Coyote Speaks Her Mind, An Update

I want to update the continuing story of the loner coyote I wrote about in: Coyote Speaks Her Mind to the Dog Who Chased Her Three Weeks Ago! The story through that posting evolved from a dog who repeatedly chased the coyote, to the coyote finally vocalizing her distress at being chased while remaining hidden in the bushes.

Soon thereafter, this coyote would follow that dog, which is now kept leashed, screaming out her anguish, now in plain view — no longer hidden in the bushes. For months this behavior continued, daily, and then the vocalizations stopped, but the following behavior still continued, always at a safe and great distance. 

One might ask, “Why would a little coyote follow a dog — even a large 100 pound dog — if she were fearful of the dog?  The answer appears to be that ‘following’ is used by coyotes both to escort out and to assure themselves that a threatening (or perceived as threatening) animal is leaving an area. It is a territorial behavior. Coyotes’ survival depends on their territoriality: they claim, and exclude other coyotes, from the land which will supply them with, and ensure them a supply of,  food and protection from competitors. The screaming, which incorporates deep raspy sounds, is a brave warning, more bluff than anything else, but also a release of the coyote’s distressed feelings. The coyote appears totally aware that the dog is tethered: she has fled like a bullet when the dog got loose and turned towards her.

The little coyote’s behavior towards that dog is continuing to evolve. Yesterday, after seeing the dog in the far distance, she simply ran the other way and disappeared from view over the crest of the hill before the dog had a chance to see her!

A few days ago, having seen the dog from a great distance, she ran off and hid rather than take a chance at being seen.

Crouching low the minute she saw the dog, in hopes of not being seen

And today, the little coyote didn’t notice the dog — the dog is walked daily in the park — until the dog already was close by. Her evasive strategy this time involved crouching down into the grasses and ducking so as not to be seen. She was not seen by the dog, but she was seen by the owner.  She remained in her crouched-down spot as the dog didn’t seem to notice her (the dog was leashed and couldn’t have moved towards the coyote even if she had wanted to). 

The coyote got up and watched them walk away and disappear over the horizon and then took after them, but remaining out of sight.  She spotted them at the crest of a hill where she sat and kept an eye on them from the distance until they left. This owner is doing as much as he can to avoid conflict by walking his dog on the leash and always walking away from the coyote. Fortunately, he is fascinated and amused by her behavior!

By the way, I have seen this same behavior in a number of females, and one male coyote — it’s not so unusual, so folks with dogs should be aware of it so they don’t freak out if it happens towards their dog. What to do? Simply shorten your leash and keep walking away from the coyote. Also, try to minimize visual communication between your dog and a coyote — the communication is most likely to be negative, so why even go there?

PHOTO: Summersaulting!

There’s lots of joy in watching a carefree urban coyote having lots of fun! This one found a ball to play with which had been left by a dog. Among her antics with the ball were jumps, sprints, tossing the ball up in the air and catching it, and repeated roly-poly tumbles and summersaults!

Coyotes: Beyond the Howl, An Educational Exhibit by Janet Kessler

In case you might have a burning interest to know more about coyotes, visit my exhibit which is going up next Sunday at the Sausalito Library and will run for 6 weeks! It’s more of an educational exhibit than anything else, showing some of their constant interactions. The more people understand how social they are, the easier it will be to accept and even embrace them.

Coyotes are social and, except for some transients, live in families. The 28 large 24”x16” zoomed-in snapshots in this exhibit show some of their less-seen behaviors and interactions, as well as their individuality: each coyote looks different, and the differences reach deeper than their fur. Short howling and hunting video clips are included. An explanation of a few relevant survival behaviors and some simple guidelines help round out “the picture” of these neighbors who are becoming a more visible part of the urban landscape.

Janet Kessler a.k.a, “the Coyote Lady” in San Francisco, has been called a, “pioneer in the photo-documentation of the lives of urban coyotes, capturing their intimate lives”. She is a self-taught naturalist and urban coyote specialist who, daily over the past 11 years, has been documenting coyote family life, their behavior towards people and pets — and our pets’ behavior towards them — and getting information and easy coexistence guidelines out to everyone. Google her “Coyotes As Neighbors” video, and visit: Coyoteyipps.com.

Dates: January 28 to March 10, 2018

Hours:

  • Monday-Thursday 10am-9pm daily
  • Friday-Saturday 10am-5pm
  • Sunday noon-5pm

Place: Sausalito Public Library, located in the City Hall building at 420 Litho Street in Sausalito Enter parking lot from Bee Street (off Caledonia Street). From San Francisco, take a ferry ride over!

Janet will be in and out. If you have questions, just seek her out, or contact her through her blog, coyoteyipps.com

[Press Here for a printable Flyer]

On Installation Day: Our team of three had fun installing the exhibit in the very charming Sausalito Library: we had the layout mapped out beforehand, so only minor logistical adjustments to our plan were necessary. We were rewarded with “ooohs” and “aaahs” from the library staff and visitors from Connecticut, and then from the first official early-bird visitors. We finished a little after opening hours and went off for a reward meal overlooking the bay, which we suggest as something to add to your visit.

Diverting Attention

The coyote had made herself very visible on the side of the hill during the early dawn hours, sitting there and watching the sparse activity on the path and street below: a few walkers, dog-walkers, workers and traffic. Whenever she spotted a perceived potential *threat*, she ran out onto the path in front of whomever she was worried about, forcing attention towards herself so that the youngster up the hill would not be noticed; or she ran onto the path in back of a dog to make sure dog was moving on. A couple of times she got too close to a dog and the dog reacted by growling and barking. But when the dog and walker moved on with a shortened leash, as I advised, that was always the end of it: this is what the coyote wanted.

I looked up and saw the youngster there watching the goings-on. When looked at directly, he moved to a bushier part of the hill and watched from behind the thicker foliage — this was a shy one.

Soon Mom headed down the street a ways while maintaining eye-contact with the youngster, and then she stood in the middle of the street, eyeing the youngster repeatedly. At this point, it became apparent that she was trying to coax the youth in her direction so that she could take him away from the open space. He was too fearful, and during her ten minute effort he did not come. So Mom returned to the hill and sat there close to the path, again drawing attention to herself apparently as a ploy to keep attention away from the kid. It worked: no one saw the kid except me while I observed.

By the next day, the youngster had still not left that space. Maybe reinforcements were needed to entice the little guy to leave, because now, there were two adult females with him. I spotted the three of them sleeping together on the incline before dawn.  The second female was much more reclusive than the first one — she made no attempt to serve as a decoy. Instead, she, too, remained as hidden as possible, similarly to the youngster, while the first female performed as she had the previous day. You would have thought that during the night there might have been a change in the situation, but there had not been.

On the third day, the lot was vacant! I guess the two adult females had accomplished their mission! The day before had been one of the few times I had seen that particular second female whose relationship to the family I have not figured out. Some coyotes are much more reclusive than others. Most likely, she would be related: either a yearling pup herself from the year before, a sister, or even a parent or aunt of the mother coyote. Coyotes are territorial, and it’s only family groups that live in any particular vicinity, keeping all other coyotes — intruders — out of the picture. This is one reason they feel territorial towards dogs.

Another Cat Scares Off a Coyote

coyote sniffs something interesting under a bush

Within seconds, a cat jumps out of the bush and chases the coyote away

The coyote flees for protection to behind a guard-rail. The cat keeps an eye on her.

Months ago I watched a cat take a walk with its owner. I had never seen a cat do this, but was told that this cat walked regularly like this, and for some distance. Sounds like a uniquely special cat to me. So I alerted the owner that a coyote hung around the area. Yes, the owner knew about the coyote: it turned out that the coyote and the cat had a special, mutually respectful relationship. Yes, I thought, it was a very special cat — or the coyote was a very special coyote.

So a few days ago I watched this coyote sniffing for something under the bushes. I wondered what she was sniffing for, until the cat popped out and scared the coyote away. Yes, scared the coyote away. The coyote ran off and found protection behind a guardrail where she waited for that cat to go, but the cat took his time, possibly testing his power over the coyote. He was smart enough not to turn his back on the coyote, but remained facing her.

I caught several shots of the coyote’s very worried expression. She looked ready to flee if that cat came towards her.

The coyote even gestures with her tongue, “Peace, please?”

Eventually the cat took off and the coyote, then, proceeded again to sniff for whatever was under the bush. Obviously it hadn’t been the cat the coyote was sniffing out because the cat had gone.  This time she came out with something. It was a dead bird, which probably had been left by the cat. The coyote ate it: coyotes are opportunistic eaters and can eat anything lying around.

Finally, the cat gives up first

Coyote goes back for what she had wanted in the first place — it was not the cat, but something left by the cat.

So this turned out to be an interesting little triangle: cat, coyote, bird. The cat caught the bird but left it probably because of the coyote’s presence in the bush — even this brave cat appears to know not to get itself too close to the snout of a coyote! Neither animal felt at-ease enough to hunt while the other animal was so close. By the way, many of the animals that coyotes eat are carrion: they were killed by cars or another animal and then found by the coyote. And yes, as you can see, coyotes eat birds.

Again, as I’ve stated before, please do not allow your cats to roam free. Coyotes are uniquely individual, each with it’s own unique personality, temperament, habits and even family culture, and you won’t know how a coyote will react to a cat until after the fact. Most coyotes will opportunistically grab a cat if it appears within sight, not run from it! And most cats, left to roam free, will snag little birds.

Excluded and Banished To The Fringes

The female yearling who was all alone

This evening’s observation pulled at my heartstrings.  At first, I could only locate one coyote of a family I’ve been observing — the yearling female who recently is being bashed on a daily basis by her mother. She was alone and, unusually, she kept her eye on me and kept looking into the distance past me. I distanced myself but kept her in sight. After about an hour, she stopped poking around and looking around aimlessly, and lay down on the lawn, sphinx-style.

Right about then, I noticed that all the other coyotes of her family, four of them, had appeared together in the distance. She, of course, would have noticed them too, her eyes being that much better than any human’s. And now she looked in their direction. But she stayed where she was, lying down, instead of running happily with tail waving behind her to go say hello for their evening rendezvous.

the family in the distance

Female yearling sitting off in the distance all alone

I decided to walk towards the rest of the family — they were probably about 800 yards or so away. As I walked, I looked back. The yearling female had not budged. I continued on towards the family. They had greeted each other and now Mom was pacing back and forth probably looking for the female; Dad was relaxing on a knoll; and the two other youngsters were playing: wresting, chase, tug of war — all normal and happy evening rendezvous activities — except the yearling female was not included. After a minute of watching, I turned around and marched back. The yearling female had not moved. She was watching her family have a grand time, and she was not part of it.

Two youngsters play animatedly — sister is not included in the play — she’s far off, watching [blurry photos are because of the lack of light]

I had now returned to within 70 feet of the yearling female. Sirens then sounded and she sat up. In the distance, the entire family could be heard yipping and howling along with the sirens — but not this one. She kept quiet. She remained seated, watched and listened from the distance. And then she lay down again, focusing on where the yipping sounds had come from. It was totally dark now and my camera just couldn’t cope with no light, so I decided to leave. It’s the holiday season: it made me think of “they never let poor Rudolph, join in any reindeer games.” To be sure, there’s been affection between twin brother and this gal and even dad and her. I’ll post some photos of these soon.

This is the video I (tried) taking in the dark. It’s more a recording of the family yipping in the background than anything else, but you can see the lone, excluded female for a split second now and then as the camera attempts to focus with no light. When I zoomed out, at 43rd second of the video, the aperture opened up a little (offering more light and a stronger focus) so you can see the coyote a little further back, listening as the others sing. Coyotes love being part of  family howling, but she’s not part of that ceremony.  :((

As I walked away, I noticed, finally, that the family, beginning their nightly trekking, had come in her direction, and she had headed towards them. She had moved about 50 feet from where she had been. Dad is her perennial comforter, and with him there, she must have felt safe enough to approach him. As I walked down the hill and away, these two were right on the horizon against the almost black sky, which provided just enough light for a couple of silhouette photos — enough for me to see her crouched down submissively (in case Mom should approach), and Dad standing over her and grooming her affectionately. It made me smile and heave a sigh of relief: she’s still accepted and loved by her father and even her twin brother. HOWEVER, I wonder if this relationship might be fueling some of Mom’s behavior toward this daughter — not unlike a triangle??

So yearling daughter is being forced to keep her distance during the daytime, and only feels secure enough to approach if Dad is there, or if Mom is not there. Let’s see where this leads. Stay tuned. The thing to keep in mind is that this is a normal coyote behavior and it’s done for a reason — it has its good side — it did for Rudolph! We all eventually leave home to make lives of our own, and Mom’s treatment of her is helping the process.

Coyote in SOMA of San Francisco

Coyote in downtown San Francisco

A few days ago, this little coyote was spotted at Third and Folsom, South of Market, near Moscone Center, right in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown, and right during hustle-and-bustle prime time: it must have been pretty scary with all those people, cars, and trollies, and with all the activity and noise. The coyote had either taken a wrong route or run out of time in her/his journey, because now it was daylight and the city’s downtown was filling up with activity.

Photo: courtesy ACC

We’ve seen coyotes up on buildings in the downtowns of various large cities, including New York. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens, and each time it makes headlines. In addition to its serving as an escape from all the noise and activity at street level, a building provides an *up*. In the wild they often seek out high points from which to survey their territories and to see what the lay of the land is. This coyote may have been looking for a higher spot as a means of finding her way out of the situation in which she found herself.

I don’t know this particular coyote, but I can take a guess at what was going on. If she/he had been dispersed from a nearby territory (coyotes may be dispersed at anytime of the year), as she moved away from her home territory, she could have become caught up in our labyrinthine downtown which has no thickets to hide in.  Coyotes live in our parks and in the larger green/open spaces of the city. ACC would not have been able to return her to where she/he came from because, 1) no one knew for sure where she/he came from, and 2) dispersed youngsters will not be welcomed back to the place they were harshly driven from.

So, for the first time, probably, the animal was on its own and needed to find its way out of the city. Most coyote territorial niches are already occupied within the city, so where could she go? South of the city is where the ecologist for the Presidio, Jonathan Young, has found several of San Francisco’s dispersed coyotes which he had radio-collared. Dispersion is a hazardous time for coyotes and a time when their survival is at high risk.

Potential problems, besides a few fearful people, were dehydration and being hit by a car. Water, in fact, can be found all over the the city from spigots, etc, so the real danger is from traffic.  Come nighttime, she would have moved on, but a full day is a long time to sit up on a building. ACC hurried the process along by clearing traffic down a street, which gave the coyote a way out. It is always best to allow coyotes to find their own way — possibly with a little help as was offered by ACC. Thank you, ACC!

Deb Campbell of ACC wrote me, “We were trying to get the coyote (a crowd had gathered, and our original plan to wait until nightfall was not going to work), but it slipped away and ran down Folsom Street towards First Street. The police had stopped traffic, so it had a cleared escape route. We looked, but couldn’t find it, and we’re hoping that s/he made it back to a green space.” Deb generously supplied me with this photo.

San Francisco, with the help of ACC and RPD, promotes coexistence through education: we are one of the most progressive cities in this respect (in fact, in many respects).  ACC is here to help with sticky situations such as this one . And, of course, they have their hands full with every imaginable animal contingency in the city, for instance, now they’re busy looking for the pit-bull who last week mauled a leashed chihuahua. Our animal residents keep ACC occupied.

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