Hunters may no longer be dictating Wildlife Policy

A new philosophy is being established for how our country’s wildlife is being managed. Hunters and the NRA have always had a monopoly on decision making in this arena. But this is now changing, as explained in this article below. More environmentalists and non-hunters are entering the controversial conversation, and they want to rely on nature, in all of its glory, to balance itself more naturally, rather than massively killing predators. Please add your voice and support to the numerous organizations listed which are opposed to “managing” wildlife mostly for the benefit of hunters. I’m posting this as a follow-up to Walkaboutlou’s article on slaughter hunting. Press the long link below the photo to read the article which was published in Outdoorlife.

One of Scout’s Two 6-Month-Old Pups Killed by a Car

Xochitl (so-cheel) was only six months old when she was hit by a car, probably in the early evening as her body was cold by the time we found it predawn the next morning.

On Friday, before dawn, my friend Melina called me to let me know there was a dead coyote on the road. I was able to meet her 15 minutes later. I identify coyotes by their faces, but it’s almost impossible for me to identify a dead coyote by its face — I need to see the placement of his or her active eyes, among other things.

There had been two different coyote families living on opposite sides of that dangerous road, but recently we hadn’t seen any members of the first family and we kept noticing the second family — Scout’s family — encroach further and further into the first family’s territory. I wanted to confirm its identity by identifying the coyotes that were hanging out close-by.

Melina led me to where she had seen four coyotes up the hill; two were still there when we got there : they were lying down, watching the daybreak. I was able to capture this photo of their silhouettes only because the camera was aimed at the daybreaking sky — but it was too dark to identify them. Melina wondered if their lying there was connected to the dead coyote.

The two coyotes got up when they saw us and headed towards the road which they crossed close to where we picked up the dead pup. My camera would not focus because of lack of light and soon the coyotes were out of sight. Luckily, I spotted them again on the other side of the road, and was able to capture a couple of identifiable images in spite of no light and distance. Yes, this was Scout’s family: the coyotes who had been hanging out were Scooter (Dad) and Scout’s other pup. The two that were no longer there would have been Scout and a yearling.

What remains of Scout’s family now is herself and her mate, a two-year-old male, two yearlings, and one pup born this year. They cross a lot of roads as they cover their fragmented territory — two of them high-speed roads. Cars should be considered the coyotes’ main predator in urban areas.

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.

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

Slim Jim’s Bigger Picture, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet,

I recently mentioned the old nearly blind former pack leader, Slim Jim, and him joining his daughter over 8 miles away from his core area.

The move mystified me because I felt he had it all. Safety in landscape and Bison herds. 

The bigger picture with wild animals is almost really never known. We cannot know every detail, trajectories or reasons. However..I realize more now about Slim Jim with help from others and some analytical thinking. (And it’s still guesswork)

Slim Jim had a very nice area and kept following bison for some months. However. . .2 things changed the Bison scene:

1) The Bison cows are heavily pregnant or giving birth. Their tolerating ANY canine..including elderly Slim, is over with motherhood. At least when calves are tiny 1st couple weeks.

2)The bison are a captive herd. They may have 7,000 acres to range. But they are moved periodically. Early calving season the bison are moved out of hills to watch until all calves are born and birthing season is over. Slim Jim wasn’t about to follow Bison in hemmed in fences. 

Why he didn’t stay in the area when buffalo left is likely a few wolves passed thru. Rolling in bison patties apparently is a wolf pleasure when herds aren’t about. Trotting wolves even distant would likely unsettle the old guy. 

We will never know how Slim Jim made it to Daughter Kinky and her family. Did she fetch him? Did he somehow know where she went and begged admittance? 8 miles is alot when you are blind and not fast. He made it. 

He is now officially pup sitter of 3 pups.Kinky had a tiny litter. (Her being a yearling might be partial reason) 

He is with pups constantly. He likely sees a little and stays very close to the massive cliffs and crevices that are now home. 

He went from green foothills and range to stony highlands. 

I wish his scruffy little body well.

Regards,

Lou

❤️ Falling In Love With Coyotes ❤️

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This little girl yearling sat atop a knoll to watch the active dogs playing below in a fenced-off dog play area. It must have been a little like watching TV for her. The dogs ran after each other, wrestled, got mad and nipped at each other, ran after balls the owners tossed. There was high energy which must have been very entertaining for the coyote who spent a good half hour there. While she was there, I took these photos of her: it’s so easy to fall in love with coyotes. BUT, please do so at a distance and non-interactively as you walk away.

By clicking on any of the photos, you can enlarge them and scroll through them.

A while after taking these photos, I spoke to a woman who was excited about what I had to say about coyotes. She told me about the coyote she had seen several times across the street from her shop, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood and right here in the middle of San Francisco. We talked at some length — she had lots of questions for me. Then, she asked if she could “touch it” next time and maybe “take it food”. Her adoration for the animals was overflowing. She was absolutely shocked by my response: “please leave them alone and don’t approach them.”  She had no conception at all about the needs of a coyote — their need to remain wild, remain healthily wary of humans, and to hunt for themselves.

I went through simple guidelines with her, and gave her a 3″ business card listing those. I’ve been handing these out because succinct guidelines are not printed on park signs, and aren’t readily known by most people. Please go over them yourself if you aren’t sure about them!! Truly loving coyotes involves loving their well-being, their wildness, and their ability to care for themselves — it does not involve interacting with them in any way, including feeding them. Please remember that feeding them causes them to hang around and approach people which may lead the city to kill them, which happened here in the city last July. Feeding is a selfish need of the feeder — it does not benefit the coyote and actually hurts them. It’s understandable that you may want to love them, but please do so hands-off and at a distance, without feeding! Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤️

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Four-Minute Slice of Nightlife

As the last bit of daylight flickered out, I was able to see this coyote and able to take a couple photos. The photo to the left approximates what could initially be seen in the little light there was, and that light soon faded away. After just a few shots, the camera would no longer focus automatically. It was too dark to see with one’s naked eyes — all I could really see now was that there was movement — but the camera’s amazing video setting (manually focused as best as I could) and an at-home edit which boosted the light, brought a few short moments of a mated coyote pair’s nightlife and interactions to light, as seen in the video below. Coyotes are very social and interact all the time, and the video at nightfall shows several minutes of them doing so.

Mom was chilling on a knoll of grass, obviously waiting for her mate to appear because when he finally arrives, she hurries over to be with him. The scene takes place along a roadway, and you’ll see cars passing by which don’t disturb the coyotes. I’ve learned from observing over the last 15 years that coyotes feel safer under cover of darkness — they know our human vision is not very good at that time.

HE had picked up something and was nibbling on it. Was she reacting to this, or simply greeting him? She raises herself against and over him, and nips the back of his neck. She is the *boss* and she may be emphasizing this. HE stands there and puts up with it UNTIL she gets down, at which point he makes a dash to evade her reach!

She appears to gape in disgust: “Ahhh. Men!” Then she stretches and gapes again before heading in his direction. Before reaching him she passes something smelly and decides to roll in it to absorb its fabulous odors. They both scavenge and appear to find tidbits.

In the meantime, cars pass, one after another which doesn’t affect them in the least. Both coyotes wander towards and away from each other as they find scraps of food. BOTH coyotes *gape* now and then: it looks like a big yawn, but I’ve seen it often as a sign of being upset over something.

Mom looks intently overhead at something and then comes to the edge of the road and looks around as though she’s trying to figure out what is going on. She puts her nose up in the air as she whiffs to *see* beyond the cars: they are always scanning for safety. Again she looks up at the sky and then suddenly both coyotes flee in fear. That’s when I look up and I see what’s bothering them: someone is flying a kite right overhead.

Now it’s too dark even for the video setting of the camera — amazing as it is, it can only go so far. But against the lighter sky, I’m able to capture the kite — this is the only section of the video I did not have to brighten to make it visible. The video is mostly blurry because of the lack of light, but at least you can see what is happening.

Screening: “don’t feed the coyotes”, a film by Nick Stone Schearer

September 27th update: This particular one-time screening is over. There will be more screenings (and I’ll post those) before the film will be put on the site which currently does have the trailer: dontfeedthecoyotes.com. The questions and answers which occurred right after the film, however, may be seen here.

Neighborhood Coyote Chat

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Come hear about our SF coyotes! Janet Kessler will give a crash-course on their population and population  dynamics, their family life and interactions, and guidelines/stewardship for coexistence, with plenty of time for Q&A. This is Janet’s first out-of-doors talk, and she will be using posters instead of slides because there is no outlet for a projector. Let’s see how it goes!

About Janet: She’s been documenting our coyotes daily over the last 14 years here in San Francisco — she’s likely the only person who knows just about all of them individually, their families, and the extent of each of their territories. She will talk briefly about the neighborhood coyotes, as she has done in her recent presentations to West Portal and North Beach.

  • WHEN: Sunday, June 20th, 2021 at 11:00 am
  • WHERE: St. Mary’s Park Bleachers – wear your masks
    • Enter from Murray Street, either at the intersection at Crescent or on the other side of the park off of Justin Street. You can’t miss the bleachers once you enter the field.
  • CONTACT: Nancy Ganner through Bernal Heights NextDoor, or Janet through coyotecoexistence@gmail.com

Here are some photos, after the fact. We had a wonderful turnout of over 50 people, with almost everyone staying for the massive and long Q&A at the end. Thank you everyone for being so supportive of my work!

Pack Strategies, Growing Pups, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet!

I hope all is well with you as the season progresses. This time of year flies. I am walking well after hip surgery and slowly recovering.

The updates on the 2 mom coyote pack continue thanks to the careful work and amazing skills of the knowledgeable ranch family who have allowed coyote to share their massive ranch properties. Decades of tolerance and behavior modifications have created a land where coyote, livestock, wildlife all thrive. (LGD dogs are big part..but thats another story) The extended family all take turns monitoring and studying the coyotes. They are documenting great stuff.

Old SlimJim, (father) Chica (Mom) Janet (daughter and 2nd mom) and Big Brother (yearling) all thrive. They indeed, moved the pups from the rocky cliffs to the open Oak Savannah ecosystem. Incredibly, all 9 pups have still been accounted for. Originally 11, it’s still a big group of pups.

One adult is almost always with or near pups. They have had several moves and it seemed Slim Jim initiated every move. The family discussions about why Slim Jim moves them so much are awesome to hear. Was it because the local cougar made fresh marks nearby? Was it because soon a salmon run will deliver salmon to a riverbank where Slim Jim gathers the expired fish? Is it because the wolves come around and scout? One ranch youngster has an observation. “Bigger Grasshoppers and more Voles” he says. “Slim Jim took the pups where the grasshoppers are already big and the voles are everywhere there”.

It’s true-the pups are already foraging and catching rodents and grasshoppers. It is very important for pups to forage and feed themselves ASAP. 

It’s likely a culmination of all these and more. Slim Jim is an old coyote who knows all these areas. And the food sources. He has literally moved his pack where this summer, rodents, insects, wild plum groves, and expired salmon all will be. Slim Jim also has a unique skill which he’s shared with Big Brother his son. A few miles away a ribbon of country road unfortunately delivers deer being hit and killed, or running off to die. Slim Jim takes full advantage of such road killed deer. And delivers huge meals of venison. It is very rare for pups to eat so well. Big Brother and Dad have hugely impacted pup nutritional provisions.

Other note: All the adults are super lean and seem exhausted at times. They seem to take turns pup sitting. Big Brother the most. Pups are weaned it appears. Of the 9 pups, one with kinked tail sleeps with adults rather then littermates. Kinky Tail seems a favorite. It is groomed more than any pup.

Turkey Vultures make the pups duck or hide, indicating the local golden eagle may be why 2 pups are gone. 

Pups also seem to hunt then bolt at times.  Its suspected snakes are instinctively avoided at least by pups. Many rattlers here. So snake aversion is good. 

The Patriarch of Ranch family has studied “his” coyote over 60 years. He is house bound usually. But still listens to coyote news and gives his thoughts. 4 generations of family discussing coyote packs is very special.

His thoughts: “That’s a really big litter. By summer’s end the adults will be tired and ready to stop providing. The pups will develop extra fast and really scatter about. And Big Brother will be a great dad after raising all those pups. Janet the Daughter will get a new hubby. Old Slim Jim…well, let’s hope best.”

Big Litter, lots of food, and tired but skilled adults here. A structured but unusual pack going fwd. And a Ranch family sharing it all from 10 years to Great Great Grandpa.

Take Care Janet, 

Lou 🐾

[All photo credits are from the author, Walkaboutlou]

Provoking a Reaction

This is not an aggressive coyote. I know this coyote well — he simply wants to be left alone. The dog and walker in fact came upon this peaceful fella calmly sunning himself — that’s how it began. This is a defensive coyote being threatened by an aggressive dog. The dog is provoking the reaction by focusing on the coyote, barking and lunging at the coyote. IN RESPONSE to both the dog’s presence and the dog’s behavior, the coyote is displaying its scariest behavior, trying to warn the dog to stay away (“hey, look how ferocious I am; you might want to stay away”) and to get the dog to leave. The coyote is messaging the dog and owner, in the only effective way it knows how, to move away from itself and the area, and not focus on it.

Rather than heeding the message and moving the dog along and away, the dog-owner plants herself and her dog in sight of the coyote to take a sensationalist video for Facebook — it’s a clear provocation to the coyote. All she had to do, was walk away from the coyote, dragging her dog if she had to.

Please heed the message: walk away from coyotes, especially if you have a dog! Please remember that we’re in the middle of pupping season, when coyotes will particularly defensive about themselves and areas close to their dens. [Video extracted from Jennyfifi Facebook]

The Dilemma of Denning, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet. 

The continued scouting of the 2 mom pack carries on and is really amazing.

So the situation was Chica Alpha Mom, and Janet the Yearling Daughter (possible) denned together to combine 11 pup litter. The Alpha male is Slim Jim, old but more than capable. Yearling male, Big Brother, rounds out adult pack. 

Mom and Daughter early in denning were fed regularly by the males. Deer scavenging, and Bison afterbirth proved to be fortuitous finds for males. About 3 weeks into denning, both females suddenly went back to foraging and hunting. Big Brother was relegated to #1 pup sitter which he seems made for. He alternatly is playful, guardian, and cleans pups for hours. At night he is relieved, it seems, to forage and water for himself.  

Last year the pack denned in hilly country, surrounded by thousands of field rodents, etc. This year, they moved their early dens to a rocky series of cliffs-like terrain miles from the hills. This is very likely the regular passing area of foraging wolves. Also…this year is far drier. There are less rodents.

The cliffs are perfect for tiny pups to start. But they aren’t ideal to raise a older litter. We suspect the calorie and water needs for large litter, will mean a move soon to a late spring/summer rendezvous area. It also will mean pups can start foraging for rodents and grasshoppers themselves. This is pivotal. I think especially of Slim Jim and Chica weighing denning safety vs feeding family. Its really a process. The cliffs mean some safety. The hills mean pup development and food. And the hills hold danger in every way. 

It has been a great start for the den but not perfect. The pups went from 11 to 9. A golden eagle who regularly soars over is suspected. For 2 days the pups seemed to stay in den. And Big Brother snarled up into the passing sky silhouette. We dont think this a coincidence. 

Also, Old Slim Jim showed us how seriously he takes denning. Coyotes are vocal. Notoriously vocal. Big Brother was yipping and howling and was even joined by several pups. It seemed he was literally leading a puppy chorus when Slim Jim came racing up to the den and literally slammed Big Brother down and gave him a very big round of discipline. Big Brother slunk to a nearby rock, chastised and mournful.

The watcher (the family members are taking turns in observations) was pretty stunned at Slim Jims ferocity. He is actually a very laid back guy (and really tired and slow) But then we discussed-how many times have they vocalized at this den? Well…until that incident, no one has heard vocalizations. It would appear, Slim Jim, Chica, and Janet have been mute here for some weeks.

We think we know why. Trail cams reveal passing wolves just miles away every few evenings. As they trot through, they no doubt are hard at work raising their litters too. But wolves are very hard on coyote dens. They will not hesitate to raid and dig out denned pups. We believe Slim Jim knows too well, the risks of denning with wolves about. And he has perfected ghost like habits this year. Big Brother learned a big lesson.

So…Slim Jim, Chica, Janet and Big Brother all are working hard and 9 of 11 pups still thrive. They likely are on the cusp of moving their litters to the hills and spring/summer areas. BTW-every night Chica and Janet clean the pups and attend them. Big Brother leaves. And when pups go down, Slim Jim hops a tall rock to do the night’s sleep sentinel post. Chica often approaches him. She grooms and nibbles his face and sparse coat. He seems to greatly relish this short time. His old tired white face relaxed and strong. 

I am very moved at this pack. And old Slim Jim’s efforts to raise his latest family. 

1) rocky cliffs; 2) This area of vast foothill ranges will be likely where this year’s pups will be taken for summer rendezvous. It is much more dangerous but this is where the pups will need to be. It’s here they will learn to be Coyote survivalist. 

Sparks: A Happy Springtime Update

Update: My own smile extended from ear to ear this morning as I spotted the coyote I’ve labeled as “Sparks” — all my coyotes have pronounceable labels instead of numbers to make them easier to remember — sauntering along a path with his easy, bouncing little trot, contented and happy as as a lark, with a huge grin on his own face! See photo below. Life is good for him now: more stable and settled, more predictable and secure, than it was 6 months ago and before. He paused, looked at me, sat down to scratch, and then continued comfortably on his way. 

Interestingly, another coyote family lives here in the Presidio, where he seems to have ended up his dispersal journey: they are a mated pair — territorial claimants here for over a year — who share the same pathways with this guy — I haven’t seen a shared territorial arrangement before here in San Francisco. The Presidio is the largest of the territories I’ve documented here in SF: there has been basically just one family in that park, but maybe there’s actually room for two — or at least one family and one additional single guy. I have seen no sign of a mate with Sparks, and as far as I have seen here in SF, males wait until they are 3 or 4 years old before settling down with a mate and starting a family.

Maybe there’s a truce or pact, or some kind of understanding between these coyotes. OR, might it be that Sparks has been adopted into the breeding pair’s family in a distant sort of way? He had been allowed to remain on another family’s territory for several weeks during an earlier part of his dispersal peregrinations — he was actually welcomed and interacted with warmly by the alpha female, the mother, in that family: I thought of it as an adoption, even though it lasted only several weeks. Possibly he was allowed to stay there, and here at the Presidio, on account of his leg injury, or because he is a youngster, or both!  I myself have not seen him interact with the Presidio family pair, or even seen them together, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. I’ve heard a number of reports of him having been chased (chased out?) angrily by one of the resident alphas, starting in mid-January, but then he always turns up again, so maybe that’s not what was really going on. Or maybe he’s become a very savvy and successful interloper, living on the fringes of the alphas’ territory where they repeatedly try driving him off: Chicago, according to a graduate student I’m working with, is apparently full of this category of coyotes, but not San Francisco . . . . yet. Then again, maybe these two entities simply avoid each other. Until I see them interact, I can only offer speculations about what might be going on. At any rate, the important point is that they’ve been seen in the same areas and on the same paths over the last 6 months. So this is Sparks’ situation now.

I’ll repeat Sparks’ dispersal history here (I’ve posted this before). Being able to keep up with a coyote’s journey after leaving home is very exciting, and that’s what I’ve been able to do in more and more cases. Sparks just turned two: I’ve known him since his birth in 2019. He was one of a litter of five that year: two females and three males. That’s the largest litter his parents had produced — all previous litters, and the one after that one, numbered one to three (and even none during a couple of years). He dispersed from his home a year ago at almost exactly one year of age, having been the second in his litter to do so. A sister left a couple of months before him at 9 months of age and I’ve been able to follow her as well. A brother just recently left at almost two years of age, and two of his siblings — now two years old — still remain at their birthplace and in what remains of their birth family.

When Sparks first dispersed, a year ago, he hippity-hopped to various locations in the city, remaining at each for several weeks before moving on. During the summer he managed to severely break a foreleg — so there were tumultuations during his early roving adventures. As it happens, previous to that, he had severely sprained the other front leg, and recovered over time. With this new break, he hobbled around for months, unable to put much weight, if any at all, on it. The pain must have been horrific because he ended up painfully retracing his steps back to one of the safer areas he had been through earlier on. Here, he remained in someone’s protected backyard where he spent many hours sleeping over a 3 weeks period. It took a long time to heal, but it eventually did with the help of the neighbors who made sure he was not disturbed in any way.

These concerned neighbors indeed sought outside help, but were told they should leave the animal alone. I totally agree with this policy. In my 14 years of observations, I’ve seen a substantial number of debilitating injuries in coyotes: among them, two broken legs and a broken ankle, and I’ve also known these coyotes’ individual intense social situations and how much they stood to lose were they to have been removed for rehabilitation by humans. It’s hard to go back to your previous situation once you’ve been removed and assumed dead. Nature is an excellent healer, and all of these animals healed on their own by leaving them alone.

Sparks’ human “guardian angels” allowed him to heal on his own. He then left his human protectors’ yard when he himself felt ready to go, which surprisingly occurred before he was completely healed. But he must have felt ready because he left. He continued with a limp for a long time after that, but some weight could be put on that leg by then: he was much more actively mobile after 3 weeks. And now he’s make the Presidio his home.

The bottom photo shows how that foreleg, above the wrist, is somewhat thickened: coyotes wear their histories as bumps and scars on their bodies! I should point out that probably no one else would notice this slightly deformed foreleg. Anyway, he obviously feels very at ease and at home where he has now been for over half a year, and it looks like he’ll stay. At two years of age, he’s still, from all appearances, a loner and a bachelor, and a happy one at that! What will come next? . . . to be continued!

As I beamed with joy at seeing this coyote and took a few photos (I’m not in the Presidio very often), a runner stopped to ask me if the coyote was dangerous. “Nah,” I replied.  I reminded her that all she had to do was keep her distance and walk away without running. Also important: never feed or try to interact with them by trying to become their “friend”. These are wild animals and should be respected as such, even though they are citizen coyotes. Definition of citizen: a resident of a city or town; a native, inhabitant, or denizen of any place.

© 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.

 

Human Interference/Interactions with Coyotes

The Moraga/Lafayette coyote (or see PDF) we’ve all heard about and which is still on many people’s minds, should be seen as a strange anomaly: a single coyote apparently inflicting five bites over an 8 month period — something of this dimension has has not been heard of before. More than likely, there was human involvement in the way of hand-feeding and friendly interactions which may be at the core of what went on. A handful of innocent coyotes were put down before the “culprit” was identified. In other words, innocent animals were condemned. But also, even the “culprit” was simply following through on a trajectory initiated by humans.

I was sent the photographs below, along with a note from the photographer, in February of 2009 but I never published them because I found them very disturbing. Now might be the time to finally get them out there. And here is a video of a human playfully taunting and encouraging interaction with a coyote — the author calls it, “Coyote Attack: Best Footage Ever,” — he obviously published this video for its effect. You just have to look at it to see the coyote isn’t attacking at all so much as being incited by the human doing the videoing — the coyote is not snarling nor in attack mode. The videoer is almost playing tug-of-war-with the coyote as he extends out his foot. When I recently heard of a coyote going up, grabbing and then pulling on an individual’s pant leg, these are the things I thought about. You have to ask yourself, why ever would a coyote do that unless he had been incited by someone to do that?

Interactions with humans are what may lead to what happened at Moraga/Lafayette. This along with an innate higher feistiness of a particular coyote. Please don’t hand-feed or interact with coyotes for their sake as well as for ours. Although it might seem as though these interactions are benign, and most of the time they are innocent, there’s a lot more going on than that initial interaction, and in the end, it’s not good for anyone involved: coyote or human.

click on the photos to enlarge them and scroll through them

Coyotes in Whistler, BC
I happened onto your site. I have had a few interactions with the critters and have a series of photos of one of them. Here is a description of the episode.
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Coyotes at pit. My hand was attached to the fingers in the pic. This process took about 4 meetings. Only one was curious enough to get close, the other would only take a biscuit if I tossed it 30 feet from me. The curious one would come up (I had to be crouched, otherwise it would not come close) get close, sniff me and walk right around me.
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Hi ‘Coyotes in Whistler, BC’ —

Thanks for sharing your photos with me.

You know, I’m an advocate of coyotes and want people to know how to get along with them. One of the issues which comes up is feeding coyotes — especially hand-feeding them. This may cause them to eventually approach other people who are actually afraid of them. It could cause demand behavior.” Those people end up reporting “aggressive” and “dangerous” coyotes to the authorities, who then go out with guns to shoot them. So in fact, this kind of activity is discouraged by those of us who really like the animals.

I would love to post your photos and story on the blog, but it would be with the above advice, and that it is at the expense of the coyote that a person might engage in feeding them.

Please let me know if you would allow this. Thanks!! Janet

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Hi Janet —

I appreciate your advice and admonition.If you want to publish them as a bad example and it helps you get your point across, go ahead, it is a good cause.

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