One Family Documented Virtually

Hunter (previous alpha dad) with wounds and limping on January 5th, 2022. I knew Hunter and his family first-hand, but after he left, my documentation became based on field cameras in this location.

Hunter on left was last seen on January 24th, HarryP (r) the new alpha male started appearing regularly on February 5th.

Use of virtual cameras: I have been able to follow one of my coyote families only virtually with trail cameras. It’s the only family I’ve been tracking this way, where I haven’t actually seen the coyotes in person, first-hand. I use field cameras in a number of the other territories, but in those others I know all the coyotes first-hand. Not here. I hadn’t intended it that way, I had actually hoped I would see them often on an 11 acre section of their territory in the city, but it hasn’t happened. So I’ve come to know them only through the cameras, except for a single short observation session when I saw one of the pups for a couple of minutes. I thought I’d give a short summary of what’s going on there based on the virtual information retrieved from the cameras and that two-minute first-hand viewing — what I already know about coyotes helps fill in the gaps.

Nickie, alpha mom to the left and HarryP, alpha dad to the right.

Identifying the alphas: This, above, is that alpha pair: Nickie is mom — so labeled/named for the nick in her ear — and HarryP is dad, so named for his numerous facial scars. Mom was pregnant in March and then lactating in the months thereafter, so it’s obvious what her position is in the family. Dad is the only other adult around, and he’s displayed that he’s a male.

They had five pups who first emerged from their den on April 28th. They all started as a healthy bunch but only four survive to date, and one either sustained an early injury or contracted an early ailment which left him lame.

Originally there had been five pups, and here they are following Mom. Only four have survived to date.

One lame pup: I consulted my wildlife veterinarian about the lameness. Based on how the youngster walked as shown in the videos, the vet was inclined to think it was some kind of spinal injury with resulting ataxia and loss of coordination, either a birth defect, or due to an actual early physical injury, or even the result of an early illness. Since reviewing the early videos shows all pups were fine to begin with, it has to have been an injury or even some kind of illness contracted after birth that caused the limp. The vet suggested it could even have been distemper which has been going around in the wildlife of this area, though I myself have not seen it in any of the coyotes that I observe. The vet and I decided the best thing to do was allow the animal to live it’s life naturally with its family. Removing him just to keep him alive was not an option.

Here is the vet’s exact prognosis:

Not fixable by human doctors if it is distemper (which is a possibility) — he will get worse and more neurologic and then die possibly from seizures — not pretty.

If it’s a spinal injury — it could improve with time and with rest — but I don’t see him resting — but coyotes are tough. Is he eating enough?  Keeping up with the group?

All you can do is watch and wait. If he would not do well removed from his family, I would leave him — and if his neuro signs are worsening, then call for some help for humane euthanasia.

I call him Tiny Tim, from Charles Dickens’ story, “A Christmas Carol.”

These first two videos show Tiny Tim early on. #1 is when I first became aware of the severe disability and #2 shows his indomitable will to join in and live.

#1 Tiny Tim has walking issues.
#2 Tiny Tim with his siblings.

Below are two more recent videos, #3 and #4, showing what a long way he’s come. He’s small, but has the personality of a winner: he absolutely keeps up with his three surviving siblings. The kind of active play depicted here is perpetual in coyote pups!

#3 At four months, Tiny Tim keeps up with his siblings!
#4 This is the whole family just a few weeks ago: Mom, Dad and four pups including Tiny Tim keeping up with the rest of them!

Territorial Extent: Identification of coyotes from nighttime infrared images of field cameras can be difficult because facial features are whited out by the “negative” image. But because I’ve been able to identify the scars on Mom’s legs in the images taken on her home turf, I have been able to determine that it is this coyote who I see regularly in a field camera at a location about to a mile away, indicating that this is part of her territory. This distant area used to belong to another coyote pair who no longer ever appear there, and now it has shifted over to this pair. What this indicates is that there has been a re-defining of territorial boundaries in this area. It’s not a big change, rather it’s just a “tweaking” change, but it’s a change nonetheless.

The recent intruder who I have seen scoot between various territories in the city

An Intruder: There has been an intruder caught by the field camera in this territory — a dispersing youngster. They pop up, pretty infrequently, but when they do, it’s for as short a time as a day, or sometimes for as long as two weeks. I’ve seen THIS particular intruder has been as far away as the city limit of Daily City and at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. He appeared only once at this territory’s home base, and only once at each of those other two locations: dispersal takes these youngsters all over the place in a very short period of time as they look for new homes. Most end up moving south and out of the city, as documented by the Presidio ecologists.

Frankly, I don’t think I would have gleaned any more information about this family from first-hand observations than I have virtually.

One real-time observation: A few weeks ago, I actually SAW a pup briefly for the first time for about two minutes. I was watching him carefully groom himself when sirens sounded, and I was able to capture this 25 second video of him responding in the video. To begin with, you hear the whole family’s short response. Then this little guy alone with his tiny little squeaks, and at the 12 second mark you can hear one deep and loud howl from an adult: that is his father’s.

A four-month-old youngster howls in response to sirens. Note his tiny voice!

Relationships: I got a couple of good shots of this pup’s facial features (above left). I was really surprised to see how much he looks like his uncle, the brother of Hunter, the previous territory’s alpha male (above right) — I know few people will see the resemblances I see, but I definitely see them. Anyway, this has potential meaning for me. There are resemblances in different families that are rather striking, and these often lead me to genetic relationships that that I couldn’t have picked up in any other way except DNA. I’m guessing that his Mother might be Hunter’s daughter OR that that, Hunter, actually sired the pups before disappearing.

So: identifications, intruders, family dynamics, redefined territorial boundaries, possible genealogical connections, health and howling — all through field cameras and one two-minute observation time!

Many Blows, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet,

Something I would like to convey to others is when we see a coyote..its often a fleeting moment. And our own interpretation of this coyote can be interpreted many ways.

Something we can learn to appreciate…is this coyote is as individual as we are.

In my patrols with pack we are surrounded by many coyote. We see much sign. And have fleeting moments of contact. It can be a fleeing coyote. It can be one charging in territorial challenge.

When we encountered “Many Blows” we realized..he is “new” to quail ranch.

He has an enormously swollen jaw and a healed scar on face. The hurried pic I took showed even at distance..his aura.

Many Blows is a large seasoned mature male. He had a tattered short summer coat and many nicks to his body.

The jaw so swollen…it could be a bad tooth. A jaw broken from spent bullet or a hoof of collision into fence or car. So many things. 

It does not slow him. Or soften his hard stare at my dogs. He is clearly agitated at them. If not for my presence, skirmishing and engaging would very likely start.

Many Blows has seen injury and men and dogs. His agitation and toughness indicate he likely is from properties akin to here..where decoy dogs are actively used to hunt coyote. These men and dogs can wipe out a pack of coyote in seconds. Coyote such as Many Blows who perhaps has seen packmates thus killed…become very tough customers. They are warier yet bolder. And dogs roaming near them are something they have learned to truly despise. And counter.

There are huge differences in humans depending on regions and even..properties! The coyote reflect this. They are mirrors of the humans.

When you see a coyote this hard and scarred, it was very likely humans helped  mold that personality.

Regards

Lou


Hi Janet,
One of your readers said he had never heard of coyote chasing or attacking bird dogs. At least in his region which was Oklahoma. He must have some very meek coyote regionally..which is plausible.

I have known coyote in different areas..and they truly do differ in some behaviors.

I wanted to share with you why these coyote or some of them, engage dogs.

They have been hunted, harassed and killed and scattered by Decoy Dogs and Coyote Hunters for about 8 years now. The survivors remember forever the sound of dogs and guns and they are triggered into both flight and fight responses. They are territorial so seem impelled to “guard” and also protect family.

Most of these coyote have been shot at and seen mates or pups killed by Decoy Doggers. I believe it makes a profound impact on them. They cannot know they are on a quail ranch and these dogs only are here for birds. But they can “relearn” distances and that the hills are theirs.
It’s just an example of how different local coyote can become..due to human influence.

What I am trying also to convey and help others realize is..Coyote differ as much as we do.

They are SO SIMILAR IN VARIETY TO HUMANS!

There are coyote so shy and wild they never would engage humans or dogs. There are coyote that actively engage dogs and have no qualms about raiding livestock if humans aren’t savvy.

There are coyote that are diminutive and live off rodents and fruit and occasional rabbit.

There are coyote that have dog and wolf genetics and are large and hunt deer that are compromised or weak.

There are coyote that are loners or just are with mate. There are coyote that regularly pack up.

There are coyote influenced by humans who then exhibit a vast array of behaviours we usually don’t like…but we are the source.

Every region of North and South America has coyote..that have common themes yet can vastly be different genetically, behaviorally, and yes…culturally.

I hope this can become a shared knowledge. Coyote locally can vary as much as humans.

There are coyote living on junk food.

There are coyote living on berries and salmon and wild plants.

There are coyote living off wolf kills and wolf packs they follow…(very high risk)

So many behaviors. All regionally influenced.
Lou

Broken Fences, Half Measures Achieve Nothing: by Madeline Woodbury, in Snohomish, WA

I believe this is one of the pups born in the Spring of 2022

I’m very protective of the wildlife.  I risk placing myself in whatever way for them.  I came to the defense for a coyote because of yet another neighbor two evenings ago (8/18/22) fired a shotgun at a young coyote. 

A young coyote was in our backforty (it’s what I call it); this young thing was howling to beat the band, suddenly a shot.

I hollered, yelled and trampled, running in the woods to catch who just blew off a shot in which I am always walking my dog in the woods; he could have hit me or my dog; the coyote is protected here!

I got in to it with him!  He apologized, but apologies are too late!  I told him he was breaking the law; there is no firearm shooting where we live.  In any case, he shot but this coyote was on my property or my next door neighbor’s, nothing to do where he was.  Angry as a hornet I was.  But I have no faith in the County sheriffs.  They are a joke.  I didn’t call them.  But I warned him, there is no shooting here.  He said he wasn’t trying to shoot it but scare it.  I said understand this: it’s against the law to shoot a firearm in this vicinity – you might have shot one of the neighbors, my dog or me.  Stop.  I told him if he wants to scare one away, loudly bang on something or hoot, holler, come on!  The thing is with these new-ish neighbors they haven’t a clue how to keep their poultry, ducks, etc. safe.  He said it was near their animals.  I said: you’ve got to build a secure house for your animals.  At first they thought it was the owls taking their chickens or cat or turkey or … possibly, but the fact is their housings they keep them in are makeshift.

I said to him: we can go to the market and buy lamb, beef, chicken… This is wildlife’s home; it’s what they have.  Secure your animals.  If they are available and easily available… fix your housings.

Oh, I’m still mad because people for so long have gotten away with murder of wildlife.  At their whim.  People can come up with any excuse and their rationalization is taken.  The animal loses every time.  It’s inhumane because people are inhumane in how they treat animals.  I’ll stop here. [I won’t tell you I was dropping the mother bomb of language but I didn’t put this in, no need.]

Attacker or Attacked?

Attacks by coyotes on humans indeed have occurred, so I don’t want to belittle these, but it should be noted that they are rare — exceedingly rare — and when they have occurred, they seem to all be related to feeding coyotes. This week a story about an ultramarathoner attacked by a coyote went viral nationally. The response to that story was splashed all over the internet, and on social exchange sites, where, by the way, because of how the story changed, the NextDoor posting was eventually removed by the author. I’ve jotted down some of my thoughts and observations about it.

One of the responses to the ultramarathoner “attack” report by many who fear coyotes was that, “it’s time to cull the coyotes here in SF.” I wish people understood that the number of coyotes has nothing to do with the marathoner’s situation. The “encounter” occurred on the Marin side of the bridge, for one thing. If there was only this one coyote in all the world, an encounter with some of the reported elements could have happened. The little truth we’ve found in the story is likely due to feeding coyotes. What apparently could have attracted a coyote is the crackling of the power bar wrapper. The reported event occurred in an area where feeding of coyotes is rampant. Before people feed coyotes they take the food out of it’s mostly crackling wrapper — imagine a potato chip bag or even a McDonald’s burger bag — and then feed the coyote. Think of Pavlov. Everytime the coyote with this training hears that noise, he’s been getting food from willing feeders. Now, possibly, the coyote hears that sound and approaches. I know a NatGeo photographer who learned this: he could instantly get an animal’s attention by crackling a potato chip bag — something I adamantly discouraged. This is a scenario that could have occurred. Lesley Sampson of CoyoteWatchCanada reminds me that even without the wrapper noise, “food becomes the “reward” for advancing closer to humans”: repeatedly fed coyotes have been taught to approach.

Coyotes who are fed regularly by someone also often display “demand” behavior: they become demanding when the food isn’t forthcoming quickly — it’s a very unusual behavior displayed by a very few coyotes who have been hand fed.

By the way, this man was running, he was not on a bike as reported by some folks, the bleeding on his face was from a fall, not a bite as originally posted — he was not bitten. As far as I have read, he wasn’t attacked at all, but possibly bumped — and I even question this — as the coyote went for the food he had been trained to expect. Three AM is when coyotes are normally out and active.

This is a screenshot from Twitter via SFGate

It’s important to note that Karnazes’ extreme initial report, as seen in this Twitter photo to the left, and his revised report — he revised his story when he was questioned by people who know coyote behavior — depict coyote behavior that is totally out of the ordinary, extraordinarily so. This deceptive photo was posted by him on Twitter with the words, “Animal Attack Beware” and “I’ve been attacked by a shark and now a coyote”. Coyotes do approach challenging dogs, but seldom do they approach people unless they’ve been trained to do so through feeding, and even then they remain hugely wary. I doubt if the coyote ever even touched him. He tripped and fell and bloodied himself doing so, then he posted this bloodied picture of himself saying he was attacked. Might he have been scared? Scared people often fill in details to justify and explain their fears.

I’ve personally seen instance after instance of what has been later reported as an “attack” which in fact was a dog allowed to get too close to a coyote, often while lunging and barking ferociously at the coyote, and then the coyote reacting with a snarl, bared teeth, and hackles up without running off and possibly even following the dog and owner afterwards. The owner thinks their dog’s activity should scare the coyote off, but in fact it causes a defensive reaction in the coyote which is reported as an “attack”. Such an encounter can be kept from escalating and curtailed by quieting and calming the dog while by immediately walking away from the coyote, but often the scared owner enhances their story calling the incident a direct attack, which it was not.

It occurred to me that he even might have posted the story facetiously, just to add some spice to his running, not knowing how seriously everyone would take him. I say this because he himself, apparently, was surprised at the coverage and then changed the story.

https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/coyote-experts-respond-to-karnazes-attack-17379330.php When all was said and done, had this actually been an “attack” on a human? Or might the whole report and sensationalism thereby engendered, be construed as an attack on coyotes? Food for thought.

More of the same today: I followed a coyote from far behind for about 1/4 mile. Way down the street was a woman walking her labradoodle. As the coyote got closer to her, I was about to call out for her to be aware, but she noticed the coyote just then and hurried across the street. This was the best thing to do. But she should have walked on. Instead she created a huge commotion and started yelling “scat, scat”, which had the sole effect of attracting the coyote’s attention, so the coyote stopped and watched from across the street before continuing her trot on down the street. The woman turned to me and told me that the coyote had been “stalking” her from way up the street. I said this wasn’t true — that I had been watching the coyote who was minding her own business and just happened to be walking down the same street as the woman and her dog. The woman screamed at me that I wasn’t there so how would I know. The fact is that I WAS there and saw what went on. This kind of altered reporting goes on all the time.

Training Coyotes and Dogs, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet. 

We have started patrols on quail ranch and it’s been very productive so far. This is a new venture and we’re very hopeful .

A retired biologist purchased an enormous sheep ranch and transformed it to a quail ranch of sorts and Bird Dog Center. 

Sheep out. Quail in. Both native and introduced quail call this home. It wasn’t easy. Raccoon, possums, and an enormous feral cat population as well as rats, hindered quail nesting in some sections.

Then coyote came in.

Attracted to now natural grasslands, several coyote packs established themselves.

And quail number exploded.

The coyote keep racoon, possum and rat numbers very low. The feral cats are gone. And the coyote don’t seem to hardly interact with quail much. 

With quail numbers steady, now Bird Dogs are being trained here, as well as limited hunts will be allowed.

Some coyote challenge dogs. And this isnt what clients want or expect. 

Back to drawing board.

The biologist knew, and with several discussions with locals confirmed, if you hunt territorial local coyote they will immediately be replaced by nomadic coyote and your issues will likely increase. These coyote keep out other coyote. And quail benefit from their hunting. They are wanted…but can’t also harass bird dogs.

It’s tenuous. And needs reinforcing both sides. But coyote and dogs can live and work and share ranges. This pack lives and works among coyote weekly. And both sides are fine.

This is where we come in. 

This pack of mostly older dogs have patrolled vast properties many years. We engage and teach coyote..back up. Don’t come in. Yes..its tough love, but also natural. Wolves, coyote and Range Dogs all coexist out here. And all usually dislike each other. What I can do here is teach coyote to use the land to their advantage. And timing.

The hills and woods and treelines of this 4,000 acre ranch..can be for coyote. The open fields, the dogs flushing quail in Fall, are to be avoided. 

We travel throughout the property sticking to trails and fields. When coyote approach, the pack is more then ready to counter. But we remain together. And the coyote inevitably (and vocally) retire to woods and hills. They are learning not to rush dogs, and clients are instructed what areas the bird dogs are allowed to train and hunt in..and what is risky. 

Can coyote and bird dogs coexist? Yes. With instructions and non lethal (but sometimes rough) behavioural influences on both sides. Coyote absolutely can learn to stick to hills and woods. And bird dogs can stick to birds. Our pack introduces the idea to coyote that dog packs move through but go and DONT EVEN COME IN TO US. DONT ENGAGE THESE GUYS. They have thousands of acres to choose from.

We just encourage wise choices. And they almost inevitably do.

We will be busy this next few weeks. But its working.

Take care, 

Lou

Intensely Agitated

Listen to the intensity of the distress of this 9-year-old mother coyote whose pups are four months old. Recording courtesy of Dave Samas

A week ago I was hearing reports of a coyote screaming distressingly in one of our parks, which went on for 20 minutes or longer. Even folks who don’t know coyote calls well were able to decipher that something was terribly wrong. It happened again several days later within the same time frame. I hadn’t been there when these vocalizations occurred, but the reports came from people whose judgement about the coyotes I have come to trust.

Then today, I was sent a recording of the same type of vocalization, and indeed they are unsettling sounds: it was obvious that the coyote was extremely upset. These vocalizations, I was told, had gone on for about five minutes before my friend Dave turned on his recorder and caught the last 7 minutes of it which you can hear in the above video. But he said that it was the first five minutes which were the most agitated. Dave could hear the sounds loud and clear from right in back of his home. I hurried over to the park to see if I could locate the individual coyote who I imagined the worst about. I searched but I didn’t find anything except a homeless camp and wondered if that might have been involved in the coyote screams.

The trail I was on was a winding one with a wooded area off to one side and grasses and scrub on the other side. Suddenly there appeared on that path, not far in front of me, a large gray poodle. He was worked-up and panting, with his tongue hanging out, running back and forth frantically and excitedly in hot-pursuit mode, keeping his eyes directed in the forested area. This wasn’t just a dog chasing a coyote for fun, it was a dog who was intent on getting the coyote. The chase had been going on for a while, as per when the vocalizations were first heard, and the way the dog was panting. And it had been over a substantial area of the park. Once before I had seen this dog behavior, with this exact same type of dog, a standard poodle, who knocked me off the path in his focused pursuit of a coyote: poodles are powerful animals and this one was easily 80 pounds.

Then the dog-owner and a companion with her dog appeared on the path. I immediately called out to them to please leash their dogs, that it was a denning area and their dogs needed to be stopped from chasing the coyotes, that they needed to keep their dogs leashed in this area, after all, it was a leash-law park. To their credit, they immediately leashed up, which doesn’t always happen in such situations. They seemed absolutely unaware and oblivious to what was going on. There were two walkers and two dogs, but it was the poodle who was in “go-get-it” mode. Since they complied without incident, I thanked them and moved on, and so did they with their now leashed dogs.

As I left the park, the coyote’s screaming began again. I looked up and spotted the gray poodle again. The two dogs and owners were also exiting the park. The dogs were still leashed. The owner wondered why on earth the coyote was howling. I let her know that a dog who pursues a coyote may find itself followed and screamed at by the coyote for some distance, and even in the future without an initiating chase: coyotes remember everything, every dog, every incident. I hurried back into the park to see who the coyote was: it was Chert, the 9-year-old mother whose family I’ve been documenting over the last dozen years. She was defending her denning area with screams that were far more intense than I usually hear — maybe an intensity to match the dog’s vehemence in pursuing her?

Please, everyone, don’t allow your dog to chase coyotes. It may be entertaining and gobs of fun for your dog, but its hugely upsetting for the coyotes whose very life and family become threatened. These chases often result in leg injures which take a long time to heal, besides creating unnecessary stress. Also, it should be known that it’s illegal to harass wildlife, which is exactly what was going on here. And if you’ve ever wondered why coyotes don’t like dogs, now you know — even if it wasn’t your own dog that did the chasing.

And now, all the howling I had been hearing about over the last few days made sense. I realized that on those previous days, at this exact same time, it had to have been the exact same situation: this same dog after this mother coyote.

Chert is a mother again this year. She has three four-month old pups who are beginning to explore beyond their den area. A mother coyote can’t always control their wanderings — at this time of year they’ll be out during the twilight hours. Her screaming was probably more than just being upset at a vehemently energetic dog going after her: it was probably also a warning to her pups to take cover. The vocalizations in this recording are particularly piercing, I think: I felt her anxiety and distress, and the dire situation she felt she was in: this is what I’d like you to listen for and hear in the video.

Below is a photo of the dog whose owner just didn’t get it — didn’t even know her dog was chasing a coyote, didn’t even know why the coyote was barking at them as they left the park — she was absolutely oblivious to what was going on and not too interested. I’ll go out and monitor for the next few days.

Two Instances of Crippled Pups This Year

I’m posting videos from two families today. Both families lost one of their pups early on — we don’t know the cause, but we do know that young pup mortality rate is high. In addition, each of these families has a youngster whose walking is compromised, leaving them physically challenged and disadvantaged.

The mobility problem, as seen by a wildlife vet who looked at one of the videos, seems not to lie in the legs, but in the lower back. I saw both of these youngsters early on in their lives, either in videos from field cameras or first-hand, and neither began life with this disability. It’s highly possible there was a lower spinal back injury, or there may be a developmental problem, or a disease that caused this, such as distemper. With distemper, which is a disease currently going around in our wildlife community, tremors, twitching, imbalance, and limb weakness all may occur. Signs may progress to death or may become non-progressive and permanent. Recovery is also possible [Google]. There is no cure.

Both the vet and I decided that it would be best to leave these animals to live their lives naturally. Coyotes are hardy, hopefully they will overcome their handicaps.

This is Tiny Tim. This video was taken at 2.5 months of age. He has improved tremendously and I’ll post that improvement soon.

I named the first little fella Tiny Tim, taken from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The second I’ve named/labeled Adams after Jane Adams, John Adams’ daughter, who was left crippled after contracting a fever as a young child. Please know that childhood diseases and injuries can lead to life-long disabilities in all species.

The important thing to note here is that these compromised youngsters are not being rejected by their families: they are right in there, interacting and participating to the fullest. It’s heartwarming to see this. It will be interesting to follow these two, if we are able to, to see how their lives progress.

If you see a coyote with walking difficulty — maybe not even difficulty, but definitely walking differently — please video or photograph and send to me: we can do updates occasionally! The second video in this posting in fact is not mine, but sent to me by Nick Jago who did a great job of videoing this family. Thank you, Nick! :)

This is the second youngster — taken when the pup is four-months-old — with apparently the same affliction. Notice how she interacts absolutely normally with her family members: the compromised animal, though disadvantaged, is living a normal life.

Flopsie, by Pete Dardis

Eydie! No!  

Dang it.

Eydie! Come!

Like that’s gonna work.

Eydie had seen the local coyote, Flopsie, and was chasing her across the hillside.

Flopsie is a male coyote, born in the neighborhood two years ago. I first saw Flopsie’s mom about seven years ago, with my then much younger dog chasing behind her.  I have learned so much about coyotes in the years since then.  I stay alert and leash up when I see a coyote around.  (Thankfully, our park is off-leash).  Eydie still loves to chase them, but at ten years old she has no chance of catching one now.  

But today I never saw Flopsie until the chase was already well under way.  He had run across the hill and then down, arcing back across the hill behind some temporary fencing.  Eydie, following behind, had cut the corner and was now stuck behind the fencing, while Flopsie, in complete safety, arched his back and bared his teeth menacingly, signaling his claim to this part of the hill.

Eydie gave up and came back to me, and I clipped her leash on.  The fun was over.  But not for Flopsie.  After a quick nibble at the low spot in the fence, he hopped over it and followed us up the trail at a disrespectful distance, until I bent down as if picking up a rock.  He turned and backed off immediately.  We went on our merry way.

Eydie and Flopsie on opposite sides of the fence, then Flopsie jumps the fence, whiffs up the information where Eydie was standing, and then follows at a disrespectful distance until intimidated to leave. They then each went on their separate ways.

The Indomitable Loudmouth, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet!

August is here and we do our ranch patrols and land surveys prior to sunrise. Such predawn movements are necessary in this hot smoky time of year.

A new personality has come to an old coyote family turf and taken over.

A wolf pack dispersed the former coyote group and the surviving daughter Kinky started new life in new places. She is thriving with her 2 pups and mate elsewhere. 

This male is now here…and letting all know, man or beast. He’s about 3 or 4, extremely vocal, erratic and tenacious. His voice has a mule like bray to it. He has been dubbed Loudmouth. 

The Indomitable Loudmouth

All evidence is that he came from east of us, which is highly pressured lands. The ranches usually hunt coyote year round. Also, the wilderness areas east are territories of wolf packs. 

So . . . when you see a coyote come from such areas and he’s relatively older, you are seeing the stereotypical extreme canid. The herky jerky zig zagging crazy elusive then alternately bold coyote. It’s not a judgement. But rather, a reflection of human cultures and land pressures.

Loudmouth is as tough as they come and twice as wild. He likely has dealt with decoy dogs, staghound packs, and wolves. He knows LGD and likely respects them…but could make farmers pay for their persecution if they aren’t dogged up. 

Snares, traps, hunters, he has survived and eluded them all.

Likely he is more then able to dominate other male coyote. The two yearling females following him…dont seem daughters. They clearly are a pack. 

Listening to Loudmouth and Twisted Sisters

They have moved in. And Loudmouth is ensuring all know he intends to stay. 

He was quite upset with our patrol and fence check. 

When I returned to my blind for coffee break, Loudmouth erupted from it. He had doubled back, and pooped in my chair.

Welcome to the Ranges Mr. Loudmouth.

Take care, 

Lou

Howls and Listens

First there were sirens. Coyotes often respond to fire-engine or ambulance sirens. This older alpha male responded with howls as you hear here.

Then he stopped and listened. This is the part that’s most interesting to me: the listening. His family was responding to him. Notice him cocking and turning his head as he listens intently, trying to catch every meaningful sound in the reply howls of various family members — they are in the far distance, but you actually can hear them in the video.

His family consists of his mate and two of his mate’s yearling offspring. He himself joined the family only a year ago, shortly after the then-alpha-male died.

He was listening for WHO in his family was responding and where they were — each coyote has his own distinctive signature howl that includes a certain voice and pattern — I myself can distinguish some of these, and of course he would be able to discern their locations. Also, though, he was picking up on everything else being conveyed in their vocal responses conveyed by duration, tone, urgency or lack thereof, etc: there’s a lot of information there that we humans have not learned to decipher. Most of it, I believe, is emotional states. After discerning what he wanted to know, he then belted out his own long reply.

I have a whole page on vocalizations if you want to delve deeper: Coyote Voicings.

When he began kicking the dirt — a usually angry reaction — I turned around to see what had prompted him to do that. A walker and his dog had stopped close to me to listen, and the coyote appeared to be reacting negatively to that presence. Coyote often react to dogs and even intrusive photographers in this manner.

When the vocalizations stopped, the dog and owner walked on, and the coyote went in the direction of the howls he had solicited.

Coyote Denning Communication to Dogs

I’m reposting this from my Instagram account because it’s important for people to know that a coyote protecting a den area, though indeed this might be scary, does not constitute an “aggressive” coyote.

Neither dog nor owner saw the coyote hidden in the tall grasses — they were just walking along a pathway as usual. But in fact, without knowing it, they were encroaching.

This mother coyote walked slowly up to the dog to message that dog to leave. Notice everything about her: tucked-in tail, hackles (fur on her upper back) up, teeth bared with lips pulled back, wrinkled snarly snout, and direct gaze: this is how she firmly messages her need, and the need is for the dog to go away. It’s a clear communication, telling the dog not to enter or come closer to this area, to turn around and go. In addition, she or her mate may follow you as you leave — she’s basically escorting you out of the area. It’s best to keep going away from her — she’ll soon stop following. But always keep your eye on her — if she comes critically close, you’ll need to firmly scare her away: the best way to do this is to have a small stone (2″) in hand and toss it angrily at her feet, without hitting her ever. You are intimidating her to back off as you do the same thing.

Please don’t read her behavior as aggression or as an attack. You and your dog are the ones coming too close — you, in effect, are provoking her, even though you may have done so unknowingly.

It’s her denning area: coyotes may protect up to about 1/4 of a mile around their actual birthing den. All you have to do is turn and go the other way. Also, make a mental note that this is a denning area and that it might be smart to stay away from it for awhile. Denning signs have been put out at many of the sites — but not all — asking you to stay away. There are plenty of other paths you can take for the next little while. After the dog left, mama coyote lay down on the path, in effect closing off that path from further encroachment for the moment! Pretty spunky coyote!

In a non-urban setting, she would have chosen a more remote area to den in, but in the city there are now few places which remain remote from people and their dogs.

Below is a more intense version of the same thing: It is intense, persistent and insistent — this is what makes it scary to us. But this is NOT an “attack”: note that when coyotes hunt or want to attack, they go in directly without this kind of messaging. Instead, here, the coyote is trying to herd you away from the area and herself. Please, especially during denning season, shorten your leash and walk directly away from a coyote whenever you merely see one. You can eliminate stress for both yourself and the coyote by doing so. I’ve had to watermark these photos so they won’t be used out of context.

And below are two videos showing this behavior of coyotes towards dogs:

Please note that coyotes use their teeth, mouths and body language constantly to communicate, even when playing, as here. This is the equipment they have for such communication.

© 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.

Sparks’ Presidio Family: an Update

Sparks, three-year-old, defending the denning area in the Presidio

For those of you who are interested and have followed his story, Sparks, who had recently been living as a loner in and about the Presidio, has succeeded in integrating himself into the established resident family of coyotes there! He is even behaving like the alpha male, so he may have taken Puff’s, the Presidio’s previous alpha male’s, place. I don’t know this for sure yet, but it’s highly likely, judging by his behavior and that I have not seen Puff. If Puff still is around, then Sparks, a three-year-old male outsider, somehow has become accepted as an integral beta family member. I need to see more interactions to know the exact situation — these coyotes have been particularly elusive. I will edit with an update when I find out.

Here is a brief summary of Sparks’ story, with links if you want to dive deeper:

Sparks was one of a litter of five — one female, four males — born in Glen Canyon in 2019. The siblings were particularly tight, and when Sparks had his first arm injury — this was the right arm and probably just a severe sprain — they helped him to safety when dogs appeared closeby. He had a special affectionate bond with his sister, and the two of them together began their first dispersal foray to Golden Gate Heights Park when they were exactly one year old.

Two months later, his sister returned to Glen Canyon where she remained with her birth family, and Sparks appeared in the Presidio which already had an established alpha pair of coyotes. It was not long before I saw him with another leg injury — an actually broken forearm — the left one this time. He left the Presidio on that broken arm and returned to a backyard in Golden Gate Heights, three miles away, where he remained for three weeks until exactly August 14th — that’s when he was last seen there — nursed by a couple of Good Samaritan neighbors. He was now into his seventh month of dispersal.

Left: Wired, the Presidio alpha female for the last 3 years; Right: Puff, the Presidio’s alpha male beginning three years ago who I’m not seeing lately. His absence would mean Sparks is the alpha male.

He reappeared in the Presidio on August 15th, 2020. And then I lost track of him for six months, only to suddenly be surprised by his appearance in North Beach (see above link) a month later in September, when I was updating myself on those resident coyotes. He was now 17 months old and still recovering from the broken left forearm — still limping severely. I’ve always thought that his weakened condition is what helped other coyotes accept him into their fold. For two weeks he stayed with the North Beach family, and I saw a lot of affection and banter between him and Cai2, the (at the time) three-year-old alpha female there, but I never saw him interact with Stumpf, the alpha male. By the way, the Cai2 is the littermate sister of the Presidio’s Puff, born in 2017 in North Beach to the previous North Beach alphas — they are five years old as of this writing.

Sparks’ dispersal in 2020

After this North Beach interlude, Sparks headed back to the Presidio, still with a strong limp, where I have spotted him regularly ever since: this now is his home. At first, I never saw him interact with the resident Presidio family. He seemed to exist around them, and possibly was allowed to stay due to his injured arm — he limped severely for a long time, and even has residues of that limp nowadays — which may have rendered him non-threatening to the resident coyotes. Be that as it may, in January 2021 he was seen being chased out of the Presidio by Puff a number of times — that was the beginning of the breeding season — but Sparks didn’t leave. Wired and Puff, the resident pair, had their second litter that year with Sparks hanging out not far away. That may be when the relationship began changing.

I stopped observing the Presidio coyotes for over a year — there were too many other territories for me to keep up with — but I returned last week, the first week of July, 2022 to update myself on the situation there.

Of highest interest, as stated above, is that Sparks, who is 3.5-years-old now, is acting as though he were the alpha male in the Presidio: defending the den site, babysitting the youngsters of which there are two (apparently there were three but one died, according to the Presidio ecologist), and leading the one family rendezvous that I saw, which included a yearling female and the two pups. Absent from the rendezvous were alpha female/mom Wired, and Puff. There are other yearlings in the Presidio, but they were not involved in this rendezvous. Wired can sometimes be seen sunning herself at the denning site during daylight hours. Is Puff still around? As I said, if he isn’t, Sparks will have taken his place and would be the current alpha male. If he is still around, we’ll know that he was accepted into the family as a beta male to help out by guarding, babysitting, and defending the territory if it ever came to that. But whatever the situation, Sparks is now totally integrated into the situation: this is, somehow, HIS family. Below is a video of the rendezvous of a few days ago:

So the current Presidio family consists of Sparks, Wired, two pups and a yearling daughter. There’s also another male who I call “LowKey” who has come into the denning area, but hangs out more on the periphery: I don’t know his position in the family yet. And there are a number of yearlings who may still be using the Presidio as their base, but don’t hang around the den site.

Two pups born this year (left and middle) and a female yearling (right), all are Wired’s offspring. The yearling would have been fathered by Puff, but what about the two pups?

[press on any of the images to enlarge it and scroll through each row]

Left: Sparks is acting like the alpha male as he guards the area. Center: Wired has been and continues to be mom — she’s on her third litter since moving into the Presidio and becoming the alpha female thre. Right: This fella who I call “LowKey” hangs out on the outskirts of the denning area, he’s at least two years old and is somehow also associated with the denning family. In some ways, he looks like Sparks, and may be genetically related.

© 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.

Territories: Closer Quarters in San Francisco

The territories I’ve mapped here in San Francisco — just under 20 of them — have all encompassed large parks, or fragments of various smaller parks. You can see the map and read about my methods here. These territory sizes and configurations have, with minor exceptions, remained incredibly stable, some for 20 years from the time coyotes first re-appeared here in San Francisco in 2002, and some newer ones I became aware of in 2014, since that time.

Each territory has always harboured one family: mom, dad, possibly one or two yearlings born within the previous two years, and any pups born within the year (always in March/April). All except the alpha parents eventually disperse so that the territory remains in control of just one breeding parent pair, the same pair usually, over many years. Eventually, absolute newcomers or even offspring of these territorial parents, have taken over the territories no longer defendable by the aging alphas, who also may just pick up and leave — in either case, the territory remains in the hands of one mated pair of coyotes and eventually their offspring. There have been minor variations to this prototype, such as a family of three siblings who remained on a territory after their parents disappeared.

This, with just a few deviations, is the standard I’ve been seeing as long as I’ve been documenting them. However, more recently, over the last couple of years, I’ve seen some bigger variations pop up.

For example, in three of the territories during the last two years, not only the alpha female, but also a much younger two-year-old female — a daughter of the alpha female in one case, and likely the same situation in the others — both produced offspring, apparently sired by the same alpha male. I don’t know if this is a trend, an anomaly, or a simple standard variation that only now is occurring.

Another change: an entrenched family spatially expanded their territory up to and onto the border of another, so that actually two standard coyote families are now denning in the same large park, although in separate and exclusive territories — 1/5th of a mile apart — and both families had pups.

Another example occurred three years ago when a yearling male dispersed from Glen Canyon into a border of the Presidio and made this his permanent home. He was recovering from a broken arm when he first moved there, and possibly that’s why the resident coyote pair allowed him to stay there. Now he appears to be an integral, though non-related — member of the family. He has either moved into the alpha male position, or he simply helps guard and babysit the new litter, and is there for them at their evening rendezvous when the parent/s are not.

So these examples point to closer-than-seen-before living quarters for the coyotes. Is this because the territorial market is saturated? Sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it?? A couple of years ago I saw a temporary reconfiguration of three separate family territories into just one owned by one of the three families for over a year. The other families had members die or simply disappeared from my radar possibly from old age, but now, again, it is divided into three separate territories and owned by three separate families.

And here’s more. Until recently, with the exception of a few dispersing youngsters who’ve never hung around for long, the coyotes I’ve seen in the neighborhoods have been those that owned the adjacent or nearby parks, be they large parks or a series of fragmented parks. But now I’m seeing that this is not always the case, whereby more coyotes over the last few years have been carving out territories in the interstices between the fairly stable park-centered territories. These have sprung up within our residential neighborhoods, especially those with plenty of small garden plots or small plots of denser shrubbery, or with a large lawn nearby such as Dolores Park, or barren hills such as Hawk Hill and Turtle Hill. When you see a coyote — and it’s always the same coyote — trekking regularly on the same peripheral route daily, or twice daily, for more than a couple of months, it’s probably an indication that they are claiming/defining the territory.

An example of a fairly newly carved territory involves the small, young female coyote depicted below. She does not “return” to any of the territorial parks I’ve mapped, and anyway she doesn’t belong to the families in those parks. I don’t know where she came from — I’m not able to keep up with all dispersals and origins. Her main area encompasses a handful of square blocks, some with and some without abundant street plantings to help conceal her. She covers this terrain twice a day — sometimes more often — stopping routinely at her known food sources, marking along the way, and taking in who is around (in terms of people, dogs, wildlife) and what is happening: she’s been doing this for at least three months that I have seen and possibly, from what I’ve hear, for almost a year. I and others have spotted her as far away from this main area as a mile, which would encompass a large enough space to be a territory.

Intermittently a larger male coyote has been seen alone and even apparently with her in the same area. I thought he was a dispersing youngster, but if others have seen him around, then maybe a relationship is brewing?? Be that as it may, she did not produce pups this year. Maybe this male is a suitor who will be moving in?? I’ve added his photos at the bottom.

The two photos below are of her occasional male friend.

Coyote Collie Mix Ups, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet, 

Three years ago a rancher had some issues with a coyote raiding lambs. A few weeks earlier someone had hunted with Staghounds and got 2 male coyote.

Bereft of supporting pack the female had pups. It was a very dry, poor area. Sheep had grazed the land to short grass, so rodents were minimal. Likely she had little choice to supply a litter of pups alone. So took what was available. Lambs.

Unfortunately she was hunted and the rancher was told she was lactating. He felt very upset thinking of pups starving so set out den scouting. After 5 hours..his dogs found 2 pups in a den. 

Lassie and Lobolito were female and male and about 2 weeks. He couldn’t bring himself to destroy them…so he put them in with a week old litter of border collies he had.

They were fully adopted by the mother and 6 other ranch collies. He minimized his contact with them and since he owns 7,000 acres allowed them to start ranging and becoming independent. By 4 months they were living in some woods near ranch. He gave them vaccines and let them become gradually wild.

Lobolito the male by 4 months went independent and scorned anything to do with ranch. Lassie..however…continued visiting the dogs. 

She grew up…wild to all humans except the Rancher and rejects dogs…except his border collies. She “owns” the ranch property but also rejects..other coyote! Now 3, past 2 years she has courted an older collie in January and February. He won’t let them breed because he wisely doesn’t want border collie x coyote crosses all over. Too smart!

Lassie knows his horse and the dogs and will come down to visit when they are out. [One of the dogs actually grooms and tends to her when they visit!]

She chases out ANY coyote very aggressively. She does not bother livestock and there are songbirds now in great number because she clears area of feral cats.

This spring he has border collie pups, and Lassie has several times come in and regurgitated piles of voles and mice to collie litter. Her “sister” is the mother. We suppose Lassie is being a good auntie. 

Just another example that coyote are extremely variable. He competes in sheepdog trials and jokes of bringing Lassie in for competition. 

Lou

Slim Jim Update, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet,

Just a portion of the nursery herd

These are just a portion of the nursery herd cows and calves on a local ranch. They have been moved to summer ranges and the grass is still lush, green and thick from record spring rains. This not only means rich grazing…but thousands upon thousands of mice, voles, moles and grasshoppers are literally everywhere. You feel and see scurrying or hopping with every step.

I can describe all this as I patrol these ranges. But Slim Jim the elderly male coyote..must simply have felt it. And returned.

For the past few weeks…Slim Jim has pup-sat and lived here with daughter and her mate. He then left them as the 2 pups started foraging with parents. Kinky Tail daughter rules this area and Slim obviously doesn’t feel tied here.

Last update [Slim Jim’s Bigger Picture] he had somehow amazingly joined his yearling daughter, her mate and two pups. The bison he walked with had newborns. New Moms perhaps made it risky for old blind Slim. How he joined his daughter 8 miles away we don’t know.

We joke that Slim Jim can read. He went to land off limits to hunting or public access.

We thought this was his last move. He was a very tired pup sitter. The pups have been moved several times by Kinky Tail mom. And are now hunting grasshoppers and mice themselves. This move…seemed to allow Slim to make his own choice. 

Ancient Slim Jim. He’s actually a Big Fella. We thought he was smaller — he was always so tattered and slinky. But..he now seems to have lost the slink, and meanders slowly and stately near or among bison especially at night. He’s safe. And shocking us all with his choices and endurance. 

He left the rocky (but hot) sanctuary to return to bison herds. The calves are bigger and the cows pay Slim no heed as he noses about and munches the rodents and grasshoppers they flush up while grazing. They graze. He feeds. Side by side. You can’t really even see him at times among the bulky bison. 

Mostly blind. Tattered. Very very worn. But quite happy. Slim Jim is very full. Sleeps long among cottonwoods. And slowly walks among bison.

He made the choice and must have known…old haunts and bison and grasslands and feeding, were better for him then rocky hot haunts his family are at for now.

I thought the rocks were his last move. But sweet grass and bison herds..obviously are his preference. He was tossing sticks and mice today. Still playful and enjoying life.

Take care. 

Lou

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