‘Till Death Do Us Part?

Introduction: That “coyotes are known to mate for life” is something most of us have heard. In fact, I think it’s the only reality I’d ever seen in 13 years. However, as events in one of my families unfolded in early February of this year, I had to question this. My own perception of the turn of events came in bits and pieces and in fits and starts as revealed through a field camera which was out only at night, and not always then. My own desire for this pair-bond to be everlasting caused me to latch onto any details to support my belief, and herein lies a sort of soap opera aspect to the story which I weave into the ending. My ‘hopeful speculations’, along with background history have grown this posting into an unusually long one — a mini-tome! Yikes! 

Please know that every single one of these photos, as all the photos on this blog, were taken as photo-documentation at the time these events occurred. I don’t substitute a photo from another time or place that might simply “do”. What you see, and what you read, are authentic and concurring.

Background.  The years immediately leading up to this story serve as an important point of reference for what comes later, so I’ll sum those up here.

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Shelter-in-Place: More Coyotes Taking To The Streets?

I see this coyote regularly walking the streets between his two parks when few people are out to see him. But with “shelter-in-place” more people were out in their neighborhoods where they could see him. He reacted, as can be seen in photo below.

People have been asking me if I’ve been seeing more coyotes on the streets during this shelter-in-place time — there was a write-up about it in our local rag. The answer is no, I have not. The coyotes that I myself routinely observe are NOT out more in the streets than usual. In fact, with pupping season approaching within weeks, most of my regular coyotes are hunkered down very close to home and waiting for the big event. Pregnant females generally tend to be much more careful and elusive during this vulnerable time in their lives — I’m seeing them less frequently than normally, and certainly not in the streets.

It could be that some of the remaining youngsters who have not yet dispersed have been wandering a little further afield, including in the streets, a few even dispersing, but the numbers would not be significantly different from any other year.

When pups are born in a few weeks, if resources are scarce in the family’s immediate and usual hunting areas, they’ll travel out further, including through the streets and neighborhoods where you might see them, but this is part and parcel of their yearly cycle — it is not caused by humans vacating the streets while sheltering-in-place.

If a few humans feel they are seeing more coyotes on the streets during this shelter-in-place — and by the way, some of the photos in the article were taken in parks where we see coyotes regularly and not the streets — it’s probably because these humans themselves are more out around in their neighborhoods and therefore are there to see them. I’ve seen many more people out in their communities than usual these last few days.

And yes, some coyotes on their normal routes which do include streets, will experiment with ‘shortcuts’ and new routes, where some people would then be seeing them where they normally don’t. I’ve actually seen the opposite effect in a couple of parks and neighborhoods in San Francisco where human outdoor activity has suddenly picked up because people need their exercise: here, I and some other observers have been seeing coyotes on the streets much less than previously. This, again, is probably more properly due to the upcoming pupping season.

Anxiety because of being watched caused this coyote to dump right then and there — so even more people saw him

Coyote Sighting 9/25/13, by Dianne Palad


Image 1: My friend and I were taking pictures of the sunset on a cliff when I turned around to find this coyote passing by. He (She?) was aware of us because he glanced at us a few times as he walked by.


Image 2: I wanted to get more shots of him so I whistled and sure enough he turned around to look back at us for a few seconds. Then he continued to look on the ground for some food and we continued with our scenery pictures.


Image 3: Here’s the coyote walking back to direction he came from. He stopped and found a groundhog or somethingto feed on.


Image 4: Here’s a close-up before he went back. I didn’t bother following him back because I wanted to finish taking pictures of the sunset.


Image 5: No coyotes in this picture but I just thought I’d share the sunset with you since it was what I came for in the first place! =)


[Dianne wrote this piece after finding the posting by Mark Citret of his coyote sighting at this same location: Coyotes on the Cliff in Daly City, by Mark Citret, April 27, 2012 . Dianne left a comment, and then other readers asked if she would post her photos, so here is her story].

 

Seasonal Fur, by Charles Wood

These pictures show my mom and dad coyotes in Summer and Winter fur. I’ve also included a picture of Dad after he went for a July 2011 swim. He looked surprisingly skinny. Both Mom and Dad in 2011 were underweight. I agree with Janet who had surmised around summer of 2011 that their 2010 large litter and two new pups in 2011 left Mom and Dad with less food, three or four of seven 2010 pups surviving and staying with them through late 2011. When too many coyotes are around, fewer coyote pups are produced, again as Janet reminded me this year when we saw just one pup. Again, Mom and Dad had two pups in 2011 and in 2012 they had one.

For me, my July 2011 encounter with Mom was significant and I want to describe it. The July 2011 picture of Mom was taken from a bridge and shows her looking up and at a time when her milk was drying up, a time when she was a particularly busy coyote.

Coming into view from under the bridge, Mom at first hadn’t sensed that I was there. The sound of my camera alerted her to my presence, interrupted her travel and she stopped. She hadn’t wanted to stop, but I again had bothered her and that disliked dog, my dog, was there too. She had to stop and “deal”, it’s the rule.

Stopped, Mom seemed only slightly disturbed. Then she slowly scratched herself, trying to rid herself of us like two dastardly fleas. Done scratching, she still did not look up at me. Instead, closed mouthed, she turned her head to the right and stared motionlessly off into the distance at nothing, focusing. Mom composed herself for several more moments, preparing to speak while exuding patient exasperation. She knew it was me there, above her on the bridge looking at her for the hundredth time, that horrid dog at my side. We were too close, but not unforgivably so because the proximity was entirely impassable height. Mom contemplated a safe yet unwelcome circumstance. Self-possessed, she sorted through the implications. Mom’s pregnant pause was longer than I expected. My mind cleared of all except anticipation. Mom looked deep within herself, carefully considering her next words.

What do you say to an errant grown man who, though knowing the rules, repeatedly insists upon transgressing beyond endurance despite having been told over and over again not to do so? “You, man, and me, coyote: here we are, too close now, inconsequentially albeit. I am unpleasantly surprised and actually sir, we don’t know each other all that well, now do we?”, she could have thought to herself. When Mom was ready she looked up at me, was composed, calm, stern and seemed to say: “Do we three have to do this again?” Mom asked me: “Must we?” That question was also her statement about who she must be. Before she had spoken thus, I didn’t know her.

Having interjected myself into Mom’s intimate space, from taking her away from her more important tasks, and from having been spoken to about that by Mom, I felt sheepish, humbled if not shamed. Yet I took her picture as she looked at me. Then, as she trotted away, she seemed wise and I like a child. She talked to me alright, and it was a significant encounter to me because that is when I recognized her. From that recognition, I began to love her. For my having taken Mom’s picture then, I would say to her, “Mom, you are a coyote, and I am human, we each are what we must be.”

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. Use this scare tactic ONLY if the coyote is coming towards you and imminently in your “space”. Your best option, of course, will be preventing getting that close in the first place by walking away from a coyote the minute you see one, especially if you have a dog. Please make sure to read my flyer: How to Handle a Coyote Encounter: A Primer.

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.

Following Mom, by Charles Wood

Pup1

Both photographs are of my LA county pup following Mom around. Both were alarmed when they saw my companions, another human and two good sized dogs, and me. Mom headed down the road and within a minute her puppy followed. The road offered us a clear view of them, but for only parts of the way because brush along the road at times concealed them from view. Soon both coyotes were hidden. Yet Mom could have immediately hid with her puppy in the brush. Why didn’t she? I think she had decided it was to her advantage to use the road strategically.

When Mom took to the road, I didn’t know if she intended to approach or avoid. I think she knew that by taking to the road, I wouldn’t know where she would end up or whether she intended to come towards me or intended to go away. All I would really know was that she was on the move.

PupMom

After dusk, Mom came out from hiding to sit and stare at us, her puppy still in the brush. A third coyote, Dad, came in and out of view near them. Together, Mom and Dad formed a stone wall against an intrusion. Then, apparently instantly oblivious to danger, the puppy decided to come out and join Mom. Mom got up and the puppy followed her back into the brush. The puppy is too young to know that Mom doesn’t want to play when actively guarding the family.

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.

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