A Small, Very Loved Coyote

Today I got to better know, through another coyote lover, a little coyote who frequents one of the tourist spots in San Francisco. Like most tourist spots in San Francisco, this was also a residential neighborhood and the place where the coyote resides. Many folks have sent me emails worrying about her because she was being fed by lots of people — by both residents of the area and by tourists — and folks were allowing their pets either to chase her or to interact with her. Eventually, this could spell no good for the coyote. Folks can actually unknowingly shape coyote behavior and the outcome of a situation by their uninformed actions. Feeding or interacting with an urban coyote can often spell doom for the coyote. This coyote kept her distance from people, but she showed no fear of them, which also worried some people. I had already visited the area and posted some tri-lingual signs with guidelines that all folks should follow. There are not enough informational and alert signs put out by the City, to inform folks that there is a coyote living in the area along with guidelines to help protect both the coyote and all pets from each other.

Bipasha had contacted me about advocating for coyotes with her photography. This was the coyote she was photographing. We decided to meet.

I arrived early for our meeting, well before dawn, so I walked around. Two friendly, older fellows who spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese (I know because I asked them) were doing their daily exercises at this spot-with-a-view. They told me that they saw the coyote regularly — that she was part of the neighborhood, and that they liked and accepted her as part of the environment. Because of their enthusiasm, I thought of giving them the link to the Mandarin version of the video,  “Coyotes As Neighbors”. So I asked them if they had Internet access. They waved their hands showing me that the Internet was not part of their lives. It was a reminder that many people do not have Internet access, and information must reach them by other means.

Soon I met the first runner of the morning. Dawn was just beginning to break. He had slowed down to take a breath after a long, arduous climb. He told me he was delighted to be in San Francisco and couldn’t get enough of it. I asked him about his coyote experiences.  It turns out that he was in the City only for a day. He comes to San Francisco once a year for a medical conference — and before the conference he made it a practice to take this trying run. He felt he had fallen a little out-of-shape compared to last year. Interestingly, he told me that, yes, he had seen a coyote each of the two previous years during his run in this location and he had always been delighted to see them.  Then he had to run on, so I asked that, if he saw a coyote on his way down the hill, could he please yell “coyote”, and he said he would.

the little coyote appears

The small coyote appears

This is when Bipasha appeared — she had found me through my blog which she liked. As she began to tell me her story, the doctor suddenly reappeared excitedly and out-of-breath at the top of the hill again. He beamed a wide grin and said, “a coyote is on its way up this road.” Ahhh, he had seen the coyote and called me the way I had asked him to! We thanked him, and before he turned around to go, there she was, “The Small, Very Loved Coyote”. I asked Bipasha if the coyote had a name, and was told it was Cai (for coyote, of course). Bipasha is a lady who has spent a lot of time watching and photographing Cai. She has developed a deep love and substantial knowledge of this coyote’s particular habits. For instance, the coyote comes to this spot at just about the same time every day, usually following the same route. When she arrives, she stands very still at various spots and looks around to assess the goings-on — you might call this “patrol duty” — many coyotes do this. The coyote knows Bipasha and they smile at each other — there appears to be understanding and respect between them, and there appears to be mutual trust: each knows that the other will not approach or harm the other. Bipasha is actually still a little afraid of the coyote. When she saw her first coyote, she was absolutely thrilled, but she would wait in the safety of her home, behind a window, and watch, too fearful to venture out looking for Cai. Then one day, someone told her where the coyote had been seen, and Bipasha took a chance, holding on to her fear, and found the coyote. It’s been love ever since.

Cai surveying "her" area

Cai surveying “her” area

Cai learned to hear which car belonged to her friend and both began appearing at the the same spot at the same time. Bipasha thinks the coyote actually waits for her. At this “meeting spot”, the coyote hangs out, and the few tourists at this early hour take her photo. Today, no one feeds her. After a while, she moves to various other locations: behind a fence, on a grassy area, down the walkway. She always stops where we can see her — she makes no attempt to hide or run off.  She exudes calm friendliness and trust . . . and a gentle sort of wariness, keeping her distance. I, too, soon fall in love with her as I listen to Bipasha talking about her routines and behaviors and the love she has developed for the coyote. The coyote soon hops down, and Bipasha says that it looks as though the coyote is about to move on. Then Cai slips out of sight. Bipasha tells me where the coyote has gone. She has actually followed the coyote a number of times and knows her routes.

Cai sits off the beaten path sniffing in and comfortably looking around.

Cai sits off the beaten path, sniffing and comfortably looking around

We walk down a hill where, surprise to me, but not such a surprise to Bipasha, there is Cai again, exactly where Bipasha said she would be, probably 1/4 mile from where we had originally met her. This, I’m told, is Cai’s second “hangout”. We watch her sniff and cross the street a few times. She now looks as though she’s at loose ends — “Where should I go now?”, but maybe it’s just that she feels a little uncomfortable with a number of people around and a car pulling out of a driveway. Bipasha then picks up cues that the coyote is about to leave for the day. Bipasha tells me that Cai will begin to go and then she will turn back several times to make sure she is not being followed — and this is what happens. Bipasha used to follow Cai, but she stopped when the coyote “told” her not to follow. I knew exactly what Bipasha was talking about, because I, too, have “read” coyotes telling me that they don’t want me to follow.

Cai sniffing the ground probably where dogs have been, and marking

Cai sniffing the ground, probably where dogs have been, and marking

Many folks apparently have fallen in love with this particular coyote, who by all standards would have to be called “sweet” — a real sweetheart. The majority of neighbors want to protect her from harm. She “belongs” to these residents. Bipasha and I walked up the hill. We feel that something needs to be done right away about the feeding and about folks allowing their dogs to chase or interact with her. We’ll begin by designing a sign: “A Fed Coyote Is A Dead Coyote”, and then we’ll plan more — we’ll do what we can to keep Cai, the Little Very Loved Coyote, safe, happy, healthy . . . and wild, which will at the same time keep folks and pets safe and away from her.

Cai departs for the day

Cai departs for the day




“I Was Just In Their Way, In Their Path”, A Coyote Experience by Dorothy

2015-07-08I met Dorothy and her husband in a park walking their little white dog. They are in their 80s. They live right on the edge of one of our San Francisco parks: they love walking their dog, they love nature and they love the wildlife, including the coyotes.

Dorothy told me about her coyote encounter two days earlier. She doesn’t see them often so any encounter is a real treat for her, but this one was a little different.

She was out walking her little dog on the street at 7:00 in the morning, when her dog began barking uncontrollably. She turned around and saw a coyote. Oh, she thought it best to pick up the little dog, which she did. When she turned around again, there was a second coyote. Very exciting! By the time she had walked a few paced and looked back again, there were THREE coyotes! When she stopped and eyed them, they did not approach, but when she turned her back to them and walked on, they seemed to get closer.

She was a little concerned that they might be interested in her little pooch, so she decided to cross the street — creating this distance between herself and the coyotes seemed like a logical thing to do. Sure enough, the coyotes continued walking on the other side of the street, and then turned to go between two houses and into the park. “I was just in their way, in their path”, she told me.

Dorothy did the right thing. She picked up her small dog and moved away from the coyotes. A+!!

Siblings: Diametric Opposites

“Careful and Dependent” spends her time waiting and watching

Today a coyote youngster was in an open area. This coyote can be characterized as “careful and and dependent”. She’s wary and not willing to take chances, unlike her siblings. Today she had planted herself in a safe location near some bushes — she could escape to the bushes if necessary from any harm. From here she watched her surroundings, and she waited. She seemed to be waiting for a family member — someone familiar —  to appear on the scene.

Soon a sibling did appear on a hilltop, a sibling who has a dramatically different personality type from the one just described. I’ve observed their different personality types right from the start, nothing has changed from day one: just like humans, there is a lot which is innate and unique about each coyote. This one, in contrast to the previous one, could be characterized as “adventuresome and independent”.

The adventurer saw her sibling in the field below and ran down to greet her, happily, caringly, affectionately, and the shy coyote ran to greet her: there was joy and camaraderie.  Both coyotes then wandered around for a short time, and then the adventuresome one headed off to forage, hunt and explore the area beyond view. She was more interested in her explorations than in the other coyote, whereas the shyer coyote kept her eye on the more adventuresome one until she was out of sight.

When the shy one sees the adventuresome one (left),  she runs to be with her (middle), but I’m in the way, so she turns back to her safety spot and remains there (right).

The shy coyote lay down to watch and wait again once her more adventuresome sibling was out of view. The adventuresome coyote seems to serve as a protector and role model for this shy one.

When the adventurer eventually re-appeared in the distance, the shy coyote jumped up and ran full speed to be with her. But  the adventurer had not been aware that the timid coyote was running towards her. The adventurer turned back and away again as the timid one struggled to catch up. That’s when she saw she had come too close to me and would have to pass me to get to where she was going.  She stopped. Apparently it was not worth the risk for her to follow her sibling. Instead she returned to her protected area where she waited again for awhile and then turned in for the day.

Meanwhile, the adventurer spent the entire morning not too far away, discovering new places to dig up gophers, and spreading her wings a little bit more.

Don’t Follow Me

2013-03-14 (1)It was dusk when I saw this coyote run across a path at the crest of a hill and down the other side. I hurried over the hilltop to see where it was going and what it was doing.

Don't follow me

Don’t follow me

The coyote was very aware that I was there and apparently did not like that. As you can see, it decided to give me a piece of its mind. Need more be said?

The message was clear, so I turned around and left. It was too dark to record any behavior anyway.

Rufous Runs To Mary, by Charles Wood

For several years I have been visiting a nearby field to watch two coyote parents whom I named Mom and Dad. In November 2012 I found that a new coyote couple had replaced Mom and Dad as the field’s resident coyotes. I named them Rufous and Mary.

Mary being a timid coyote, it has taken me a couple of months to get a close up photograph of her. Rufous isn’t timid and the video begins with him.

After having repeatedly scraped dirt to territorially message my leashed dogs, the video begins with Rufous assessing his effect on us. At this point, Rufous expected us to have either run from him or chased him. Yet we hadn’t moved at all. He wants us to show him we got the message, to show him so by moving. To Rufous we seem really slow in delivering a reply via our feet.

So what’s Rufous to do? Send the message again? Wait? The pause comes from my having constrained my dogs’ ability to communicate, restricted their ability to move. Motion is communication for canines and by now my dogs would have run away except for my influence. I resolved the uncertainty and tension by lobbing a golf ball toward Rufous.

Rufous trots away. Note that a chain link fence separated us and that he was closer to us than a coyote should be allowed to approach, too close for me to just turn and walk away. I needed distance from Rufous in order to leave and he gave it to me when I asked him for it with a softly tossed golf ball.



The next two scenes show Rufous approaching his den area. Mary is waiting there in the brush near the center and if you observe carefully you will see her move slightly. The last scene shows Rufous waiting for us to leave. Mary is off camera and Rufous looks back in her direction

The video shows that to my dogs, Rufous ritualistically messaged his claim to both Mary and the den, communicated those claims in a way that any canine would understand. Deviation from canine expected motion, communication, came from my desire to spectate instead of move.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Shooing Off A Coyote: Slapping a folded newspaper on your thigh

newspaper folded over once or twice

Hey!  Slapping a folded newspaper against your thigh as you walk assertively toward a coyote with your eyes fixed on him is one of the best techniques I’ve found for shooing off a coyote who may have gotten too close for your comfort. A newspaper section can easily be folded over once or twice and carried in your pocket.

In fact, it’s not just the sharp noise which serves to deter. It’s also the flailing motion of slapping that paper against your leg which is important. It’s very aggressive. The coyote actually sees you hitting something, and that this hitting is coming his way — the coyote knows he’s next. And the bigger the flailing motion, the better. Tossing a small stone in their direction — but not at them — you don’t want to cause an injury — also works well.

Coyotes will flee as a human approaches them — but slapping a newspaper or tossing a small stone will nudge them on faster, and may make you feel more confident and in control.

Territorial Messages, by Charles Wood

Dad came part way out to my dog Holtz and me to defecate. He scraped dirt unenthusiastically and walked away. His message said, in a word, “Mine.” He chose to walk towards us using an access road, that choice also showing his low interest level in us today. It wasn’t the direct route to us.

The second half of the video shows Dad a little later, a bit further away and closer to the fence bordering his field. His barks are a territorial message. I’ve rarely seen him barking out his claim to the field. Considering his lackluster performance earlier, I’m puzzled as to why he felt that he needed to vocalize. It didn’t last long and when done he walked away. No other coyote answered his barks. Perhaps his pack understood that Dad was not talking to them.

I then went to the bridge hoping for a pack reunion and giving Dad more space. Once there I didn’t see Dad or other coyotes. I packed to leave and saw a homeless man, Larry, coming towards me from the east part of the field. Arriving, he asked me if I had just seen “…that coyote run off?” I hadn’t. Dad had been watching me and I hadn’t seen him. Larry walking nearby was enough to push Dad back. Unenergetic today, but not a slacker, Dad had been on watch duty the whole time.

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