Pups Emerge from their Den

Less than a week ago, on April 28th, these pups emerged for the first time from their den. The timeline is about the same in all the territories here in San Francisco. I wanted to share what the brand new pups look like, taken with a field camera. These are three weeks old and Mom is already regurgitating solid food for them, though they’ll continue nursing for another month.

Stewardship and guidelines for coexistence are easy, but you have to abide by them to keep coyotes, dogs and people happy and safe. The important thing is to keep away from them and their denning areas. They will be extremely protective especially during pupping season: the only thing they own and care about is their families right now.

Dogs are their biggest problem — dogs go after them constantly. As far away from their dens as 1/4 mile and more, they will approach dogs (as they do non-family coyotes) to message them to keep away. This is why it’s much less important for folks to know exactly where a den is than to know that it’s denning season. If you’ve been seeing coyotes in your area, you can pretty much be sure they are pupping and therefore will exhibit protective behavior which extends far beyond the den itself.

If you stay vigilant and keep your dog leashed, and then walk away from a coyote when you see one, you will be protecting both your dog and the coyote. You will probably not run into a coyote that often, so this isn’t a lot to ask. Any dog that isn’t leashed in a coyote area is actually free to chase coyotes: the owner is allowing it. Every chase (but also barking at and lunging at the coyotes while on a leash) sends the message to the coyote that the dog is an attacker — that’s how they see these things. And every such incident erodes the dog/coyote coexistence interface. If the coyotes are chased, they learn that’s what dogs do and they come to expect it and become more ready for it and willing to put up a defense. Respect is granted when it’s earned.

Small dogs and cats are a totally different issue because they can be seen as prey, no different from a rabbit or skunk. When you walk your small dog, please keep it leashed and close to you — not on a long extended leash. And, again, when you see a coyote, shorten that leash even more and walk away. You might have to pick up the small dog as you go if the coyote comes towards you. So please, be safe, keep your dog safely away — far enough away to keep them from reacting to the coyote by barking and lunging in their direction: this is the best way to respect our wildlife and to build respect from them.

Small children have been in the news recently as the result of coyotes approaching and biting them. This is not only rare, it is extremely rare. Humans feeding coyotes may be behind this, but also just the fact that it’s denning season I’m sure is an influencing factor. Again, please stay vigilant and keep small children close to you at all times.

Having A Mellow Dog Is Not Insurance That A Coyote Will Not Approach

2016-04-12“My dog is the mildest, shiest dog I’ve ever known. She startles at everything — runs from the drop of a pin. Yet, two coyotes approached her anyway, dashing in our direction from the distance. At first I thought they were two dogs who wanted to play, so I didn’t do anything, but as they hurried closer, I realized my mistake too late.

They headed immediately for her rear end.  She had been unleashed, but fortunately she didn’t run off. I grabbed her and leashed her. I kept my eyes on the coyotes which is what seemed to keep them away as I slowly backed out of the situation and then walked away. It was very frightening.”

A coyote doesn’t care if your dog is aggressive or mild — all the coyote cares about is that the dog is in its space. In fact, it is often the calmer dogs that coyotes attempt to *message*, either through body language (which most dogs can’t read) or more directly by nipping the dog’s haunches if the coyote can get close enough. Coyotes may pick a milder dog to message simply because they are able to do so — it’s easier — whereas it is more dangerous, in their eyes, to message an aggressive dog. So a dog’s mildness is not a factor in attracting a coyote’s interest to a dog. Whether calm or barking aggressively and lunging at them, any dog could be “messaged” to move it away. Remember that coyotes would do the same for intruder coyotes — this is a function of their territorial behavior.

It appears that this particular dog and owner happened upon one the coyotes’ favorite “lookout” spots — folks had seen the coyotes often relaxing in this spot. The dog was standing there, in a solidly planted stance, as if he were claiming the spot, staring at the coyotes as they came in closer. Another contributing factor may be that these coyotes might have just been chased by another dog — dogs chase coyotes often. I’ve noticed  that sometimes coyotes are more eager to “message” other dogs when they themselves have just been provoked by intrusive dogs, and I’ve seen them choose a milder dog to do so. This can be prevented by moving away from coyotes the minute you see them: doing so shows them that you are not interested in them and not there to threaten them or fight for the spot.

Please always remain aware and vigilant when you walk your dog in a park with coyotes. If this owner had been aware from the start, she could have leashed and moved away as the coyotes approached — this is what the coyotes wanted, and it is something that is easy to do. And it would have saved the dog-owner from a lot of unnecessary fear and anxiety.

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