Altruism: Helping A Sibling With Ticks On Her Ear

Just as in human families, some coyote siblings squabble, and some are truly altruistic, providing loving and unselfish help where and when needed. Here is a coyote youngster who has spotted a tick on his sibling’s ear. He spent several minutes, ever so carefully removing the tick and then bathing the area with the saliva from his tongue. Saliva has mild antibiotic qualities, so everything he did was helpful!

Let’s Address a Little-Known Law that Promotes Hunters, by Kiley Blackman

As the war of words rages stronger than ever over gun violence and how to deal with it, there is one little-examined contributing factor that needs attention: The role of the overwhelming hunting culture going on all across this country.

Where does it start? All “environmental conservation” agencies, including the Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and APHIS, have a requirement that, by law, only hunters can serve on their advisory boards. These laws, established almost 100 years ago, guarantee a deckstacked, lethal outcome for the wildlife they are intended to protect – by deliberately banning non-hunters from decision-making about wildlife, while encouraging all forms of hunting as the “norm” for wildlife “conservation.”

At a time of calls across the country for gun control, these arbitrary, discriminatory laws that baselessly promote hunting need to be examined, as well. In fact, breaking the hunter/National Rifle Association stranglehold on our laws must be finally be addressed.

Such laws are being challenged all over the country: “Pro-wildlife citizens demand seat at DNR table” (Madison, Wisc.), “Fish and Game commission needs greater diversity” (New Hampshire), “Hunting foes want to snare seats on Vermont’s fish and wildlife board” (Vermont). The public needs to be made aware of these facts – and that there is finally a bill to correct this injustice in New York State: Sen. Tony Avella, champion of several other animal protection issues, has introduced S3327 (companion bill A6519), currently in the Environmental Conservation Committee, which abolishes the unfair “hunters only” requirement of the NYS DEC. We don’t want to take your guns; we just want our right to contribute our voice – yet, hunters vociferously fight such change.

Hunters indignantly insist they are the only ones “qualified” to oversee these directives – and claim their license fees entitle them to a special, exclusive position on the DEC advisory board. But the fact is, “non-consumptive” users of NYS parks (defined as bird watchers, wildlife photographers, etc.) are at a record high, with almost 72 million visitors in 2017, yet they have no voice in DEC policy making. This is an outrageous injustice, with hunters stridently objecting to each and every suggestion for modifying this slanted system.

The DEC homepage states, “One of DEC’s main responsibilities is to protect New York State’s wild animal and plant populations,” yet it’s next to impossible to find anything on their website except pro-hunting advice, lists of wildlife killing contests, where to kill animals, fairs and other public events that are “admission free” for hunters, etc..

As the national movement and demand for gun control and banning assault rifles – both of which hunters fight against passing – steamrolls across the country, the effort to pry their undemocratic monopoly of wildlife management away from them is hard fought, as hunters – who supposedly stand for America, democracy and the Flag – attempt to deny us our rights. Hunting is in decline, and the hunters know it, yet they hold all the cards; their suppression of democracy just adds more taint to this questionable, antiquated and cruel activity.

An innocent woman walking her dogs upstate is dead because of hunters, and it’s not the first time that has happened. With the DEC’s excessively-promoted hunting culture in place, upstate New York residents fear going out to their own backyards during hunting season, and children at the tender age of 12 have been empowered and encouraged by the DEC to slaughter animals for sport. In Syracuse, the DEC confiscated a pet squirrel they deemed “illegal,” but they promote and encourage squirrel killing contests. Despite nationwide marches for gun control, a NYS bill awaits votes that would allow hunting in densely populated cities. Although studies have been done on the strong correlation between animal cruelty and violence toward human beings, a current NYS bill would permanently lower the age for universal hunting licenses from 14 to 12 years old; while Florida officials answer the call for gun safety by raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, our senators and the DEC want to put more guns into the hands of children. The “hunters only” DEC law must change: In 2018, we expect all our voices to be enabled; we expect kindness, respect and saner, more measured input to prevail for all. Until the Avella bill passes, suppression and denial of our civil rights to participation in government process will define the DEC. This is not the American way – and it certainly isn’t democracy.

Kiley Blackman
Founder, Animal Defenders of Westchester
(reprinted with permission)

Continued DNA Study

Continued DNA study of coyotes in San Francisco is proceeding forward!

Professor Ben Sacks of UC Davis initiated the DNA study of San Francisco coyotes when he analyzed DNA from the first coyotes that re-appeared in San Francisco in 2002 after decades of absence from the city. It is his study which showed that these early coyote arrivals in San Francisco came from Mendocino County. Ben had previously discovered that markers differentiated various geographical groups of coyotes, and one of those groups he was able to isolate and identify was Mendocino coyotes. San Francisco coyotes matched these.

The study was expanded in 2008 with more samples (which I collected from throughout the city) whereby Ben Sacks’ graduate student, Katherine Marquez, studied the connectivity of our population to surrounding rural populations (2011).

And now we’re into yet another round of tests from scats I collected over the last four years from throughout the city, with many defecations occuring as I watched, so I know “who” they came from as well as their family relationships, among other things. So we already have a lot of information about these coyotes. Ben has generously and graciously taken on the DNA analysis of this project, which he’ll incorporate into his teaching. The earlier scats will be used as benchmarks.

My two main questions include, “To what extent and how are the coyotes in San Francisco related to one another?” This will show movement within the city, and will show to what extent inbreeding has occurred. And, “Are all or most of our present population descended from the original Mendocino group, or have some trickled in from south of the city?” Stay tuned for the results later on this year.

Note that DNA from scat is a totally non-intrusive, non-invasive way of collecting information about coyotes, beyond dedicated direct-observation which takes a lot of time. A lot of what we find out in this DNA study will be confirming what I already know through hours of observation and documentation, but even more of it will be revealing new information and connections.

Grass

Tall, fresh, green grass. Lots of it. Delicious. After the rain:

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Who Studies Coyotes?

It turns out that coyotes are studied through many more disciplines than one might imagine. We tend to think that biologists are the primary group investigating coyotes, but this is not necessarily so, and when it is so, their studies tend to gravitate towards rather small focused slices of coyote biology and behavior rather than the entire picture. Ecologists are broader in their approach but usually not focused specifically on coyotes. Anthropology is another discipline which investigates coyotes: its ethnology branch studies the interaction of people with their environment, including with the animals in that environment — it has been suggested that I participate in this approach since my own university degree is in Anthropology (see Bio).

One of the more unusual disciplines to address coyotes is political science.  Christian Hunold, a Political Science Professor at Drexel University has just written and presented a paper on “Interurban Inclusivity: Urban Coyotes and the Politics of Wildlife” at the Western Political Science Association Annual Meeting on March 29th. Christian contacted me because of my blog and because of my unique long-term documentary relationship with a coyote population in the city. I’ve been happy to contribute to an understanding about them.

Because of Christian, WPSA academics reached out to me, inviting me to speak at their Environmental Political Theory Workshop, held at the Hyatt on March 28th, saying they, “would be grateful to introduce to this diverse group of mostly academics from a number of disciplines, including political science, philosophy, and environmental studies, your pioneering work on animal communication and human education. We’re also interested in exploring some of the underlying structural issues making life on urban wildlife difficult, and would be interested in framing your work as a type of ecological justice movement, aimed at making cities habitable places for all critters”.

I was honored to do so! I spoke to about 60 attendees with a slide presentation: “Janet Kessler: Zooming-in on Coyotes,” about myself, coyote population behavior and family interactions, dogs and coyotes, and finally the social and political landscape in which all of this is taking place here in San Francisco. There were questions afterwards.

The ultimate purpose of the association workshop was to investigate new political models for looking at the urban landscape which now includes wildlife — so that’s how I fit in. I’ll add the link to Christian’s paper once he finalizes and publishes it.

So thank you Professors Yogi Hendlin, Emily Ray and Christian Hunold for including me in your workshop.

Here are 20 of the 62 slides slides I used as talking points to the group:

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Joy!

The first pups of the season have been born! No, I haven’t seen them and won’t for months to come, but I have seen Mom! Mom had been hidden for about ten days, so I knew it was happening. Yesterday I watched Dad. It was about ten days since Mom had last mingled with the family — something she had been doing less and less recently as due date approached.

On this 10th day since seeing her, Dad waited around, a little at loose ends, lying down at the top of various knolls from where he had a good view of the entire area, and looking around.

Finally he jumped up, jubilantly and ran off towards a coyote in the distance where I observed their greetings of kisses and hugs. At first, because it was dusk and dark, I could not tell who it was that he had so happily greeted, and then I saw it was HER, his mate who was as ever so happy to see him as he was to see her. She exuded the feeling of, “Hey, I did it!” The physical difference between when I last saw her and now was that now she was her sleek self again, but now with tits, which was as tell-tale as it gets.

 

Her entire mood was now different from back then. Back then she was concerned, serious, wary and low-key. Now she was puppy-like: happy, frolicsom, active, and very communicative with her mate, with the usual joyful wiggles and squiggles of an evening meeting. He even groomed her, which I haven’t seen in ages: it’s usually she that grooms him.

Dad is grooming the new Mom here

Young daughter was there, but kept wary, keeping her body close to the ground whenever Mom approached, but there was no antagonism. I’ll keep an eye on what direction that takes.

I know that it won’t be until Summertime that I’ll be seeing any of the youngsters or even how many there are. This is just the first birth that I know about. The other moms I’ve been observing are still pregnant.

Pre-Pups

Even before mating, the alphas in any coyote family (the established adult mated pair) start preparing for “the event” of the birth of a new litter of pups. Only the alphas in any coyote family reproduce, which has the effect of limiting the population density in any given territory and area (see Frank Knowlton in 1972). The process begins months beforehand, when the female ensures that she alone will be the one within the family and on the family’s territory to produce offspring. Her objective is to become the one and only Queen Bee.

Female offspring who have “come of age” so that they are reproductively viable — usually during their second year — become viewed as possible reproductive competition to their mothers. The alphas are extremely jealous and possessive of their mates at this time. Their ploy involves several tactics, including simply keeping yearling females away from their Dad. This, in-and-of-itself wouldn’t do the trick since there are many instances when daughter and father could find themselves together when Mom was not around. So another tactic is a little rougher, and this video shows how it happens: a mother wallops her yearling daughter to either disperse her or to instill fear so she won’t reproduce.  Apparently stress blocks reproduction. I don’t know if these bio-functions are involved, but it seems that they may be. In the video, note the angry, low-tone growls which are so much quieter than their howls. Here you have communication to one individual, not everyone. 

Towards the end of this period of antagonism towards yearling daughter, which can go on for months, courting and mating take place between the alphas (see Courting Behavior and Courting Behavior in Full Swing). Then and only then, after estrus is well over and Mom is plump with developing offspring, will Mom begin to slowly relax her antagonistic behavior towards daughter, and slowly things calm down again between the two into a state of normalcy approximating what it had been like before the reproductive cycle headed this way.

As the time of birthing nears, I’ve noticed that the birthing moms are less out-in-the-open. This may be due to their becoming more protective of the treasures they are holding inside, but it also could be that they are busy with other things, for instance, this is when dens are dug.

Here is a female who has plumped up during pregnancy.

But the female isn’t the only one to change her behaviors for this event. Also, Dad becomes very protective of the female. I never saw this Dad become aggressive towards his yearling son, however, one day the son was gone. Had the son crossed the line — gotten too close to the female who was his mom? — I don’t know. But I did see dad several times with many wounds — coyote wounds. He has been fighting to protect his mate.

So, the next step is pups. I stay well away from anywhere I suspect there might be a den, so it won’t be for months until I see what she produced.

The expectant parents: any day now!

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