Anxiously Awaiting: a family’s cursory rendezvous

Each rendezvous is different in the details, though the purpose remains the same: a family coming together before their family trekking activities at dusk. I’m posting this to show how different these get-togethers can be. My previous rendezvous posting (a different family) included Mom and Dad and two 9 month old pups and two youngsters didn’t show up: from Dad there was discipline, growling, baring of teeth, hierarchy demands. Mom wanted to be left alone. Breeding season being right around the bend probably had something to do with their behavior. That family lingered around for about half an hour before taking off, but not this one.

Mom appeared suddenly and was all business: she was searching for family members.

This one began with Mom suddenly showing up alone in the waning daylight hours. She was edgy and highly alert and purposeful, looking around searchingly for the appearance of other family members, all the while keeping her eyes on the waning activity of people and dogs. At first she walked around a very small area, above, then, below, she stood in one spot where she eventually lay down, turning her head continually from side to side searchingly.

After a few minutes of walking around, she posted herself in one spot and kept looking around, then she stretched, continuing to look around, but now from a laying down position.

After she departed for her another walkaround (below) — waiting and waiting, searching and searching — a yearling abruptly appeared on the hill without me having seen where he came from. Mom immediately returned to where he was and approached him with a quick greeting: nose touches and there was warmth: no snarling at the youngsters as you saw in the previous posting. Then again, this yearling is a full year older than the pups in my last posting.

She got up to search further than what from where she had perched herself, stretching and then returning to her post.

More than any other coyote I’ve ever seen, this alpha mom appears to feel responsible for the safety of all her family members — she exudes this, even years ago, before she had her first family, when she acquired her very first companion after being a loner for four years: Anxious and Concerned for HIS Safety. Maybe all coyotes feel this way, but this coyote puts it on full display.

This time, when she returned to her post, a yearling son was there who she warmly greeted. He must have been one of the individuals she had been looking for and awaiting. Mom is the smaller and wiser coyote on the right.

Mom continued in her anxious state: again she hurried away a few feet, apparently looking for another family member and the yearling followed part way. Suddenly I could see Mom relax — she must of spotted whoever else she had been looking for. I caught only a short focused video (below) (between long stretches when the camera wouldn’t autofocus because of lack of light), of the two of them trotting happily up a hill, wiggling, rubbing against each other and the pup reaching for her and almost embracing her.

The three of them were ready to go, and they headed off together, the same as the other family had. Once out of view, within a few minutes, from behind the bushes, they began a howling session: it was a cacophony of vocalizations which sounded like many more than probably the 5 that were there — it sounded as though the rest of the family, two others: a pup and Dad, had joined them, even though they had never come into view for me. What stood out here was Mom’s anxious awaiting: once the two yearlings appeared in rapid succession, the family was off, joined, it sounded like, by two other family members. I recorded the howling, but the wind absolutely messed it up, so I’m not going to post it.

ASIDE: A happy rendezvous does not necessarily signify that all is running smoothly. Ups and downs come and go. Over the last week or so, a friend reported that there have been intense fighting noises going on at 5 am — repeatedly in this area. What might this mean? It could be two brothers going at it. It could be Dad working to disperse the male yearlings. And then again, it could be a non-family, territorial battle between this family and the coyote family which used to occupy the area but has been moved over: both families hurry through borderline sections of their distinct territories, and they may be establishing more definite boundaries.

Rendezvous, Mid-January

The Rendezvous is a recurring nightly coming-together of coyote family members. It usually happens at about dusk, right before taking off together or separately on their treks to mark their territories and hunt and otherwise be together. It’s a highly social event with interactions occurring between each individual: there are greetings following rank protocols, and there’s usually play and teasing between the different individuals.

These rendezvous are always interesting to me — great for learning about individual and family dynamics. Each rendezvous is different, with different seasons revealing different priorities and seasonal stages. Their individual personalities pop open when they’re together, as well as their stages of development — things you don’t always see when you see individuals alone, or see them only very occasionally, or without knowing who each individual is, including teasing, affection, disciplinary level, etc. Because they aren’t just hurrying away or hunting, certain things become more obvious: statuses, injuries, courting behavior, changes in relationships such as burgeoning rivalry between brothers, who is missing (because of death or dispersal). If dogs interfere, then their reaction comes into view.

Rendezvous usually occur at dusk, so the waning light makes observing, and even more so, “capturing” the observation, more difficult. Towards the end of this session, I was literally guessing where the coyotes were as my camera captured the blackness, which I was then able to edit into readable, even if extremely substandard images. So here are a few sequences that had meaning for me. I’m sure there was a lot I missed in-between these, but these will give you an idea of how full those get-togethers are. I believe you all can see more through still images, rather than a video where you might actually miss what is going on. But also, videos take up a lot of space and, for me, are harder to edit down. Nevertheless, I have included two short video sequences here and inserted them where they fit in chronologically.

1 & 2 pup cowers as dad approaches; 3 & 4 pup reaches up to dad with snout and paw

This rendezvous, from when the first coyotes appeared, until they departed the area, lasted exactly half an hour. As I said, by the time it ended, I could not see anything clearly. It began with a youngster appearing and looking around. He soon cowered submissively asa snarly Dad approached him. After cowering acceptably to Dad’s satisfaction, the youngster — 9 months old at this point — still keeping himself low to the ground, stretched up his snout and then his paw in a submissively accepting gesture to Dad. But the status routine apparently wasn’t settled yet, because the youngster, see second group of photos below, attempted following Dad, and was repelled by Dad’s snarly glare — communication is very clear to every coyote. The youngster again cowered and went the other way. Within a few minutes after this, Dad was happy with the respect shown him, and allowed the youngster to relax close by (last of the 8 first photos).

5, 6 & 7 pup follows dad but is repulsed by dad’s expression; 8 finally the two relax proximately to each other [each galleries can be clicked for a larger view, and then scrolled through]

Most observers aren’t able to break apart these different interactions as they observe. More is going on here than mere greetings, statuses and interactions. It’s pre-mating season, so mating time is going to commence soon, if it hasn’t already.

Then, Mom arrives. Mom arrives and vocalizes, and the rest of the family joins in as she hurries over to them (video below)

Above video: Mom arrives and vocalizes, and the two other family members join in.

Above, 1) Mom arrives and begins howling. #2 Dad responds as does the one youngster there. #3 Mom hurries over to them and sniffs around. #4 Mom urinates. #5 Her urine is full of hormones at this time of year and Dad, you can see, is keenly interested in their levels. #6 Dad lets youngster know he’s in the way with a snarl: pup pulls his mouth back in a grimace and sits back to allow Dad plenty of room

#1) Second pup arrived on the scene and Dad gave him the same treatment his brother got. #2) Brother takes in that family interaction — they all can and do read minute nuances in each other’s interactions and know the meaning of it all. #3) Dad is heading the youngsters away from Mom who you see to the right. I don’t know what her intent here is, but you’ll see her later reaching out to say hello to this male pup of hers. #4 Mom heads away from them and eats grass: she’s nervous, while #5) Dad dozes nearby. At this point, #6 it’s the youngster who heads towards Mom, possibly indicating that he’s ready to get going.

Two other family youngsters were not present. One yearling may have dispersed, but the other youngster is probably still around. Not all family members are always present for these rendezvous. After the last photo above, all family members got up and interacted as you see here in the video below.

Video shows a few moments of the interactions: Dad wove himself between his mate and the youngsters — he didn’t want to give them the opportunity to become interested in her other than as a mom. Mating season is about to begin, so he has to keep this kind of order.

#1) Mom stretches and then leads the family pack out, but then she waits for them all to catch up and she #2) brings up the rear. #3) Note that her interest is first and foremost Dad: they touch noses as she reaches them, with the youngsters knowing to wait their turn. #4) Mom seems to be intent on saying hello to the youngster she was unable to greet earlier (because of Dad’s interference). The last two photos #5) and #6) show them four of them just before they disappeared, with Dad reaching out to touch one of the youngsters at the end there. I’ve included a small photo here showing how dark it actually was out there for these last images. Photo editing is amazing these days: that is the same unedited photo as #6 above.

Eluding: Coyote Behavior

Walking up 6 blocks in the middle of the street — few people saw her.

I was able to observe this three-time-mom coyote over a half-hour stretch of time as I concentrated on her eluding tactics. Coyotes really don’t want to be seen by humans; they are the opposite of “in your face” for the most part: reclusive and almost deferential. IF they feel they’ve been seen, they might tolerate it for a short while at a distance, but most will slither into the bushes rather than expose themselves to humans or dogs for too long. If they have to travel — say through the streets to get to where they need to go — they’ll take the safest and most direct route possible: notice in the first photo, she’s traveling right in the middle of the street — she did so for six blocks. There were no gaps between houses, so this was her safest route, and also, in the middle of the street she could see pretty far in all directions, giving her plenty of time and space to escape sudden potential danger. And actually, she was somewhat inconspicuous in that vast sea of concrete where I had to point her out for some people to even see her,

Skedaddling by as quickly as possible where people had their eyes on her.

Of course, some coyotes do hunt or relax with people around in the distance — it’s inevitable in an urban situation where almost all the coyotes have become used to seeing people. And if there are very few (or no) people around, a coyote is more likely to approach a dog to let that dog know that the territory is taken: coyotes don’t allow non-family coyote members into their territories, so it’s natural that they would feel the same way towards dogs. During pupping season coyotes become fiercely protective against dogs who could easily harm any pups. So their elusiveness is cast aside for this more important purpose.

In addition, coyotes have different individual personalities — not unlike humans — with some being born less fearful than others and some learning to tolerate human omnipresence at a closer range. Making generalization from these few would be incorrect because even these coyotes avoid us. Another factor: our parks used to have many more dense and impenetrable wild areas where coyotes could remain unseen, but these have been hugely cleared over the last 15 years.

What alters this general state of wariness and elusiveness is people offering them food.

She kept herself hidden in the foliage whenever possible.

Here are some photos of that 1/2 hour. She covered about a 1/2 mile distance in that time. For part of that distance she had purpose and direction to her gait; for the rest she was meandering more than anything else, assessing the minimal human and dog activity in the area. You’ll see that her elusiveness is a constant — it is built into a coyote’s behavior.

When she was visible, she was casual about it, seeming not to have a purpose or destination in her movements.

More out in the open: scratching herself nonchalantly, marking, observing but moving away from a dog intent on avoiding her.

There was only one dog walker out during my 1/2 hour timeframe. She kept a close eye on the leashed dog from the distance. The owner was aware of her and simply turned and walked away when he saw her. Yay! That’s the right thing to do, and exactly what she wanted. She, too, did the same thing: walked away from them.

This sequence above shows her relaxing by a tree until loud walkers approach. She can only hear them at first, but she keeps looking in their direction and around her, and as they come into view, she hugs herself around the tree and slithers invisibly into the shade of the grove where no one can see her.

In another instance, two loud and animated people (no dogs) were coming down the path where she was relaxing after ducking away from a couple of other walkers. Above are the shots of her avoiding their detection. She was really good at this! They never had any clue that she was practically underfoot, which is what the coyote wanted. I can see why coyotes are sometimes called Ghost Dogs

I want to point out that this particular coyote was fed relentlessly and mercilessly in her early years which trained her to hang around visibly, daily, at feeding spots for many years — it changed her nature. Fortunately, over time, and helped by the fact that she moved and became focused on her family, much of her wariness and evasiveness returned.

At one point during this observation period, she emerged from the bushes and sat down as she saw a car coming, making herself purposefully visible. I watched as she carefully approached the car when it stopped. Enough food has been tossed to her from cars so that she still sometimes waits expectantly for it. She was hoping, but the driver saw me with my camera aimed at his car and he moved on. Yay! Most people now know that feeding coyotes is highly frowned on — it’s actually illegal.

She did not evade the car — in fact, that’s when her visibility became purposeful.

Coyote elusiveness is what keeps many people from seeing them for anymore than a few minutes at a time. The increased sightings we’ve been reading about on NextDoor are usually not caused by the mating season, dispersal season, birthing, pupping, a purported increased population or anything else that you’ve heard. More sightings are more likely due simply to us humans. Over the last few years, especially since COVID, more people have been out in the parks where coyotes might be spotted. Social media spreads sightings like wildfire which causes people to think there are many more coyotes than there actually are. More people are using night security cameras because of higher crime in the city which reveal their presence. San Franciscans have more dogs than ever — dogs often bring coyotes out into the open — coyotes react to dogs — with resultant increased sightings and encounters.

After 1/2 hour she wandered off and I had to go.

What can you do to prevent negative encounters? Do pretty much what the fella with the dog did in this posting: the minute you see a coyote, walk away from it, and keep your dog from engaging on any level, visually, or allowing antagonistic barking which could cause a coyote to react. Every coyote is different, personality-wise, so it’s best just to get away from them always.

Alpha Mom’s Return Visit

The alpha-pair of one of the families I follow extended their old territory last year. Not just did they extend it, they moved predominantly to that extension’s edge where their next litter was born (April, 2022) and this is where they spend the bulk of their time now. Yet, they maintain a foothold in their old territorial hub, trekking the mile distance regularly at night, but less often than they did a year ago when they first moved. At that time the treks back and forth were nightly, whereas now they are weekly or less.

When they moved the hub of their location and activity, they took with them just one of the youngsters born in 2021 — at that time, he was not yet a yearling. I don’t know if he or his parents made the choice to have him move with them. Neither do I know why the rest of his siblings remained behind — whether it was the choice of the individual youngsters or of their parents. But several of those pups remained behind. Over the course of the year, dispersal and death has taken all of them except one — the little girl. In November, friends found part of an old coyote skeleton and skin — the animal must have perished several months before that because the bones were clean of flesh, falling apart, and full of dirt. Those bones hold the secret to a story we can’t tell. Most wildlife holds these secrets: I’ve been able to barely scratch the surface with my observations, but there’s a wealth more that none of us will ever know about [Photo: Liz Rumsey].

I should point out that most of the territories I’ve studied — in fact, all except one — have retained fairly stable boundaries, so this situation stands out in my experience (16 years worth) as rather unusual. I’m thinking that this seems to be less of a quintessential “fragmented territory” than two separate territories claimed, for the moment, by the same alpha pair — if that’s possible.

There’s a mile-length of residential neighborhoods — houses on 25 x 100-foot lots — and even a freeway, separating what constituted their previous territorial hub and this present one. The old hub was used exclusively for 6 years and is where these alphas had their first two litters. At that earlier time, there was another entirely separate family occupying what is now our family’s “extended” territory.

That separate family is still around, but further south. The two families don’t appear to cross the “line” that separates them, and there’s even a sort of buffer zone which both respect.The alpha male of THAT family is getting up in years, and his mate is very small and young-looking — I’m wondering if these might have been factors involved in the “takeover”? I was not able to capture the process by which the change occurred: Had there been a fight for it? Or did it involve a gradual and accepted “pushing of the envelope” — i.e., pushing the other family over. Or a withdrawal by one family and simple filling-the-void by our family? OR, might our alpha male be an offspring of that family (I’m waiting for the DNA to confirm this or not) and been allowed to take it over by having it “ceded” to him willingly and amicably? I’ve seen this situation happen before. There are lots of questions which aren’t answered and might never be.

Above: Before dawn, I spotted the alpha pair headed towards their old hub.

A few days ago I was able to observe the alpha female’s activities upon one of her regular returns to her old hub. Initially I spotted her with her mate, the alpha-pair together, as they traversed that old haunt of theirs, but the male, who is much more wary and shy than she is, soon disappeared from view and that was the last I saw of him during this observation. The female remained visible and her trajectory was easy for me to follow. She was there to scrutinize the area: to find out what had been going on.

Sniffing (above 5 images): every inch of this swath of her territory was examined thoroughly for what the smells would reveal.

Visuals of course are important. But most of her “sizing-up” was done through her nose. She must have been figuring out WHO had been there and WHAT they were there for? WHAT were their tell-tale characteristics: such as male, female, age, testosterone level, etc. The “who” refers to coyotes and dogs.

Marking (above 4 images). Note the first oblong photo in this series: she’s both marking AND sniffing at the same time!

These are some of the photos I took. Alpha-mom thoroughly examined an entire swath of the area, keeping her nose to the ground while she was processing all the data she sniffed in. She frequently marked, as if she were “responding” to the information she was absorbing. In the 75 minutes I was able to observe her, she spent most of that time criss-crossing a 100-square-foot swath of field, marking and sizing up whatever had transpired there before she arrived. I don’t know how long back she’s able to whiff information, but I assume several days worth if not longer.

She found the food she had apparently buried here on a previous occasion — I saw her dig it up and wolf it down — no hunting was involved (above 3 images).

At one point she began digging. It was obviously a place where she had buried some prey — cached it away for a rainy day — because she was able to unbury it and eat it up without a hunt. After spending several minutes filling up, she marked the area several times before continuing her zig-zagging investigation. Shortly after that she disappeared around a bend, but I quickly found her again: she had met up with her yearling daughter and I caught them eating a chicken-pot-pie someone must have just left for them, because it was not there earlier: I could see that mom ceded the treasure to the youngster.

I lost alpha mom for a few minutes, only to spot her through the bushes, next to her daughter with a chicken pot pie, which daughter was allowed to have.

Then she explored further afield than the 100 square foot swath which had preoccupied her initially.

Yearling daughter appeared a couple of times during this observation.

As an aside I want to mention that the presence of an alpha-pair and their continual markings keeps intruders out of a family owned territory. Without the continual marking — such as when either of the alpha’s is absent — the potential for intrusion by another coyote becomes likely. I wonder how long this family will be able to hold onto this area since they aren’t there all the time? Interestingly, this morning I saw the alpha male from the next territory over cruising the peripheral edges of this, his neighbor’s now less-used area. Was this just a reconnaissance trek with no other purpose than just that, or might he be harboring incipient plans to expand into the minimally marked area? So, although I’ve seen a lot of stability in most territories, fluidity is opened by absence of either of the territorial alphas. I’ll keep my eye open for this fella’s potential expansion into that area. This fella, below, by the way, is the full brother of the alpha mom I’ve been describing in this post: he never knew her, being born four years after her, but I wonder if they know, through scent, that they are siblings, or at least related on some level.

Full-brother, four years her junior, is the alpha male on the next territory over. I saw him encroach on what was the old hub of the coyote pair that moved. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Canid Conversation, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet, 

That was a great post about the coyote incident with child. I hope it furthers awareness. It’s really a matter of common sense and safety. Certain cities will have coyote populations. Forever. The sooner people live coyote aware the better for all. Children included.

A different but fascinating account on sheep ranch is something I received this morning.

I usually dont patrol sheep properties. Not a fan and they can be problematic in big areas for our style of checks.

This operation is pretty well run. The owners discovered long ago a 3 prong approach for coyote and sheep ranching. A large pack of LGD is used on rotation in the herds. Allowing conforming (don’t raid sheep) coyote pairs to become established and see off nomadic and less predictable coyote. And in back of property, away from herds, road kill is left. It’s legal here to collect/harvest roadkill. Deer are collected by ranchers family and taken to a consistent spot complete with cameras. The local territorial coyote are well fed on voles and periodic road killed deer. They are very content and don’t raid sheep.

The cameras on property also give them sight into ongoing behaviors. 

Originally…they thought an established coyote was changing into unwanted behavior. These coyote and LGD come to know each other at distance and by scent marks. There is a sort of truce…the coyote know death waits if they come in. But that the dogs won’t chase if they stay back. 

Trail and pasture cams show a male coyote well known coming to dogs and acting agitated. The dogs shouldering up together and slowly getting aroused..then setting off for a round. The coyote fades back to trails and woods and disappears.

But other trails show other developments.

The coyote runs down common sheep and ranch trails…but avoids the wooded hill sections. Literally same time coyote is trotting toward LGD areas, traveling wolves are moving through wooded property. They aren’t staying. They use this land to travel to elk herds and Cascade destinations. But they travel through foothills and ranches and the heart of coyote turf.

When they pass through..its seems a pattern has developed the local coyote vocalize at the wolves..but one male runs to LGD areas in some sort of alarm call. The LGD actually respond…pack up and 4 or 5 of them go to edge of foothills and woods, and mark extensively. It seems the wolves..who were moving anyway..glide away and disappear. So far..the LGD pack holds sway. 

Is it possible that this coyote has tenuously connected his alarm with wolves to alerting LGD? It seems far fetched…until we realize..how many dogs in towns and cities bark in chains of alerts and joining in. 

It is now at point if there are alot of coyote “rackets” and run arounds…the LGD can be seen trotting out..and the woods cams show a wolf…or several..moving through.

I asked if they were going to put coyote on ranch payroll. No comment.

Lou

PS-This Canid Conversation is also under study by a couple of biology students. One Question was…Do the Road kill Deer attract wolves and raise issues? So far…the answer is no. The structure of the spot and lay of land deer kill is left is a funnel shaped area purposely designed for camera shots. They want to see who feeds in this area far from sheep herds. It seems to spook wolves…the funnel and cameras. Coyote have no qualms. Neither do cougar, bobcat, badger, raccoons, weasels, mink, or possums. Bears are an issue only because..they often destroy cameras. Bears have a very specific way they treat cameras. And often the camera don’t survive.

But so far 7 years of pics…not a single wolf has entered to funnel shaped spot. 

Lou

Addressing a Coyote’s Attack on a Toddler, with Walkaboutlou

I’ve been sent this disturbing video by a number of people who wanted my input about it: within the few seconds a 2 year old toddler is left unattended, a coyote walks by and grabs her by the leg and drags her a short distance.

We need to understand this disturbing coyote behavior in order to deal with it properly.

Right off the bat, I want to point out that this coyote behavior is not caused by “coyotes multiplying and wandering all over the city who need to be managed”, as I’ve recently read on NextDoor. Such an interaction could have occurred had there been only ONE coyote in the entire city. But, to address coyote numbers: Coyotes manage their own numbers: see Territories and Population in San Francisco. Any attempt at population management — i.e., reducing their numbers — could actually result in an increase in their population. The reason is that killing them disrupts their very organized social system whereby only the alpha parents on any one territory reproduce. Without that stable system, all females may end up breeding until a new order is reached. It’s their territoriality which keeps their numbers in check, with youngsters apparently dispersing south and out of the city — at least those who have not been killed by cars, of which there were over 24 in 2021. Since Covid restrictions were instituted several years ago, many more people have been out than ever before, seeing coyotes, often for the first time. With more eyes out to see them, more are reported on NextDoor, with people therefore claiming a huge increase in their numbers. So for example, that someone saw coyotes out on Greenwich Street for the first time was reported in the news during the Covid lockdown, but in fact, coyotes have been traveling that street every night since I started documenting them many years ago. There have also been many, many more dogs who were adopted during Covid, leading to more dog/coyote encounters. So that’s the population situation. As I said, with only a single coyote in the city, the incident in the above video could have happened.

About the coyote’s behavior. Several things appear to be going on. First of all, that this coyote came so close to humans in the first place may indicate that he has been fed, or that he’s used enough to people to not feel threatened by them. It’s important not to draw them in through friendliness or feeding because this increases their comfort level around us. Secondly, and more importantly, coyotes are wild animals, and no matter how “sweet” or “harmless” they look, there is always the “potential” for a negative interaction. What you see in this video is extremely rare, but that doesn’t change the “potential” for this kind of interaction. Why? Look at coyote behavior in the wild. Coyotes — and many dogs, by the way — are instinctively and magnetically drawn to small wobbly youngsters of all species, be they newborn lambs, horses, deer, cattle. It’s why so many children are injured or even killed by dogs. Please know that there have only ever been recorded two human fatalities from a coyote — that’s how rare it is. However scratches and a puncture wound could result to a child.

The “management” that has to be done by the City is educating the public, but the City, through ACC and RPD, has failed miserably in getting information out, either through effective signs — many of theirs are faded and dilapidated with ineffective information — or through talking to individuals — which they seem to engage in minimally if at all. One of ACC’s duties is “care” for the animals, which I laud, but posting photos of officers cuddling a coyote sends the wrong message and is counterproductive given the goals they want to achieve.

Bottom line from Lou and myself: Children grabbed in this manner is unacceptable. But knowing how this can actually happen is the key. A wobbly small unattended small child, or animal, can attract a trigger. For coyote:  Do not encourage familiarity. Do not feed. Do not trust any wild animal or strange dog around small children. Besides keeping your distance from coyotes, please never leave your young child unattended — something could happen in the blink of an eye. We hope no other kids are grabbed and the child in the video will be ok. Please read my exchange below with Walkaboutlou who is a keen first-hand observer of coyotes and their behaviors on ranches.


Hello. Lou here. Someone just sent me this as proof coyote aren’t trustworthy around children.
I answered no wild animals are trustworthy around children.
Also…while I admit this is unacceptable..I also say this is a result of humans feeding a wild animal.
If you feed a bear in your yard for periods of time acclimating it to human activity..then allow tiny children to be around bear…there is a danger in that.
When people feed wild animals..especially predators..it doesn’t change their nature or hunting instincts. However..it can suppress or remove instincts of fear and avoidance..and tragically lead to situations like this.
I don’t have all the answers and again..find this unacceptable. However..this isn’t the norm. And is a conditioned response by multiple behavior

Sessions of behavior modification. Feeding. Human Feeding.


Hi Lou — I was sent this same video. I’ve seen a number of fed coyotes. Feeding makes them hang around closer to human activity and lose much of their wariness of us, but it doesn’t make them aggressive. From what I’ve seen, feeding makes them mellow and docile. So I question that feeding is the culprit — at least not the sole culprit — except that the coyote was more comfortable initially approaching the human situation. I’ve now seen several videos of coyotes approaching young children rather aggressively like in this video. I believe there’s some kind of instinct working here . . . it’s almost as though they (coyotes) see children in the same way they see dogs: they don’t like them and they don’t trust them. So there’s more involved than just feeding, and it has to do with childrens’ size. Maybe with their vulnerability? I’m thinking out loud. Yes, it’s unacceptable coyote behavior, and it hurts efforts to help folks accept them. :(

You know, it’s like the doe you saw them go after: they somehow can read who is vulnerable and unlikely to retaliate in a life-or-death way.


Lou: That makes sense yes. I think there is a way too familiar vibe there..(hence my thought of feeding) but you know it better there. Not blaming that man..but he allowed a toddler to waddle out alone..I’ve seen it with coyote. They will actually approach newborn bison…not because they are ready for mom…but the helplessness. That makes sense! I know coyotes here have nailed new helpless calves, horse foals, lambs, puppies, IF unattended. They will definitely check out wobbly unattended babes.

Coyote for about 2-3 days can handle fawn deer or elk calves. If they see wobbly teetering babes they rush in almost as if magnetized. And…if someone witnesses that..they often want to kill every coyote. It’s hard to accept. But its context. From cars to unstable human predators to canines of ALL sorts..toddlers need protecting. How many dogs jump unattended children? Many.

Small children need guarding. And unfortunately…it can mean on occasion…a triggered coyote.

I see your observation as accurate. Triggered.


Jan: Yes, somehow “triggered”. Feeding draws coyotes in closer, but it’s more than just that from what I’ve seen. It doesn’t happen all that often, but, nevertheless, it happens. I tell folks to stay far away from coyotes. But that coyote in the video seemed to come out of the blue and grabbed the child in that split second when she was left unattended. The thing is, kids need to be attended every second — tragedy can happen in just one second, be it from a coyote or anything else: people need to understand this. I can rattle off a lot of tragedies that happened in a split second. For example the child who in the blink of an eye slipped between the sidewalk and the road pavement of the Golden Gate Bridge as her dad was filming her. He couldn’t understand how she had disappeared into thin air and of course she hadn’t — she had slipped underneath the bridge. A little girl was kidnapped by a FedEx delivery man when no one was watching her for a few minutes. Kids have to be watched ALWAYS. A childhood friend of mine drowned in the split second she was unattended — they couldn’t find her until it was too late — at the bottom of a shallow pool of water. In the split second of inattendance, a preschool schoolmate of my kids’ had grabbed the toxic cleaner on the table and ingested it, burning and destroying his esophagus and vocal chords forever. It only takes a second. You never expect these things, and then they happen. My friend Melina keeps her dogs far away from all kids: the “potential” for harm is there, she says.


Lou: That’s what it amounts to. I think for me…it’s shocking obviously because it was a toddler child…but I’m still not used to the ease city coyote have. The coyote I’ve known..even the “bold” ones have almost always been extremely fearful or respectful of actual human personally. What I’m seeing is classic predation of wobbly young and distracted parent..but its not a new elk calf or fawn in the video. And it’s jarring yes. I can remember when my kids were tiny them playing hide and seek in park. We looked up to see my daughter, 4 “hiding” behind tree..with 2 bear cubs other side peeking! I ran up..so did mother bear..we both collected our young, both fearful and growling. I’ll never forget that. Yes…the children MUST be guarded and watched every moment.
I also hate this to happen not only for child..but whenever a coyote here “acts up” it puts all the coyote in danger from retribution a long time.


Jan: Exactly. Very upsetting that a human toddler was targeted — though understandable from a wild animal behavior perspective — which few city people understand, and anyway, they won’t tolerate it. My fear is the knee-jerk danger it puts the coyotes in from human retribution, as you say. I can only hope that those in authority keep a level head about it. These attacks are extremely rare, but they happen. They are avoidable if people know about it — but it hurts coyotes’ reputation. :( Yikes, you don’t want to mess with mama bears!! Glad your kid was okay! I’m wondering if I should post the video and our discussion on my blog? Any thoughts? Janet


Hi Janet…that’s up to you. At any case…I think people need to be aware…it’s not about being able to “trust” coyote or that they are starving etc…they are premiere OPPORTUNISTS. And while the vast majority wont grab kids..there are some that will trigger and will. A doddering fawn, calf, lamb, small dog or child will magnetize certain coyote just like we talked about some..not all..taking on deer if a trigger is hit.

Anyone who feels a wild animal needs to be trustworthy isnt really realizing Nature or animals

And living with or among any animal…livestock..dogs..or coyote…means who especially watch and guard our little ones. Just like parents do in nature.


Hi Lou — The message needs to get out there, as you say, that coyotes are opportunists and wild, and distance and vigilance are needed needed. Kids need to be supervised closely at all times.


Lou: Yes..I think it’s important for people to realize…coyote usually don’t grab kids…however..the potential is there. Dogs, Coyote, Cougar, Bear, Moose, Elk, Horses, all have triggers. Some coyote…not all..are triggered by weakness in others not usually seen as prey. Some coyote will tackle weakened deer etc…but irregardless, the triggers can be there. A wobbly toddler alone is definitely a trigger, I believe most coyote chose to ignore. But obviously not all.

BTW–I’ve witnessed moose, feral horse, otter, Deer, feral dog, etc etc incidents and every time…the human or pet involved gave the situation to trigger the actions. It’s really key to know common sense principles. Distance. Awareness. And being aware of real triggers with pets or kids.


Jan: Yes, TRIGGERS: people need to know this, and it involves the young of any species: that it’s perfectly natural coyote behavior that can be prevented by being vigilant and staying away and supervising a child every second.


Lou: Exactly yes. Triggers. Triggers give us clarity and also reduce bad choices. I know my dogs will be wounded or worse if I allow them certain behaviors around wolves and coyote and LGD. Knowing triggers and maintaining vigilance are really skills needed out in ranges or in cities or anywhere.


So please, everyone, the way to stay clear of this kind of interaction is to stay vigilant and constantly supervise your small children when out of doors in a coyote area! By the way, an author and observer of the situation in Los Angeles, Lisa Febre, wrote me that, “The good thing is that on the Facebook posting of this story (by the tv station) the comments are very pro-coyote. People around this side of Los Angeles — in the “outskirts” of the San Fernando Valley, against the wild hills to the west and north — live with coyotes and seem very fascinated by them rather than afraid. These people REALLY defend them. All my neighbors here love them, and talk about coyote choruses they’ve heard, and share security camera footage of backyard sightings. Even when my dog was attacked, the other neighbors were worried “you’re not going to report it, ARE YOU?!” No freaking way!! I felt AWFUL for my dog, but so much worse for the coyotes if anyone had reported the attack. Although, it worries me that people leave out food “for feral cats” which they don’t realize is related to enticing coyotes to their property! More cats, fatter coyotes.”

Dog Chase, Calling Dad, and Rendezvous

The evening began with Mom asleep — or half-asleep — close to some bushes: every once in a great while she raised her head to assess her surroundings, and then dropped her head and closed her eyes again. Meanwhile, one of her three 8-month-old pups — the boldest of the three — was out “grazing”: hoping to find a vole or gopher as he waited for rendezvous time.

Mom, half asleep, while 8-month-old pup wanders close by in search of voles and gophers.

That’s when 19-month-old yearling appeared on the scene, strutting confidently down the path. But that didn’t last long, as immediately an unleashed dog with no owner in sight decided to chase after him.

Yearling appears on the scene, and immediately afterwards, so does the dog.

The dog was no match for the coyote who — confidently — sailed over obstacles and ran that dog in circles. This went on for several minutes. The dog wasn’t deterred.

The dog begins a lengthy chase of the yearling.
The coyote continues to run from the dog as the dog wears out.
The yearling bounds effortlessly up a steep incline which is more than the dog can do at that speed.

But Mom was watching and decided to get ready to help. She stretched and slowly walked over to where the two had been running.

Mom is not quick to respond: she stretches and the walks over to where the dog is.

The next time the dog came around, she faced him. The dog took one look at her and knew she meant business with the look on her face, her hackles up, and not flinching as the dog approached. I saw that dog waver only for a moment, and then beat a hasty retreat towards his owner. We didn’t see him again.

As Mom approaches the dog, he has a sudden change of heart about chasing and turns away. Now it’s his turn to flee!
Mom faces the dog defiantly — i.e., she’s not running from him.
Yearling plopped down on a mound, almost defying the dog to come back. The dog didn’t return. These little acts of defiance against their tormentors shows how coyotes are willing to stand up for themselves when pressed.

Yearling brother returned and lay on a mound, sort of claiming it, in defiance of the dog, as seen above. He lay there, keeping an eye on where the dog had disappeared, just in case he might reappear. That’s when this video below kicks in.

The video begins with the pup’s grunting sounds which soon cease as Mom begins howling — he keeps himself in the distance near the shrubs. The dog was gone, but she was upset. However, it wasn’t the distressed howling that comes from being chased. After all, she herself hadn’t been the one who was chased. As she howled away, her chased yearling joined her. Mom continues to howl, now apparently calling out to Dad to come — they face in the direction they know he will come from — and sure enough, soon he soon appears.

You’ll see a greeting session with all that involves: kowtows, body rubs, grooming, nose touches, licks, nips, vocalizations. Dad then leaves Yearling and Mom then to check on the pup. Everyone then waits for the other two pups to arrive — which is where the video ends — before continuing their rendezvous and trekking for the evening.

Updates on KinkyTail and RIP Slim Jim, by Walkaboutlou

Hello Janet, 

I’ve recieved updates on Kinkytail and as well news of Slim Jim’s peaceful death.

The 4 biology students who also are rancher’s kids and grandkids have really kept up especially with Kinkytail’s life. They have goals as not only biologists but to turn several vast ranches into one enormous bison operation. Great kids and very observant. 

Slim Jim was observed end of October very slow and wobbly. He slept in open spots not caring it seemed but usually in middle of bison or out on rocks. His daughter Kinky seemed to visit him regularly. He was seen stiffly yet successfully hunting voles though nearly 100% blind. He also..every day..still tossed sticks about briefly in play.

Early on in November Slim seemed to vanish. His vocalizations weren’t heard. And Kinkytail howled for days…one of the observer’s said “that’s stress. Thats loss”. 

On Nov 9th Slim Jim was found curled inside a rounded hay bale in fields. He seemed to have passed in sleep. He had a small stick in paws.

He was examined by the students and cremated on his land on ranch. He weighed 38 lbs and seemed in reasonable condition. All of his remaining 7 teeth were worn very low. His neck and upper spine vertebrae were deformed it seemed by traumatic injury…(likely the wolf attack nearly 2 years ago) but he healed and was mobile. If a human..wheelchair and canes would have been needed. Slim carried on. His cataracts were thick. Glimmers of light likely seen and shadows. Age likely 12-14 years. A tooth was removed to age in lab. 

The indomitable Kinkytail

Rest well Slim Jim. In his long life we only knew his latter years.His mate and pups were killed by wolves and he was injured badly. His surviving daughter Kinkytail not only survived with him..but grew up ultra advanced. Some call her mean and ruthless type. Kinky got her Mate early in life and pupped as yearling. She then came back to her old place and Slim (again). She fetched her Father when she pupped. He babysat. She seemed to check on Slim often in his little pocket of quiet. Currently..she has banished a daughter pup. She is driving off her Mate it seems. He seemed “lackluster” in helping defend turf or following passing wolves or dogs or seeing off coyote visitors. 

Older pic of Many Blows. His swelling is now reduced. He is a very scarred but powerful veteran coyote.

She is being visited often by Many Blows..an older veteran coyote who had swollen jaw months. Many Blows had 2 younger female follower..whom Kinkytail has routinely chased off. They have not been seen recently. And Many Blows keeps chasing the lackluster but confused Mate..and Kinkytail watches in approval.

Kinkytail grew up in enormous litter of two combined litters. Her older sister returned when widowed and bore her litter with her and Kinkys mom. So…

Kinky grew up with huge litter. Which attracted wolves. Her Mom and littermates wiped out, she stuck with injured Dad and grew up fast. Very intense little coyote.

Bad Ears Pack…making incursions but kept at bay.

Kinkytail will spot you and bark miles away. She trails wolves when they pass through and escorts them out. At distance. She accepts the students who watch her..and disappears on other humans.

Same with ranch dogs. She knows the locals. Including my pack. Chases strange dogs off her land.

She has an intensity and toughness surpassing any so far. Especially for one so young. She seems very strategic. All summer she has resisted the incursions and scouting of the Bad Ear Pack. All of them bear her tooth marks. It’s thought with a powerhouse like Many Blows Kinky Tail will do very well in future.

It’s always guessing with the coyote. Wild lives are tenuous and can change in literal heartbeats. But..Kinky Tails aura is no guesswork. And Slim Jim’s life was a great one indeed.

Lou

Surviving Pup is Excluded

This was an eye-opening, unexpected observation. I arrived at dawn on October 30th to fog so dense that I could barely make out the outline of anything ahead of me. I was at a dog play pen and noticed what I thought were three German Shepherds meandering around. I climbed up the trail parallel to the enclosure looking for the owner of the three dogs. That’s when I encountered Ana, with her dog barking ferociously as she approached me on the trail and I wondered why. I asked her if she had seen the coyotes this morning, and she pointed to within the enclosure. The dogs in the fog had sure fooled me — they were the resident coyotes!

Most of my observations lately have involved single individuals, so I was happy to see several coyotes together for a change and hoped to record some interactions. Coyotes are highly social, so that was bound to happen. The fog and bad lighting were a problem — the “auto” focus was giving me a lot of blurr, but I managed to capture some telling activity.

I began taking still photos. The ones here show Dad, Step-mom and the single remaining pup. The pup’s sister had been killed by a car only a few weeks before. If you know coyote youngsters, you’ll know that they play with each other incessantly: they are always on top of each other, chasing, tackling, poking, teasing — life for them is one of perpetual motion. There were two pups that survived in this family until a couple of weeks ago when Sister was hit by a car and killed. So this remaining pup must feel exceptionally lonely. You would think that Mom and Dad might fill in the void, but that is not what happened as I watched. In fact, the youngster was excluded from the mated pairs fun and games.

Above you see Mom and Dad together, horsing around and teasing each other. Six-month old pup is off to the side.

Here above is the pup, reaching in their direction but not part of the play.

And here, above, he is looking on as his parents play.

The youngster attempted several times to join the fun, but they never invited him in. Instead, the parents were into their own courting play: pair-bonds are being formed and/or strengthened at this time of the year, so that’s where the focus and energy were going. In the last series of photos above, the adults end up turning on the pup angrily, snarling at him and grabbing his snout. In the last photo he snarled back at his step-mom. Below is a video of the group’s interactions immediately after the above stills were taken.

Repercussion of Slaughter Hunting: Survivor Coyotes, as observed by Walkaboutlou

A Genocide mentality

Hi Janet,

This email [won’t be liked by many readers of your site] but I wanted to share it with you. It’s hard to fathom some of the recent realizations I’ve had with some coyote hunters. But at same time it’s also developed coyote off the chart in abilities and toughness.

East of here 100 miles there are areas of enormous coyote populations. The terrain and food favor them. Also … 3 years of widespread fires have given new opportunities to coyote. 

I don’t worry about the species obviously. But it still is an effort to detach and analytically interpret the current situation area by area.

Some of these hunters are getting 30, 40, or more coyotes in less than 2 days. I find it excessive and morally repugnant. 

But then you realize … how far reaching this is to the species. I cannot adequately describe the survivor coyotes vigor and behaviors … except that they recover in populations immediately. They scatter, rally, create new packs or pairs … and thrive.

At same time … I’m sure it creates generational PTSD of sorts. Not as humans. But relatable. When a hiker or rancher says coyote came to their dog and attacked unprovoked … there are reasons.

These survivors were hunted by teams and packs of dogs accompanied by rifles, infrared rifles and more. A pack of coyote can be wiped out in moments. So the survivors saw, heard, etc… family wipeouts. The memory of aggressive dog packs … stays.

And hence why some coyote seem to act in ways seeming unfathomable.

I’ve lost some ranch property patrols due to not sharing local coyote knowledge. I don’t care really. 

Sorry to vent … but the numbers hunted as well as the behaviors it unleashes in human and coyote has been growing in ways I am still trying to grasp.

I can only take succor in knowing the coyote will absolutely overcome and thrive.

Lou

===================

Hi Lou —

Gosh, the bloodbath makes me want to cry — you have to wonder why and how this cruelty ever got so out of hand — in such a massive way. 

I know there is unbelievable hate for this animal. Even here in San Francisco, the hate boils over among certain individuals — individuals who don’t want to think, they just accept what they’ve been taught: that coyotes are vermin and need to be eradicated. People try to convince me it’s based on fear, but I don’t think so, I think it’s just hate, on the level of racial hatred in some people. Yes, occasionally, small dogs have been taken and killed by coyotes, but also by bigger dogs: one is accepted, one is not.

I’ve read where 400,000 coyotes are killed every single year here in the US, mostly by our own government “Wildlife Services” — which means that our tax dollars are supporting it. That agency works not to preserve and protect wildlife as the name somehow implies, but works at the beck-and-call of ranchers like the ones you know. 

It is known that the coyote population has not been affected at all by all this persecution: they soon make up the difference in their numbers. I’ve seen it on a small scale here in SF where an alpha male was shot by authorities (for protecting his densite), and then a newcomer male came in and bred with both the alpha female and her daughter: the stable social order was disrupted by the shooting. So this is how the population soon gets back to what it was. In this particular family, after one season, it’s back to one alpha male and one alpha female again. 

So this is exactly what you are saying, only you have an inside view of it all: the killing frenzy “among the hunters with their dog packs and infrared rifles”, and then how coyotes, amazingly, resiliently, respond: “by scattering, rallying, creating new packs and pairs and surviving.” I’m sorry you’ve lost some of your patrols. Thank you for sharing with me. The trickle-down effect of it all as you are able to see it from your immersed perspective is what’s most interesting.   :((  I myself think more people need to know about it.

Janet

=========

Hi Janet,

I think coyote hunting at this level across certain communities is at a political religious cultural biased prejudiced vibes. It is almost always by certain groups and the incredible thing is ….

It’s accepted and very enjoyed by whole communities … and that coyote actually go right back to even greater numbers. I cannot think of any predator or even mammal that can take that kind of sustained persecution save rats. And coyote are not rats.

It’s getting harder for me in some ways to go to certain places. I just do not enjoy areas that have this sort of hunting. It feels spiritually morally personally so wrong. 

And oh … yes … the trickle down is you have coyote who are ghosts … and also either stay invisible … or become really aggressive raiders. They will kill sheep goats etc..very erratically. They sometimes will surplus kill. They won’t return to any kills. They become real issues and very hard core. I have seen coyote keep to hills and jackrabbits. Then persecuted … becoming the coyote you don’t want. The pet nabbing livestock killing ghost you will never beat. In packs. People create the local coyote. Every time. I just can’t conceive how most people don’t get this fact. Leave them be: Pairs of stability. Hunt them hard: Canine chaos. I think many young men ENJOY the havoc of a predator that absolutely comes back. So it isn’t control. It’s..more of a deviant view of hunting morals. And it won’t stop.

Yes … there are people here that regularly kill scores of coyotes in mere days … and somehow … coyote return in more numbers then ever. The fires … the open areas created by fires … the relentless year round hunting..the arrival of wolves … all have caused larger packs and numbers of coyote. There is no animal as vilified or successful then they are. 

Lou

============

Hi Lou —

Yes, morally and ethically soooo gut-wrenchingly wrong. I have a question: You say there are MORE coyotes after the persecution, but I’m under the impression, based on what I’ve seen here in San Francisco, that their *territoriality* actually limits the population. Each territory here in the City is about 2 square miles, which is about half of what it is in the wild, and each of those territories is claimed by ONE family — no other coyotes are allowed in, so there’s not room for other coyotes except a very few interlopers who hang out on the periphery of territories, hoping one of the alphas who has a territory dies or loses ability to defend his turf. So where would the *more* coyotes fit in? More territories??

Janet

========

Hi Janet, 

In answer to your questions … I’m not a biologist and can only answer for what we’ve experienced regionally especially last 4 years. 

The thought and reality of territoriality is subjective to the realities of terrain and the canines there.

Your land there and ours here could be different planets.

Here … the lands are absolutely enormous for coyote. To them … without measure. And while they would like a solid territory and stable family… that simply is the exception rather then the case.

Several factors create local numbers of coyotes to increase. 1) 3 years of expansive fires have created vast open areas that within a year grow grasses…and huge populations of voles. The flush of new lands led to large litters. Then … east of us, several professional coyote hunters developed. These are not drive on dirt road take a lucky shot guys. They develop dog teams that lure in coyote for shots with high accuracy rifles. They even use infrared and night vision equipment. They literally can wipe out whole packs in moments. And they travel vast areas methodically and meticulously to hunt down any coyote anywhere.

When inevitably a coyote survives such persecution, especially if young, they scatter. They give up territorial claims in the face of overwhelming pressures. If they have seen a partner or pack wiped out they especially scatter.

Imagine dozens of coyote chaotically roaming while being hunted sometimes days or weeks or months.

When the hunters leave area or ease up, the canid diaspora settles … then you see by calls and behaviors almost a gold rush type of rapid influx. Coyote combing and marking and calling.

We also are seeing many coyote stay peripheral and semi nomadic. If a coyote is pressured by snares and traps and greyhounds and decoy dogs and distant marksman or night hunts, they simply give up any patterns of territoriality. They may prefer some areas but lay no claims definitively. You cannot claim homes when war is being waged upon you. You dont garden. You don’t set up. You eat. You rest. You move constantly.

Hence..a quiet spot gets many coyote nomads, locally flooding the scene…until spring denning time or hunting shifts everyone again. 

If this sounds chaotic..it is! And there are no hard and fast rules.

But in the face of extreme hunting, coyote become extreme. And will continue to roam rally and somehow…increase numbers even if giving up some traditional behaviors.

Lou

==========

Hi Lou —

So it’s the single youngsters who make up this chaotic group of increased numbers, and order presumably would be re-established when they pair up and claim exclusive territories. Is that wild group reproducing, and if so, where might they be hiding their pups if they don’t have protective territories? 

Janet

===============

I would think it’s yes ….mainly pups and yearlings that become nomadic in high pressure settings. Anywhere from 5 months to yearlings. Then they pair up … but the incessant hunting never ends. Never. So pairs of territorial parents just try their best to raise pups to a level of independence. High pressured packs usually are forced to fragment. Also … in some areas … nomadic coyote dont establish the typical den area. They den wherever its quiet. We’ve seen old tractors, sheds, barns, as den sites. Drains. And they move pups ceaselessly. Few days or week here. Move litters constantly here or there. 

PS-In essence … the coyote blueprint impels them to follow the canid plans. Establish territory. Pair up. Build a possible pack. 

However…

Incessant human hunting and pressures cause coyote to go into permanent evasive tactics and endless strategies. 

They do try to settle in lands. Most find it nearly impossible to live normally. So they switch into the chaotic often nomadic type of surviving until they sense a good place or time.

Ironically … some of them choose highway median stretches of grass … and have raised whole litters between highways! 

Lou

A Rendezvous (with changing sibling dynamics)

One of the most exciting parts of a coyote’s day is the nightly rendezvous. Here, family members who have been resting and sleeping during the daylight hours in spread-out parts of their park, come together to socialize and reconfirm their bonds and statuses before going off on their hunting treks. Each rendezvous can be quite different, some involving the whole family, some involving just parts of the family, some all wiggly and happy with play and games, and some not so. As the pups and yearlings grow, their relationships to each other develop in a gamut of directions. Here is one such rendezvous. Unless you know the individuals and can tell them apart, and know what is going on, these interactions and their nuances can be easily missed. They often occur within a split second, so a camera helps firm up what’s happening. The portion of the rendezvous that I saw and wrote about here lasted a little over an hour. I use a lot of photos to explain the abundance of interactions and activity.

The picture galleries can be clicked on to scroll through them at a higher resolution.

It was hot when I arrived at the park about half an hour before sunset. Mom was napping only about 50 feet from the path — unusually close to the path for her — while one of her yearling sons had begun some early exploring and hunting before the family rendezvous. The few humans, some with dogs, who passed by were a quiet bunch. Many did not even notice the coyotes. The sleeping coyote raised her head off and on to watch some of the passers-by, especially if their unleashed, active dogs caught her attention, and the yearling wandered over to a secluded spot in the field where he sprawled out in the growing shade to cool off. It appeared that not much was going to happen with the coyotes socially until the evening wore on a little more — everyone was waiting.

Yearling brother #1 wandering around aimlessly waiting

But then a second male sibling appeared. He looked around, assessed that nothing was going on and found a spot where he, too could bide his time until the evening meetup.

Brother #2

And that’s when both brothers set eyes on each other, and things were not calm from then on. These two brothers used to be best buddies, but over time this devolved to where now Brother #1 can’t stand the presence of Brother #2. So, Brother #1 came charging towards brother #2 who knew exactly what to expect because the behavior had become routine by now. In response, Brother #2 crouched, drew into himself, and fell to the ground on his back while Brother #1 stood over him with hackles up and snarling menacingly. When Brother #2 found an opportunity, he made a dash to get away as Brother #1 watched him almost disdainfully (see photos immediately below).

Brother #2 continued heading away from his tormentor towards Mom who was still lying on her side in the grasses not far away. Brother #1 followed him. As they approached her, they hugged the ground and crouched, respectfully acknowledging her alpha status. When this ranking is no longer respected, if it comes to that, the youngster will be pushed out of the territory.

Approaching Mom requires a show of submission

But the two brothers were dealing also with their own interpersonal dynamic. In the first row of three photos below, Brother #1 makes an effort to divert Brother #2 away from Mom by getting between them. This is a coyote tactic I’ve seen before for keeping a rival away from another coyote. But Brother #2 still had his eyes on Mom, and was not giving up on reaching her as seen in photo #4. By photo #5 Mom snarls at what she knows is going on. She doesn’t normally care if they fight, but she doesn’t want it happening right next to her, so she squelches the activity by grooming the yearling closest to her. Grooming is often used to keep an underling coyote still and force submission — the youngster has to put up with it.

But the very minute Mom stopped grooming her yearling son in order to scratch herself, Brother #1 took the opportunity to attack his sibling again.

Above are a VIDEO and a few photos of the short but telling fight. When the fight subsided, Brother #2 walked away, but both brothers obviously retained stress from the event: Brother #1 started pulling up dry grasses and chewing on them nervously, whereas Brother #2 lay down closer to Mom and did the same thing. I wonder how much of Brother #1’s behavior is built in: this antagonism with siblings seems to be one of the factors that leads to dispersal. These siblings are 18 months old — the right age for dispersal.

Shortly after this, and as they were calming down, Dad sauntered into view.

Dad

Brother #1 seemed to have moved out of the area by this time — I did not see him again before I left. Brother #2 (below) greeted his approaching Dad appropriately by crouching low and reaching up to lick his muzzle, and then Dad hurried off to greet Mom, with Brother #2 at his side.

Mom and Dad with yearling between them.

When they caught up with Mom they exchanged nose touches, with youngster Brother #2 in-between, remaining in a crouched, close-to-the-ground position. The youngster appeared anxious to make contact with Mom — maybe this is what drove Dad again to make sure the youngster knew his place in the family scheme. The youngster obliged by flopping to the ground on his back.

And here is another VIDEO showing more of the above. The video actually consists of three clips from this rendezvous. 1) Mom, Dad, and Brother #2, showing how reactive Mom got when her son touched her — yikes! Family life is not all warm and cuddly as many people might think. 2) As it gets later and darker, a third brother arrives and is greeted by brother #2 and Dad; 3) People are still out walking at this time, and Dad diverts them away from the rest of the family.

Everything then calmed down and three of them — Dad, Brother #1 and Brother #3 — spaced themselves at comfortable non-interacting distances, yet together, ready to go when the cue would be given by Dad for the evening hunting trek.

There’s plenty of space between them now

My camera caught a few more interactions, such as the teasing and playing below, and then it was too dark, so I left.

Calm bantering continues on and off until I can no longer see in the dark.
Last shot of Brother #2 as I leave. The camera, amazingly, captured this and adjusted the light.

Scout Fall Update

Scout’s story continues, but without the obvious adventures she had in her early life, or maybe they are continuing in a more subtle way, below most human’s radars. I see her only periodically where she had her pups this year, and just as periodically in her old hangouts where I used to see her almost single day. Instead, she’s become a stealthy shadow which my field camera occasionally picks up on, and who I see in person only a couple of times a month, if that. But I know from other people who know her that she has been moving deeper into her new territory which has/does belong to another coyote family. Will this be a territorial takeover? We’ll see. Remember that she had a baptism by fire in territorial battles and takeovers when she was younger, so she’s well seasoned if this is the direction she’s taking.

Over the last month she has appeared a couple of times during daylight hours at her old, original territory. During one of those appearances, she spewed her anger and displeasure to the one dog on her nemesis list. I wasn’t there to see or hear it, but I was told about it and sent a video. I guess she’ll never give that battle up. Interestingly, her two-year-old son who serves as the mainstay of the old fort, has taken on doing the exact same thing to the exact same dog, most likely in imitation of his mother. Coyotes do pass things along to their offspring in an almost “cultural” sort of way.

On her second daylight appearance, I found her and this same two-year-old son curled up in balls where they used to hangout regularly over a year ago on their old territory. She slept — with one eye open — right through my arrival there, not budging at all, but HE slipped off warily into the bushes where he remained hidden from view.

Two-year-old slithers into a quieter space, while Mom keep her eyes closed.

Meanwhile she went back to sleep. It was before most dog walkers were out and about — she knew she had nothing to worry about until they started arriving.

BUT, soon the dogs arrived. These three photos above shows her lifting her head, and then slowly spiraling her way to a standing position and finally “messaging” an approaching dog to leave her alone. She really didn’t want to move, but with the dog slowly approaching, and her son on the other side of her, she put in the effort to look scary. The dog walker got the message if the dog didn’t and complied by going the other way, and Scout went back to snoozing for about 20 more minutes. That’s when sirens sounded.

Interestingly, these coyotes have never vocalized a whole lot during daytime here in a response to sirens — these have more often kept their vocalizations to night and twilight hours. I wonder if daytime vocalizing is reserved for strongly established territories that the coyotes are able to defend? For many years, Scout was a loner here and she rarely howled during the day, even to sirens, unless she was chased by dogs, particularly her nemesis I mentioned above.

Left: stretching in all directions; Middle: looking over at her son and subtly communicating with him; Right, she begins to howl.

Anyway, a siren sounded when I was there, and Scout got up, taking her time about it. She stretched backwards and forwards and upwards. She stood there a moment as though debating whether or not to howl, and then looked over to where she knew her son was hiding, possibly signaling him to join her, and she began howling in response to that siren.

After she began howling, he then joined her from the distance: you can hear him in the video. After a minute, she walked in the direction of his howls and met up with him. By that time the howling from both of them had ended, and they both walker off together.

Scout walks with her son to keep him company as he leaves. Her son is the bigger coyote to the left.

She then returned alone, and, as seen below, stretched again in all directions and again looked over her shoulder to where her son was, assuring herself that he was happy and safe, and then she fell asleep again — with one eye again partially open. I waited a little while for something to happen, but nothing did, so I left..

A couple of days later I found her and her mate at their new territory at dusk, or maybe it’s their territory’s extension. I saw them as silhouettes, but the camera sometimes does better than my eyes and captured the images below. She’s with her mate in the first photo. They’ve always worked together intuitively and in tandem, almost as one. I love watching them work together, communicate, and even look at each other. He looks so much bigger than her when they are next to each other.

And below she’s doing what mothers do: grooming the one yearling youngster that went with her to the new territory (or extension of her old one). I see her two pups very seldom which is a good thing. Pups throughout the city this year are running the gamut from casual acceptance of their surroundings which include people, to continued careful wariness of them. I don’t know where Scout’s pups this year fit into the continuum, but I think it’s a good thing that I haven’t seen them.

Slim Jim Continues: Old Coyotes Can Raise Our Spirits, by Walkaboutlou

I found this photo by Martin Cooper on Flickr: “Very old coyote, hardly any teeth, half blind, full of arthritis”. It’s not Slim Jim, but it could be.

Hi Janet.

Summer is behind us. Fall is here. Still hot but..foggy mornings briefly tell us..yes..Fall.

I’ve spoke to the family who have for 3 generations allowed coyote in their vast ranch and ranges. They know the packs and individuals. They have “trained” the coyote with LGD, allowing coyote habitat to give them areas, and by allowing coyote to become stable and territorial. Coyote..DO NOT like to share turf with strange coyote. Thus..stable couples and packs keep out nomadic coyote who have their own habits and behavior.

It’s here that I’ve told you about Slim Jim the older coyote. Quite elderly and mostly blind he was last seen with daughter Kinky Tail and 2 pups.

Updates: 

Slim Jim is still alive and well. He had moved back to buffalo herd areas and spent rest of summer with them mostly. He has been very busy. He has easy hunting with voles. Even with multiple misses he gets enough.

He was seen hanging about an apple tree for about a week. At night he fed side by side with deer and slowly fed on big apples. 

Wolves have been seen going thru via trail cams. Slim Jim disappears days if wolves travel thru.

An elk died a few miles into range which is usually beyond nearly blind Slim. 

Kinky Tail and 2 pups and her Mate all fed from it. Kinky Tail returned next day..closely followed by Slim Jim.

He fed long and well..stomach huge. Kinky then walked back towards Slim’s areas..and Slim followed so close it seemed his nose touched her tail. Walking well along..Slim followed daughter Kinky until “home”. Kinky disappeared. And Slim Jim went back to apple tree, ate an apple and slept by nearby cliffs. The ranch family watched him and took turns seeing how long he slept. 7 hours till he woke and yawned…and slept 3 more hours. 

About a week later, Kinky and her family came around and seemed to have stayed. Slim Jim has company again and Kinky seems to have claimed old territory. But Slim Jim is allowed to do his thing and is peacefully accepted.

How old is he? We don’t know. He seems VERY old after summer. His teeth look worn. Pale face fur. But..hearty appetite. And plays with sticks often.

Slim Jim carries on. 

He has cataracts. He has outlived all mates. He has built packs and is related to many local coyote. He has been attacked by wolves and seen them kill his pack. 

But he’s here. And daughter Kinky Tail seems to watch over him. 

It’s a gift to live long. Have a place. And eat apples.

To Slim Jim

Take care Janet. Old Coyotes can raise our spirits. 

Lou

Vida Eliminated — with input by Walkaboutlou

[The first part of this is re-posted from my Instagram account, and then I explore a coyote territorial “takeover” scenario with input from Walkaboutlou].

Vida was a three-year-old first-time mom who suddenly went missing on July 25th, and we’ve not seen her again. She was a tiny and easy-going coyote who minded her own business and stayed away from people and dogs in her park. She was an absolutely ideal neighbor.

She had two four-month old pups whom she would not have just left. No, something happened — but what? There have been no DOA coyotes picked up by Animal Care and Control since then, so she doesn’t appear to have been hit by a car. The one hint as to what might have happened is the incredibly intense distressed coyote vocalizations every night around midnight close to her denning area over the period when she went missing, the kind I’ve been hearing, not after a simple chase by a dog, but after a much more intense and relentless hot pursuit by a powerful dog bent on “getting the coyote”, as I’ve recently posted.

I can’t help but think of the possibility that her disappearance might have been due to such foul play. The disturbing vocalizations went on intensely for many nights and pointed to violent upheaval of some type. I know it sounds far fetched — and this would be a worst-case scenario — but I wouldn’t put her disappearance past someone with a hunting dog who hates coyotes — maybe even brought into the city by a seriously disgruntled park-going individual. More than once I’ve heard several individuals say they were going to shoot the coyotes — take the law into their own hands because they didn’t like the law — the law didn’t suit them. The law, BTW, here in San Francisco, is that you can’t harm or harass wildlife.

There are a number of humans who are outraged and outspokenly livid that trails were closed by the Park Department this denning season, having been closed off to keep both dogs and coyotes out of each other’s way and to curtail conflict. In their minds, “whole sections of parks were turned over to the coyotes.” The people who think this way are not many, but they sure are vocal, loud, and self-righteous about it. They are individuals who feel THEY have a handle on how things “should be” and are unable to accept anything different — anything inconvenient to them. I want to point out to them that until the 1920s, Bald Eagles were considered vermin and shot on sight for hunting small animals and as a dire threat to children — they were one of those animals that “shouldn’t be here”.

I have seen large dogs sicced on coyotes by their owners in other SF parks — I was there and stopped it. What I do know is that Vida is gone and there were intensely distressed vocalizations tied into her disappearance, and then another female suddenly appeared and filled her niche. Fortunately, last I saw, Dad was still regurgitating food for the pups, picked up by a field-camera, so they are continuing to be taken care of. Vida has never reappeared.

As I said, I don’t have absolute proof that dogs were involved, I’m just speculating, as a possible scenario, based on my observations of the overall situation and all the input I’ve received. On the face of it, that’s the most likely scenario of what happened. But I want to interject another script or storyline possibility, no matter how unlikely, to show the breadth and depth of coyote behavior more than anything else.

A full month after Vida disappeared, my field camera in the area captured a pummeling fight between two female coyotes. The aggressive victor of the fight turned out to be none other than Libe, the new alpha female in the territory — the one who replaced Vida. I had no trouble identifying her. As I watched the video clip a thought passed through my head: What IF the smaller coyote had been Vida? This potentiality came to mind because the smaller, losing coyote had a similar size and body configuration as Vida. In spite of that, in Vida’s case, there appear to be too many negating factors: Vida has always been easy for me to identify, but I was unable to in the clip; the fight happened a full month after Vida stopped appearing, whereas if she had been forcefully driven away she would have tried repeatedly to reclaim her territory and family, but she didn’t — coyotes are intensely tied to their families; and she would have been more the aggressor rather than simply putting up a defense as might a dispersing coyote, as seen in the video — in the video it’s Libe who is doing all the pummeling.

So, more as a point of interest, I want it to be known that “takeover” situations — i.e. “stealing” — though exceptionally rare when there are pups, appear to be remotely possible.

Duking it out

I asked my friend, Walkaboutlou, who has revealed his deep understanding of coyotes from years of first-hand interest and observations, if he had ever heard of, or thought it possible, that an outsider single female could come in and fight and oust a mother with four-month-old pups from her territory? Could this happen? Do coyotes “steal” each other’s families? Ever? Commonly? I’ve never seen it. I myself had seen single coyotes ousted from territories, but in those cases, there were no pups and there was no mate, and I’ve seen the territories of older coyotes who have lost their mates taken over forcefully by a more robust and younger coyote pair.


Hi Janet,

I’m not a canine behaviorist professional in domestic or wild canids. However I always say …

Almost anything is possible.

I’ve seen seemingly stable and generational coyote packs that all have degree of relatedness and various affiliations too. Most areas are extremely fluid because coyote typically on average live rather fast lives. If you only have a few years to live, hold a place and have some pups hopefully … you live intense.

The ranching family I know who has known their coyote packs decades has mentioned take overs or changes. Sometimes a male or female is “driven” out. And their mate leaves with them. 

Other times … it seems some mates are determined to stay in territory, and join the victor. Much like cats.  The territory holds them more than the bond. 

I think any outcome or dynamic is possible. The contact calls and stress vocalizations would happen with dog aggression, or coyote take over. Its upheaval. 

I also know some coyote depart like ghost never to be seen again if they lose territory. And others are very stubborn to relinquish old stomping grounds.

However … the intensity of take over merits … usually … short term stuff. It’s usually just so stressful to both hunt and survive the usual … AND wage battles for turf it’s usually too much to maintain any length of time.

That being said … a Mother of pups and with mate is rarely usurped so early. It would be very interesting to know the history of challenger and her relationship with the current male. Some coyote …(like some people) don’t care about property rights, laws … or bonds. They see a place. A territory. A pack. And say…MINE. Take it or leave it. I’m coming in. You are leaving or submitting. Its mine.

It seems harsh. But many coyote feel impelled to take actions asap especially in areas where territory isnt easy to find.

I think there are outsider females and males that absolutely will take over everything. They may drive out the whole family. Or just the same sex target. (Mother, Daughters)

Fascinating stuff. 
Lou


BTW, the new female, Libe, two years old I would say, had been living in an adjacent territory as a loner for at least a year. That adjacent territory was not ideal in that it was entirely on the urban residential grid, composed of 25×100 foot lots with houses and apartments, and little open space in addition to small backyards, whereas Vida’s territory had it all: neighborhoods to trek through, a vast wild open space, a mate, pups. Libe trekked through her urban territory daily, usually at night, dawn or dusk, and kept away from people and dogs but allowed herself to be seen without any fear. I had seen her trekking right up to the periphery of Vida’s territory within a month of Vida’s disappearance, and may have been entering and assessing the situation. The only real interactive “behavior” of hers that I’ve ever seen is that fight in the field camera where she showed her mettle: she was pretty darn spunky and in control there. But recently she also has shown a spunky defiance towards dogs, challengingly occupying their play-space for short spells.

So, what I’m saying here is that Vida was most likely brutally eliminated/killed by a dog. BUT, almost anything is possible in the coyote world, as stated by Lou, including for an outsider coyote to come in and steal — lock, stock and barrel — what belonged to another coyote. Another circumstance diminishing that latter possibility here is that Vida and her mate were extremely supportive, playful, and affectionate with each other. It seems he would have defended her. But maybe not?

Claiming a Disputed Area

On the surface, this photo might look like fun and games to everyone, and it is: two coyotes charmingly playing with an old torn up ball. Coyotes love finding novel items. Playing with the items is a way of finding out all about the items and working together, even if competitively. However, as usual, there’s much more going on here than meets the eye at first glimpse.

This coyote parent-pair, whose den is close by, purposefully scared a dog and owner out of the dog playpen and then claimed the area as their own for about half an hour before trotting off.  I heard the dog-owner scream her surprise, and looked over as she grabbed her dog while two coyotes who had hopped the fence were facing her with arched backs and wrinkled noses, no more that 15 feet away from the dog. It would have been a frightening situation for anyone, not only because of the menacing-looking coyotes who had come so close, but because it was so unexpected: the dog-owner was startled and unprepared. Within seconds, the dog and owner, and both coyotes, went in opposite directions, clearing out of the pen. The coyotes had as little interest in actually “engaging” as the dog and owner: their purpose had been to “message” the dog to leave, and they succeeded.

However, the coyotes soon returned, hopping back in over the fence where there now were no dogs or people, and where they now appeared to celebrate their victory by hanging around and playing ball, no different from the way dogs do: they chased each other, had a tug of war, tossed the ball and even tore it apart. There was an aspect of defiance to the dogs’ perpetual claim to the area. They kept an eye on a couple of us onlookers as we watched behind the fence until they hopped back over the fence and out.

The quandary is that this particular dog run is adjacent to a denning area and there is no buffer zone: i.e., dogs and coyotes who notoriously don’t get along are literally forced to be in close proximity to each other. As Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors”, but the fence here is useless.

The fenced-in dog run has been there for years, but the fence itself is only 2.5′ feet high in places. The area adjacent to it has also been there for years: it’s a steep, rocky drop-off with dense thicket growth including poison oak and thick impenetrable tangles of blackberry brambles: people and dogs can’t and don’t go there, which is why it was chosen as a denning area by the coyotes at least 8 years and possibly longer ago.

Back eight years ago, the coyotes in the city were still much more secretive. Issues were few and far-between. But several years ago, several dogs became very aware of the coyotes and started looking for them. At the same time, feeding and even worse — hand-feeding — began bigtime in this park. Coyote fleeing-distances shortened, and the timeframe for doing so lengthened, as coyote youngsters learned increased proximity tolerance from their parents. How to deal with other species, be it dogs or humans — with all the inherent subtleties and with the variety within each species — is passed on to the youngsters by parental example as well as by experience. Dislike of dogs is a constant — how could it not with the continual chasing, barking at, lunging from dogs. The coyotes look for openings in this perpetual boundary dispute with dogs — it’s part of their opportunism and self-defense. By entering and remaining in the dog run which is at their doorstep, they were claiming the spot, even if not for very long. It happened to me once.

Coming up with a solution for the dog park vs. denning area is difficult. BOTH dogs and coyotes have jumped over the low fence, into and out of the dog enclosure area — not that frequently, but it happens: dogs jump out to chase coyotes who keep an eye on them from a nearby hilltop; coyotes sometimes, as today, have jumped INTO the enclosure when there are only one or two dogs and owners in there. 

I hope I’m not making it sound like a war zone or even a battlefield. It isn’t. Rather, there are occasional “skirmishes” as described by Walkaboutlou, instigated at times by the dogs and at times by the coyotes, which let their true feelings be known. A functional fence would help — the current fence which is just 2′ high in places does not work. 

Fence hopping that occurred during a half-hour play session

Please understand that designated off-leash dog areas, whether fenced in or not, ARE NOT designated coyote-free zones, and you should always remain vigilant for a coyote’s unexpected appearance in these areas. Even when and if a full high fence is in place, we’ll still need to stay vigilant to see if this kind of solution will work. Not until we find out if it totally keeps coyotes out should you let down your guard.

But also, please realize there frequently are altercations between dogs and dogs in these enclosures, so vigilance HAS to continue for this reason. I myself was viciously barked at and then charged by a dog who grabbed my ankle in her mouth and bit me within that enclosure. My heavy jeans prevented the skin from breaking. The point is, we have to stay vigilant and be prepared to quickly extract our dog(s) and ourselves from all sorts of situations. 

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