“Messaging” May Include Growling

Coyotes live in all of our parks, and they can be seen on the streets sometimes. So always remain vigilant when out walking your dog. If you see a coyote, keep away from it. Most of the time coyotes will flee as they see you coming, but sometimes they may not, and I want to address this potentiality here. The safest protocol always is to shorten your leash and walk the other way, no matter how far or near a coyote is. This sends a signal to the coyote that you and your dog are not there to challenge the coyote’s personal or territorial space.

If you see a coyote while walking your dog, shorten your leash and go the other way.

Coyotes are territorial animals. They don’t allow coyotes other than family members into their territories unless they’re maybe just passing through. The good news about this is that territoriality keeps the coyote population down naturally in any particular area. You and your leashed dog should just keep walking on and away from the coyote — just passing through.

Coyotes and dogs know how to read each other on a level that we humans are not very tuned into: the same thing occurs between dogs: one twitched facial muscle reveals their position to other dogs.  So, when walking your dog, please don’t stop and allow this communication to take place or be acted upon — just keep walking away, dragging your dog after you if you must, showing the coyote that you have no interest in her/him.

If for some reason you find yourself closer to a coyote than you should be and the coyote growls at your dog — know that this is a warning message meant to keep your dog from coming closer: “please stay away from me”, “please don’t come closer”, “please go away”.  It may be set off by the dog being in, or heading for, the coyote’s personal or territorial space, and/or may involve negative communication between the animals. It is not necessarily an indication that it’s “an aggressive coyote”, rather,  it’s more likely to be “defensive” behavior aimed at making the dog keep its distance or leave. Please heed the message!  Coyotes and dogs generally do not like each other. Every coyote I know has been chased multiple times by dogs, and they remember this and are ready for the next time, or the next dog. You can prevent this message from escalating by shortening your leash and walking away — this shows the coyote you aren’t a threat, and the coyote will learn this.

If you have a dog, always walk away from a coyote, dragging your dog if you have to.

This also holds true for when you are in your car with a dog. If close enough, the coyote might growl if he/she perceives your dog — who is usually hanging out the window and staring or even barking — as a territorial or personal threat. It’s best to drive on rather than allow visual communication between your dog and a coyote.

A coyote who is walking towards you, again is messaging you more than anything else: making sure you are aware of its presence so that you and your dog will know he/she is there, i.e., that the territory is taken, and possibly even assessing if the dog will come after it. There’s an aspect of curiosity here, but it’s more investigative. Again, just walk away, and keep walking away with your short-leashed dog in-tow, even if the coyote follows you for a little bit.

Prevention is always the best policy, and that involves keeping your distance. Once your dog and a coyote have engaged, you’ll have to try your best to pull your dog away and then keep moving away from the coyote. Scare tactics — such as making eye-contact, lunging at (without getting close), clapping and shouting aggressively at a coyote — do not always work. If you choose to shoo it away, follow the guidelines in the video at the top of this blog: Coyotes As Neighbors: what to know and do, but know that it’s best to practice utter prevention proactively than to reactively have to scare off a coyote who comes too close.

Here is a concise flyer on  How to Handle A Coyote Encounter: A Primer.

[These guidelines are the most effective, and the safest I have seen, based on my daily observations of interactions between coyotes, dogs and people in our parks over the past 11 years]

Intrepid Cat vs. Playful Coyote


Addendum: This posting should be a lesson to everyone that cats are not safe unattended out-of-doors. This story has an unexpected twist which is amusing because it is unexpected. Small pets will inevitably encounter other animals, be they coyotes, raccoons or dogs, all of whom have their own agendas which you cannot predict, and they will encounter other dangers, such as traffic which could threaten a pet’s life. Please keep your cats indoors and only let them out if you can supervise them.

Thrill vs. Fear, by Anca Vlasopolos

Two days ago I saw a very healthy-looking coyote, photo attached. It got a laughing gull off the shore and took it presumably to a den, then returned for more. My two friends were freaked out, although the animal was quite far away from us and wouldn’t have approached us, I’m sure, since it looked very capable and healthy.

But we did tell a group of women coming to the beach with a toddler in a carriage and a lab whom they wanted to let loose to swim in the ocean that they should not let the dog or the kid run around too far. They too freaked out. I’m not sure I’d want a coyote too close to our fenced-in yard where Haggis runs around, but he’s never unsupervised.

Anca generously allowed me to publish her photos and description of her recent coyote encounter. What’s of interest here is how Anca’s two friends reacted: it’s a reaction which is more common than most of us realize. She adds, “Not surprisingly, I went with the same two friends to the Audubon sanctuary in Wellfleet, on Cape Cod where we live, and we had an encounter with what I think was an Eastern hog-nose snake. Again, my friends got very upset about its existence, one saying that there was no reason for snakes to be on earth. I did tell her that I’d take a snake over a rat any day and that we’d be overrun with rodents if not for snakes, but my powers of persuasion were not up to the task. The poor shy snake took off so fast that I didn’t have a chance to get a photo.”

Please let’s all help get information out to folks so that fear doesn’t dominate their wildlife encounters, and so that thrill will! By the way, Anca is a renown writer and poet: please visit her site at: www.vlasopolos.com

Coyote Encounter During Pupping Season

Good morning Janet,

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

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

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

John

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

Havin’ A Ball!

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I’ve chosen bursts of still-shots over a video for this post — this allows time to stop and savor each moment during an activity which was moving along so quickly!

Dispersed coyotes often become transients and loners, living on the margins, fringes and interstices of other coyotes’ territories. They are alone with no family to socialize with. They often get bored and lonely — but this one is havin’ a ball!

For entertainment, and to break the boredom and loneliness of a single’s existence, coyotes often engage in innovative play, including with found objects, such as poop-bags, crackling water-bottles or boxes, sticks, or even, as here, with a found ball! In the wild, without a ball to be had, coyotes toy with their prey in this exact same manner.

Playing hones fine skills and judgements, which could come in handy at some point. Innovative play helps the mind and body develop, and may help problem solving in the future, according to behaviorists.

Might it be that she was playing up to the several people who had gathered to watch — actually performing for them? They were thrilled, and she continued, only stopping when everyone had left (it was a workday, these were people on their way to work).

Sacramento Bee Writes A Profile About Me


Continue reading here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/article161489933.html

Drones

Drones never bothered me, until one day they did.  It was in a park where I go to escape from the mechanical noises of the city. It was a beautiful day, as most days are in the parks, when suddenly an incessant buzzing/humming noise interrupted everything pleasant about the park. I looked around, and saw this flying object hovering right over me. It stayed there, then came down practically next to me, and then shot up again. I looked around for anybody who might be controlling the drone, but saw no one at first. As I continued looking, far in the distance I saw someone who looked like he was holding a board which he was manipulating with both hands. I decided to walk in his direction. As I got closer, the flying object zoomed over to him, he packed up and left before I could reach him. I’ve encountered dozens of people who have had similar experiences which they were not happy with.

That was my first drone encounter. I’ve had several such encounters since that one, and I’ve been able to reach the controllers. Most are very courteous  and take their objects out of the sky. Some have not been — they tell me there is no “law” against doing what they are doing, and that they have a “right” to fly. It’s when I found a drone descending on a coyote — which I’ve seen three times now — that I decided to pursue this further.

I went to the internet and found that these objects are banned from national parks, and from any proximity to people. Then I wrote the San Francisco Parks Department, asking them what the rules were for flying drones in city parks in San Francisco. I was told that they had to have a permit, and that permits were not too commonly issued. This was a relief to hear.

So the next time I saw a drone over a coyote (see photos) I approached the controller and told him that it wasn’t appropriate for the wildlife. The droner pulled out an app which he said came with the drone: it showed where droning was not allowed. It did not cover any of the parks in San Francisco. I think the app only lists national parks, because the Presidio was included, but none of the city parks run by RPD had any restrictions. The droner decided he was right, and I was wrong, and I had nothing to prove otherwise.

In the situation depicted in the photos, I hurried into the park, not knowing what was going on except that a coyote was howling. When I arrived, the howls had stopped, but the scene was of a little coyote hovered on a hill with a drone flying above it — the drone was departing as I arrived. There were several onlookers, but they were only concentrating on seeing the coyote howling — wow, pretty exciting, I agree — and they hadn’t noticed if it was the drone that had triggered the howls. I only got there afterwards, so I won’t ever know this. But I do know that if the drone is bothersome to me, both in terms of its noise and as an object hovering over me, I’m pretty sure it would be bothersome, even frightening, to a coyote, whose sense of hearing is so much more acute than mine and who is wary of all intrusions into its personal space, and probably especially by an object it doesn’t understand.

I’m hoping RPD can make these regulations a little more easily available for everyone.

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