Canine Chess, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet,

Fall continues on. And so does the canine chess on local ranches. It’s frustrating yet fascinating at same time. The ranches that don’t allow coyote hunts have some really interesting packs and dynamics. The spring pups are now foraging and moving about independent of parents. Sometimes you see them meeting other youngsters and you can tell by their excitement and inexperienced body moves they are still pups. But learning who is who and where is where. Some are too bold and vocal, in regards ranch dogs. But that will change in time.

On other ranches, the development of a new local hunt is underway. But incredibly, the local coyote are already responding with canine chess moves.

There are dogs of greyhound/staghound/deerhound/ wolfhound crosses who are being developed in packs to run down and dispatch coyote. These packs are young yet, but already proving they are good at this.

However, coyote response has been instant and shown new insights.

Coyote territorial integrity is a fluid thing. Normally highly rigid, territorial rights can vanish with certain situations.

For example, a dead deer, elk or cow will draw in many coyotes, no matter who holds the turf. The resident pair will contest, snarl, and sometimes fight and chase new arrivals. But they cannot hold entire groups off for long. All local coyote hone in on huge carcasses. Then feast over, they retreat to respective territory.

On the ranches where sighthounds are hunting, the coyote are developing strategies. They recognize a sighthound now, and even at a distance, hide. Or, they disperse and literally run for hills and woods. Open pastures and land is forfeited.

And finally, they run for the ranches where LGD live. They actually beeline for the Pyrenees/Anatolian and other livestock guard dogs. They pass the sheep and make for these huge rugged dogs. If the sighthounds cross into these lands in pursuit, the guard dogs engage them. No dog can stand before these guard dogs. And they normally are in groups of 2-5.

They scatter the sighthounds who now have to run for their life. And the coyote quickly disappears.

I don’t necessarily enjoy the dynamics of a pack of huge sighthounds closing in on a single coyote. But I and other locals are astounded by the ever changing ingenuity of these coyote. Ironically, the LGD don’t bother much with coyote. Because the coyote fear them and keep distance. In a sense, they submit to these massive powerful guards.

And apparently, they have no qualms about using LGD to ward off fast footed hunters.
Take care,
Louūüźĺ

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‚Äô 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? Again, simply shorten your leash and walk on and away.

Responding to Recent Postings on Social Media: A Recap of Some Urban Coyote Behaviors and Some Explanations

This posting is a slightly revised and expanded version, with photos, of what was originally written for, and posted on, Bernalwood.com on May 27th.

our Bernal coyote at dawn

coyote at dawn

We have coyotes in most of our parks here in San Francisco,¬†and most folks I’ve spoken with are thrilled about it! ¬†Enjoy it¬†and respect its wildness! At the same time, there are some people, especially pet owners, who are not so thrilled. Here is some information I‚Äôve put together¬†about coyotes, much of it based¬†on my own observations, as a response to¬†concerns and comments which have appeared in some of the social media recently. This is information that¬†applies to urban coyotes everywhere, not just here¬†in SF.

COYOTES ARE TERRITORIAL AND LIVE IN FAMILIES

coyotes in our parks

coyotes in our parks

Most parks in San Francisco have one stable resident family, or a loner. Coyotes are not¬†“pack” animals of unrelated individuals. Families¬†“claim” territories which they “own” from which they exclude other coyotes — this is what keeps the population density down. They¬†trek through the neighborhoods every night, during the early morning or early evening hours — and, more rarely, during the brightest hours of the day — marking their territories to keep other coyotes out and looking for hunting opportunities.¬†Studies show that in urban areas, there is generally about one coyote per square mile — a family of 4 would require about 4 square miles. You will always be seeing the same individual coyotes in any particular area.

Although we have parks with loner coyotes, most¬†parks have mated pairs with families. Coyotes mate for life, and both parents raise the young. Coyotes mate in January or February and produce young in April — births occur only once a year.¬†

The number of family members¬†fluctuates up and down continually over time. In one park, it went something like this: 2-5-3-4-2. The fluctuation is due to new pups, and then to their dispersal or deaths. There is only about a 30% survival rate of pups during their first year¬†—¬†disease and nutritional issues take their toll.

When it’s time for youngsters to “disperse”, the parents will drive them out, or they may just pick-up-and-go. This usually occurs between one and two, and sometimes three years of age, and it occurs throughout the year — there is no “dispersal season”. However, the breeding adult pair will remain in the same territory over many years. Interestingly, wolves will actually kill their own kin¬†in order to preserve their own statuses and territorial rights. I’ve not seen this in coyotes, but I have seen the altercations that drive coyotes out of their birth territories.

Cars are urban coyotes’¬†chief cause of death — please drive carefully! They often trek on our traffic grid — it’s often the “path of least resistance”. ¬†A few days ago, in our Diamond Heights neighborhood, a car swerved right into someone’s house to avoid hitting a coyote during the early morning hours.

MORE ASSERTIVE OR INSISTENT BEHAVIOR

coyote shows her anxiety and displeasure with a dog by jumping up and down

coyote shows her anxiety and displeasure with a dog by jumping up and down

As the individuals in a family mature, some of them may go through phases of what might be called more “assertive”¬† or ‚Äúinsistent‚ÄĚ behavior, such as: following or running in the direction of a dog. During pupping season, the assertiveness is strongest, with coyotes even approaching and possibly even nipping at a dog’s haunches. These are coyote “messaging” behaviors: coyotes want dogs to move on and to know the territory is taken. These behaviors don’t “define” a coyote, and they don’t last. Think of these as phases in a teenager’s life, or in a parent’s life — there’s an ebb and flow to behaviors for each coyote, often based on what is going on within the coyote’s individual family: Are there new pups? Is there increased sibling rivalry? Are parents having issues with the offspring, or trying to get one to disperse? I’ve seen no evidence to indicate that such¬†behaviors build up towards more aggressiveness. Many of the more apparently “assertive” behaviors, both in juveniles and adults, are based solely on circumstances and happenstance encounters, so keep your distance.

SIGHTINGS

trekking through the neighborhood

trekking through the neighborhood

A substantial increase in “sightings” doesn’t necessarily translate into a spike in the coyote population, though this is what many people assume. Again, increased¬†sightings could be due to their current¬†family dynamics which¬†may cause individuals to wander farther afield.

Unusual weather conditions can have an effect on sightings. San Francisco has just been through a four-year drought. Drought conditions cause coyotes to hunt further afield and for longer hours. They become more visible to humans and more prone to incidents during these times when their activity overlaps with ours. It takes 8 full months for an ecosystem to recover from a drought.

Human changes to the environment, including new construction, will affect coyotes in an area. In San Francisco, coyotes may be lingering longer in neighborhoods recently, and therefore be seen more, because of the current program of thinning and eliminating dense and protective thickets in the parks, reducing coyotes’ normal secure habitat.  Stopping the destruction of the habitat, and compensating for the exceptional weather or drought in various ways until the ecosystem has recovered, both are steps that could be taken to reduce sightings, and possible dog/coyote encounters, and coyotes’ spending the past-twilight hours in neighborhoods.

FEEDING

feeding coyotes is not good

feeding coyotes is not good

Please don‚Äôt feed the¬†coyotes. Feeding breaks down the barrier that keeps coyotes wild. If they become food conditioned ¬†— which is different from ‚Äúhabituation‚ÄĚ (see below) — problems could develop, including approaching people, which increases the chances for a negative incident to occur. Feeding them also encourages them to hang around yards where people don‚Äôt want them.

Coyotes are opportunistic eaters, which means they can eat almost anything, but their preference in San Francisco is for gophers, squirrels and voles, which they eat whole: they need the meat, muscle, bones, fur — all of it — to nourish themselves properly. They also eat fruit, nuts, bugs, weak or juvenile raccoons, skunks, opossums, and possibly snakes. They prefer their whole foods over human-made¬†foods, but if that human food is available, they’ll try it. And they will eat the occasional cat or small dog if¬†circumstances are right¬†— they don‚Äôt know who is a pet and who isn‚Äôt. Don’t create the right circumstances that could add your pet to the food chain. Please protect your pets by not allowing them to roam free and by supervising them closely when out-of-doors.

As top predators to an area, coyotes have helped rebalance the environment: they control rodents and some mesopredators, such as opossums, skunks and raccoons.

HABITUATION

a habituated coyote is not a dangerous coyote

a habituated coyote is not a dangerous coyote

Urban coyotes do not “fear” humans — that is an incorrect term. Rather they are “wary” of humans. This means that, although a coyote won’t flee lickety-split in fear when they see a human, they nonetheless will maintain distance and not approach us. And we, in turn, need to respect them and their wildness by keeping as far away from them as we can. “Habituation” is a normal progression in urban areas — you cannot prevent it because you cannot stop coyotes from seeing humans on a daily basis — they get used to seeing us. A habituated coyote is not a dangerous animal. In fact, the term “habituation” was first used to describe bears as being more dangerous if they got used to people and lost fear of us. This assumption has been turned on its head: scientists now know that bears who are habituated tend to ignore humans, whereas bears who have never seen humans become reactive. In Africa, to make gorillas less reactive to humans, for the tourist trade, people purposefully habituate them — they become less dangerous.

Coyotes also habituate to “hazing” tactics, which is why such tactics should not be used if a coyote is way out in left field. Scaring off a coyote should be used sparingly. It should be reserved for when a coyote has come too close to you. It is a useless tactic unless the coyote is closer than 50 or so feet to you, which generally¬†delineates¬†its¬†critical distance for discomfort.

Note that ‚Äúhabituation‚ÄĚ is different from ‚Äúfood conditioning‚ÄĚ. When visibly feeding or hand-feeding a coyote, you are conditioning it to approach humans. Don‚Äôt feed coyotes.

THE ISSUE IS WITH PETS

suspicious coyote mother and a dog owner not being vigilant

suspicious coyote mother and a dog owner not being vigilant

Whereas coyotes don’t approach humans, dogs are a different story because of territorial issues and because of prey issues. In many ways, coyotes and dogs look alike, but coyotes and dogs are naturally antagonistic towards each other. Remember that coyotes keep other coyotes out of their territories. Coyotes¬†are also¬†both curious and suspicious of dogs: they may feel compelled to come in closer to investigate. Always supervise your pets to prevent incidents: the minute you see a coyote, leash and go in the other direction. Most dogs have a tendency to go chasing after coyotes. Please don‚Äôt allow your dog to do this.

coyote messaging a dog -- the dog should have been kept away from the coyote

coyote messaging a dog — the dog should have been kept away from the coyote

Coyotes have approached dogs. If they get too close, they could either grab a small dog or “message” a larger dog who the coyote considers a threat to its territory or its personal space. They can only do this when they get close enough. Don’t let them. You can prevent an incident by¬†keeping¬†your dog away from coyotes in the first place, by leashing when you see one, and by walking away from it.¬†It’s no different than when you encounter a skunk with its tail up: keep your dog off of it, and move away from it.¬†

coyote following

coyote following

 IF, inadvertently or by surprise, a coyote gets too close, that is when to scare it off, otherwise just walk away without running: see http://baynature.org/article/how-to-get-along-with-coyotes-as-pups-venture-out/

Coyotes may follow dogs to find out what the dog is doing and where it is going (they do the same to non-family coyotes). If you and your dog are¬†moving away from the coyote, and away from any denning site, the coyote soon will no longer follow. If you don’t want the coyote to follow at all, toss a small stone in its direction¬†(not at it),¬†and/or approach it (but don’t get too close)¬†using your own blatantly angry body language and angry yelling. Noise alone, or waving¬†flailing arms, is not always effective in making a coyote move — something has to move ¬†towards the coyote. And it isn’t going to help if you are too far away. You’ve got to get¬†within the coyote’s critical distance — at most¬†50 feet — and you have to be assertive about it.¬†Walking towards the coyote while slapping a newspaper viciously on your thigh works, but tossing stones towards it is probably more effective. However — and this is a very important “however” — if the coyote doesn’t budge, it is probably protecting a nearby den site. In this case, turn around and leave. Do not provoke an incident. See the above link in Bay Nature.

It’s always best to be¬†proactive in keeping a¬†coyote away. The minute you see a coyote, leash up and move away from it, and know how to shoo it off effectively if it comes closer to you than 50 feet.

Note that practically all scratches or bites by coyotes to¬†humans¬†are due to¬†feeding the coyote, or to¬†an owner getting him/herself between a coyote and a pet, so don’t do these things. And, never run from a coyote: this activity actually initiates the chase response in a coyote who may also nip at your heels. They also sometimes nip at car tires when the car is in motion. The phenomena is called “motion reactivity”.

ENCOUNTERS CAN BE SCARY

Encounter: the dog chased the coyote and the coyote stood up for itself

Encounter: the dog chased the coyote and the coyote stood up for itself

Encounters CAN be scary if you are unprepared and don’t know what to expect or what to do. Please learn what coyotes are like, not what you think they “should” be like — for instance, that they don’t “fear” humans but are “wary” of them, and not¬†that “coyotes should be heard and not seen”. By knowing their true normal behaviors, and by knowing what to do *IF* they approach your dog, you will be informed and you will not be so fearful. For starters, watch the video, Coyotes As Neighbors: ¬†https://youtu.be/euG7R11aXq0, which will spell out normal coyote behavior and what you can do to keep coyotes away from a pet.

MANAGING COYOTES

The number one method of managing coyotes for coexistence is through human education and human behavior modification: that is what this posting is trying to help with. These have been shown to be extremely effective. The City of San Francisco has been lax in putting out signs or getting educational material to folks. Some of us have been filling the void, getting material, information and guidelines out to people, but as individuals or as small organizations, we have not been able to reach everyone. Please visit coyotecoexistence.com for specific information, and  coyoteyipps.com.

Many cities have coexistence policies — they all work when folks abide by the guidelines. BUT, as with car driving laws, even if you know them and follow them, there will be some fender-benders that might be frightening.¬†We have fewer than 100 coyotes in the City; the number of dogs is in the 250,000s. There is bound to be an incident now and then.

The number of real coyote incidents in the City is not many. There have been less than a handful of dog fatalities by coyotes — all were unleashed small dogs in known coyote areas — all were preventable. There have been many incidents of people being frightened and reporting “attacks” on their dogs. Few if any of these attacks were reported on a questionnaire which would tease out what actually occurred. Instead, these incidents have been spelled out on the social media with warnings of doom that is awaiting us all.

Most of the sightings of coyotes¬†have been reported as charming. But there have been some fearful encounters, and recently groups of dog owners in some of the parks have turned decidedly against them. Social media tends to perpetuate, spread and amplify¬†the fears, and encounters are inevitably worded as deliberate “aggressive attacks”. For instance,¬†recently, there was a report of an attempted ‚Äúattack‚ÄĚ on a dog at 5:30 in the morning. However, a lone coyote, who weighs 35 pounds, is not going to “attack” a 130 pound Mastiff…¬†Coyotes may watch dogs,¬†follow, or hurry in your direction for many reasons, including curiosity, or investigation. They may jump up and down because of anxiety. These are not “attacks”, nor are they “attempted attacks”. Hopefully, by learning about coyotes, we can diminish the very real feeling of fear which comes from not knowing what is going on.

a coyote standing on a pathway, watching

a coyote standing on a pathway, watching

Our Animal Care and Control Department¬†has had many people report “aggressive” coyotes: but when questioned further, the majority of these reports were of a coyote just standing, or doing nothing but looking at the purported victim.

Two years ago I watched a man, straight faced, tell me that he had been frightened “out-of-his-wits” by a monster 100-pound coyote just a few moments before seeing me. He was visibly shaken. He hadn’t seen me watching the whole incident a little way down the path. The incident involved his dog chasing a coyote. The coyote turned around to face the dog. When the dog ran back to its owner, the coyote proceeded on to where it had been¬†going. But the owner was left frightened, and justified his fright by saying it was a “monster 100-pound coyote”. If the dog had been leashed, the incident would not have happened. It happened in a park where everyone knows there are coyotes.

If you have questions, or if you want help with specific issues, please contact me or anyone at coyotecoexistence@gmail.com

Siccing Your Dog On Coyotes Is NOT Cool

2015-12-30

Some unleashed dogs, through the negligence of their owners, run off chasing coyotes. If your dog has a tendency to get excited and wants to chase coyotes, you need to keep your dog leashed or walk in a different area. The problem is the repeat offenders: it appears to always be the same few unrestrained dogs who go chasing after coyotes because their owners refuse to leash them when coyotes are around. ¬†But even worse are the dog owners who blatantly prompt their dogs to go after coyotes: I’ve seen this innumerable times, and I’ve heard stories from others who have recounted their observations of this dog-owner behavior. This is not cool. It might be entertaining and fun for the dog owner, but it is not so for the coyotes, nor for other folks in the park who have watched this happen. In fact, it’s illegal to harass the wildlife in San Francisco. Another variation of this human behavior is to leash their dog and then proceed to approach the coyote as close as possible.

Coexistence involves respecting the wildlife and not interfering with it. It involves¬†keeping your distance to begin with. It means leashing and walking on, away from the coyote whenever you see one. It means advising other walkers with dogs if a coyote is out and where it is¬†so that they can take the proper preventative precautions — it’s important to prevent¬†all interactions by keeping these species as far apart as possible. It means understanding that¬†a coyote might approach your dog for territorial reasons or, if your dog is very small, it might even grab your dog.¬†These contingencies are easily avoided by keeping vigilant, by keeping your distance, and by walking on, away from the coyote. Coexistence¬†also means knowing how to shoo one away¬†if there is an encounter which is uncomfortably close or if a coyote approaches your dog. See the YouTube video, “How To Shoo Off A Coyote.”

Please don’t allow your dog to go after coyotes, and please let others know that doing so¬†is not cool. In fact, it hurts everyone in the park when the coyotes are taught by this treatment that they must remain¬†suspicious of dogs even if they are out in the distance. They are territorial and NEED to defend their space — and they are more likely to do so when provoked. To prevent¬†inciting this instinct, we need to keep away from them. It’s not hard to do: I see folks constantly doing their part to make coexistence work. So please let’s all help those not in-the-loop to come into the loop by letting them know good/safe practices and why keeping our distance and moving on¬†is so important.

 

Coyote “Attacks” and the Media, OR “Messaging”

The following news item and video (click on the link) serve as a¬†departure¬†point for exposing¬†the truth about most reported¬†“attacks” by coyotes, and for explaining coyote “messaging”:¬†“Caught On Camera: Dog Attacked By Coyote”.

Although the video purports to show an “attack”, it does not do so. By calling this an “attack”, the article is creating a news story through¬†sensationalist hype and playing on people’s fears. It sells well, it’s exciting, and it raises the fear level to a frenzy that, for most folks, justifies killing coyotes. It is irresponsible journalism, but it is how the press has been handling¬†almost all reports regarding coyotes. We have suggested to journalists and news stations that they please contact biologists trained specifically in coyote behavior to help them get correct information out to the public, and this article does at least¬†list what folks can do when they see a coyote. At the same time it calls what happened an “attack” which is blatantly¬†incorrect.

What the video does show¬†is a few seconds of a dog running from a coyote chasing it. Also, the article reports a couple of sightings, and that the dog,¬†Lexus, came home with a few scratches. These are the facts from which this “attack”¬†article is spun. But the dog wasn‚Äôt maimed, he wasn‚Äôt hurt, and there’s no proof at all that he was “attacked”. That he “got away with his life” is pure fabrication and sensationalistic. If anything at all, the dog was simply¬†“messaged” to stay away for intruding or even chasing the coyote. That‚Äôs it. The owner should have had his dog leashed, and when he saw the coyote he should have walked away from it: distance is the best preventative medicine.

I’ve been photo-documenting urban coyote behaviors, including their interactions with humans and pets, in urban parks for eight years. ¬†I have only seen coyotes chase dogs in the manner¬†shown in the news video clip, when a dog has gone chasing after the coyote first, or when the dog has intruded on the coyote in some way and then decided to run off.¬†Dogs are constantly intruding on coyotes. A coyote’s nipping message is their attempt to drive the dog away, not maul him to death. It’s how they protect¬†their territories or dens and it’s how they drive intruder coyotes away.

This series of 17 slides shows¬†what happens when coyotes and larger dogs engage. When¬†a coyote¬†approaches a dog, it¬†does so by making quick, short charges and quick retreats, where it¬†is always ready to run off if the dog¬†faces it. Coyotes aren’t animals who will take chances of being injured, so they avoid all-out fights with dogs. Please remember that running away by any animal raises a coyote’s adrenaline and incites a coyote to chase.¬†We advise people never to run from a coyote for this reason.¬†For more information on dog encounters,¬†see¬†video presentation,¬†“Coyotes As Neighbors”¬†and posting of March 30th:¬†Pupping Season: What Behaviors to Expect If You Have A Dog, and What You Can¬†Do,.

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“Messaging” by coyotes consists of nips to the dog’s hindquarters and rarely amount to more than abrasions or scratches. You need to watch this behavior as it happens to really know what is going on. The coyote does not¬†open its jaws for a big massive and incapacitating chomp into your dog. The coyote’s jaws remain fairly closed with only it’s lips pulled back a little from its front teeth so that it can pinch the dog enough to give it a firm¬†message, and these are delivered to the back legs or rump of the dog.

How to prevent it in the future? Don’t let your pet wander freely in coyote areas, even if it’s your own wooded backyard. Coyotes want to be left alone, so keep your dog away from them. Since small pets can be mistaken for prey, please never leave your small pet outside unattended. Note that your fenced yard is a human fabrication which is supposed to keep other humans out. It won’t keep out raccoons, skunks, birds, gophers or coyotes. Coyotes have boundary markers which consist of fecal marking material, not physical fence barriers. So the only way to protect your pets, even in your own yard, is to supervise them or keep them leashed.

http://wtnh.com/2015/03/29/dog-attacked-by-coyote-in-ansonia/

A Young Male Coyote Shows His “Mettle”

When a¬†group of unleashed dogs¬†with their walkers¬†spotted¬†a family of coyotes relaxing at the bottom of a hill, the unleashed dogs went after them. These are the only dogs in this particular park that regularly¬†pursue and search out coyotes, even when coyotes are not out in the open or¬†within sight. The coyotes inevitably¬†flee the harassers: thirty-pound coyotes aren’t much of a match¬†for 60 pound Labradors. I can imagine that the coyotes tire of the intrusions and onslaughts.

In spite of the tremendous screaming by the walkers, the dogs would not return to their owners until the owners physically went to retrieve them. One¬†dog in particular was hell-bent on pursuing the coyotes — he’s the usual perpetrator of these raids¬†and¬†the leader of the rest of the dogs in that walking group.

Today the male coyote youngster gave standing-up-for-himself a try.¬†Dad was there as support, but it was the youngster who put himself out on the front line, heading the defense, while Dad sort of backed him up from further back and often from behind the safety of a small bush. Dad and the youngster coyote stood their ground defending themselves and their turf, and even, as a warning tactic, went on the offensive, darting in to message the dog to leave. When the dog found himself unexpectedly surrounded on both sides by coyotes, his movements¬†became indecisive and¬†he became¬†at a loss about what to do. ¬†That is when the dog’s¬†owner finally reached him, shooing away the coyotes and retrieving her dog.

My hope is that the dog felt uneasy enough in the situation he found himself in so that he’ll have second thoughts next time about intruding on coyotes. Let’s see.

Of course, if the owners had leashed their dogs — which they’ve often been admonished to do — the incident would not have happened. But these owners have no intention of leashing: “I never have and I’m not about to begin now”. This arrogance and amazing feeling of entitlement may not end up happily for everyone.

What is interesting, as far as I have observed, is that younger coyotes often appear to be more willing to stand up to an intruding antagonistic dog than the oldsters.

Up Against A Wall and Walloped

A father and a daughter coyote had been lolling on a hillside when the daughter’s attention became riveted on something in the distance. She stared at it for a minute and then darted off, at a full run. Dad was surprised at her suddenly bolting away, but he followed not too far behind. And I, too, ran, but at a relatively slow follow.

When I caught up with them, they were sitting next to a house and their attention was focused on something I could not see. One of the coyotes then ran forwards and I could see flailing tails and lowered bodies, and rolling around. There was a third coyote there. It was because of this third coyote that the others had made their mad dash over to this area.

I soon recognized the third coyote as a male sibling to the female, son to the father — a family member! I had not seen him in months. This is a coyote whom I had characterized as timid and careful. He preferred “watching” his siblings roughhouse rather than entering into rough play. The last time I saw him, he had hurried off quickly — he avoided being seen by people and pets. I imagined that he had either moved into the bushes for good, where he would live his life hidden from view, or dispersed.

Could this be a joyful greeting of the kind I have seen so often? As I got closer, the sad truth revealed itself: teeth were bared. I realized that this male youngster had probably been driven off, banned, from the territory at some point. Today there was a confrontation because of the male youngster’s return to “forbidden” territory. This would explain his absence.

The fray moved to the open lawn at first but soon the yearling male coyote backed up against the wall of a house — and he remained there, possibly for protection. At first both father and daughter coyote charged him. But then the female youngster went off in the distance, focusing her attention elsewhere, but intermittently updating herself on the battle between father and son, with a glance in that direction.

11-month old male coyote, up against a wall

11-month old male coyote, up against a wall

Dad coyote would stalk, then strike. The strike consisted of punching, nipping, and knocking the youngster over with a shove from Dad’s hindquarters, maybe in an attempt to sit on him, or throw him on his back. The son yelped and fought back in self-defense, all the while standing his ground and not succumbing to lying on his back submissively. I wondered why he didn’t just run off. Did he know he might be chased, and, out in the open, there would be no protection at all? Or was he himself making a “comeback” claim?

The assaults were not aimed to maim, they’re intended as a firm messaging device: “Leave! You are not welcome here anymore!” The father’s strikes were short but intense. After a few seconds of contact, Dad would withdraw about 30 feet and watch, either lying down or standing, probably giving the youngster “the evil eye” — communicating through facial expressions and body language. After a few minutes, there would be another round of this activity.

At one point a dog and walker appeared. I suggested to the owner that he leash his dog and keep moving. The man waited there for a few minutes. At that point the young female jumped IN FRONT of the dog and walker and lured/led them away from the battling coyotes! Fascinating!  The young female returned to her spot in the near distance after the dog and owner were far enough away.

Eventually Dad decided to walk away from the “interloper” coyote, but not before giving several backward glances over his shoulder at the young male — shooting him the “evil eye” again, and peeing a dislike message. He then slowly walked off, with the female close behind, stopping every now and then to look back at the young male who remained with his back up against the wall. When they were out of sight, the young male lay down for a minute, but only for a minute, and then he, himself, darted off quickly in the other direction, and into the bushes.

I caught up with the Dad and young female as they, too headed into bushes. I suppose that the young female is being guarded and protected, and that the territorial domain will be hers. I’m wondering if she has alpha characteristics which might have driven the mother away. Just a thought.

Interestingly, I’ve seen moms beat up female youngsters in this same manner, and now a dad doing the same to a male youngster. It’s as if each parent is jealous of it’s unique position and wants to keep it that way. It’s same-sex youngsters who present the biggest threat to any adult. Is it dispersal time, or some other rule which is being imposed? Pupping season is beginning, which means territories have to be secure for any pups which might be born this year.

Bay Nature: Coyotes Raising Kids in San Francisco

#68 BN6

Continue reading by pressing this link: http://baynature.org/articles/photo-gallery-coyotes-raising-kids-san-francisco/

Breeding Season: Different Behaviors and Edginess

Coyotes come into “season” once a year. This, unusually, is true of the males also. Females come into estrus in January. Coyote males produce sperm only at this time of year, and the process takes about two months. As happens with all critters, including humans, the hormones become powerful source of drives and behavior changes. Above are photos of a male showing a strong interest in a new odor. This is the kind of behavior you will see now.

In addition, it appears that the hormones can cause an edginess around dogs — akin to PMS in humans!? If she’s in heat right now does she need to keep dogs away from herself? ¬†Other behaviors I’ve noticed recently include much more wandering and a lot more marking and scratching the ground. Below is a video of a female coyote reacting to an unleashed dog even though the dog is quite a distance away. ¬†The dog is barking threateningly at the coyote and then approaches. The coyote reacts by baring her teeth, raising her hackles, bouncing up and down and scratching the ground. When the owner finally grabs his dog, the coyote runs angrily down the hill to watch them depart. ¬†You can tell she’s very upset at how she was treated by the intrusive dog, even though the dog, in this case, was a substantial distance away.

Classic Defense Pose

This coyote was lying down, peacefully relaxing in a remote open space when it was eyed by a dog in the distance. It is one of the dogs that purposefully looks for coyotes to pursue them. The owner of the dog doesn’t feel that it is her job to leash her dog, even though this dog continually harasses coyotes. So the dog, upon seeing the coyote, came bounding over in hot pursuit. The coyote reacted with this defensive display message: “leave me alone”. ¬†The dog ignored this, so the coyote turned tail and tried hiding, which didn’t work.

The first photograph shows the coyote scratching the ground and bouncing up and down as the dog approaches. Second, third and fourth photos show the coyote’s lips pulled back, teeth bared, ears down and back, arched back with fur standing on end, tail tucked under. This classic defense pose — the “halloween cat” pose — is supposed to make the coyote look ferocious in order to get the message across, but it doesn’t help with some of the dogs. When the coyote finally flees here, it slinks closer to the ground with shoulders hunched and hind quarters pulled in. Hiding only gained the coyote a few minutes. The dog ended up chasing the coyote a long distance before losing track of it.

Rottweiler Harasses Coyotes

I have seen the kind of activity in this video too often. Our Animal Care and Control Department, ACC, points out that some individuals continue to allow their dogs, “off-leash in active coyote areas despite education, posters, flyers, signs and barriers all warning dog owners to abide by the law and keep their dogs on-leash, or, better yet, avoid the marked areas entirely.” ¬†So a few irresponsible individuals are setting themselves up for unexpected coyote encounters by not following the simple rules. The only method to keep coyotes and dogs apart is to leash the dog in a coyote area. If you and your dog see a coyote, walk in the opposite direction, not towards it.

We are lucky to have an Animal Care and Control Department which is taking a proactive stance to protect both our native coyotes and companion pets. ACC has recently cordoned off areas and instituted temporary park closures — they have been forced into doing this because a few dog owners continue to be irresponsible towards their pets and our wildlife, putting both at risk.

People have asked about “relocating” our coyotes — this is not an option since another coyote would just fill the vacant niche left behind, and relocation is a death sentence for any moved coyote. Coyotes are here to stay and the community needs to learn how to peacefully coexist with them. Ninety-nine percent of everyone I speak to loves having coyotes — a bit of the wild — in our urban parks. It brings back something that they’ve been out of touch with for too long. Note that it is only a few individuals who are irresponsible. Please be a responsible pet guardian: leash your dog in a coyote area or visit parks which do not display coyote warning signs. We only have ten coyotes in the city — it doesn’t take a lot of effort to coexist with them.

Purposeful With Pups Around, by Charles Wood

Before twilight today I saw both of the parent coyotes who live in a small field that borders one of Los Angeles County‚Äôs concrete ‚Äėrivers‚Äô.¬† The last time I saw them was May 3.¬† I‚Äôve yet to see their puppies this year.

Dad is still looking a bit thin.  I came across them both as I was leaving their field.  Mom was partially in cover.  I moved about twenty feet away from my leashed dog to get a less obscured picture of her.  Seeing an opportunity, Dad quickly approached my dog Holtz.  Dad disregarded Holtz’s barking and then charged.  I snapped a quick picture and then moved to stand between him and Holtz.  His opportunity blocked, Dad broke off his charge, moved back, calmed down and did some investigatory sniffing.  Throughout the event, Mom stood at the ready.  My read of Dad is that he would have stopped short of contact with Holtz regardless of my having blocked him.  There is an element of bluff in Dad’s displays and he was aware that Holtz, for being constrained by leash, could not engage him and hence, a close approach was safe.

The photographs included in this post illustrate how purposeful my coyotes can be when they have pups around.  Note that upon seeing my coyotes in their field, I head for the exit at once.  On the way out, I’ll stop in a clearing and take some photographs.  At times they merely hide, other times they do as they did today.

As mentioned in my post of May 3, Mom apparently has had her puppies this year.  It isn’t clear to me if today Mom and Dad, upon seeing me from a distance, messaged their accompanying pups to stay hidden while they took action against the intruders.  Instead, perhaps the two daughters from last year were babysitting so Mom and Dad could have some time off.

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

Two Instances of Mom Dashing Off To Save The Day

Coyotes don’t appear to run much if they don’t have to. They tend to conserve their energy for when they need it, as far as I have seen. However, extreme joy or fear seem to prompt speed. During games of chase I’ve seen them whiz at top speed. Interestingly, the games are kept in a limited area by running in large circles: they never seem to get too far from where the game began. Another instance of joyful running is when they see Mom and decide to join her: Mom always has elicited ecstatic joy as pups run to greet her!

When I have seen coyotes run for other reasons than play, it has always been for more serious reasons. For example, when they are attempting to escape from a dog. Another example is when Mom, who is Alpha and pack leader, sees her pups approached or threatened by a dog: this is what I am depicting here: “Mom to the rescue”. This kind of run is bullet-fast and always in a bee line.

I show two examples of this. In both cases, Mom was resting when suddenly she became aware of a possible threat from a dog to one of her pups off in the far distance — as far as 500 feet away. A dog had either chased or come too close. ¬†The pups are now 20 months old — not infants at all, and larger in size than she is. However, they are not extremely savvy and she knows this. So far, I have never seen them put on a warning display — instead they simply flee from danger. So, when she is within view of them being threatened, she fills in the void.

In the first case she dashed down a hill from where she had been watching, sprinted across a field. By the time she got to her destination the dogs were gone, but the pup was still sitting on the hillside.¬†She continued her lookout — standing guard ¬†— now from this much closer location.

The second example began in the same way: a relaxed Mom, and then, as her attention became riveted on the situation in the distance, her ears focused forward, and off she dashed, over 500 feet away. By the time she arrived, although the pup was no longer in sight, having retreated into the underbrush, she began a distressed barking session. Walkers have been leading their dogs away when this happens, and that is what went on this time.

“Thoughts on Dogs and Coyotes” by Charles Wood

Over the last year the encounters between my dog and ‚Äúmy‚ÄĚ coyotes have escalated into confrontations.¬† A year ago I could unleash my sixty pound dog in their field and successfully manage their infrequent interactions.¬† I‚Äôve come to understand that my past success was influenced by chance and happenstance to a greater degree than I previously thought.¬† Today I consider my entering their field as potentially unsafe and provocative.¬† In contrast, other people use that field at times and have told me they have not seen coyotes there.¬† Young boys use a part of the field for bicycling, having built earthworks for that purpose.¬† Transients at times sleep there.¬† Groundskeepers make their appointed rounds.¬† Teenagers party.¬† Towards these other field users, the coyotes have remained a ‚Äúghost species‚ÄĚ, perhaps because they don‚Äôt bring dogs with them.¬† My dog and I have caused the coyotes to single us out for increasingly confrontational treatment.¬† It took a year for those changes to develop, a testament to the coyotes‚Äô natural tendency to avoid people.

By chance and happenstance I mean factors that influence coyote behavior.  At root their behavior is about food and reproduction.  Coyotes live mostly in family groups.  Consequently, if you see one coyote there is a good chance there is at least one more present nearby.  It doesn’t seem likely that one coyote and an equally or greater sized unleashed dog will seriously injure each other.  My opinion is that mature breeding coyote pairs together are smarter and stronger than one dog of their size or larger and that coyotes don’t play by the rules that a typical pet dog expects.  The encounters between a larger unleashed dog and such pairs seem to me to be advantaged to the coyotes.  The proximity of a human and the degree of human control exercised over the dog become critical to the outcome of such an encounter.

An unleashed larger dog appears to a coyote as an interloper, and intruder.  Coyotes are known to be intolerant of interloper coyotes.  Coyotes will defend their food sources and their young.  Their options in so doing are legion and their choice of tactics is perhaps situational.  My situation is that my dog foraged, he did not simply walk through the area and/or chase my coyotes.  Also, my dog interacted with a mated pair.  My observations of my coyotes and my interloper dog took place over the last year or so.  The contact with the coyotes began with them simply showing themselves.  They seemed to be saying, hey, you’ve smelled me and my markings, why are you still here?  After a time of being in view, they would withdraw into the brush.  At some point later Dad would attempt to sneak up behind my dog, presumably to deliver a nip to his haunches, nips I could prevent by yelling.  As time passed and I ignored these messages, Dad escalated to warning bark sessions after which he would return to the brush.  Barking sessions were later replaced by more aggressive displays of marking, scraping and mock charging followed by partial withdrawals where he remained in full view.  If we didn’t leave, he would begin those aggressive displays again.  Later, to those types of aggressive displays, Dad at times seemed purposed to separate me from my dog where I read his intent as to engage my dog in combat.  Mom recently temporarily separated me from my dog although we were on opposites sides of a chain link fence.

These behaviors developed over about a year, and about a month ago, Mom also began mock charges, marking and scraping without retreating from view.  I should mention that the zone of intolerance increased beyond their field and into other areas where my dog and I had never had problems with them.  My read of my dog is that he would not visit those coyotes of his own accord and that he has felt that way for some time.  Also, much of the time when we walk along the river bank or go to the bridge, we don’t see any coyotes.  When we do, many times my coyotes don’t behave aggressively.  I can’t predict when they will or when they won’t.  When I do see them, it is for an insignificant fraction of their day and I never know what kind of day they had.

Several years ago in a different area, at dusk, two coyotes followed my dog and me as we were leaving.¬† On the crest of a hill, one of the coyotes ran out in view of my dog while the other remained behind crouching.¬† My dog stupidly chased the moving coyote down the hill out of my sight.¬† The crouching coyote did not follow my dog, perhaps because I was present.¬† Perhaps the coyotes were practicing, but clearly my dog was at risk of being defeated in a frontal and rear attack.¬† I hadn‚Äôt visited that other area very often, yet those other coyotes engaged my dog at a level it has taken a year for my usual coyotes to approach.¬† Once, in that other area, my dog was off leash and out of my view.¬† I called him and he didn‚Äôt come.¬† I began to look for him and soon saw him running full speed towards the exit which is located about a mile from where we were.¬† I called him, he momentarily paused, missed one step in his galloping gate and looked me in the eye.¬† His look and body language said to me, ‚ÄúForget it, I‚Äôm outta here buddy!‚Ä̬† It took me a while to catch up to him near the exit.¬† I believe he was responding to some wildness directed towards him by a coyote, again, one of my first visits to that other area.¬† Here again I am speaking to the unpredictability of coyote behavior, the reason the experts advise us, upon seeing a coyote, to go the other way.¬† We can choose to do so.¬† An unleashed dog may decide to chase the coyote and the outcome may or may not be consequential to the chasing dog.

Part of the unpredictability of coyote behavior could be attributable to the fact that the circumstances in which coyotes find themselves change over time.  Food may be plentiful one year and scarce the next.  A female may lack a mate one year and acquire one the next.  One year there may be no puppies and the next there may be several that survive for months or longer.  I have no idea why the coyote I call Mom recently became aggressive when for the longest time she was timid and obsequious.

I want to reiterate that the behaviors of escalating aggression I observed over a year were behaviors that I elicited by ignoring the messages the coyotes were giving me.  My behaviors caused the increasingly aggressive behaviors I observed.  From the point of view of the coyotes, my behavior was that of a perpetual repeat offender.  I continually brought my dog, whom they perceive as an intruding competitor, into their home.  I had decided to give my 60 pound dog a little space with coyotes in order to find out for myself what would happen.  I don’t like what happened.  My behavior was to repeatedly intrude into their home range and seek contact and take pictures.  My unwise dog used the space I gave him to seek food and to disturb the coyote family.  The coyotes’ home range contains their children and their food, the two things coyotes care most about.  They responded accordingly.  After all, coyote behavior is rooted in food and reproduction.

I‚Äôve wondered, considering how little territory my coyotes occupy, how it was that rabbits were always present.¬† Why weren‚Äôt the rabbits depleted and why hadn‚Äôt the coyotes moved on?¬† One reason is rabbits reproduce rapidly.¬† Another is that other rabbits nearby come in and take over the space formerly occupied by rabbits that the coyotes ate.¬† The same kind of habitat seeking applies to coyotes.¬† Removal or extermination creates empty habitat for other coyotes to find and occupy.¬† The idea that ‚Äúsomething must be done‚ÄĚ about coyotes is simply an idea that is obsolete.¬† Coyote survival in urban and suburban areas doesn‚Äôt depend at all on how many are removed or killed.¬† Their ability to find and use habitat in urban and suburban areas depends on how we behave towards and think about coyotes.¬† Understanding the nature of coyotes helps us to manage our lives in ways that minimize unwanted contacts with them.¬† Coyote presence requires us to change a little.

Observing, Responding, and Rest — Hinge On The Human Factor

This story hinges on human conduct, which is always the cause behind coyote “incidents”, and also the route through which misinformation is turned into nasty rumors. ¬†The only way we can control coyote behavior is through our own behavior. Leave them alone, and they will leave you alone.

So, the day began peacefully, as usual. Very often, when coyotes are out early resting on a hillside, a group of unleashed dogs will aggressively run up to their remote location and chase them. It is always the same group of dogs with the same set of owners who have never taken responsibility for keeping their dogs away from the coyotes — this group is one of the few who are not fond of having coyotes around. Ninety-nine percent of dog owners, however, are respectful and want to do what they can for the urban coyotes. They are totally responsible, keeping their dogs leashed or under voice control when coyotes are out. Repeated “incidents” always occur with the same few dogs. Fortunately, today the coyotes were not out when these dogs went by.

However, not long after they passed, a coyote did appear up on a hilltop, observing her surroundings. We know it was the mother coyote because of the behavior which followed. Several groups of walkers stopped to admire her presence in the park as she sat so calmly looking around: this was magical urban wildness. It was all so peaceful. Then the coyote jolted to a sitting up high position: her attention became riveted into the distance. She ignored the walkers below her. And then, as suddenly as she had sat up, she darted off like a bullet at full speed with hackles raised.

I’ve seen her do this before, so I knew what it was about. She sped to the spot which she had been so keenly observing. On the way she encountered one of her full-grown pups — but this is not the one she was worried about. She had the aim of heading-off a dog which was pursuing her other year-old pup. I didn’t even have to be there to know this. We then began hearing this mother coyote’s distressed and upset barking — barking she only engages in if she or one of her pups have been pursued by a dog. The barking is an indication of her distress, but also imparts a message: “Keep your distance.”

A few of us who just a few moments earlier had been watching her peacefulness, headed off to where the distressed barking sound was coming from. On the way we passed the angry owner of the dog which had chased the coyote — she now had her dog leashed. This huge dog continually chases the coyotes — it is a game for the dog who is about four times larger than any coyote. The owner wouldn’t even look at us: for her, the incident was the coyote’s fault for being there — not hers for not having leashed her dog.

We walked a little further until we spotted the mother coyote: she was rearing up on her hind legs and barking. The young coyote which had been pursued had taken cover in the bushes, but the second young coyote sat on the hillside nearby watching as its mother continued her barking for about 20 minutes.

The reactions to this incident were various: these are the reactions which get reported to our Animal Control Department. ¬†Some people were furious that a dog walker had allowed her dog to chase a coyote again — and that dogs are not kept leashed in this “leash-law” area. Some were just fascinated by the barking, and fascinated that a mother coyote would run such a long distance to defend one of her year-old pups from a dog. Some twisted the information to fit their own image of coyotes, saying the coyote had not been chased at all, that she was aggressive and bold and a danger to humanity. And finally there was the individual who points to observers or photographers so as not to have to address his own reasons for not leashing his dog.

It was nice having the witnesses who saw the young coyote chased by the German Shepherd. More and more people are willing to give their names to defend the coyotes and I want to thank them all. When a coyote defends itself or its pack members, it is not an act of aggression or an attack. In fact everyone needs to become more aware of ¬†nuances in terminology so that they may be able to describe what they see more accurately.¬†Lynsey White and Stanley Gehrt of Ohio State University point out that the phrase ‚Äúcoyote attack‚ÄĚ is sensationalistic and fear-mongering. We need a better choice of words and consistency to better understand how coyotes actually interact with humans. People often conflate words like “aggressive”, ‚Äúassertive‚ÄĚ, “bold”, “curious”, “defensive” and “investigating”. Details of the behavior of people, dogs and coyotes prior to and during any coyote incident are needed to really understand what is going on.

Our mother coyote finally calmed down. I watched her slowly head down a hill and into the bushes and finally up to one of her remote lookout posts, where she gave one last glance around to make sure the German Shepherd was gone. Then she lay down and napped. A couple of hours later I returned to the park to find her still in that same spot resting. Coyotes just want to be left alone. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. Please keep your dogs leashed around coyotes.

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