Mom Tells Off Her Son, and Dad Stands By

The family was out together, all four of them: Mom, Dad, Daughter and her brother. It’s not often that we see the young daughter: she’s just not comfortable at this point being out when people look at her. The minute she feels noticed, she hurries off and disappears into the surrounding foliage.

Her brother also dislikes being watched. This makes a lot of sense: in the wild, if any animal looks at another animal, it’s probably a predator sizing it up as prey. But brother has become more tolerant of humans eyeing him than his sister. He might leave an area if he feels the focus is on him, but he inevitably returns to the same spot, especially if his parents are out there.

So after Sis left today, only Mom and Dad and Son were out. They wandered around a little, and then Dad moved further away from the others. Suddenly Mom was beating up Son: he was on his back and she was standing over him with teeth bared. Yikes! She seems to have a short temper recently.  She got annoyed at Dad recently while I was watching: I think simply because he bumped into her, maybe brushed against her or stepped on her heels. She not only snarled at him, but she then acted on her “words” and let him know who was boss by raising herself above him: it was an instance of interpersonal coyote communication and interactions showing HER emotional response to him, and HIS tolerance and total deference to her.

What happened with the youngster today? I didn’t see it, it happened very quickly, but probably the same thing. I’ve seen dogs get pretty upset when they’ve been bumped — nothing else but a clumsy bump — by another dog, and maybe something like this happened today. It’s probably disrespectful. Anyway, here are the photos of Mom letting little guy have it with snarls and growls. Dad soon arrived and seemed to take sides with Mom. He may have had to — if you know what I mean. In fact, Mom in this family is the “top dog”.

Eventually, after making sure Son got the message, the two parents walked off. And the little guy stayed behind. He looked dumbfounded, like he had no clue why that had been so intense: “What did I do?” But he knew he was not invited to follow his parents. Parents proceeded to walk around the periphery of their park together, and Son stayed right where he was, searching for gophers, alone.

Maybe this was just a temper-tantrum on Mom’s part — maybe she just wanted a little more respect from him? Then again, maybe she’s setting the stage for dispersal. The earliest dispersal I’ve seen occurred when a pup was nine-months old, which is what this pup is now. We’ll have to see what happens next..

© 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.

 

Family Interrupted: Update

Last October I wrote about a “family interrupted”. A coyote mom, Bonnie, suddenly disappeared from her family (I’ll call this family #3), leaving three five-month-old pups and a very shy dad, Clyde. Territories are best defended by an alpha pair, but there was no longer a pair here to work as a defending team. Within a few short weeks, intruders (family #4) came and took over the territory. It’s actually a very complicated story: nothing is as cut-and-dry as it seems in the coyote world, and unless you are actually there to catch the nuances, you might miss the essence of what is going on.

The intruder males from what has been family #4 — consisting of an alpha male, Blue, an alpha female, Maam, and the male’s younger brother, Buff — were actually related to the disappeared mom, Bonnie, and had lived on this territory with her for over a year (as family #2) during the previous year, having migrated over from a nearby territory which they had occupied long-term until that point and still visited fairly regularly. I’m not sure what sparked their move from that other territory, but it could have been that the old alphas passed away or simply left — I’ve seen the abandoning of territories by older alphas a number of times (due either to a territorial battle, or even without such provocation). What remained of that family #2 — three siblings consisting of two males and a female — were able to move here from that nearby territory when the long-term previous alphas on this territory left. (I hope I haven’t lost you yet). That was family #1 on this territory. The dad, Ivan, had been here at least 12 years — the alpha female, Maya, was a more recent arrival. They appeared to have ceded the land to their two-year old daughter, who, even with repeated beatings and body slams by her mother, would not leave/disperse. So they (the alphas, Ivan and Maya) left.

This daughter, Sissy, attempted wooing one of the newcomer males (the dominant male from family #2), but this didn’t work out — yes, even coyotes are fickle and choosy in picking their lifelong mates. This male eventually and somehow became hostile towards Sissy. Sissy became scared, nervous and flighty, and then one day she was gone for good: the family of the fella she was trying to woo, took over (this is family #2). We had only ever seen the two males, Blue and Buff here, but now, with no females around, their sister, Bonnie, joined them.

At the end of about a year, the two brothers left, leaving Bonnie and her new mate, Clyde to claim the territory and raise their litter of three. The departed older brother, Blue, found a mate, Maam, and another territory, and younger brother, Buff, stayed with them. I don’t know which happened first: that Bonnie found Clyde and then the brothers left, or the other way around. At any rate, as Bonnie raised her litter, only her nuclear family (family #3) lived here.

But then Bonnie suddenly disappeared, as I stated above. The vacancy (semi-vacancy of the territory) caused by her absence apparently attracted the intruders.

Anyway, even if you can’t keep track of all that — and I must say, even I hardly can — what we have here now on this territory is a reconfigured family which includes one of Bonnie’s pups.

I was fascinated to watch one of Bonnie’s pups, Bolder, begging to be included in this family. I saw it happen. I can only guess that the youngster knew she had a greater chance of survival by joining the intruders.

So now we have this unusual family. It consists of a mom, Maam, a dad, Blue, and dad’s younger brother, Buff, and one of Bonnie’s offspring who is now 9 months old, a female I call Bolder. I have not seen Maam and Blue’s pups, though I know they had them because I saw Maam lactating in April and May. And up through today, I’ve not seen any of their youngsters trekking with their parents, which is normal as far as I have seen for almost all pups at this stage. In the few cases where I have seen the pups venture further with their parents — and yes, there are such individuals — I think it is due to a less wary personality, along with picking up behavioral fearlessness towards humans from their mostly fed parents.

This reconfigured family #5, then, has a hierarchy which runs from alpha Maam who is top dog, to the alpha Blue who is her mate, then her mate’s younger brother, Buff who is very submissive towards his older brother, but rather bold in other respects, and finally the little squirt, Bolder, who, although she keeps out of the way a lot of the time, she nevertheless travels with them sometimes. There seems to be a kind of push-pull in her relationship with the rest of family #5, and I get the impression from the others in that family that she’s considered a nuisance by them, though allowed to stay and hang on. I see her with them, but also I see her run from them in fear.

Very sporadically — but enough so that I know they are still around — I see Bolder’s dad, Clyde, and a brother of Bolder’s, Shier, so I’m still trying to figure out this territorial situation and these families.

And here are a couple of recent photos of that reconfigured family.

younger brother, older brother and alpha male, Bonnie’s female pup, alpha female [photo: Janti Sommer]

From left to right: alpha male older brother, pup, younger brother, alpha female [photo: Janti Sommer]

Update on Sparks

Sparks is alive and well in the Presidio where he has resided for several months now. I have followed him since his birth in 2019 where I watched him grow up with four siblings, and then through his dispersal journey much of which I’ve written about here on my blog (put “Sparks” into the search box). During his dispersal to date — a dispersal which began in March of 2020 — he stopped for weeks-on-end at various locations where he either remained temporarily with his sister (she returned to her birthplace), or in other locations he remained alone, and he even was accepted temporarily into an established alpha family (alpha mom, alpha dad, two of three remaining pups) where he interacted, played with, hunted with, and cuddled with the family he stayed with. He seems to get along well with new coyotes he meets. He always moved on. I have seen dispersing youngsters repulsed from established territories, so his situation has been very interesting for me.

And now he is at the Presidio where every evening he meets up with a little female coyote: they rendezvous and howl and yip before running off together for the evening’s activities. I have not identified his special friend yet. I’m wondering if this is his final home, or just another stopping place? He has been here for months, and in fact he had come through the area at the end of the summer and then left before returning and remaining. Maybe he left because of a broken arm he acquired at that time: I could not detect a limp when I last saw him.

The established alphas in the Presidio have been there over a year: Wired and Puff. They had three pups this year.  I’ve written about both of these coyotes before. I’m now trying to figure out Sparks’ current relationship with (position in) Wired’s family. Wired and Puff could easily have driven him out, but they didn’t, as hadn’t the previous family Sparks stayed with. Rather, he formed a warm friendship and bond with them. I wonder if he’s been “adopted” into Wired’s family (as he had been temporarily into Cai2’s family), or if he’s forming a family of his own. It seems that it might be beneficial for Wired and Puff to have an amicable neighbor such as Sparks who they get along with and like, rather than a hostile one. So maybe it’s being allowed on purpose. According to the territories I’ve worked out in San Francisco — they average about 1.5 square miles — the Presidio is actually big enough for more than one family.

Sparks’ story continues to unfold.

© 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.

Zoom Talk: Coyotes in San Francisco: Population, Family Life, Stewardship

For those of you who wanted to come and missed it, here is the Zoom Talk I gave on Tuesday for the residents of Telegraph Hill. It covers the coyotes generally in San Francisco, with a short aside about the coyotes on Telegraph Hill. I received great compliments on the talk, and I’ve been asked to give it again in several other neighborhoods, with asides on those coyotes, so I will post dates for those talks as they come up. My presentations are all based on my own first-hand observations, along with my own photos, videos and maps of those observations, with just a few exceptions. New in this video (not covered in my previous talks or videos) is a section on my observations and documentation of coyote population dynamics here in San Francisco: how the population is divided and situated into discrete territories, and some of their dispersals. I am now collaborating in a City-wide population study at UC Davis.

Coyote Courtship, by Walkaboutlou

[Here’s a “Holiday Special”!  Hope it makes you smile as much as it did me. ]

Hi Janet,

I recently spoke with a good friend and ranch patriarch. His sunset of life is nearing. His fire turning to warm coals. But he is very comfortable and content. His sons all have taken up ranching. And ranching in time honored ways as well as innovative. One of these…is leaving coyote alone.

For over 90 years, coyote have not been allowed to be hunted or harassed on this vast ranch. They were taught…almost like dogs…lessons. By the ranchers and LGD and a culture of mutual respect..and enforcement…coyote have thrived here. The land has been utilized in ways that spacing and wild areas are maintained or created. It really is a place of balance for livestock and wildlife.

The Patriarch, especially..enjoyed coyote from childhood. He has known every coyote pack and most coyote there his whole life. He knows their family history and eras.

One story he loves to relay is watching a young coyote he knew since pup pick her mate after weeks of male courtship.

The images added to this story are not the of coyotes written about, but hopefully they will trigger your imaginations as to how those coyotes might have appeared. This is what I imagine  two-year old Chica to look like.

She arrived at a clearing in December, away from her very strict and territorial parents. She was almost 2 years.

She would mouse and listen to calls. Answer with her own. Within days..a pattern developed. She would arrive early..mouse and lounge…and the males would come. 1, 2, 3…….3 males eventually. Following her. Laying about her while she rested. Trying to play.  Trying to lure her away. Trying to disperse each other as rivals.

Each afternoon, she returned home. The courting males stopped at edge of her territory. There, Chica would endure hip slams from younger siblings, and slams from mother. Her mother seemed incensed by Chica’s scent of other males.

Chica would flee apologetic..and rest faraway from pack.

And the next day….same all over.

For over a month…this happened.

The Rancher noted the males. Handsome was new and big and very impressive. Big and robust. He was taller and bigger than most coyote. And had a grayish hue instead of the tans.  Then another male, named Zip. He seemed so fast and very restless. He literally trotted circles all day around the others and seemed almost overheated. The 3rd male was Slim Jim. Widowed in past year, 8 year old Slim Jim was outclassed a bit. His tattered ears and dull teeth didn’t better his impression.

The males increased competing. No fighting but definite jockeying for position and time with Chica.

Late January, only Handsome and Slim Jim were at hand. Zip had left…seen miles away days later. Slim Jim had bite marks on face. Hmmmm

The males followed Chica endlessly. She stopped going home. But Handsome seemed the right choice.

But then…Handsome and Slim Jim fought very briefly. It seemed Handsome won. But then he was pushy and aggressive to Chica in the next few hours. She ran from him. And Slim Jim hovered about. When Handsome was distracted, Slim Jim quietly groomed her neck. Just a moment.

That evening Slim Jim returned, JackRabbit in mouth. Chica ran to him and begged. He dropped the whole prize to her. And when Handsome tried to smell and take some…Chica turned on him…joined by Slim Jim.

They drove Handsome away hard. And with the jackrabbit and subsequent Handsome drive off…they became united.

Tattered Slim Jim had won a mate. He seemed renewed. His coat improved with her attention and grooming in the weeks to come. And Chica got to be Queen of a large and good territory.

The Rancher says seeing the courtship is one of his favorite memories. He had no clue….selection could take…..weeks!

Slim Jim and Chica showed him…every coyote..has real stories. Like us.

Enjoy the stories Janet!

Lou🐾

The images added to this story are not of the coyotes written about, but hopefully they will trigger your imaginations as to what those coyotes might have looked like. This is what I imagine Tattered Slim Jim to look like.

San Francisco COYOTES: WHERE they are, WHO they are, and HOW to get along

I’ve been invited to give a Zoom presentation at the end of the month on December 29th at 5pm.  I’ll talk about coyote population in San Francisco, family life, and guidelines for stewardship and coexistence — all based on my first-hand documentation work. Attendance will be limited, so contact me (jannyck@aol.com) soon if you’d like to be admitted.  Janet

Canine Interchange, by Walkaboutlou

Dogs and coyotes normally don’t like each other, and certainly don’t mingle, but this particular dog had enough “wild” in him to actually almost become a coyote for many years.

Hi Janet,

I recently touched base about a dog I knew. He was very unique in multiple ways. And worth noting…because he is father of many coyote.

Fuzz was husky x malamute x Australian shep x wolf mix. He lived on an enormous ranch. Very early on…Fuzz showed himself different. He could actually drive and work cattle with the other ranch dogs….but as he matured, he grew bored of cattle. He kept apart from the other dogs..and was allowed to roam as his family owned thousands of acres.The owner realized Fuzz wasn’t a worker and sold him. Fuzz went to a very good home.  And ditched his new owner asap on a hiking trip.

He traveled 200 miles back in 3 weeks, a little dirty and tired. But calm and looked at original owner like “oh hi”.

He was allowed to stay. He remained aloof and roamed his vast range. When he was around 3 years old, different family members [humans] kept seeing Fuzz…with coyotes.

This happened for weeks during the late winter…then it was just Fuzz, and a small female.

The owner realized…Fuzz was likely..courting this female. He had dispersed other male coyote. He was seen interacting with various coyote…and was part of that scene. A pattern developed. Fuzz stayed at ranch and slept at barn with cats often. But at evening..he left. Trail cameras showed him traveling with same female. Also mouse hunting. Fuzz also showed the female how to utilize LGD feeding stations, and interacted with LGD while she fed. One pic showed her eating cautiously and obviously lactating.

That Fall, Fuzz was seen with 5 very unique looking young coyote. One had a blue eye. And little Mom Coyote leading them all.

For at least 4 years, Fuzz and this coyote called Little Mom seemed to have litters together. There are many “big” coyote in the region [his offspring]. Unlike other coyote, they seem to fight ranch and hunting dogs hard. They are coyote..but with more “oomph” and boldness.

I was both bothered and intrigued by Fuzz consorting with coyote, and actually taking a mate. The genetic exchange has happened many times in east. And wild coyote genes absorb the influence smoothly.

But..obviously, locally..it affects the genetics of coyote. Behaviorally too. I do believe the Pups of Fuzz learned some boldness and craft from dad. They associated with him off and on years into adulthood. Trail cams show them traveling together. Eating road killed deer. And showing up in dispersal for years in other places.

I wish I could truly know…how the genetics of a husky malamute Australian shepherd wolf play out after 4 years and 4 litters. How long will those genetics persist? How far will they spread? And will they create “better” or “worse” coyote?

Ironically….Fuzz disappeared when wolves started traveling through the area. Little Mom seemed to disappear too. There were at least 4 wolves in area for several months. It would seem..Fuzz might have met his fate among them. But we’ll never know. He could have been shot far away, roaming. Or met a bear or cougar. Or an LGD he didn’t know. These free ranging dogs are mysterious sometimes.

What we do know…is that Fuzz was part of the coyote community 4 or 5 years. He bonded with a female. There were years of pups and strange dispersing. It’s not common. But it happens…more than we realize.

His owner says “sometimes family member’s go crazy and run away to join a carnival. You gotta let um be.”

I don’t think Fuzz was crazy. But he truly created some carnival canine coyote. I wonder at their futures. And at the convergence of canine genetics.

Always amazed….

Lou

Intruder Driven Away by Resident Yearlings

Coyotes usually yip, howl and bark, making all of these sounds altogether. But this time, all I heard was a single coyote barking. If you’ve read my Coyote Voicings posting, you’ll know that this “raspy” type of vocalization is one of anger, distress or upset, and it is used as a warning to other coyotes or dogs. It went on for some moments before I started recording and videoing it. I wondered what was going on.

At close to the two-minute marker in the video, the yearling female starts looking around. Then she crouches low and hugs the ground as she hurries towards one of her brothers who had been alerted by her distressed distressed barks. You can tell she’s angry, not just by the tone of her barking, but also by her defiant stance and almost ‘kicking dirt’.

She greets that sibling and then they both look up to see a third sibling male appear. These three yearling siblings are best buddies, and are there for each other. At 19 months they still play incredibly well together and would come to each others aid, as I believe happened here, and as I’ve seen before. The three of them all run towards each other in a sort of ritual huddle of solidarity, and then run off together. The female was reacting to something, but I had no clue as to what this could be.  I wonder if she was able to communicate what it was to her brothers. Even if the communication hadn’t been precise, it did communicate her distress and anger, and they definitely picked up on that.

The very next day, though, I had my answer. I saw two coyotes in the same bushes: one was following at the heels of another and biting its hind legs, while that other was walking away in a crouched down, self-protective and submissive posture. I could only see their backs, so I couldn’t tell right off WHO these two were. The crouching coyote was clearly being driven away by the coyote in back of her.

And then I saw their faces. The male coyote doing the nipping is one of the remaining resident yearlings — a mere 19 months old. And the coyote he was attempting to drive out was a female I hadn’t seen before. I wonder where she’s from. The resident coyotes were successful, which makes sense because there were three of them against one. Also it’s their home turf. I haven’t seen the intruder female again.

 

Don Qoxote Battles a Windmill

The book whose title inspired the title to this video posting is Don Coyote, by Dyton O. Hyde. The book is a soul-warming book that’s as good as its title. It’s the story of a coyote and a rancher and is subtitled, “The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Maligned American Original”. I highly recommend it for all you coyote lovers out there.

The title I have given this video says it all. In the original Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes, the main character, Alonso Quixano, sets out to battle evil, including windmills who he imagines are ferocious giants: i.e., imaginary enemies. So in this video you’ll see our mighty 8-month old coyote exhibiting a lot of spunk as he takes on something he doesn’t understand and doesn’t like, and he indeed is able to knock it down (but not kill it). The coyote uses his paws and snout to bat the contraption. He also kicks the camera once, and he uses his teeth.

In the video, at first the youngster is really afraid of the field camera and keeps his distance. But within a few days, he becomes brave and takes on the camera he doesn’t like. Field cameras are intrusive: not only do they project light — coyotes can see the infrared — but the mechanism, although at first listen is fairly inaudible to us, in fact, if you put your ear right up to it, can be heard by even humans. So coyotes hear these things and see lights — they automatically are triggered by motion — which react to their presence — only when they are there. Must be perplexing to the coyotes.

I’m posting this both to show the coyote’s mettle and determination, his persistence in the face of perceived danger, and to show how intense their dislike of something can be. Coyotes indeed have very strong feelings about things, including other things in the environment, such as temporary plastic fences which I’ve seen them pull down and even tear at. We need to acknowledge them as having these super sensitivities.

Coyote Caching and Burying Behavior

I’ve often seen a coyote bury a freshly killed gopher, whole, and then return for it within several days. Caching is a way of saving leftovers for later consumption. Burying food in dirt might help keep “meat” cool and fresh. And hiding the food, or other treasured items in some cases, protects them from other scavenger species, though it’s an extremely fallible system for this purpose, as I’ll show below.

I’ve wondered if caching might be done in times of scarcity — to save something for a rainy day. But I don’t think so. I think it’s done when they are satiated enough — in other words, during times of plenty — they are too full to finish it right off.  Coyotes do not waste anything and this is one method of making sure it is all “finished off” over the several days it takes to do so. I’ve never seen anything buried long-term.

In the above video, you’ll see a female coyote pick up something from the right and bury it on the left: she first digs a little depression, then deposits the item there, and then uses her snout to push debris over the item, possibly more to hide it than actually bury it, tamping it down a few times as she does so. The location is below a backyard fence where I’ve found food scraps tossed — that’s why I set up the camera there. But I have no idea if what the coyote found in the video was a food item — I could not find any food later. After burying the item, she proceeds with her “burying behavior” towards the middle of the screen, where she continues to push grasses and dirt with her snout and tamp them down. I examined this area, which I know was not disturbed after she left because the camera would have shown it. There was nothing there at all. Hmmm.

On other occasions, I’ve seen this same female coyote, the alpha of her family, bury an item not apparently for herself. I say this because I never saw her dig the stuff up again, but rather it was always her mate or an offspring who would unbury the items — they would come around at different times from her. This particular coyote has repeated this behavior often, right here in the same spot for years. I can’t seem to find the video I kept of this — I’ll add it if/when I find it.

Although coyotes predominantly bury dead animals, it’s not limited to food for eating. I’ve seen coyotes both bury and unbury smelly moles or snake skins after toying with them and spitting them out disgustedly — it was very obvious from the coyote’s face that the items were unpalatable — and then roll, rub, and wallow on the item with gusto before just leaving it there, or sometimes burying it. And then several days later, they’d return to the exact same spot — they always know exactly where it is even though there’s no marker there — to either find it lying around or unbury the item, roll on it again and “toy” with it.

I’ve seen a coyote bury their own wretched-up food. And I’ve watched a coyote bury her own scat, not by kicking stuff over the scat, but by carefully “sweeping” over wood chips from the path, using her nose, until the scat was completely covered.

I’ve watched a coyote picking at a raccoon carcass. When she was done, she dragged the remains over to a pile of leaves and sticks which she used to push over the carcass with her nose. I saw her return to the place daily for the next few days. I had the impression she was hiding it from other coyotes — she always looked over her shoulder when she got there, as though she didn’t want to be seen. By the way, when coyotes share such an item, they do so hierarchically: top dog gets first choice and his fill before the others can dig in.

I’ve seen a coyote bury an entire rat as he was spied on by another coyote, his brother, who was hidden nearby. When the burying coyote left, the rat was disinterred and played with joyfully by the spying second coyote. As the second coyote began burying the rat in a secret place just for himself, sirens began to sound. The coyote attempted howling while holding the rat, but that didn’t work too well, so he dropped the rat and went off to howl with the other coyotes in his family pack. The rat wasn’t there the next day.

And I’ve been told about a coyote who buried a rock: might this have been something of “value” to the coyote? I don’t know, but I think it’s interesting.

One of the most interesting aspects of caching is what it reveals about a coyote’s memory: they don’t forget.  Items buried in an open field with no markers are always relocated. Although I’ve only noticed the burying and unburying over a period of less than a week, I’m pretty sure, of necessity, that their memories are on a par with if not better than our dogs. Years ago, I was struck by how my dog ran straight to a tree where he had seen a raccoon two years previously — this in a park where we hadn’t visited for that amount of time. I myself had absolutely forgotten about the incident two years earlier, but was reminded when my dog went straight for the tree which was off the beaten path. Obviously, my dog remembered because it had meaning for him. That was my dog. You can be sure coyote memory is finer tuned than that of a domestic dog.

Gray Fox in the Middle of San Francisco!

l set out a field camera hoping to spot a couple of coyotes that we hadn’t seen in awhile. This was in the middle of San Francisco’s densely populated, commercial and tourist-attracting North Beach.
 
I indeed did capture what I had hoped for: two coyotes who hung around the area for a considerable time. They investigated by smelling — dogs come by here regularly which would have caused such an investigation — and they left their own urine markers — their calling cards — before heading off on their trekking adventures for the evening.
 
After the coyotes left, to my eye-popping surprise and astonishment, a tiny GRAY FOX appeared! Gray fox sightings are extremely rare in San Francisco.  As seen in the video, the fox jumped up into a tree, right over the camera — it came too close to the camera to be in focus. You next see her backside as she looks out from the bushes and then she “marks” before leaving after only three minutes in the area. Of course she could smell that this was coyoteland. 
 
After six hours, the coyotes returned, and they were keenly interested in what had transpired here while they were gone: they were well aware that the fox had been there.  
 
The gray fox is one of my most interesting captures to date in a field camera. I’ve also captured a mountain lion right here in the city, skunks challenging a coyote, raccoon families, opossums waddling through, ever-intelligent rats, domestic cats and part of an owl — all night-prowlers in the urbanwildness of San Francisco, and all appearing in the areas coyotes use!

Coyote Mummy, by Lisa Febre

I wanted to share with you more photos of the coyote carcass.

It was laying right in the middle of our usual path… and the dogs went straight to it, sniffing every part. Dusty (tan/green) started to roll on the bones, and Luna (grey/blue) went for it while I was dealing with him!!

I spent a little time with the bones, and the dogs stood by me and observed. I touched the teeth, held its paw, and wondered why it was put in my path.

Dusty was the one who was (likely nipped) investigated by the coyote during our close encounter in July.

For size reference, my dogs are about 28 pounds. Having seen them right up against a living coyote, they were about the same size, a little stockier but seemed comparable. I know these bones have deteriorated a bit, but I would say this was a young coyote close to 20 pounds?

Anyway! A memorable and powerful encounter. I guess this is pretty special, not everyone gets to see something like this. And, I just feel like these last few months have been filled with more coyotes than I deserve. 

Funny story: last summer, it was all snakes, all the time. I literally saw about 2 dozen rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, California kings, racers… more than pretty much anyone I know (including our park ranger when I told him about it at our training session last winter). And then this year, I have seen zero snakes. 

I have several tattoos and I’m thinking my next will be of a coyote. Question is where and what…

Paradigm Shift . . . or change our behavior?

On her way to a park, like everyone else.

Are we witnessing a paradigm shift for coexistence with our urban coyotes — a sort of growing “desegregation” and an increased co-mingling at closer range??

I’ve been observing a scenario that seems to be increasing here in San Francisco: an actual mixing of people and coyotes comfortably and amicably in the same close spaces. Interestingly, according to Malcolm Margolin, the author of, “The Ohlone Way”, coyotes mingled comfortably among the Ohlone people in this area when the Spaniards first arrived in the mid-1700s. In a couple of parks here in San Francisco, I’m seeing various instances of this these days. The difference today being — because we are not all that used to it — that no one here actually *ignores* the coyotes as the Ohlone did, but rather, the coyotes remain a sensation for everyone who sees them, and some people actively encourage interactions. Interactions of any kind never lead to any good as far as I have heard, especially for the coyote.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a coyote emerge from a fenced-off area — fenced off to humans and dogs — where she had safely tucked-in her 6-month-old pups for the day. She exited from that enclosure by squeezing agilely under the ragged fence and crossing the street to the grassy lawn of a parklet. So far, so good. But that’s when a man who had seen her cross the street whistled for her from his parked red car as he held up his iPhone camera, and she came running back into the street where she circled his car and remained in the street looking into his driver’s seat window from 3 feet away, waiting for the food she has learned to expect, particularly coming from cars. This has happened often to this coyote — the dead-giveaway clue being the coyote’s behavior. I’ve witnessed it many times.

She comes running to a car for food when she’s whistled for.

I quickly approached and asked the man to please not interact or call the coyote — that we were trying to keep them wild and out-of-trouble and didn’t want them approaching people or cars. He didn’t want to hear it and rolled-up the car window so he would not have to hear me. Feeding didn’t happen this time with me standing right there — most people know not to feed, even if they engage in it. However, and unfortunately, there continue to be many people who apparently don’t know this, or defy it in order to “help” the animals. This type of human interaction — and our being oblivious to the consequences — has shaped our coyotes’ behavior towards humans.

Seeing her opportunity for food cut off when the car window closed, the coyote I was watching headed off along the street adjacent to the parklet — cars passed her and so did walkers and runners along the way. 

Stopping at a grassy rise where she hung out long enough to meet walkers eye-to-eye.

She soon stopped again at another grassy rise alongside the curb of the road and started foraging and ever so craftily looking at people straight in the eye for the subtle hints which convey food is forthcoming. After a few minutes here, and no donors stepping forward, the coyote continued her trot, mostly in the middle of the street but also along the sidewalks through a handful of blocks and intersections that would take her a half-mile to the next park over. At intersections she paused and looked both ways before crossing.

Everyone who saw her was excited and enchanted: “Look, our coyote right here!” Over the last few years here, the widespread culture of fear towards coyotes has been waning considerably. Two cars tailed her closely as they took photos. Others, on foot, approached to get photos as she continued trotting along, minding her own business probably less than she was letting on — she was keenly aware of people and slowed her pace around them — it appeared that she wanted to be seen.  She had purpose in her trot: she knew what she was doing and where she was heading.

She knows how to cross the street: you wait, look both ways, and if it’s clear, you cross, and you keep looking.

These across-the-neighborhood jaunts by coyotes have been occurring here in San Francisco ever since coyotes reappeared in the city in 2002, but they usually occur during the darker hours. When they’ve occurred during the day, it has usually been with the coyote slithering quickly by and away, and keeping its distance. But lately I’ve been seeing a quality change in comfort level for a number of coyotes in several parks. On this day, for instance, there were a dozen people and dogs whose presence didn’t perturb or influence the coyote’s pace or cause her to alter her route. Opposingly, in the parks where this type of feeding is not going on, coyotes still keep themselves very separate: close encounters with people and dogs — scary for the dog-owner more than anything — are occasional and mostly just inopportune events. These are parks where coyotes, humans and dogs often see each other, but from a distance.

No one fed the coyote on this particular walk despite her soliciting it, though she licked some crumbs off the sidewalk.

Nibbling sidewalk food and marching right along seemed normal and not out of place.

Most people she passed seemed to LIKE that she was among them. She was a sensation. People told me they liked that she was part of the city, part of the community. The small park where she so purposefully headed is where we have found hand-feeding and where piles of food have been intentionally left for her — including piles of dog food, ribs, whole still-feathered chickens and pizzas — in addition to the garbage and leftovers thoughtlessly strewn hither and thither. I’ve seen people flicking cupcake crumbs and hotdogs in a nearby coyote’s direction to draw her closer for a photo shoot, and even heaving several pounds of steak — “$17 worth”, I was told by one bold feeder: “only the good stuff” — at her because they “wanted to help her”: “the poor skinny critter must be starving since there is no food around for her”,  usually from cars. My listing the abundance of natural and easy foods didn’t sway that feeder. This has happened so often that, in an ironic sort of way, when small stones have been tossed towards this coyote to scare her away, she actually runs for them hoping they are food.

Passing people at close quarters or eyeing people in their cars for possible handouts — this wasn’t a problem for her or anyone else.

Is this closer mingling becoming a new standard? Are our coyotes going to be accepted as sort of stray dogs who interweave their lives with ours — more “citizen” than “wild”? Whatever the comfort level — “proximity tolerance” — of the coyote, please remember the guidelines for safety: keep your distance, leash and walk away, don’t befriend, never feed. I’m wondering if we can even stop the feeding. I’ve tried with this particular coyote for over four years with solid results that then always reversed themselves. The city has no enforcement laws, so the feeding will probably keep on, and that in turn will continue to propel coyotes in the direction of proximity and co-mingling, hence, the paradigm shift.

Although the co-mingling seemed entirely benign with this particular coyote, it’s really important to remember that coyotes are as different from each other as are humans from each other. A mellow reaction from one coyote in close proximity does not guarantee the same from another coyote, or from the same coyote over time. During certain times of the year, mostly during the 9-month long pupping season, coyotes become more reactive towards dogs than usual. In other words, the mellow coyote you had been passing on the street for the last several months will suddenly be snarly and pushy and nippy to message your dog to keep away. Towards people, a coyote could become demanding. A dozen people recently voiced concern to me about such a change towards them and their dogs, and they wanted to know what was going on. My advice as always: walk away from them. You could be impelling a not-so-positive outcome by not doing so rather than averting one. Approaching or encouraging proximity and any kind of interaction (including feeding, whistling for, talking to, or allowing your dog to react to them at close range) are not in everyone’s best interest, especially the coyote’s, who could pay the ultimate price in the end.

Rounding the last bend and making for the finish line — she’s just about where she wanted to go!



A concomitant aside: IMPROVING SIGNAGE IN SAN FRANCISCO (and elsewhere).

Keeping coyotes distant from people and dogs, and on the wary and wild side, where they mind their business and we mind ours is the ideal urban coyote situation we’ve all been aiming for. It’s an ideal which is easy to achieve with a simple set of guidelines. The ultimate goal has been to prevent incidents between dogs and coyotes which can happen at close visual encounters, and to ward off the possibility of human/coyote negative interactions. HOWEVER, many people don’t know or understand the goal, and don’t know how best to handle sightings or even encounters. They don’t know that they, as we all, are responsible for the proper stewardship of the coyotes: everything anyone does influences the outcome of coexistence. It takes a village.

I’m digressing here for a moment about inadequate signage in our parks. Over the summer there had been an uptick in scares in one of our parks due to pupping season. I’ve witnessed, and been told about, a handful of incidents where a dog owner indeed “leashed” their dog, as suggested by the park signs, but the coyote STILL behaved threateningly — which is how a coyote *messages* a dog to move away.

These run-ins with the coyotes, when they occurred, were inevitably due to people simply not knowing what to do. The current park signage didn’t offer anything beyond a mellow, tiny texted, “don’t feed” and “leash”. Leashing of course is never sufficient — you must also walk away from the coyotes.

I looked at WHAT could be done to improve the situation. Immediately my eyes fell on the park signage. Signage is a good way to get information across to people who walk their dogs to parks — that’s where it can be seen and where it is needed the most. I looked at the existing signs and I asked people about them: they were unattractive, the small text wasn’t being read by anyone, and people thought of them as clutter — just so many brown signs staked-into-the-ground, I was told. The signs were inadequate as far as giving people guidelines for what to do: the guidelines needed to be clearly stated, straight forward, simple to grasp and remember, and presented in a non-cluttered way. The signs needed to be more eye-catching and entitled in such a way that they weren’t “warnings” (i.e. “danger”) but rather “invitations” to participate in proper stewardship to keep the coyotes wild, safe, and trouble-free. Fewer and fewer people nowadays felt “threatened” by a coyote’s presence, so “warnings” were the wrong approach — these people felt those signs were for other people, not them. 

I tried making myself heard by Animal Care and Control (ACC) over a five month period but my emails were not answered. The issue was urgent — these scary encounter incidents were mounting and folks were calling these particular coyotes “aggressive”, when I knew they were not. The coyotes were just becoming more protective of their surrounding space because dogs were getting too close to them, especially during this pupping season which was in full swing — and particularly dogs with *attitude*. So I took it upon myself to design and fabricate, at no little cost to myself, some well-made, metallic signs and put them up. Within days they were removed by the Park and Rec Department (RPD). When I asked, “why?”, it turns out the park’s need for hegemony was more important to them than fixing the situation: I was basically told to bug off — “they” were in charge and didn’t want my input, thank you very much. 

Signs should be eye-catching. The guidelines need to be concise, retainable, readable. The signs need a title which will help it attract, inclusively, people who have made their peace with the critters, and might be going too far in the direction of friendliness towards them, which is as bad as the culture of fear we’re surmounting.

This was an important and urgent matter. I persisted, and finally I got a response from RPD: they will indeed create new signs incorporating my input. Thank you, RPD! But WHEN, I wonder? It will take months and months for those in charge to design signs and have them made, when they could so easily and at no cost to themselves have used what I’ve already fabricated. So, in the meantime, you’ll see these signs that I’ve made on lamp posts and utility poles surrounding the parks, rather than within the parks, where the problems have been occurring. Also, I’ve been distributing 3″ business cards with the same information.



© 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.

Advancing Best Practices . . . , by Lesley Sampson & Lauren Van Patter

I am pleased to post this original research paper by Lesley Sampson and Lauren Van Patter. The paper is logically and well written, and emphasizes precision in use of language as well as precision in defining and dealing with human-coyote conflicts. Most importantly for me, it counters the misconception that there is a “progression in habituation which leads to aggression” — a fabricated dictum that suggests “removal” of coyotes is appropriate when an arbitrary “threshold” of “habituation” is reached — something that has no basis in reality. “Habituation” is a nebulous term which has been misused and has been historically convoluted so badly, that Lesley and Lauren eschew it entirely and instead use the term “proximity tolerance”  which is a much more accurate term. This will become clear to you as you read the paper. If your community is looking for a ‘coyote management plan’, this paper alone could serve as the backbone of such a plan. By the way, prevention of antagonistic situations in the first place is much easier than dealing with a problem once it comes up: keep your distance, leash and walk away from coyotes, don’t interact or befriend, never feed. Prevention is that simple. Scaring coyotes off should be reserved only for when they are actually approaching you and in your space. Once there is a problem, authorities should handle the situation, as the paper states.

Downloadable: press image to view original article

Advancing Best Practices for Aversion Conditioning (Humane Hazing) to Mitigate Human-Coyote Conflicts in Urban Areas, by Lesley SampsonCoyote Watch Canada and Lauren Van PatterQueen’s University, Kingston, Canada

Coyotes (Canis latrans; Figure 1) are increasingly recognized as a permanent feature of urban environments across much of North America (Hody and Kays 2018). As highly adaptable generalist omnivores, they are proficient foragers who make use of a range of natural and anthropogenic foods within cities (Gehrt et al. 2011, Murray et al. 2015, Poessel et al. 2017). Heightened public awareness of their presence and concern over the potential for negative interactions, especially with domestic pets, have increased community interest and the dialogue surrounding human–coyote conflict (Alexander and Quinn 2011, Elliot et al. 2016, Draheim et al. 2019).

Continue reading here: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1625&context=hwi

Our Beagle Attack, by Lisa Febre

Little Beagle at the vet, still in shock, and waiting to be seen. The attack happened on Friday, April 13, 2018 (yup, Friday the 13th!)

Our former 3rd dog (he died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 19 years old, in June 2019) was a mix of beagle & dachshund, so he was shorter than a beagle, but still weighed around 26 pounds. Solid little bowling ball!

The attack happened on Friday, April 13, 2018, at almost exactly 5am, and was 100% my fault. I was getting up with my son for school, and let the dog out alone, my two basenji mixes stayed inside. I was not paying attention, I just opened the door & out he went. I have since made it a habit of never letting the dogs out without looking first — turning on lights, flashing the flashlight around the yard, and in some cases, I go out first and walk around the yard (especially in the middle of the night if someone is asking to go out) to make sure the yard is empty!

So, within just a few minutes, I heard the beagle screaming (I’m sure you’re familiar with beagles and their very dramatic noises!) and ran out there. The coyote had grabbed him right off the back patio and tried to drag him away — but being 26 pounds, he was just about as big as the coyote and I’m sure the coyote quickly discovered he couldn’t make off with someone roughly his own size!

When I went to pick him up after the surgery.  He had a drain & a ton of stitches, heavy pain meds.

When I got out there, the coyote was about 10 feet away, and my poor stunned little beagle was wandering slowly away in shock. I picked him up in my arms and faced down the coyote. It was watching me pretty intently, I just stared at it, I didn’t make any noise except to speak to it. I don’t remember what I said to it, but it decided to turn around and jump back over the wall into our neighbor’s yard.

Our little beagle had a rip in his neck and had cracked his jaw on the patio during the initial grab. But he survived, though he was never quite the same after that.

This last picture is of his best friend (one of the basenji mixes) who I believe was either nipped or sniffed by the coyote this summer on our walk.

I guess, between the beagle attack and the close encounter I had this summer, I have become more fascinated with them. Both situations might have been scary at the time, but looking back and analyzing them, I see where I went wrong and never in either of the situations was the coyote doing anything outside it’s instinct. I’ve learned more about coyotes thanks to both of these!

Thanks again!

Lisa

 


Hi!

I LOVE the advice at the end!!

So… after, when I told people what had happened to the beagle in the attack, the first reaction was “did you call animal control?!” NO! I did not and I never would!! OMG. Just the thought of that made me so upset.

The vet, actually, gave me some great wisdom when I went to pick him up that afternoon. He said a few things saved the beagle: the noise he made would have startled the coyote, and his size. I didn’t get a picture of the wounds before the surgery (as you can imagine, we were very stressed out at the time) but the vet said judging by the puncture wounds, the coyote would have been a young one, between 20-25 pounds, and got overly excited seeing a “small” dog it thought would be easy pickings! Not so!

I think it’s really important for people to understand that coyotes just do what they do. They don’t do anything out of malice, or to “terrorize” us, they are just coyotes.

I still keep coming back to the day the coyote “escorted” us out of her territory on the mountain in July — she was so close trotting along next to me, I could’ve reached down and petted her!

It’s really no wonder why these animals are revered. I’m so glad to have “met” you even if it is just online!

I think the more people who show that there’s nothing to be so upset about, the more people will realize that living near coyotes is actually a fantastic thing!

Lisa


Note from Janet: This was a hard learning experience for Lisa. She and I are hoping you can learn from her experience instead of having to learn from your own personal experience. Please, in a coyote area: Stay vigilant. Don’t allow pets to roam free. Always walk away from a coyote with your leashed dog. Pick up a small pet as you walk away. Learn how to scare them off effectively from your yard. Follow these simple encounter precepts on this card to help coexistence work. And press this link for more details on How To Handle A Coyote Encounter: A Primer.

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