male companion, and it’s this association that may have drawn the older female to the area in the first place. After these life-changing incidents, I continued to follow the lives, behaviors, new relationships and movements through the city of these particular coyotes, most of whom I have been following since their births. This current poster is a summary update — the present point in time — of where things stand now with each of those players.

The coyotes involved had come together from distant parts of the city and interacted during just a brief period of time towards the end of 2018 and through the first half of 2019. In the end, after all the intense up-and-down drama (see Coyote Territorial Movements: Scout’s Story), they went their separate ways and to diametrically opposite corners of the city. Each matured in his/her own way, claimed a territory and found a family situation of their own making. An interesting twist to the story is that a brother of the young male companion ended up becoming the mate of the intruding female. OMG! The displaced female — the main character of the story — found her way back to and re-claimed her original territory where she has bonded and formed a family with a completely new male. [More, press HERE].

My observations of these movements, along with all behaviors and relationships, are made without invasive “gadgets” such as radio-collars and identification tags. DNA from scat will confirm what I’ve detected from my own naked-eye observations — this is my concession to the “scientific” method which focuses on stats and hard data. But look at how much scientists are missing beyond the “stats” and number-crunching: a whole world of interactions, activities, relationships, and personalities! Each individual is different and can’t be summarized as a statistic and neither can their individual histories!

“You are doing the work”, one of my sons tells me. It needs to be put out there. No one else is doing what you are doing — this first-hand research. The word “expert”, another son tells me, comes from the word “experience”: i.e., doing the footwork. Spouting a “degree” as a “credential” evades the question of what a person really knows about coyotes or our coyotes here in San Francisco.  I work alone, not as a team, I don’t have an organization or their funds behind me, and this is not a paid job. It might be time to toot my own horn a little!

© All information and photos in my postings come from my own original and first-hand documentation work which I am happy to share with permission and with properly displayed credit.

Recess

“Pictures are worth a thousand words.” These photos depict a triad of coyote lads playing. There’s horsing around, cuddling, competition, domination, ownership, and some teeth-baring reactions.

A ball they found is included in the play. You’ll see them run with the ball, chase each other, roll it with their noses, battle for it, entice the others with it, coddle the ball lovingly, play tug-of-war with it.

You’ll also see them play without the ball: teasingly grabbing or nipping another’s leg, provokingly grabbing another’s back, somersaulting over another or tumbling over each other in an affectionate pileup, lying on each other, nibbling on each other.

They played for about 30 minutes with something happening every second of that time. I’ve limited this posting to include about one photo a minute — it was hard culling them down to just 40 photos! Second from the bottom is a slide show you can quickly flip through by pressing the advance arrow, or you can let it play at it’s own speed.

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What I describe above is what meets the uninitiated eye, and it is, in fact, what is going on. But there is more going on. The playing includes subtle hints (subtle to us) of one-upmanship from one of the coyotes towards the other two: this challenging type of play comes only from that one coyote and not the others. The other thing going on is that this trio of coyotes, by their extended presence here, has claimed the area as their own in opposition to the dogs who have been banned from congregating in the area due to the coronavirus. So dogs and owners are actually looking in on this activity and the coyotes are knowingly “performing” for them.

© All information and photos in my postings come from my original and first-hand documentation work which is copyrighted and may only be re-used with proper credit.

Pensive Dad

This Dad is meticulously assessing and re-evaluating the safety of his denning area’s periphery. It’s something he does on a continuing and regular basis, and now even more so during pupping season. You’ll see him slowly walking and looking around, sniffing for WHO might have been here, and he listens to the voices close by: he can tell he is off people’s radar and so is unconcerned about them.

This hidden tunnelway sees skunks, raccoons, squirrels, red tail hawks, sharp shins, stellar jays, rats and mice . . . and an occasional unleashed dog who’s gotten whiff of a coyote and decided to pursue it. He is able to “see” all of this through his nose.

You might wonder what exactly is going through this father’s mind as he carries out his job: your guess is as good as mine, but you can be sure he, as a father, has the same concerns and worries that a human father might have: I think it’s important to see these commonalities.

Afterwards, he takes a drink of water from a watering hole to the left and then “marks” the area before moving on. He spent seven full minutes reflecting and thinking as he looked around this one spot. This is his seventh year as a dad: he knows the ropes and what he has to do to keep his family safe.

© All information and photos in my postings come from my original and first-hand documentation work which is copyrighted and may only be re-used with proper credit.

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