Kangaroo Apple or Poroporo

I watched a coyote forage in one of these bushes. When the coyote left, we went up to examine the berries which I had never seen before. I took a tiny taste, and my friend gulped down a couple to help us determine what they were: the flavor was bitter with a tad of sweet. When I got home, I couldn’t find the plant on the internet, so I turned to my Nextdoor site and posed the question there. They indeed came up with what it was: Kangaroo apple, as it’s called in Australia, or poroporo, as it is called in New Zealand are native to those areas, but have been naturalized into the Bay Area and can be found throughout San Francisco. AND, we should not have eaten them as they are poisonous — they belong to the nightshade family! Yikes!
Once I had the name of the plant, I looked up more about it. Interestingly, it’s flowers are hermaphroditic (having both male and female organs). They are blue-violet or white in color, and a little over an inch in size. Flowers are followed by berries of about the same size. The berries, it turns out, are poisonous only while green — they become edible once they turn orange.  Whew!
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The next day I went back to see if the coyote would appear again: I wasn’t sure it was eating the fruit or possibly foraging for snails or slugs on the plant. I wondered why a coyote might eat toxic material. As I watched, I saw that the coyote eating only the orange colored fruit! Maybe the green ones were unsavory and bitter as well as toxic? Smart coyote!

 

Hi Dad, Wanna Play?

The pup has received a strict and heavy-handed (and probably not-expected) retort and rejection to his enthusiastic, happy invitation to play. He responds, expressing his feelings through tucked chin, ears swiveled back, squinting eyes, tight jaw — not so different from our own painful grimacing to such a retort. The flopping over is rather melodramatic, but I know human kids who might have done that!  :)) I’ve seen coyote pups react this way many times — usually when they are conflicted: it’s as though all synapses fired at once without a clear outcome!

More Teasing and Bantering at Their Dusk Rendezvous

*Passing under and lifting* are standard in their *teasing and playing* repertoire.

All smiles and happy after the rendezvous play session!

I’ve inserted words that we humans might use in this situation. Yes, the use of words is anthropomorphizing, but look at the photos: the sentiments expressed non-verbally by these coyotes as they banter back and forth are exactly the same, aren’t they? One human might tease another in exactly this same fashion: first one taunts/teases the other, then the other taunts/teases back, and back and forth.

This is a mated pair with a brood of pups. Nevertheless, they still participate in this type of bonding play and teasing in spite of their family responsibilities to which they both contribute. The four-month-old pups are still being secretly sequestered for their own protection.

Bernal Heights Outdoor Film Festival

The Bernal Heights Outdoor Film Festival, which will be taking place here in San Francisco over the next several days, opened tonight. It included a short short video clip which I filmed and which Tod Elkins magically fixed up for the event with a title and music and amazing edits (including adjusting color, creating transitions, taking out the jiggle and the wobble, cutting out sections where the coyote ran out of the picture frame, and much more). Tod is a filmmaker, and I take raw footage, so we made this a joint project for the festival. Thank you, Tod! And thank you Leslie and Anne for inviting us to participate! Coyote is the mascot of the neighborhood so it had to be included, no matter how simple the clip, and I happen to have many clips! Leslie and Anne picked this one.

This opening-day event was warm and welcoming: the Master of Ceremonies, Ian Williams, was amusing and lots of fun. There was live music by a Chinese harp player with her Cajon drummer (a cajon is a square, wooden drum), an amazing dancer, and the food was beautifully presented and delicious.

Kudos to Leslie Lombre and Anne Batmale who organized the event: it’s the 14th season that they have done so. Of course it was the films themselves that carried the show: each one was creative and impactful in its own way: most were enhanced with music and no words! Each creation lasted on the average of about five minutes, with its focus stemming from each filmmaker’s unique individual experiences or take on life situations. I was very inspired. The festival continues for several days, so be sure to go!

For more information on the Film Festival, go to: Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema.

Four Month Old Pup Howls Back at His Family / Dispersal Behavior

This video is a very short (20 seconds) clip of a youngster coyote, a little over four months old, responding to the howls of his family after a siren had sounded. He is on one side of the park alone, independently and very self-sufficiently, exploring and hunting on his own. It’s late dusk and there’s almost no light, but the camera was able to focus on this. Notice that the youngster is listening intently for the rest of the family which is far in the distance, in back of where I’ve standing to video. When he thinks he knows where they are, he takes off in their direction, running.

Interestingly, as he approached them, he veered off and went the other way, never meeting up with them. The howling had stopped by the time he reached them. Might he have decided to avoid what was going on between them? There were four other coyotes who were at the site, including Mom, Dad and two yearling siblings born last year.

I say this because it’s at this point that I and another onlooker heard strong deep warning growls. We heard them again, and then a third time. It’s not often that we hear coyotes actually growl like this because it seems to be limited to use within the coyote world between themselves, apparently to express anger or discipline. Unfortunately my recorder did not pick up the low frequency sounds.

I strained to see what was going on but could only make out that one coyote had pinned another one down and was growling at it. By focusing my camera on the light in the background, I was able to get these two photos below. Once home, where I could actually see the image, I could tell clearly that Mom was standing over her yearling daughter, exercising her dominance. Dispersion time is coming soon for that young female. Punches, nips and dominance displays as this one will increase in order to drive the youngsters off. This is an important part of the coyote’s life cycle: it keeps the population down in claimed territories.

Interestingly, Dad still grooms this female for long stretches of time and very affectionately, reconfirming his bonds and affection for her. In the families I’ve observed, it seems to be the Moms that drive out the females (who I suppose could become competitive with them), and the Dads, or sometimes male siblings, who drive the youngster males out.

Brush Rabbits in San Francisco?


Yes, I’ve run into a number of bunnies recently in our San Francisco parks — in the same parks where coyotes also live! Because of this, I decided to brush-up on them.  :))

The western brush rabbit, also called riparian brush rabbit is a species of small cottontail which lives in the western coastal areas of the US, including San Francisco. Apparently it is endangered. Ten years ago I had incredible difficulty finding brush rabbits here in the city: I was told that they were a rare sight except at Fort Funston, though I did find a couple on Twin Peaks. That was right before they totally disappeared from Twin Peaks as it was converted to a high-maintenance “native” plant museum landscape of grasslands and chaparral. :((

Now, I’m seeing these bunnies again in a number of our parks — not in the restored “native” chaparral areas or grasslands of the city, but rather on the edges of dense brush, willow groves, blackberry thickets and dead wood piles, where they can quickly scurry to safety.  They eat grasses, shoots and especially green clover and berries.

We all know that rabbits dig holes because of Alice who fell down one into Wonderland. However, cottontails, unlike other rabbits, don’t dig “rabbit holes” or burrows as do other rabbits, but rather use the burrows of other animals, or just hide in the dense brush areas through which they create extensive runways. All other rabbits live underground in burrows or warrens.

They are crepuscular, mostly active at dawn and dusk, as well as nocturnally active. Their main predators here in the city are coyotes, foxes, raccoons, snakes, hawks, and owls, . . . and misguided human activity also hurts them. The protection they use to escape predators lies in their ability to remain absolutely still in bushy areas, or to hop in a fast zig-zag pattern in open fields. They can also deliver powerful kicks with their hind legs and their strong teeth allow them to bite in order to escape a struggle.

Rabbits don’t have pads on their feet — they are furry all over! They are distinguished from rodent species by their two sets of incisors, one in back of the other, whereas rodents only have one set. Male rabbits are called bucks, females are does, youngsters are called kits or kittens, and a group of rabbits is called a colony or nest. The brush rabbits are only about a foot long and weigh between one and one-and-a-half pounds.

Brush rabbits produce two to five litters a year — the average being three — and a litter size is usually about 3 kits. That doesn’t seem like so many to me, and I wondered where the phrase “multiplying like rabbits” really came from, but with a short gestation period of only 22 days, they actually can reproduce quickly. It turns out that it is *domestic* rabbits who really can overpopulate: they potentially can have 1-14 kits per litter and potentially 12 litters a year. Yikes! [See: http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/scary.html]

Wikipedia says that,  “It is estimated the home range of the Brush Rabbit averages just under 1-acre for males and just under .5 acre for females. The shape of these home ranges are usually circular but depending on the vegetation can be different in size and shape. Range use probably is not circular in shape or uniform, but rather consists of a series of runways that directly connect high use areas within brush habitat.”

Several rabbits have been observed to feed in the same area simultaneously, but they maintained distances from each other of one to 24 feet before aggressive chases occurred. Females tend to not overlap in their ranges, while males do, which may indicate that females are territorial. Groups of brush rabbits may serve social purposes, such as predator detection.

Cottontail rabbits are almost completely mute animals. They communicate with each other by thumping with their back feet against the ground, and probably visually. Even so, they can scream and screech quite loudly if caught by a predator.

Yes, as I mentioned above, *humans*, in their quest to be helpful, are actually harmful to them. Please let’s leave their habitat alone — they need the dense brush they live in for natural protection! Also, please don’t try to “save” these critters by trapping them and taking them home. They are meant to be wild and they are happiest in their natural environment, living their lives without human interference. The rule of nature is “eat or/and be eaten”: it’s a harsh one, but I think they, as all animals, would choose a short natural and free life over a long life in captivity: Life quality over longevity. I would.

Coyote Encounter During Pupping Season

Good morning Janet,

We had an interesting encounter with I believe the male resident coyote, Silver, at the ball field at approximately 6 AM this morning. We entered the park from Safeway, and as we started the circle path, Molly was alerted to the coyote on the far side of the field by the apartment building bordering the field. Molly took a few steps forward and the coyote immediately trotted toward us across the field.

Molly, who usually barks at the coyotes, gave me a submissive whine like, “lets get out of here”. We turned around and started back and the coyote, then in the middle of the field, veered away from us and went back into the wilder, overgrown area of the park, away from the apartments.

My guess is the pup was nearby. I think some people would have been frightened by this behavior, but I understood it as simply a coyote parent being protective of a pup, and I acted appropriately. Very excited to actually experience it. I have to give credit to Molly. She read the coyote behavior and told me lets go. I had to laugh, “smart dog!”

John

Note: Yes! Good work! If you walk away from a coyote, showing it that you are not interested in it, more than likely the coyote no longer will feel a need to protect itself, or to *message* your dog to leave it alone. So, when walking your dog, always shorten your leash, turn around, and walk away from the coyote the minute you see one. Show disinterest by not allowing your dog to interact, examine or bark at the coyote if you can.

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