Intruder, Without Apparent Incident

In the morning a few days ago I watched an intruder — a 2½ year old male — wander through another coyote family’s long-time established territory without apparent incident. In the past, whenever I’ve seen an intruder in an established territory, the intruder has been confronted and driven out, almost always immediately, but more rarely within two weeks. Coyotes are territorial for a reason: resident coyotes drive outsider coyotes out to protect the limited resources on that territory just for themselves, and to maintain a safe-haven for raising vulnerable pups. This limit of one family per territory also then limits the population in any given area to that one family. And this was the case in the territory where this “visitor” found himself. A mated pair of coyotes has lived there for a dozen years and this year they had a litter of valuable pups.

I was astonished to actually recognize the intruder — he was a fellow I’ve known since birth: Hey, it’s a small world out there! I have been able to keep track of this fellow through several areas within the city, where he has remained 2, 4, and 8 months respectively, after leaving his birthplace at 1½ years of age due to having been driven out by his siblings. He has even had a female companion — not a mate — in a couple of those places. Was he now actually moving again, or was this a short investigative/scouting expedition from which he’d return to his last claimed area?  I don’t yet know the circumstances of his sudden appearance at this new place. In fact, upon seeing him I began harboring the hope that he might be on his way to reconnect with a coyote he befriended 8 months earlier. He was only a year-and-a-half of age at that time and maybe not ready for her yet, and she was going through territorial turmoil of her own. When she left the place where their friendship bloomed, he also left, but in the opposite direction. In San Francisco, the age I’ve seen male coyotes settle down to family life is four years of age — that seems to be when they are ready, though I suppose it’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

Anyway, as I entered the park, all I initially saw was a walker carrying her dog and walking away, so I knew one of the coyotes was out prompting this walker’s behavior. Then, when I walked around some bushes, I saw who it was. My eyes popped a little when I saw him, as I thought to myself, “Is that really you?” Yes, it was. “What are you doing here?” I actually said out loud.

The dog walker disappeared down the path, and the coyote went about fixedly sniffing with his nose glued close to the ground as he zigzagged through the area with intent and direction to his movements. He spent time where the resident youngsters liked hanging out. It occurred to me that, with his amazing olfactory ability — coyotes can smell pheromones, which are body chemicals, and more, telling them all sorts of things that we aren’t even aware of — he would be able to tell everything about the health and age and possibly social position of each of the coyotes living there. He was absorbing the entire situation through his nose. None of the resident coyotes was out and about when the intruder was there.

For the previous several days I had noticed much less activity from this family. Whenever coyote behavior or activity changes, you can be sure SOMETHING is going on, even though you might not be able to figure out exactly what that something is. Might this have been the SOMETHING that was going on: the intruder? I don’t really know, it’s only a guess at this point. Intruders can be dangerous for families, so youngsters would have been taken to a more protected/hidden location. A lone interloper coyote could be on the lookout for weakness within the family — that’s how things operate — which might allow him/her to take over a prime territorial situation: one of the “weaknesses” I could think of was that the parents were getting along in years. Then again, his showing up there may just have been a benign and quick passing through, and the lack of family activity there may have been due to something else. I was surprised that not one of the resident coyotes was on his case, but a quick pass-through would have explained this — before the family got whiff of him. They would, of course, eventually find out that he had been there through scent.

After about ½ hour of observing him, I saw him walk across and then out of that park territory, always briskly moving along — and that was the end of that. I haven’t seen him again — just that one time, within that territory claimed by others, far, far away from his own most recent claimed area. Only time will answer my questions, if at all. Why was he there? Why did he leave his previous home — and has he done so permanently? (I’ll be able to check on this). Will he be back, or was this just a stopover on his way elsewhere? Note that if he came back, there could be a territorial battle. The resident Dad has been through several of these over the years, defending his family’s turf,  which have left him limping and torn apart at each incident for weeks at a time. Or maybe, as I am hoping, the intruder is on a mission to find his old girlfriend. If that’s not a romantic fantasy, nothing is! What made me think of this is that from his last home, the park where he showed up is on the way to hers, and not so far away.  So let’s see what happens!

Addendum 11/9: This coyote has not been seen at his last “home” for at least six weeks. And two to three weeks ago a pair of adult coyotes was seen playing nearby that old home: might these two be new claimants of that territory?

Leaving the park

Sirens Lead to Howls and Yips in a United Front


Come to think of it, I don’t hear loner coyotes howl very often, even on their own claimed territories. Is this because they don’t want to “proclaim” to the world their ownership of a territory they might not be able to defend alone? And neither do I hear coyotes howling for any reason when they are passing through territories other than their own.

The female in this video, when she was a loner on her claimed territory, never used to respond to sirens during daylight hours (though she did so sporadically at night), though she would howl in distress after being chased by dogs or in response to seeing one particular dog whom she did not like.

However, in this video, with a new male companion, she obviously felt secure about belting out her response to the sirens for the whole world to hear, and seemed to be super-happy about it! Coyote families respond to sirens all the time, possibly to express their family unity and their territorial separateness from their neighboring coyotes.

That male companion situation, however, was short lived: it lasted only four months. The male/female relationship was disrupted by another female before the bond was solidified (yes, this happens even to coyotes) and the male companion moved on, so the female now again is a loner who again does not respond to sirens as she did when she had her male companion. She does, however, continue to bark in distress when chased by dogs, or when her one dog nemesis appears on the scene.

This video shows clearly how lips are used for modulations by coyotes.

Although I mounted this video on Youtube eight months ago, it’s only now that I’m getting around to posting it on my blog, after it has garnered almost 1M views.

Scout Continues On The Run

Scout disappeared from my radar about six weeks ago, after a short return to her old territory at the end of June from where she left abruptly after seeing that her vanquisher was still there. It appears that this little coyote will never give up hope of returning. . . . some day, some day.

For those who do not know her story, she was viciously driven out of the territory she had owned for three years by another coyote, Wired, in February. Sadly, humans probably had a hand in the outcome of the territorial battle.

July 20th. Photo credit: WMontgrain

A couple of weeks ago she resurfaced in a park across the city. Some of the photos showed her looking well and healthy, but others showed her looking very thin, even factoring in that all coyotes look scrawny at this time of year because it’s the end of their shedding season: there is nothing left of their 3″ thick and fluffy winter coats.

She is an interloper without a territory, and interlopers are not allowed to stay long on claimed territories. The new park has long belonged to another entrenched coyote family. Scout was there for only about ten days, when a neighbor saw the territorial fight on Sunday, July 21st at dusk that seems to have ended her stay there. She has not been seen there since this happened: she is again on the run, leading the life of a fugitive.

So Scout is continuing to experience hard times. I try to console myself be remembering that coyotes are resilient and are made to deal with adversity. We all hope she is okay.

I continue to see Wired very sporadically in the territory she took over from Scout, but few other people have ever seen her there — she is a much more elusive critter. She makes regular long exploratory trips to all corners of the city: her latest excursion took her to 19th Avenue, close to Stern Grove. After these wanderings, Wired always returns to the territory she won from Scout where she continues to be irregularly, but often enough to keep Scout away and homeless. UPDATE 8/8: According to her radio-collar emissions (as per the ecologist at the Presidio) she has spent her recent time at the Presidio and Lands End, and been all the way down to Brisbane.

Scout Update: Heartwarming and Heartbreaking

I’ve been able to keep track of our territorially-displaced coyote, Scout, for the last four months as she kept herself out of the way and inconspicuous for the most part in various neighborhoods throughout the center of the city. And then, during the last several weeks she appeared in none of those places and I lost track of her.

So it was overwhelmingly heartwarming to hear from my friends that she had been spotted in her old territory the morning of June 26th: she’s alive and kicking and has not, apparently, given up hope of returning to her old home: what a trooper!  And a brave one at that since she might have been risking her life!  I was sent images, and indeed it was her: she was there, off-and-on, during a five hour interval that morning where, I’m told, she could be seen repeatedly yawning, I’m sure out of anxiety. I myself was only able to catch trail cam images of her before dawn that day as she headed toward her old hill (see above), and then again as she headed away that evening.

Wired making sure Scout stays away

By that evening, Wired — the radio-collared coyote who won the territory in a battle in February — had picked up her scent and was already on her trail. When Scout sensed her presence she was compelled to leave the area. The next day I caught images of her at one of her nearby hideouts where she hadn’t been in almost a month. Then, Wired, too, was seen checking out that same area (see images directly below): she is still hotly pursuing Scout. And now, again, I have lost track of Scout. Wired is back and remains in charge of what is now HER hill where she can be spotted sporadically.

The infrared photos show that Scout has several new sores on her underside and legs which she did not have before. Are these due to malnutrition, bugs, infections, being repelled by other coyotes, or simply wear and tear from life? Let’s hope this is just part and parcel of normal coyote nomad existence. Coyotes are very resilient, as this coyote has already shown us, so we can hope whatever is going on resolves itself quickly.

So Wired remains the territorial empress of what had belonged to Scout, and Scout remains the territorial-less roving nomad and vagrant, eeking out a living in-between territories claimed by other coyotes who keep her at bay. That is the part that’s heartrending.

Wired: the reigning alpha coyote

Coyote Territorial Movements: Scout’s Story

I’ve been able to keep up with a displaced coyote for the last four months. I decided to summarize what has been going on recently with her, as well as her territorial life previous to the battle which displaced her. I’ve used names here to help you keep the individuals involved sorted out.

The wanderings here were put together based solely on my visual identification of individuals in different families I’ve observed over the years, and with a couple of field cameras. I seldom use field cams because they are intrusive: coyotes know they are there. I define anything as intrusive which changes the behavior of a coyote. Coyotes look right at the cams because of course they can see them and hear them. You’ll notice that many trap-cam photos show the animals looking directly at the camera. Sometimes a coyote can only hear the camera, in which case you will get photos of the coyote (or other animal) looking up and around as he/she tries to figure out exactly what and where the sound is. Some coyotes come over and examine the cameras because they are worried about them. I know one coyote who actually “messages” his dislike to such cameras by defecating in front of them, kicking dirt, or even knocking them down! Yikes! Anyway, since I’m not seeing Scout on her territory, and I wanted to follow through on her story for at least a while, I resorted to using a couple such cameras on routes where coyotes have been seen several times. Friends have allowed me — when these coyotes have been sighted in their areas — to put up a camera very temporarily on or near their properties and I want to thank them for helping out!

These coyotes wander generally and much more than I’ve depicted here. The movements depicted here are simply to show points where they went, and when, which affected Scout’s story.

I did not observe the coyote referred to as “Wired” being captured and radio-collared on January 3rd. My observations of her begin after that. I called up the Presidio to ask about the new radio-collared coyote in Scout’s area. Within San Francisco, no coyotes are radio-collared EXCEPT those within the Presidio, so they would know about her. That’s how I have that date. She was in the general area of Scout’s territory for weeks before the territorial fight. Scout’s sudden change of behavior to constant periphery walks and patrolling hinted at what was to come, but I was unable to identify what was causing this behavior change until after the attack: then it all fell into place.

Coyotes, once you get to know them, can be identified by their faces, their general body shapes/outlines and their movements/behaviors. But in addition, very interestingly, I have found family resemblances within some families — no different from in some human families. Recognizing these family similarities has helped me find where some coyotes had once been after they moved, by going back to my previous photos of that family. Dispersed individuals often, of course, continue to change a little appearance-wise as they fill out to their adult sizes. There is a slight difference between the younger and slightly older coyote which may throw you off when attempting an exact identification — until you compare them to the previous photos you took of them and realize and confirm that indeed, they are one and the same coyote.

Scout was Queen Bee as a loner for two and a half years in her territory. The bliss of friendship and camaraderie followed and lasted five months. She was obviously as thrilled at the new situation as were her long-time observers. But it ended and she fell hard. Defeated in battle by an intruder, she lost everything, and was barely able to hold on to life itself. Even now, to stay alive, she must constantly flee from place to place, continuously looking over her shoulder. Scout’s story emphasizes how strong coyote territoriality is: they fight for and defend their turfs. Her story also speaks strongly for how extremely social coyotes are: they interact all the time — both adversely and harmoniously — and have strong family ties: they sometimes even check on family individuals over distances.

As of this posting, here are my last two sightings of Wired and Scout. Wired is seen on May 24th (three days ago) passing over the path that Scout has been taking for a week: that’s the first part of the video. Then, Scout is seen this morning passing through again: note her continual looking over her shoulder before continuing on the path: she does not want to run into Wired.

Recovery and A Transformed Life

I no longer see our banished coyote in her old territory, but I have been seeing her, if only infrequently, not terribly far away. It’s of course great to see that she’s still alive: she’s a survivor. Her situation a month after receiving her wounds can be seen in the video below: she endured an infection in the torn up part of her neck which then began to drain — the video below depicts this. Today, two months after this video was captured, she is fully recovered from the infection.

Showing the draining infection from a territorial fight as it appeared about a month after the wounds were sustained. She has recovered. (Trap camera in friend’s backyard).

But her life has changed drastically from what it had been before the intruder drove her out from what had been her paradisal three-year home — she has had to change gears. She is now an outsider, a sort of outcast. She has become an interloper without a territory and belongs nowhere, except out of the path of other coyotes. She’s living on the edges and in-between other coyotes’ territories.  This changed situation must be hard enough on her, after having been queen of her very own territory previously. But having no territory is just part of her new hardship.

A field camera has caught the entire situation. I seldom use these cameras because they are intrusive to the animal to the point of changing their behaviors and startling them. More on that in a future posting. It is in the vicinity of a friend’s home that I began regularly spotting the banished and recuperating coyote. Then, the week before last, the radio-collared coyote suddenly appeared on the screen of an automatic camera on my friend’s property. Yikes! That radio-collared coyote appears to be pursuing the banished coyote beyond the territory she fought for and won to drive her even further away. The banished gal has strong ties to her old home, having lived there for so long. She keeps her distance from there, but not a great distance.

As my friend Lou stated in a previous post, canids and canines “can literally be everywhere by scent, sound and sight.” It’s how the radio-collared coyote found the banished coyote’s new retreat, and how the banished coyote became aware of the radio-collared gal’s appearance at that place — though they probably have not actually “seen” each other. This has caused our pursued coyote to pretty much leave that retreat, returning only a couple of times during midday hours over the following two weeks, while the more stealthy radio-collared coyote has been passing through fairly regularly at midnight.

Taken to the streets: I found the banished one trekking across town before dawn this morning, right in the middle of the street. She stood right in front of the car with headlights shining brightly on her. I jumped out of the car and took this photo.

And there’s even another level to the story. The area these two female coyotes have been passing through appears to “belong” to a mated pair of coyotes who I’ve known many years. I didn’t know this until they began appearing sporadically in the trap camera. I apparently have placed the camera in a perfect cross-roads spot — it’s Central Station there! The camera has been catching the pair together, or more recently the male alone, coming by, if infrequently, and sniffing for the last several weeks, as seen in the third section of the video below: I’m sure these territorial owners know exactly what is going on through their noses and what Lou said above: they are very aware of the two coyotes, and may even be aware that one is pursuing the other. . . . in THEIR territory. Hmmm. What’s going to happen? As you can see in the video, the male marks the area as he passes through.

Three different unrelated coyotes at separate times passing through the same location. 

Meanwhile, back at the Okay Corral (disputed homestead), I’ve seen the new radio-collared coyote regularly — her instincts are intact and she tries to keep out of view — in diametrical contrast to the first coyote. And she makes forays into what was our coyote’s new retreat. The displaced coyote is no longer seen in her old territory, and, it appears, she’s being forced away from her new retreat.

The radio-collared coyote keeping a low profile at her won territory.

As I’ve said before, there’s lots going on in the coyote world which is below our radar: this is what coyote lives are like; these are things they have to contend with.

Adversity Continues

Wired coyote has returned

After brutally driving off our 3-year resident coyote and hanging around the area for about two months, the Wired intruder headed off to an area several miles away where I serendipitously encountered her a number of times. She appears to be roaming the entirety of San Francisco, from corner to corner. I wondered if she had permanently moved on. I wondered what her plans were. But she was gone less than a week and is now back patrolling the turf she battled for and won.

Ragged: tattered and torn in body, but not in spirit

During those two months, our previous resident coyote had been staying away and hanging low as she recovered from her severe wounds and infections. Then, during the last week she, of course, became acutely aware of her rival’s absence and was making daily forays to her old turf, bravely sticking her toe in the door — so to speak — moving to reclaim her domain. We of course no longer ever saw her romping joyously at the top of hilltops, Queen of her domain and ever so happy, but rather slithering by quickly and surreptitiously through inconspicuous places. Her tentative forays were not being met with resistance from her arch-rival and things appeared to be going well for her. That was during the week the Wired coyote was away. But now that she’s back, we’ll have to wait and see what kind of a truce, if any, is worked out between them. Let’s hope there’s not another fight.

It’s been an amazing drama, and a scary one, if you care. One has to wonder at the stress and tension being sustained by this brave little creature willing to risk her life to defend her turf. Coyotes are known to kill each other over their territories: it goes to show just how important their exclusive land-claims are for their survival. Again, I want to point out how intense coyote lives are, with ups and downs to match anything going on in the human world.

See: Detrimental Effects of Radio-collars

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