An Exuberant and High-Energy Pre-Dawn Play Session

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Coyotes, like we humans, go through mood swings, as can be seen by their behaviors. On this particular morning, this young coyote was in a very happy mood, and showed this by racing around wildly in circles — it was a spurt of sheer joy and energy.

Then, a clod of dirt was energetically and excitedly dug up and tossed into the air. It became a toy which was chased, and jumped after any number of times.

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And then a plastic water-bottle was found:  It cracked and crackled loudly when it was (warily and distrustingly at first) pounced on or bitten, rubbed on or stepped on. The coyote seemed to love producing the sharp sounds.

When coyotes find themselves alone, they often play and entertain themselves, and often they use found objects as toys. This young coyote is one of the loners in the city who has not yet claimed a territory nor found a mate.

[Note that it was before dawn when I observed this and took the photos. I’m surprised my camera even caught these images in the dark. I was able to increase the exposure once I got home, so you actually can see what is going on!]

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The Log Wobbled From Under Her

Have you ever stood on a log and then had it wobble out from under you because it wasn’t as solidly planted as you had imagined?

Perching high on a log for a view

Perching high on a log for a view

So, I watched this happen to a coyote. She stood on a log for a better view — coyotes like perching high for good views — and watched the world go by. Coyotes are sure footed, but how could she have known that the footing of the footing was not a sure thing? It wasn’t. The log began wobbling under her weight, and then she, too, began wobbling. She lost her balance and jumped off to investigate. She pulled and tugged on the log, this way and that, and finally she pushed it and it began to roll down the hill.

She, as we would have, watched in amusement as it rolled off. Unlike us, she went after it — maybe she was thinking, “tit for tat”? First she chased it, then she bit at it a few times — “take that!” “It’s not nice to play tricks on wildlife!” And then she pushed it with her front legs and it rolled some more, with her chasing after it.

Coyotes are particularly fun-loving and know about tricks. They play tricks on each other, and tease each other all the time. So maybe this young coyote — a loner without a family to interact with — was just doing to the log what she would have done to a sibling had she had a sibling around.

Or maybe she just really wanted a peaceful perch from which to view the world, because when the log stopped rolling at a pile of brush which would have blocked her view had she tried to get up on it, she found another perch and remained there, doing what she had wanted to do in the first place: watching the world go by!

Ahhh, here's another log that can be used for a lookout

Ahhh, here’s another log that can be used for a lookout

Playing Coyote, by Audrey Chavez

“My friends and I were delighted to witness a lively urban coyote enjoying a morning romp with a tennis ball.  We felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to observe a wild animal at play.”

One Happy Coyote!

Although I posted this on YouTube two years ago, I neglected to put it on my blog. I just rediscovered it, so here it is now. This is a nine-month old female youngster. She plays with a dead vole: she runs, tosses, scoots, summersaults, rolls, flips and jumps! Enjoy!

Coyotes, Indeed, Are A Happy Species!

This little coyote is one of the coyote loners in our city, without a family, but that hasn’t stopped him from being resourceful and finding a way to entertain himself and enjoy his time. Take a look at him playing with a found ball at his park. He exudes happy, happy, happy, fun, fun fun!  It’s an utter joy to watch him so self absorbed in this exuberant merriment! And it’s especially nice to hear that the neighbors have adopted him — at arms length, of course — as their very own special neighbor! Yay, Bernal Hill!!

The Bernal coyote playing with a ball on Bernal Hill @bernalwood #bernalheights

A post shared by Rally Pagulayan (@rallyp_157) on

Video taken by neighbor Rally and posted on Bernalwood.com on 8/8

Pups!!! And How The Divide Suddenly Doesn’t Feel So Vast, by Ella Dine

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I spent several hours observing the family yesterday, mostly because I wanted to catch a glimpse of the pups. I thought there were two, and based on my observations, I have no reason to suspect more. It was well worth the wait. The pups bounded out of the den area toward mom looking very much like similarly-aged, wiggly, exuberant canine pups. When asked what word comes to mind when folks think of coyotes, most are probably not inclined to say adorable, but I am convinced this is because we don’t often get the chance to watch these creatures interact with each other. These pups were utterly Adorable. They showed appropriate deference to mama, and when she nudged them back into hiding, they complied obediently. They appeared so energetic that I wondered what they do all day–how are those energetic little bodies confined to what appears to be a small den area? This is purely speculative, but I imagine they do sleep a fair amount, at least during the hottest part of day. I also began to wonder about the parents–what having a litter would be like, for instance, for the first time? How startling would it be that suddenly this mix of instinct and responsibility becomes your single overarching biological imperative? How stressful would it be to try to protect your babies in the wild?

I realized that part of the fascination in observing this family is watching instinct in action, animals with no agenda other than pure survival and all the attending struggles and challenges inherent in it. It’s quite beautiful.

Surrounding the area, people passed leisurely, most looking down at phones. I had a million gadgets myself– a phone in my pocket, a clunky camera around my neck. It brought to mind the most obvious thought: of course we sometimes harbor an irrational fear of wildlife. We know next to nothing about what their experience is really like. We are so removed from our own inner-wild (conditioned as we are to tame and master our own, uglier impulses) that witnessing that shadow side–that latent part so familiar to our most distant ancestors (and the very thing coyotes depend upon to thrive) can be spooky, but also exhilarating. Anyway, we certainly have more in common than not–all it took to convince me of that was to watch a mama with her two adorable babies.

You can see by this pic how well the pups blend in!

You can see by this pic how well the pups blend in!

 

Playfulness of Coyotes


Being the social and family oriented animals that they are, coyotes who are “loners” — without families — often get . . . lonely!

Most coyotes eventually find a mate and live in families, but there is a time after dispersal– when they leave “home” — when they may be on their own, alone, and when they may miss the companionship they had growing up with their parents and siblings. Coyotes are often forced out of their birth families and territories by other family members. This usually happens between one and three years of age for various reasons, for example, when the smooth-running of the family is interfered with, because of growing competitiveness due to a domineering parent or sibling, because of new pups, or because of limited resources in an area. So the coyote moves out and on. Each coyote needs about a square mile of territory to provide for itself. When they find a vacant niche, they’ll fill it.

As seen in the video, this little coyote very definitely wants to engage with other canids — he’s running back and forth in an engaging sort of way, with his head bobbing up and down like an excited pony, and he even poses with his rump up and paws out front in the classical “lets play” stance which dogs use. But he’s also testing and assessing — notice that he does not fully approach the dogs who are facing him and close to their owners. He appears both excited and a bit anxious about initiating the interaction — there’s a push-pull of desire and fear.  I have seen short romps shared by dogs and coyotes, and then, the coyote is off — but the coyote may return day after day for this same type of  contact. Please beware that even a playful coyote such as this one in the video may suddenly nip at a dog which has been allowed to play with it: this just happened in one of the other parks where the coyote began to feel threatened or harassed and ended up biting the dog’s leg. We need to remember that wildness will always be part of who the coyotes are. At the same time, the coyote’s good will and good intentions can be clearly recognized.

The first coyote which appeared in the City outside of the Presidio (where they first re-appeared in the City in 2002) actually appeared on Bernal Hill in about 2003.http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Coyotes-usually-seen-in-West-spotted-in-2633779.php, and this coyote, too, was reported to have romped with one of the dogs.

Respecting the coyote’s wildness means keeping our distance and not allowing our dogs to engage with them. When a coyote eventually does find a mate, he may feel very protective of his chosen mate, of himself, and of his territorial claim from all potential threats, be they real or perceived. He’ll do so with “warning messages” in the form of body language. Sometimes this “messaging” is conveyed assertively, as with a nip. Think about it: how else might coyotes clearly get their message across? Know what is going on, and please respect him by keeping your distance. And know how to shoo the coyote away if he comes too close to your dog.

At the same time, be thrilled and filled with awe and wonder at this wildlife returned to the City! Coyotes are fascinatingly social and interact with each other in the gamut of ways we humans interact with each other, including through playing, through a full array of family interactions which show that they share many of our emotions, and through protecting personal and home spaces from dogs who  they consider potential threats.

Coyotes have been moving into all urban areas — into what we consider “human areas”. It’s interesting because we humans have excluded, persecuted and wantonly killed this species for so long. Our presence helps keep away other top predators which is why they may feel safer living among us.

Thank you everyone for trying to understand coyote behavior and for accepting them as a neighbors! To become more aware of coyote behaviors, watch the video presentation,  “Coyotes As Neighbors”. And, stay tuned! In a new posting which will be appearing here and on Bernalwoods.com within the next few days, I’ve addressed some of the issues and hype that have been appearing on some recent social media sites.

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