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]

Four-Year-Old Sitter to the Rescue?

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Photo credit: The Chronicle

The above photo appeared in The Chronicle a week ago, caught on a field camera by RPD in Golden Gate Park. Of primary interest is that there are SEVEN pups — that’s a huge litter — it’s a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of bodies to take care of.

Often, yearlings — those born to the family the year before — remain on a territory as part of their birth-family and help raise the new litter. But none of the yearlings born last year to the mom are around to help and the dad didn’t even have pups last year, so the only caregivers in this family are the parents. Unusually, BOTH of these coyotes were attached to OTHER mates last year. Although  the vast majority of coyotes mate for life, there are exceptions, and this is one of those. The upshot is that no yearlings are around to help out. And, although each of these parents is seasoned at pup-rearing, neither has had seven pups all at once. Yikes!

Outside help? Intriguingly, a 4-year-old at-this-point unattached female — I’ll call her PETAL — appeared on the scene about a month ago, and I’ve seen her within the denning area. Might Petal have offered herself as an additional caretaker — a nanny? I can’t think of why else she has been allowed to stay.

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Petal indeed served as caregiver to her own younger siblings in 2018 — this is a very normal situation — so she knows what’s involved. Therefore I’m wondering if she might be related to this Golden Gate Park hepta-mom — this might explain her acceptance there, but we’ll have to wait for DNA results to find that out. Then again, maybe a close genetic relationship isn’t necessary for such an arrangement. ?? I use the word “close” because, based on scat analysis to date by Monica Serrano in Benjamin Sacks’ Lab at UC Davis, it appears that all of our San Francisco coyotes come from just four founding individuals.

Petal was born in 2017 in the Presidio where she was tagged and collared. Through the first half of 2018, as a yearling, Petal remained in the Presidio attached to her birth-family where she helped out with the pups born that year.  By fall of 2018, during her second year, she began long forays out of her territory for several days at a time: I spotted her in and around Golden Gate Park for short periods over the course of several months. She appears to have ended up with a companion coyote at Candlestick Park, the closeby shipyard and Bayview Park. I assumed she had a family in that location, but her move back to and remaining in Golden Gate Park indicates maybe not, or that her companion/mate was killed, possibly by a car along the freeway there. Cars are one of the chief killers of coyotes in urban areas. Candlestick is one of the parks I don’t normally visit, so I did not keep up with her.  If/when I find out more about that situation, I’ll amend this posting.

So, is she an outside babysitter, an insider babysitter, or will she soon move on? We’ll have to wait and see. If she stays, I have a couple of questions:

I’m curious as to how this apparently unattached female discovered the large (needy?) family, or how those parents found her? Was it purposeful, or serendipity?  Communication in the coyote world is on a level humans don’t and may never fathom — it’s below our radar. Coyotes communicate through eye contact, facial expression and body language. You can see all this easily if you watch them. They also use vocalizations. But maybe there’s more than that? We are limited by our five senses which are very weak ones. Our hearing is poor (compared to that of animals), we practically can’t smell, and our sight needs lots of daylight with practically zero nighttime vision without light. In this regard, coyotes operate on a higher plane than us. And I’m wondering if their GPS navigation system, if you want to call it that, may in some way have aspects similar to that of migrating birds: coyotes have been navigating through and then out south of the city when they disperse. Is there something guiding them besides trial-and-error and memory? By the way, coyotes have fantastic memories. I’m hoping to post an update at some point.

© All information and photos in my postings, except where indicated, 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.

A Case of Polygyny

The literature has it that only the alpha pair (i.e., the parent-pair) ever reproduce, monogamously, in any particular coyote family on any given territory. And this is all I had ever seen here in San Francisco over the last 14 years. The younger yearling females are referred to as being “behaviorally sterile”. This is one reason why you don’t want to start killing coyotes with the purpose of reducing their population: once you do, the phenomenon of the younger females being behaviorally sterile goes out the window: breeding becomes wild and rampant, and soon you have more coyotes than when you began. In fact it’s been noted that 400K (yep, that many) coyotes are killed every year in the US, but this slaughter has not made a dent in their population because they make up the difference with more breeding when their social system is disrupted.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I found a two-year-old mother lactating on the same territory as her eight-year-old alpha mother who is also lactating right now. And here are their images:

The old alpha male, the 8-year-old-female’s long-time mate, had passed away, leaving a vacant niche in the family — this may be the extenuating circumstance that allowed two litters on the same territory. He happened to pass away shortly before the next breeding season began, so there was no male around to protect his surviving mate (or their daughter) and keep the social order. Normally the alpha male closely and jealously guards his mate and keeps any unconnected suitors who might want to move in far away. But he was gone, and the scent of hormones during the breeding season beckoned. A new coyote, an older guy (very likely a relative judging by his appearance) moved in and into the vacated alpha male position. Apparently both the alpha female and her daughter were impregnated by this same guy. The loss of the original alpha male caused a social disruption. I’ll use DNA analysis to confirm, but that will take a while. There is no other alpha male around.

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New alpha male

The territory is a large fragmented one. A year ago, this alpha female and her mate had moved off from their main hangout area for pupping purposes to a more remote branch of their vast territory, where they remained during the day, returning to the area they left every few evenings where they rendezvoused with their yearling offspring: there was grooming and playing and then they headed off on trekking expeditions together. During the COVID outbreak, parks were one of the few places open to everyone, so many more people and their off-leash dogs than usual visited the parks: chasing coyotes became rampant, causing the coyotes to leave this part of their territory. In spite of their move, the alpha female — and the male until October — continued and continues to visit her main old hangout almost every night, and that is where her daughter had her pups this year. 

Back in November/December, the alpha female began spending more and more time back in the main part of her territory, grooming her two remaining two-year-old offspring, as though she were soliciting them to PLEASE stay. Then, well into their pregnancies, with the due date approaching, I found both mother and daughter grooming each other frequently and extensively, as though they would be moving forward as a team.

See Walkaboutlou’s observation which is both a similar and very different situation. In both cases, it is the alpha female (the mother) who allowed the “other” female to remain, and that other female is a daughter in one case, and is most likely a daughter in the second case. Lou’s story involves a shared den, the two females likely mother/daughter, one older alpha male, and a yearling male. In this case, there most likely was a different male who sired the daughter’s offspring and is no longer around. In contrast, my story involves two separate dens about half a mile apart, the two females who are definitely mother/daughter, a two-year-old yearling male (brother to daughter, son of mother), and one newcomer alpha male who appears to have sired both females’ pups. These both are unusual situations — as I’ve said, I’ve not seen this situation before — but such situations do occur.

One may wonder if two-year-old yearling brother could have sired the daughter’s pups. I myself haven’t seen a male produce pups here in San Francisco until he’s three years old at the earliest. In addition, this two-year-old male youngster is not an alpha, he’s submissive to the new alpha male and travels nightly with him between the two pupping areas. Eight year old Mom is often with them, but not two-year-old Mom who remains always close to her pups.

Alphas are intent on control and dominance within their families. Here are some postings, along with videos, showing a mom dominating and showing who’s boss to her seven-month old youngster, and a mom imposing her hegemony on her two-year old, if not actually trying to drive her out. See Beatings and Rank Issues, A Mother’s Harsh Treatment of a Pup, Punishment, and this video below. This dominating and controlling behavior, meant to impose a clear hierarchy, is not occurring between the two females described in this posting, and there is only one dominant male, so I’m calling it “polygyny”.  We’ll have to wait and see how the situation works itself through.

Coyotes are famously known to mate for life — one-on-one — and that’s what I’ve always seen except for one unusual “divorce” last year: the split led to separate bonded nuclear families. Polygyny is something different.

© 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.

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]

What Do Coyotes EAT Here In San Francisco?

People keep asking me, WHAT do coyotes eat here in San Francisco? Is there enough food for them?

My reply is always that there’s plenty of food for coyotes in cities. They are known as “opportunistic” eaters — meaning they can eat almost anything.

My observations tell me that their preferred foods are small rodents, such as gophers which run from one to two pounds and voles. Rats and mice are part of their diet.There are plenty of these and coyotes catch them often.

Squirrels are harder to catch for them, as are the more scarce brush bunnies and jackrabbits here in San Francisco, but they do catch these as well. I’ve seen coyotes climb the lower branches of trees in pursuit of squirrels. Rabbits, however, often are just not worth the effort for the coyote, so they often just ignore them.

Even less frequently, I’ve seen them catch and eat insects such as crickets, and snails. I’ve seen them catch snakes and lizards, but only seldom have I seen them actually consume these — or maybe they were just chewing on them and not consuming them.

I’ve seen coyotes gorge on fruit when that becomes ripe in the summer and fall, including apples, pears, loquats, blackberries. You can see when this becomes a larger portion of their diet because their scat becomes very different: goopy and full of seeds and peels.

Mature raccoons are ferocious and can fight off a coyote, but not so juveniles. I’ve seen coyotes feeding on raccoon and on opossums here in San Francisco, but I’ve also seen a coyote almost interacting with a raccoon family socially!

And yes, they catch birds as in the video above: I’ve seen coyotes catch ravens, bluejays (see photo below), and pigeons: they are impressively fast at plucking their prey clean by grabbing a huge mouthful of the feathers and yanking them out quickly and forcefully, and immediately going in for a second mouthful. The lactating mother in the video above is skilled at catching ravens and catches them regularly. But not all coyotes have the same skills and therefore not the same diets: often food preferences seem to run in families, making some of their preferences a “cultural” or “learned” thing which are specific to specific families: these predilections are often “taught”. And I’ve seen coyotes pick up owls who have been sickened by rat-poison which slows down the owl’s reaction times. This is very sad because that rat-poison is hurting many animals. I once found a dead coyote and had it analyzed to determine how it died: its body was riddled with rat-poison.

Coyote catches a bluejay, an opossum, a mouse, a lizard

And coyotes eat roadkill, or carrion — these are already dead animals killed by cars — which helps clean up the environment.

Garbage is usually just a small part of their diet, as seen in scat analysis. They prefer natural foods. However, human food which is left out is picked up by coyotes. Sadly, coyotes get used to this human food and start hanging around for it: the salts and fats are as addictive to them as they are to us — and it’s much easier to sit and wait for food than search and hunt for it: we all tend towards the easiest route. Please don’t leave out your leftovers. Worse, of course, is when people toss food to coyotes on purpose, and even from their cars: I’ve known a couple of coyotes who actually chase cars down the street regularly in pursuit of the food that might be tossed to them. Feeding them directly will cause them to start approaching people as they beg.

There are parking lots at park entryways where coyotes actually hang out waiting for food from humans. Food is used as a reward to train many animals: we are simply training these animals to hang around people and our roadways which is endangering them on roadways, and we are altering their natural and usually wary habits. Please spread the word that feeding coyotes is damaging them, not helping them: there’s plenty of natural foods for them in the city as I’ve shown above.

And . . . hey, don’t allow your cat to roam free! Coyotes DO nab roaming cats, though I know a number of coyotes who actually run in fear from cats! Unless a dog is extremely small, coyotes interest in them tends to be more of a territorial issue: coyotes want to exclude dogs from their areas to keep them from hunting there, the same as they do to other coyotes. You can avoid trouble with your dog by simply keeping away and walking away with your dog leashed the minute you see a coyote.

Coyote skillfully hunting by leaping high over his prey and then stunning it with his nose or his paws.

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. 

He’s An Old Man

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I got to the park and noticed one of my coyotes in the distance walking behind some bushes. So I rushed down the hill so as to be able to “capture” which coyote, WHO, it was. Two men saw me and said, “one is over there”. I asked, do you know who, which one? No, of course they didn’t. I put up my camera, took a couple of shots and examined the image. It was Silver. They said he looked so calm over there; that he got up slowly and was now stretching he was so relaxed. And, “do coyotes always walk like that?” I knew what they were talking about — there was stiffness in this fella’s pace. I answered, “he’s an old man, and I’ve got to run catch it — I don’t want to miss it.”

“I don’t want to miss it” is my usual approach to coyote viewing, and in this case, this “old man” would be slipping away at some point and every moment I had with him was valuable to me. I followed. I knew his path. Several other people stopped to watch, but I asked if they could move out of his path — the path I knew he would take — and they complied. He kept moving, traveling for about 1/4th of a mile through the park and then stopped in an overgrown spot for several minutes where he listened and sniffed with his head down and finally dove in. He came up with a tiny garter snake.

Usually coyotes “toy” with garter snakes and leave them, as far as I have seen, but this time the snake was carried off. Maybe it would be a toy for his litter born that year, or maybe it would be food for them. He disappeared into a thicket and I didn’t want him to feel followed, so I turned the other way. On the way back I crossed paths with one of the people who had stepped aside for him only a few minutes earlier. We talked about “the old man”. I mused at what he might be like in a year. “A year?” was the response I got. “This guy isn’t going to last a year”, was the answer I got. I could feel my eyes fill up with water. He was eleven-and-a-half years old at that point — I’ve known him all his life. The coyote had walked very slowly. He sometimes looked like a pile of rags. My friend suggested that he was probably going blind. I hope you can understand the urgency of not wanting to miss it.

Why Fathers Have Pups — in 58 photos!

Musings: I imagine that raising a family is as much fun and rewarding for coyotes as it is for us, in spite of the work involved. To begin with, for coyotes as well as us, there must be feelings of anticipation and excitement even before the event: knowing that something big is about to happen in their lives that will require preparation, forethought, and effort.

Thinking about it, procreation in the animal world is less of a conscious decision than a subconscious one, directed by cyclical hormones and drives — it’s a programmed activity, as is the job of rearing the pups once they arrive. For us humans, we have more say in the matter than do coyotes, though for us, too, the process is directed by the same hormonal drives and biological factors. But I think coyote parents, as well as us, bring their own unique experiences and characters into the equation, and of course each pup has her/his own individual temperament and unique relationship with each littermate, resulting in variations on a theme. A lot of work and dedication as well as fun are involved in all cases. The different capacities we are born with, the situations we are born into, and what we do with the agency/choices we have, define who we are as individuals: we all fit into the generalities of the species, with specific variations for each individual and family, be it coyote or human. We should be looking for the commonalities we can relate to! What we are able to relate to, we are more willing to embrace. So, what might parenthood involve for coyotes?

Pup Rearing: Early on, well before pups are born, the coyote pair becomes vigilant and alert: they patrol the periphery of their areas daily so as to KNOW everything that is happening in “their” established areas: it is their job to do so, and it’s part of what is required for what comes next. After digging a den, birthing, and lactation carried out by Mom, Dad, in addition to guarding and patrolling the area, joins in with a “progressive” program of feeding his pups: from regurgitated food through dead prey, to eventually live prey, and finally instruction on hunting and feeding themselves.

Education figures big in coyote lives, no less than in ours! Pups must learn about different types of prey: which are the easiest and which the hardest to capture, which are the safest and which are the most dangerous — and about other foods such as fruit, nuts and bugs, and where those foods are found. Over time, they learn to refine their hunting techniques and skills: many of these are taught by example. Learning through imitation and example avoids some of the pitfalls of a trial-and-error approach, such as a bitten nose, loss of an eye, or worse, though hit-and-miss and experimentation can’t be avoided during growing up, as even we humans know.

Coyotes also teach their youngsters how to be safe and navigate the urban landscape. They teach the youngsters all about territoriality and boundaries, about the hard-and-fast laws of nature generally, and about their species’ specific tendencies which they must respect and abide by to survive well.

Coyotes are extremely social. They mate for life, the youngsters stick together normally for 1 to 2 years, and Dad helps raise the young: in a truncated form, it sounds like us, doesn’t it? Their early social interactions take place predominantly within their own families where, of course, it is safer and more hospitable and forgiving than out in the wider world. It’s a good place to learn.

One of the most important things coyote parents do, I think, is to help shape their pups’ social interactions among themselves: this involves how to get along and the importance of hierarchy. These are passed on through example, discipline, and again, learned through trial-and-error. But also, life is simply “absorbed” collaterally by living in a family. Some coyotes are born more gregarious and outgoing — maybe sometimes a little too “overbearing” for the others — so they have to be damped a bit, while others are much more careful and withdrawn and may have to be encouraged more. Positive or negative reactions from siblings and parents teach pups what is acceptable or not: bite too hard or be too rough, and a sibling will move out of their reach and they won’t be able to play. Lesson learned. Those coyotes who don’t learn to fit in tend to disperse earlier than the others.

Learning through Play: And why am I writing about all this learning when the title of this posting is, “Why do Dads have pups?” What might make it worthwhile? I’m guessing that playtime figures large! During play everyone appears to be enjoying themselves the most, including Dad.

A lot of learning takes place through play. For example, hierarchy and personal boundaries are taught and maintained during play. Hierarchy is necessary for the smooth functioning of coyote families: and you can see it being taught and incorporated during play. There’s no question as to who the authority figure is. Boundaries and hierarchies of different degrees are also worked out among the littermates. At the same time, most of the time, the parents aren’t behaving like dominating dictators or leading the family with bravado, rather, they stand back, letting things happen, and make sure everyone is okay and included. For parents, as for youngsters, family life is fun, it’s rewarding and it’s entertaining, above and beyond the effort it entails.

Dad and Son Play: So a month ago, this is what I saw: a dad engaging in play, almost, but not quite as an equal — always with that “ultimate” control over his son. They were absorbed in their fun and play which included learning and teaching. These photos are from ONE play session: you can see the changing light as the sun comes up. Enjoy the photos! I’ve posted photos instead of a video because photos (unlike video which passes by in a whirlwind) stop the action and you can actually see, moment by moment, what is going on. In addition to the perpetual motion, every second there is something important happening which has meaning for the coyotes: in their eye-contact and facial expressions as well as their body language. There are a lot of photos here, 58 of them, so they are better reviewed in small doses. :))

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Immediately upon approaching each other, son hits the ground to show his respect and accept his lesser rank next to Dad. Here Dad is standing over him — all you can see of him are his ears (above). All captions refer to the photos above them. A photo can be clicked on to enlarge it, and then you can scroll through that particular series).

Right after the greeting, one-year-old son, on the right, invites Dad to play: first visually, and then with his body language (first row), which then turns into more forceful yet playful (of course) body slamming. Dad responds but with enough force to, again, let son know who is boss. Son retracts (bottom row) and hits the ground to let Dad know he’s on-board with who is boss.

They engage for play again, always instigated by the son here. Note eye contact and eye expressions. But then again, son hits the ground — he may have gone too far in a subtle way that’s below our radar to detect.

Now they face each other. First Dad squints. . . . and son reflects back the look!

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Son, with ears back (apprehensive and even fearful), gets the upper hand and pushes Dad down: Yikes! has he gone too far? Dad gives him a nip on the snout and then Son falls over almost apologetically: he wants the play to continue.

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And then they go running off together — i.e., no physical contact for the moment.

As they run, Son is full of himself, feeling his beans, and leans down to nip the heels of Dad. He must have either thought better of it and not actually made contact, or maybe nipped very gently, because they keep running after that as you can see above.

Another bout of play wrestling ensues, with son eventually ducking away, and running off with his tail side tucked under, indicating his state of mind: unsure and maybe somewhat fearful.

The play-snarling (but partly for real), and fine visual communication between them continues — mostly in the eyes, ears and face. They read all of these subtleties.

A break, more play wrestling, more visual sparring with Son’s ears flattened, and then they walk on.

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Rest time off to the side and alone for a minute.

Again, Son eyes Dad in a challenge, and Dad responds with a nip to the ear.

Son waits for Dad to pass, and then charges at him, attack fashion, but then changes his mind and runs past him. Maybe a direct charge is not such a good idea!

And now one last bit of sparring, feign-attacking, body shoves, snarly approaches, one-upmanship (above).

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And off they go — that’s enough for the day, and the end of that play session.


Addendum: When I see a coyote, I don’t simply “see a coyote”. I see “Peter” and his whole situation: his age, who his siblings are, who his parents are, the area he ranges, how he deals with people and dogs, how he deals with each parent and each of his siblings, what injuries he has sustained, his general personality. There is always more going on than first meets the eye when they “play” — you can see this by focusing in and “reading between the lines”.

© 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.

Clean-Up and Pack-Fed, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet.

Today’s fence-line check brought a surprise. One of the bison cows from the local herd (nursery herd replacing cattle and sheep on this ranch) was alone and standing curiously immobile. A quick few moments of binocular scouting showed…she was in labor. It seemed she was struggling. Rubbing against trees and moaning. A far off roaming peacock I couldn’t even see gave an alarm call. And with this…an unseen Bison Bull rose from a nearby wallow. He?made me instantly and gave a low bellow. Was he grumpy from disturbed wallow..or a sentinel for cow in labor? I don’t know. But I did know..it was time for me to calmy leave. I called rancher once in reception.

I was called later to be told the bison delivered a nice calf and all was well. Also..the son rancher spotted Slim Jim and yearling son Big Brother waiting patiently for the new mom and calf to walk away. They ate the afterbirth etc…until they were stuffed and made beeline for direction of den. I imagined them trotting the miles back to Moms Chica, Janet, and 11 pups.

There are several bison cows expecting. Who knew that afterbirth could feed a whole pack? Slim Jim [the alpha male coyote] apparently does!!!

[For the composition of the unusual coyote family, see Spring Madness, by Walkaboutlou]

Spring Madness, by Walkaboutlou

20210413-1

Hello Janet!

I hope Spring finds you well. As I make some ranch rounds and visits, I’m preparing for hip replacement (ugh) and am just waiting for clearance and schedule. The hospitals are still lining up surgerys, backlogged months.

I visited the ranch where Slim Jim, an older coyote I shared with you, resides. He and his mate Chica are denned and raising this years pups. Goodness knows how old Slim Jim is. Anywhere from minimal 9 years to 13 years. A very old rare coyote. His mate Chica is still young, around 3 or 4.

But spring madness has reared its head for them.

They have descendants scattered all about, some near. Some far. It appears a daughter has returned….but she was pregnant and seems to have denned with Mom. We don’t know for sure. All we know (and I’m filled in by the landowner…he watches them for months) is that Slim Jim, Chica, and a yearling son seemed settled for pupping when a begging, pregnant, young female came begging. Chica bit her…then relented.

A few days later, Chica and Young female were in and out den area, both deflated and having milk.

We have thought a lot. Studied and scouted and think of possibilities.

It’s very possible she’s a departed daughter whose mate was killed by wolves or Staghound hunting pack. At the outskirts of this non hunting ranch property, wolves and Staghounds have hunted coyote hard along Cascade edges. We know of at least 6 dispatched this way.

A young female. Mate killed. Wolves or Staghound hunters patrolling. Very bad for a single mom facing pup season. We think in desperation she came home..and was grudgingly allowed back. Either way…a desperate pregnant young female came…and was admitted.

Slim Jim is often along a ridge. Watchful..but so old. His yearling son is already feeding both moms with Slim Jim. There are elk and deer carcasses nearby as well as thousands of voles and mice. 4 adult coyote..who knows how many pups. They will be hard pressed…but food is abundant.

SO MUCH NOT KNOWN. BUT SO AMAZING. COYOTE HAVE INCREDIBLY FASCINATING TIMES AS THEY ALL DIFFER BUT SHARE THE THEME OF FAMILY AND SURVIVAL.

Their area and den are anonymous and will stay this way. And they will remain isolated and watched. I hope the best for all of them. C’mon Slim Jim….you can make this season.

Take care Janet

Lou


Hi Lou! FASCINATING! I’ve seen a few instances where it appears outsider coyotes have been “admitted” into established families!

Warmly! Janet


Hi Janet, I think coyote have social plasticity we haven’t even dreamed of at times. Anything is possible.


Hi Janet,

The landowner has let me know I can keep visiting but only without dogs. I have to stay on far ridge with my binoculars if I want to try to watch.

The Latest-I have been allowed to name the young female who begged admittance.

She is VERY young…maybe 2. She is very nervous but seems calmer every few days.
The yearling son of Slim Jim and Chica is now Big Brother.
So…adults are Slim Jim. Minimum 9 years. Very possibly older.
Chica-Mom and Dominant Matriarch. 3-4 years old.
Newly Admitted female and mother-named Janet in your honor.

There are 11….ELEVEN!!!!!!! pups counted at the site. It took the landowners family some days to verify. Both mothers are nursing communally.  You cannot tell whose pups are whose. Litters are converged and same age likely by days.

There are a series of dens along this distant ridge and this 1st den is already too small it seems. Or at least..crowded

Janet seems a bit overwhelmed but doing better. She also goes on short forays calling in direction of likely old territory. We think she is calling for her deceased mate. And by her behavior with Big Brother…they definitely seem siblings!

She is ultra submissive to Chica. Chica nurses and grooms all the pups way more than Janet.

Big Brother and Slim Jim feed Chica and pups still. Pups…around 3 weeks. Janet dashes off for quick forage and drink and races back.

The mothers seem very thirsty at times. Slim Jim is always alert but….very worn. He looks well though.

The sheep herd that seasonally comes through here with LGD has been diverted to other grazing areas. This ranch is big enough to do that. I’m so thankful. They said the LGD will “train” the new litter of coyotes this summer but want the pups big enough to run away and escape.

In the many decades of various coyote and LGD, they haven’t lost any sheep or goats to coyote. They know Slim Jim, he doesn’t bother sheep, nor does his pack. They know the older LGD and Slim Jim, Chica, Big Brother and Janet…will influence the 11 pups…and allow that process.

It will be a VERY busy spring summer season. 11 pups! I hope i can witness some scenes. The ranch family are all pro coyote. It’s a family hobby.

Anyhow…..I’m so excited. 11 pups!!!!!


Hi Lou! Oh my gosh!! Frantastic! You have the whole, unusual, family here which you can now watch! You’ll have more stories to share with me!!!  And the new gal is . . . Janet!!  Yikes! Thank you for honoring me this way! :))) I’ll add what you’ve said here to the last posting, and let’s continue the thread on the blog if interesting things (or otherwise) come up? If you get any photos at all, even from a distance, please include a couple. Thank you so much, Lou, for sharing this with me. I bet you/we will learn some interesting things through your eyes here.  :)))

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.

 

Pupping Is Happening Now

Well, finally our coyote pups are being born, and the reason I know this is because suddenly coyotes are not around: I’m seeing them less than before. They’ve gone “underground” into hiding, which is what they do during pupping. This is a self-protective measure during a period of time when they are most vulnerable: during birthing and into the early pupping rearing time through lactation, which ends in early June. Not only must they protect themselves, but now they will have a family dependent on them: they are needed to nurture and keep their youngsters alive. Therefore, as I see it, they aren’t out taking any unnecessary chances. When I do see them during this time frame, especially the lactating females are usually further off hunting focusedly, and usually during the darker hours when they are harder to see, or they are slithering by quickly carrying food in their mouths for their litters. This is also when I see them more in “protective” mode where they will stand guarding the turf around their den areas, or even the space around themselves, and messaging any dog that even looks like he might come close.

Restating guidelines: The important thing for everyone to know is that it’s best to always walk away from any coyote you see, especially if you have a dog. By doing so, you are showing a disinterest in them, and that’s what they want: they want to be left alone. They are less likely to react to a dog if we give them the space they need to feel comfortable. We want them to think of dogs as “ho, hum” objects, rather than constantly being ready to defend themselves. Around their dens, coyotes will actively make an effort to message dog. Please walk away and then stay away from this area.

A word about coyote visibility. It’s really interesting all the “news” we hear about coyotes suddenly becoming more visible, always with some sort of explanation given, be it “mating season”, “mate-searching season”, “dispersal season”, even “the pandemic“, and now “pupping-season defined as mid-March through mid-June”. In fact, from my observations, I would say that pupping season lasts through to Winter. From now through mid-June I see less of the coyotes, not more.

Yikes! All the talk I’ve read and heard about coyotes becoming more visible at certain times is perplexing. It would mean that coyotes are more out now than the last time you were likely to see them out more only a couple of months ago, and the month before that, and the month before that, all times when you were supposed to see them out more than before? Again, from my observations in San Francisco — and I admit that all my research is limited to this one 49 square mile area, so maybe SF is different — coyotes become less visible, if anything, during the time frame after new pups are born. My thoughts are that parents won’t make themselves too visible (i.e., vulnerable) by exposing themselves more during this critical time when pups need them the most: a mishap causing the death of an adult could mean the death of the entire family. In fact, during pupping seasons gone by, I tend to get shorter glimpses of them as they slither away much more readily than normally when they know they’ve been spotted. It’s the same thing that occurs after they are injured in any way: they are more vulnerable with their injury and they know it, so they keep more out of harm’s way, less visible for a time.

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.
_____________________________

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

________________________
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.

Proclaiming

The previous day an unleashed dog had seen the coyote hunting in a field about 300 feet away. The dog took the opportunity to leave the beaten path where his owner was walking with him, and dashed after the coyote into the field, into what has been a safe-haven area for the coyote family. Most dogs are restrained to keep them from going after the coyotes here. Coyotes do not like being intruded upon or chased: they simply want to be left alone. The coyote fled, but stopped short. This intrusion was cause for the coyote to react. She turned around and paid that dog back in kind, pursuing him right at his heels. She may have tried to nip the dog’s heels, though the dog remained uninjured. The message from the coyote to the dog was clear: “leave me and my area alone.”

The very next day in the same area, another large dog, this time one that was leashed, caught sight of the same coyote  an 8-year-old mother, and her 2-year-old son. The dog tugged hard on its leash and lunged as best as he could towards the two coyotes. The owner struggled to contain the unwieldy dog, but anyone watching could see that the more the owner remained in that spot, the more frenzied the dog became.  The dog’s struggle to go after the coyotes went on for way too long when it could have been stopped immediately by the owner just by heading in the opposite direction and thus diverting the dog’s attention and containing his energy. The 2 coyotes reacted to the frenzied dog by going into a long, 13 minute BARKING and screeching session. They were proclaiming their anger, and proclaiming that this area was theirs, warning the dog away. The owner finally heeded the advice given to her: she turned around and left. I’ve seen often that dogs, even simply messaging their intent to go after coyotes in their territories create reactive coyotes — on-edge and readier to respond defensively — rather than coyotes who remain calm because they are left alone.

Here is a video-clip of the barking from that day. I videoed the whole 13 minutes, but have cut that down to about four minutes. Barking (as opposed to howling and yipping) is an angry response — a warning. For comparison, watch and listen to the smaller video below: that one involves two coyotes calling out to each other in upbeat yips and howls.

Airplaned Ears

Like dogs, coyotes may lower their ears, plastering them tightly against their heads when they are nervous or fearful, even as they approach another coyote seemingly happily to interact. It’s a very submissive approach used around parents, or even towards a more dominant or bullying sibling. This photo is of a youngster listening to his mother’s distressed howling after seeing a dog chase her: the youngster is anxious and frightened.

On a different plane are lowered ears which are not actually pinned back against the head. I call these, “airplaned ears”. These lowered ears seem to mean that they aren’t going to rock the boat or challenge the established hierarchy in any way. One of the ways coyotes communicate is with their ears. Lowered ears are an indicator and a communication of their mental state: harmless/unthreatening/accepting/no-contest. You might see a relaxed and contented coyote off in a field holding his/her ears this way.

Around humans, coyotes have customarily been wary, alert, but also at times curious and investigative. Around humans, their ears are normally alert and up in order to acutely capture sounds and attitudes that would warn them of danger. In areas where humans actually exploit coyotes, these traits are strong — it’s a clear-cut life and death matter for them to stay aware and alert, even at the furthest distances from humans. However, over more recent years here in San Francisco, and in many urban environments, this is different. Here, although coyotes remain wary of humans, humans are not seen so much as enemy killers, but simply as creatures to stay away from, out of caution, for the sake of coexistence.

Recently here in San Francisco, I’ve been seeing a number of coyotes assume an airplaned ear stance around humans. People and coyotes cross paths regularly in urban areas, and almost all of these encounters are without incident: the biggest negative reactions tend to be frightened humans. And over the last several years, a lot more humans are out in the parks here in San Francisco than there were 15 years ago during which time the park department has cleared out a huge quantity of underbrush so that coyotes are more visible, and there are some more coyotes, all of which translate into more sightings and encounters with humans than ever, with more non-negative encounters and more positive interactions between people and coyotes — including, unfortunately, approaching, feeding and befriending them by humans. As a result, some of these animals are responding in a more docile manner to humans: instead of fleeing to out-of-sight areas, they are simply moving off a little distance — maybe just a few feet — which is the opportunistic distance at which they know they will be safe.

Once they learn that our species can actually be of benefit to them, being the opportunists that they are, some have taken advantage of the situation by hanging around human-frequented areas and assumed the non-threatening posture of lowered ears. I’ve seen several of these guys even casually approach people and look directly at that person with a look of expectation for any signs that the person might offer food: these coyotes are the most blatant examples of airplaned ears: I’ve watched the whole development take place in several instances.  I think of these animals, sadly, as having had their wariness robbed from them. Not all coyotes, of course, respond this way to humans, but some do. The bottom row of photos in the gallery below are of adult coyotes who have been regularly hand-fed by humans and assume that “fallen ears” posture around people.

The rest of these photos in this posting, including the two larger ones, are of a youngster, taken before he was even a year old, and before he had time to develop the airplaned ears from human interactions. He seems to have learned from his parents to behave this way around humans when they are watching him close-by or when they approach. Coyotes in fact have “culture”: parental knowledge is passed on to the youngsters of that family. I wonder if their natural strong self-protective instincts (high strung readiness, defensive biting) are also waning/diminishing as people close in on them, enticing them into tameness — or at least the appearance of tameness — with their airplaned ears. I wonder: will airplaned ears over the course of the next few generations become floppy?

I’ve listed a couple of books about the taming of foxes below, where their genes were actually spontaneously self-altered as they became more and more tamed: the ears fell and eventually became floppy: they became “cuter” to humans. I have no idea if this same process might apply to coyotes, but the fox study is fascinating. It’s food for thought.

See: Urban Foxes may be self-domesticating in our midst, by Virginia Morell, Science June 2, 2020; and “How to Tame a Fox” by L.A. Dugatkin and L.Trut, UC Press, 2017.

Addendum 3/19: The coyote caretaker at St. Augustine Wild Reserve (animals that are unable to be released) noted that she has never seen these airplaned ears in her captive animals, who are fed at close range by humans. The behaviorist I’m in touch with says, “I like thinking about how and why some animals develop the behavior. Scientifically we know that any behavior that is reinforced will increase. Perhaps the wild ones developed the behavior purposefully because more people fed them when their ears were in that position. The other thought is that it is a superstitious behavior. Maybe they approached people with their ears in that position and think it is part of the criteria for being fed. I think as far as the sanctuary coyotes go, they get food daily regardless of their behavior and ear position so they may be less likely to develop the behavior.” Below is a short video clip by Kathy Lally showing a coyote being enriched through lunch in a box. Of interest is that the ears are not airplaned.

© 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.

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