Madeline Woodbury’s Follow-up from F&W

Janet,

I’m comforted knowing you are there fighting for wildlife as I am.

F & W called me this morning; they will go over and call these neighbors.

On the other hand I realized The Sergeant’s own dilemma: she is just one of two F & W police.  This is a problem in itself: we need more enforcement and responsibility of humans.  I asked her calmly where does one begin to speak out, shift laws currently in place…. 

We both uttered Snohomish County Council.  I will begin here; I must speak out for the lunacy in which humans can get away with murder and the wildlife will lose every time.  Safeguarding your own animals is one place to begin.

I’ll find the next County Council meeting.  

But she has the address of the responsible neighbor.  I asked for follow up; she said I will not get a return call but to call later for an update.

I didn’t see blood [on the dead coyote] even when I turned it over, so it probably was not shot; it was in such a state of decomposition with the heat and blow flies and their larvae.  I wore a mask, gloves and brought a Native American smudge stick already lit and smoking.  If ever one needs aid for masking the smell of decomposition, bring this with you in a safe carrier, glass, metal, etc. it can help but nothing will mask the smell of death unless wearing a gas mask.

The wildlife officer stated exactly what you did about it’s being too late for a necropsy: the coyote was already too decomposed to perform this.

I would like you to post about this.

Thank you as always,

Madeline


Janet,

I had another follow-up with F & W; she did go and visit the coyote killer’s residence.  Before she visited them, she visited my site; we walked the property, saw where the woods meet boundary lines.  The residents who live there are treating my land as a park or woods that is public or as if it isn’t owned, or walked by other humans and pets, or perhaps other neighbors; they just don’t care. 

Postings such as: Keep Out, Private Property, No Shooting, etc. are what the F&W Officer recommends right now and cameras that send instantaneously to my phone or computer.  Do you have a camera that sends data to your computer or phone straight away?  And you like?  No red-eye, she recommended.

Would you believe the F&W suggested I fence the back woods?!  I was in dismay with her.  First, the wildlife should have free access coming and going.  Placing 6′ fences really sucks to me.  She could tell by my response fencing the woods was not going to happen.  So much for keeping it wild!  Damn, if we walled, fenced, wired all land – where would the wildlife go?  See, it’s this type of insensitivities that bother me.  Fence out the illegal activity.  But what about the wildlife that depend on roaming.  She could see I was very irritated at the suggestion of fencing this in.  

Instead of reprimanding gun-nuts and poisoning wildlife, she wants me to install fencing to keep the illegals out from shooting and killing wildlife?!  It more than stinks as suggestion!

Yes, please post this.  We can’t wait for someone else to do the thing that needs to be done, if something is egregious and we can take part in changing the egregious act – we need to be involved.  Change will not happen on its own.  We need to be involved.  I believe the more eyes and minds that read your site will see and learn too they can be the change against egregious acts.

For wildlife – thank you!

Madeline


  • To report a violation in the state of California, press here.
  • To report a violation in the state of Washington press here.

Bear With Me, by Madeline Woodbury

Madeline knows her coyotes through her field cameras. Above left: a limping youngster; middle: that same limping youngster acknowledging another family member whose eyes are all we see; right: a coyote who got some debris caught around his neck — it looks like a radio-collar, but isn’t! “They are so beautiful in their wildness.  And they’re so clever and smart; committed to their pups and family, aware, cautious, playful, determined, continuously searching for food and safety; they work hard staying alive in this world.  I admire them beyond compare.  Why they have been so persecuted; it’s as taking any group (people) many decide to trounce on, demean – torture and kill. I see them and they fill me with happiness.” 


Hi Janet,

Two days ago, Mostly and I, he’s my dog, found a deceased young coyote.  He or she was down by the creek.  Prior to this, for the past few days we’ve been smelling a corpse smell but weren’t sure where.  He and I searched a couple of different places.  But just this past Thurs or Friday we saw a turkey vulture land.  I happened to be sitting on the deck and just taking in nature when it flew in and landed.  It was around the area Mostly and I kept smelling the smell of death; I thought it was larger than a rat or rabbit or … but this was to the right of the deck.  *Note: we’ve gone back through this area searching, nothing yet.

Yesterday Mostly’s nose was going; I followed.  Behind the garage, down a small ravine and there on the other side, a young coyote.  I just teared up.  Of course, the smell was overwhelming, we’ve also been under fire watch, ashes pouring down on us for 2 days.  It was late and I figured I’d go out today to bury her.

I called Fish and Wildlife on Saturday.  They took my call and got right back to me.  Wasn’t sure I’d see anyone that day but had requested someone look at the body to establish: poison or shot.  

I wrapped him/her in a large paper compost bag and buried for the smell.  I don’t even know if F&W will follow-up.

It’s the bloody neighbors I just know it.  We haven’t had this issue since a few years back since I had it out with the neighbors to the south; I haven’t heard them trap or shoot a coyote since, and they own no livestock.  But these people.  I did tell you I ran through the woods when I heard gunshot a couple weeks ago?  We had it out.  They shot again and I yelled and threatened to call the sheriff in which I have and made a report with them.  What’s illegal is firing in to my woods: he could kill more than his designs such as me, my dog, a neighbor…

I called my neighbor who is also empathetic to animals.  I recounted what happened.  I told him I have a young coyote dead down by the creek.  He’s not happy about it; he told me years ago a neighbor’s dog was shot and killed for running after another’s cows.  He told me that neighbor who owned the dog was not happy.  What we knew of this neighbor is, his dog was abused by the family, it was mean, it ripped up a person’s arm needing stitches.  Why is this even worth mentioning: irresponsible again expecting a different outcome or not even being involved with your animal as it’s chasing down cows.  This dog was not even put down after biting people several times.  My heart went out to the abused dog with the idiocy of so-called owners.

A call in to F&W.  So, a respite on gun shooting but now poisoning, luring in an animal with meat/poison?  This is a first from them.  I told you these people are less than smart on how to keep their animals.  Makeshift tarps for keeping them in, etc.

I’ll call F&W tomorrow if I don’t hear from them.  The shooting, I have filed a report.  This is on my property; the woods run right up to where they keep their chickens and ducks.  But they will not continue to kill coyote because of their less than intelligent ways of keeping poultry.

I will reread F&W for Western WA and find out about poisoning, etc. wildlife.

Due to man’s idiocy wildlife pays for his ill-keeping of animals.  It’s not right; they list coyote as nuisance wildlife as a raccoon, bobcat, and you can dispatch any time?!  Man or woman does not even have to act accordingly they have the permission to kill any of these animals listed as nuisance.  I have work to do and to stand for.

I’m a little set back with my own health though as soon as I’m on my feet again, “nuisance” tagged on wildlife is ill-informative, hurtful to them; it’s brushing them off so someone doesn’t have to act responsibly.  Not right.  I won’t stand for the abuse, the carelessness.

I wanted to try to see if she was shot and it was extremely difficult today.  But it’s why I wrapped her in case F&W wanted to view.  I’m asking too much right now, aren’t I?  This just is not in their league, is it?  It’s why these entities need replacement with thoughtful and responsible persons fulfilling this work.  All around care especially for wildlife.  Not thrown off random acts of violence and poison.  Safeguarding your own pets, livestock, etc.  One needs to stand and be responsible for how they keep animals.

I’m frustrated, sad, and tearful.

Thanks for being there to talk it out,

Madeline

Attacker or Attacked?

Attacks by coyotes on humans indeed have occurred, so I don’t want to belittle these, but it should be noted that they are rare — exceedingly rare — and when they have occurred, they seem to all be related to feeding coyotes. This week a story about an ultramarathoner attacked by a coyote went viral nationally. The response to that story was splashed all over the internet, and on social exchange sites, where, by the way, because of how the story changed, the NextDoor posting was eventually removed by the author. I’ve jotted down some of my thoughts and observations about it.

One of the responses to the ultramarathoner “attack” report by many who fear coyotes was that, “it’s time to cull the coyotes here in SF.” I wish people understood that the number of coyotes has nothing to do with the marathoner’s situation. The “encounter” occurred on the Marin side of the bridge, for one thing. If there was only this one coyote in all the world, an encounter with some of the reported elements could have happened. The little truth we’ve found in the story is likely due to feeding coyotes. What apparently could have attracted a coyote is the crackling of the power bar wrapper. The reported event occurred in an area where feeding of coyotes is rampant. Before people feed coyotes they take the food out of it’s mostly crackling wrapper — imagine a potato chip bag or even a McDonald’s burger bag — and then feed the coyote. Think of Pavlov. Everytime the coyote with this training hears that noise, he’s been getting food from willing feeders. Now, possibly, the coyote hears that sound and approaches. I know a NatGeo photographer who learned this: he could instantly get an animal’s attention by crackling a potato chip bag — something I adamantly discouraged. This is a scenario that could have occurred. Lesley Sampson of CoyoteWatchCanada reminds me that even without the wrapper noise, “food becomes the “reward” for advancing closer to humans”: repeatedly fed coyotes have been taught to approach.

Coyotes who are fed regularly by someone also often display “demand” behavior: they become demanding when the food isn’t forthcoming quickly — it’s a very unusual behavior displayed by a very few coyotes who have been hand fed.

By the way, this man was running, he was not on a bike as reported by some folks, the bleeding on his face was from a fall, not a bite as originally posted — he was not bitten. As far as I have read, he wasn’t attacked at all, but possibly bumped — and I even question this — as the coyote went for the food he had been trained to expect. Three AM is when coyotes are normally out and active.

This is a screenshot from Twitter via SFGate

It’s important to note that Karnazes’ extreme initial report, as seen in this Twitter photo to the left, and his revised report — he revised his story when he was questioned by people who know coyote behavior — depict coyote behavior that is totally out of the ordinary, extraordinarily so. This deceptive photo was posted by him on Twitter with the words, “Animal Attack Beware” and “I’ve been attacked by a shark and now a coyote”. Coyotes do approach challenging dogs, but seldom do they approach people unless they’ve been trained to do so through feeding, and even then they remain hugely wary. I doubt if the coyote ever even touched him. He tripped and fell and bloodied himself doing so, then he posted this bloodied picture of himself saying he was attacked. Might he have been scared? Scared people often fill in details to justify and explain their fears.

I’ve personally seen instance after instance of what has been later reported as an “attack” which in fact was a dog allowed to get too close to a coyote, often while lunging and barking ferociously at the coyote, and then the coyote reacting with a snarl, bared teeth, and hackles up without running off and possibly even following the dog and owner afterwards. The owner thinks their dog’s activity should scare the coyote off, but in fact it causes a defensive reaction in the coyote which is reported as an “attack”. Such an encounter can be kept from escalating and curtailed by quieting and calming the dog while by immediately walking away from the coyote, but often the scared owner enhances their story calling the incident a direct attack, which it was not.

It occurred to me that he even might have posted the story facetiously, just to add some spice to his running, not knowing how seriously everyone would take him. I say this because he himself, apparently, was surprised at the coverage and then changed the story.

https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/coyote-experts-respond-to-karnazes-attack-17379330.php When all was said and done, had this actually been an “attack” on a human? Or might the whole report and sensationalism thereby engendered, be construed as an attack on coyotes? Food for thought.

More of the same today: I followed a coyote from far behind for about 1/4 mile. Way down the street was a woman walking her labradoodle. As the coyote got closer to her, I was about to call out for her to be aware, but she noticed the coyote just then and hurried across the street. This was the best thing to do. But she should have walked on. Instead she created a huge commotion and started yelling “scat, scat”, which had the sole effect of attracting the coyote’s attention, so the coyote stopped and watched from across the street before continuing her trot on down the street. The woman turned to me and told me that the coyote had been “stalking” her from way up the street. I said this wasn’t true — that I had been watching the coyote who was minding her own business and just happened to be walking down the same street as the woman and her dog. The woman screamed at me that I wasn’t there so how would I know. The fact is that I WAS there and saw what went on. This kind of altered reporting goes on all the time.

‘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.

More

Abused

What comes to mind when you are told that an animal has been “abused”? “Roughed up” or “deprived” or even “killed” are what most of us might think. But the term also means corrupted and compromised. This might be an extreme way of looking at the situation, but I’m hoping to drive the point home — and to increase awareness. This coyote, pictured above, listlessly wanders around or hangs around on park pathways, waiting for handouts: he’s been dulled by the humans around him who allow or encourage this behavior. He has lost his desire to hunt for himself and he has lost his wariness of humans: You might say these have been stolen from him by misguided feeders, and compounded by everyone who approaches or tries to befriend him — he thinks of all of these people as potential feeders. Folks who treat coyotes familiarly as tame Walt Disney cutouts may not be aware of the harm they are doing.

As he lounges around, his pace is slow, almost lethargic and his look is mournful, his ears are air-planed down and out to the sides. He’s not sick, though he might look so to many of us. My wildlife behaviorist contact suggests that this behavior is a “conditioned response”: he’s learned that it gets him what he wants: food, and maybe sympathy which will lead to food. He’s exceptionally good at his ploy. However, he’s also exceptionally good at hunting for himself — I’ve seen it. But, being the opportunist that coyotes are, he’s taking advantage of a situation and of a gullible and needy public which is falling into line for him. To them, the coyote looks scrawny (all coyotes are scrawny) and needs food. Or they want to “connect” with nature — “that’s my coyote” “that’s my friend“, I’ve heard. 

I understand people feeding and even trying to befriend wild coyotes have good intentions. Good intentions however do not always lead to good practices. Hand feeding and approaching coyotes can lead to negative outcomes for the coyotes, and sometimes humans.

*Coyotes are wild animals with instincts that tell them to stay away from humans and dogs. These instincts, paired with the opportunity to get easy food from humans — a learned behavior — creates a conflict within the animals.

*This conflict may 1) cause animals at times to move quickly and fearfully which can lead to accidental defensive bites. Or, as the animals become desensitized to people and are fed, they 2) may slow down as their fear dissipates. They come to expect food and when it does not come they may become frustrated. The frustration then may lead to aggressive demand behavior.  This is another scenario that can lead to a bite.

These push-pull conflicts are stressful for the animals. Studies show that cortisol, a stress hormone, is high in wild animals taking chances by getting closer to humans. Stress, in turn, may cause an animal to become reactive (bite): we know that most bites to humans are the result of approaching and feeding. A couple of weeks ago a little girl in an East Bay regional park was bitten<https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Coyote-attacks-6-year-old-girl-in-Dublin-park-15173092.php> by a coyote. 

Although I don’t know yet what provoked the attack, I’m sure there was a trigger.  The first possible explanation (not excuse) for the attack is people feeding the coyotes there — this is what’s behind most bites.  Also, pupping season is going on right now, and the sudden surge of people into the parks (due to the coronavirus) along with human encroachment close to a den area may have been involved. It is stress and fear that cause a coyote to become reactive — not aggression or that they’re hunting us — humans aren’t on their menu.

CA Fish & Game has killed one coyote as a solution to prevent further bites. It was the wrong coyote, so they will kill more: coyote’s don’t get their first bite free as dogs do. A ranger from CA Fish & Game told me that the department would be merciless towards any coyotes who bite, or scratch, or . . . brush up against a human. CAF&G could even start going after “potential biters” who are getting too close to people. EDUCATION and changing OUR behaviors is the long-term solution. Coyotes don’t learn a thing by being killed, but they can learn from our behaviors that we aren’t here for their convenience — we just have to learn how to act.

You can help this coyote, or any like him, to be the wary animal he is supposed to be instead of the dulled and enervated, and deceptively “tamed” animal he has now become. Please do not feed. Please do not befriend or act friendly towards him. Please do not approach or let him approach you. These human behaviors are not only compromising his wily wildness, they are setting him up for a possible sorry end. . . and setting up you or another walker for a possible nip. We need to scare him off if he’s sitting right on or close to the path waiting for handouts — he should be keeping at least 50 feet away from anyone. Please do this for the healthy stewardship of our coyotes as well as for your own safety.

The worst part of this story is that now two of his family members are echoing his behavior — coyotes learn by imitating their elders. They, too are now turning into replica deadbeat coyotes [DEADBEAT: one who makes a soft living by sponging it] who hang around lazily and almost languidly hoping for human handouts. We all need to scare them away or walk away from them always. Please let’s reverse his/their developing stray-dog behavior: even stray dogs bite. And please be an ambassador for them by helping others know what needs to be done. By doing so, you could be saving his life.

The two youngsters taking on the fed coyote’s behaviors.

*Including edits from a Wildlife Behaviorist who prefers remaining anonymous.

More: Food: the Behavior Shaper, and  Human Kindness Could Kill Our Coyote — wherein the detriment of feeding from cars is discussed.

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

Be An Ambassador for Proper Stewardship of Our Urban Coyotes


You’ll see coyotes on trails in parks and sometimes even on sidewalks in neighborhoods. These are normal urban coyote behaviors and don’t mean the coyote is sick or out to get you.

Guidelines are really simple: just keep your distance and move away, and KEEP MOVING AWAY from the coyote, especially if you have a dog (which more often than not needs to be leashed), but even if you don’t have a dog. Please don’t feed or try to befriend or try to interact with them.

These guidelines are not simply for your own safety — though they are for that too — they are also for the well-being and healthy stewardship of our urban coyotes who otherwise could be (and have been) turned into “stray dogs” who hang around, beg, and chase cars. They need to be kept and valued as the wild and wily critters they were born to be.

Note that too much human “love” is just as harmful to their well-being as a human culture of fear. In some pockets of San Francisco, the pendulum has swung from fear to too much love for coyotes, usually through feeding, coupled with befriending, trying to get near, attempting to communicate, or even prolonged mutual visual contact. This human behavior, over time, can ATTRACT coyotes and break down existing natural and healthy safety barriers, causing a coyote to hang around listlessly, chase cars, approach, and beg — instead of hunt.  It’s best to, ”love their wildness at a distance and maybe just out of the corner of your eye”.

Please be an ambassador for our urban coyotes and invite others into the fold. For further explanations about how human misguided friendliness can impact coyotes negatively, please see: Food: The Behavior Shaper, and  Demand Behavior.

Insistence in Coyotes

Dear Janet,

My name is Lynn and I live in Berkeley.  About one year ago my friend Billee told me about something that happened to her son Tod, who’s about 20, when he was walking home late one night from a cafe where he played guitar.  He was on a tiny narrow street of houses en route to his house which is near that mountain that has the cross on top of it.  He noticed some– what he thought were dogs– slipping around him and then two coyotes faced him in the road.  He’s an outdoors guy, he’s always been an independent kid, and their family is a very kindly anti-materialist family with ancient pets who live forever and are cherished the whole time– just so you know.  Well to Tod these two scared him so much– he could not pass them, and I believe him.  It went on a long time and he ended up yelling for help and a woman called to her husband to open the door when she looked out from an upstairs window.  He opened the door and Tod ran inside their house.

He could not get used to the feeling that these animals really felt such ill will toward him.  But that was clear to him.

When he got home,  nobody could believe in this experience, especially his brother who picked him up.  But I believe it must have been true because why should he lie?  He just isn’t like that.  I thought maybe someone was feeding them there, and they thought Tod had come to steal their food.

I’m so glad to be able to ask you about this.  I read about coyotes in the book, “The Secret Lives of Dogs”.  I think that’s the title.  It was very poignant, about the coyotes. It said, “they know people hate them.”  If that’s true I hope they don’t know it.

Sincerely, Lynn


Hi Lynn —

Thanks for contacting me about this story! It’s an interesting one, and I’ll give you my thoughts about it.

I think there are various things that might be coming into play here. First, late night and shadows can play tricks on human imaginations — especially if the human is tired or might have had a little bit of alcohol or such? But also, depending on the time of year, a parent coyote could have shown a little more bravado or insistence than normal if a youngster coyote was nearby that the parent wanted to protect. And I’ve seen males become protective of their females in the same manner at certain times of the year. Another possibility is that these coyotes could have been protecting a source of food that they just found — say some garbage.

If a coyote is insistent, which is what Tod was saying, it can be VERY frightening. This actually happened to me once years ago. It was the coyote’s insistence that was so scary because it left me feeling helpless: none of my actions caused the coyote to move, and resorting to screaming for help did not work either (no one heard me), but walking away, with my dog in tow, did help. This is what the coyote wanted.

There is also something known as “demand behavior”: (see “Demand Behavior”). You speculated that Tod might have looked like someone else who had been feeding them. I suppose this also could have been driving those coyotes’ behaviors.

It’s important for everyone to know that anyone can save themselves a lot of anxiety and fear by always backing off and moving away from a coyote the minute you see one, before it ever even comes to what happened to Tod. Tod’s kind of encounter doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s best for us all to remember to take the step that’s easiest, most comfortable, and most effective for us and the coyotes: move away and then keep moving away. That’s really what they want.

I don’t believe the coyotes were after Tod due to ill-will towards him or humans in general. IF coyotes harbor any ill-will towards humans, as far as I know it would be in areas where humans caused that ill-will in the first place. I’m in contact with ranchers who have confirmed my own observations: where coyotes are respected and left alone, coexistence works well. But where coyotes are persecuted/killed, there’s a never ending battle revolving around a coyote’s need for survival. Read some of the postings on my blog by Walkaboutlou. So yes, I’m sure they know and feel the hate and antipathy towards them where people indeed have persecuted and hated them. Interestingly, I myself have felt the continued animosity of several walkers who I’ve had to confront about their unleashed dogs chasing coyotes: it’s palpable.

Hope this helps? Let me know if you want to discuss more!!

Janet

The minute you see a coyote, even if it is in the distance, walk away from it rather than getting closer and closer.

FOOD: The Behavior Shaper

I’ve written this posting to clear up the difference between food-conditioning and simple acclimation — there seems to be confusion about these terms. 

This coyote pictured here has been listlessly hanging around, within five feet of a path in a park, where he dozes and waits for food to be tossed to him. Food is tossed to him off and on, so he is being rewarded for his efforts.  He has a family he could be with — a pup, a yearling and a mate — but food trumps that for this coyote. He should be hunting — but then again, why would he do that when food will just come his way if he simply lies here? In fact, I have not seen him hunt in a while.

There’s a person who feels he is “protecting” the coyote by letting people know he is not dangerous: “Look, I can go right up to him and he does nothing,”  he tells people multiple times, daily. I tried convincing him that his constant approaching the coyote is not helping matters. This guy also feels the coyote needs to be fed: “He’s hungry, right? or he wouldn’t be there begging for food.” Other people approach to look or photograph him with their iPhones, getting as close as 5-10 feet away: few people carry a good zoom lens which would allow them to keep their distance. And further: they then post the coyote’s location on their social media which draws in even more people to approach or feed and iPhotograph. The feeding incidents take a mere second: it’s hard to catch beforehand even if you are standing right there constantly, so the “no feeding” ordinance is hard to enforce.

I’ve been here educating, but I can’t be here all the time, so I’ve been soliciting as many people as possible to be ambassadors to help others in the area understand that feeding by humans and friendliness — which encourages coyotes to view us as potential feeders — are actually “faux amis”: they are robbing the coyote of his independence and survival skills, and encouraging him to lie around within 5 feet of heavy human pedestrian traffic all day. It’s heart-wrenching to watch if you know coyotes.

Some people have even asked me, “What’s wrong with that, after all, he’s not hurting anyone.” But others are more in-tuned and ask if he is sick, or even dead when he’s dozing off. A handful of people have admitted to me that they had been feeding the coyote regularly — they hadn’t known better — but now they do: they thanked me for the clear signs. The signs I recently put out seem to be yielding some results.

Contrary to what many people have been led to believe, the problem here is not caused by the coyote’s having become acclimated to humans. I know lots of coyotes who have become acclimated to our presence without ending up in our midst or as “problems”. In fact, coyotes throughout the city, in any urban area, are all acclimated to humans by definition: they get used to us because we amicably share the same environment, including in the parks. Be that as it may, almost all remain wary and keep their distance: coyotes don’t just up and start mingling with us simply because they’re in the habit of seeing us or no longer see us as fearsome. Why would they — what would be the draw? Nor is there any “progression” in this acclimatization behavior whereby they eventually come ever closer, and then even become assertive or even threatening towards humans. Yet some people promote this as a truth, using the word “habituation”. It’s a concept causing people to fear the presence coyotes unnecessarily. These people are actually confounding “acclimation” with “food-conditioning”. The two are not the same and have to be kept apart.

“Food conditioning”, when it occurs, on the other hand, especially over time, indeed becomes a problem, and that is what is going on here with this coyote. This coyote’s behavior was not caused by simple acclimation to human presence. The rest of his family does not behave as he does. It was caused by the consistent and persistent proffering of food by friendly humans, so that he now associates humans as a friendly food source. Also keep in mind that every coyote is different, so innate personality plays a role.



Words and their meanings. Exact word meanings are important when talking about such an emotionally charged subject as coyotes, where everyone has a strong pre-conceived opinion. Without using exact language you cannot convey what is really going on or how to deal with it, and this seems to be the case where the meaning of the word “habituation” which is supposed to mean “the diminishing of a physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus”, has been expanded to include food-conditioned behaviors: wouldn’t that then be the “increasing of a physiological or emotional response”?  This confounding, then, attributes incorrect causes to certain behaviors. I’ll avoid the word in order to avoid tapping into anyone’s pre-conceived misunderstanding of the term. We need to understand these as two separate phenomenon: “food-conditioning” vs. simple adaptation to humans. I’ll use the word “acclimation” instead.

“Acclimation” is defined as the “the process or result of becoming accustomed to something new.” In this case it means simple “accommodation” and nothing more: the definition is congruent with the italicized definition given above.  Its effect has been noted in all animals including us. So, for instance, by living in the city, we humans learn to ignore and even screen out noises so that we need not waste energy worrying or reacting to something that isn’t going to harm us: these non-threatening sounds include sirens, a blown-out tire, fire-works, or even a rock band in the park.  Acclimation does not cause us to increase our reaction to those non-dangerous things we become accustomed to, it diminishes our need to react.

This is also true of coyotes. When coyotes become used to humans by adapting to our habitual presence — accommodating us — they ignore us because they realize that we are not a danger, that we are simply part of the environment that’s out there. They do not come towards us or beg for food or become aggressive towards us just because they have become used to us. Think about it: why would they? Getting to know humans and our behavior as we go about our normal and separate lives — without trying to intimidate or scare them all the time — actually creates calmer and, yes, LESS reactive coyotes! But scare them all the time and they’re bound to start showing their teeth self-protectively. Walkaboutlou has noted that if you treat coyotes harshly, they’ll become hard coyotes.

Watch the process as it develops to know what is going on: I have been watching specifically this for over 12 years — for coyote reactions over long periods of time from birth to people and our behaviors [dogs and pets are a different issue which I will cover later].

Wariness and keeping distant are actually built into coyote behavior naturally as you can see by the aversive behavior of all youngsters. But this can be trained out of them by humans: food is this behavior shaper. This coyote here is hanging around unnaturally close to human activity: this was not caused by his becoming acclimated to us. What led to this behavior is humans breaching the natural divide by INTERACTING with him first and foremost through friendly feeding. This, then, coupled with befriending, attempting to communicate, approaching, and even prolonged mutual visual contact exacerbated the problem by making all humans potential feeders. These, interactive behaviors by humans, and not simply human presence, are what alter the behavior of coyotes so that they may hang around close to human activity and even follow people in an attempt to get more food: for them, it’s an easier thing to do than hunting. Coyotes are opportunistic and towards that end are constantly pushing their boundaries to their advantage: if it is advantageous for them, they will change their behaviors.

And BTW, I have never seen feeding lead to aggressiveness. In fact the feeding that I’ve observed over time — and it’s always very friendly feeding — results in very docile, meek, and almost tame coyotes who hang around listlessly waiting for food to be tossed their way. They become nuisances more than anything else, and the situation becomes circular and perpetual. Most importantly, this situation could lead to more negative consequences in that this “proximity” could provide opportunities for these animals to grab a kid’s sandwich or even react to a hyperactive small child. My wildlife animal behaviorist contact says that “feeding changes the relationship between a wild animal and humans, putting them on a more equal footing with us, which, if the animal were to become desperate enough it might, potentially, ‘demand’ food from a human. This is not something that is a regular occurrence, but it has happened.” By feeding we are training the animal — shaping the animal’s behavior (talk to any dog owner to find out how food is used to train an animal) to hang around, which could possibly lead to demanding or intrusive behavior. Food is the behavior shaper. Friendliness abets the process.

IN SUM, ALL of the URBAN coyotes that I know are acclimated, and this is due to the urban situation and by definition: they become used to us because we are there –we are ever-present in the parks we share with them. Nevertheless, they naturally keep their distance and only occasionally cross paths with us. They learn to ignore us because we are not a danger to them. We are simply a part of the environment “out there.” This should not be a problem.

But SOME coyotes have been encouraged by people beyond acclimation, to INTERACT on some level with us and become absorbed into our world. Again, every coyote is different, so innate personality will also play a role here. THIS interaction then, is what is unhealthy for everyone: it breaks down the natural safety barriers that were innately in place. It is occurring more frequently due to a pendulum swing from too much fear towards coyotes, to too much love, primarily through feeding, compounded with befriending, interacting with, approaching,. . . . etc.

People need to understand that they are hurting the coyote by interacting — they are shaping the coyote behavior away from its natural state.. Please, always walk away from a coyote, not for your own safety necessarily, though for that too, but for the well-being of the coyotes. Understanding this process is helping many people change their too-friendly behaviors towards coyotes. However, when this education is ignored, maybe it needs to be backed up by enforcement with fines.

Coyotes, too, have attempted to initiate interactions with some dogs as we walk them — it’s a way they use for finding out about these dogs who they see as “intruders” in “their” territories. Coyotes and dogs generally do not like each other, and small pets, of course, can be vulnerable as prey. I’ll get into this in another posting, but it’s important to prevent engagement by simply walking the other way, away from a coyote. If a coyote has approached your dog too closely as you are trying to move away from it, this is when you’ll need to react more pro-actively with anger and intimidation. More on this soon.

Note 1: One of the rationales that has been tossed at me is that feeding coyotes will keep them from grabbing pets. I read where a neighborhood in Los Angeles put out dog food which apparently cut down on disappearing cats. But in fact, you may just be encouraging the coyote to hang around closer to where s/he CAN indeed grab a pet. Even in this case, you would still need to leash your pet to keep it safe especially from chasing the coyote, so why not just start here in the first place and work on keeping away from coyotes?

Note 2: I hope you noticed that this coyote’s ears are hanging low — almost “floppy ears”. I’ve noticed its persistence in fed coyotes. It has been noted by a Russian scientist that this trait grows, and eventually is inherited, as wild dogs, specifically foxes, become tamer. See the famous red fox study about this.

End of Summer Ranch Observations, by Walkaboutlou

Here are some amazing end-of-the-summer observations I wanted to share. There’s so much information here, lots of detail, and incredible insight, beautifully woven together into a letter. Enjoy and learn! Janet

Hi Janet,

Lou here. Summer is ending and I’m piecing together local coyote snippets and news and ranch situations. All told, very consistent with local human behaviors.

On the ranches where no coyote are hunted, (and livestock are cattle) everything seems very “stable” to minimal. Small litters of 2-5. Predictable vocalizations. The usual subtle background living Coyotes seem to enjoy. The scat in these areas is full of plum and apricot seeds, deer hair, tons of blackberries, and overwhelmingly rodents.

Overall, of course each coyote is a fluid and distinctive individual, subject to rapid change and stages.

But if my summer scouting had a theme, it would be the contrast of Coyotes behavior even in similar regions.

For example, non hunted coyote in cattle ranches (4000 acres or more) seem to develop small, stable packs and territory. The food and ecosystem are abundant in large ranches. If the cattle can range, grass grows leaving vast regions of insects, and rodents. The pups learn early to forage on grasshoppers, mice. Very predictable quiet patterns. Often seen in distance in diurnal behaviors. By Fall, usually 2-3 pups remain. (accidents and natural predators curb litter survival) Pups seem to want to hang with pack a year or 2. Also, prey is scavenged until gone. A deer dying from being hit by car (running off to die in brush) or fawns harvested are eaten and visited until gone. Nothing is wasted.

The contrast again in ranches that hunt coyote hard is almost shocking. I have determined large, sheep operations are very challenging for Coyotes to coexist peacefully. If it’s large, LGD can only be in so many places. Also, large herds of sheep graze the land intensely. The cropped grass becomes a giant short lawn, unsuitable habitat for rodents, insects etc..if sheep are grazing long, you’ll notice hardly any sounds of crickets etc…and blackberry bushes are cut by ranchers because sheep get entangled. So the lack of forage, food and cover changes the setting. Add to this intense human hunting. Very intense. The coyote often become nocturnal. The closely cropped land and human hunters do not favor open, relaxed foraging. There are minimal rodents. So the coyote tend to hole up all day and hunt far and wide very hard at night with time as a factor. And pressure. Another complication-large herds of sheep especially isolated always have old, sick, hurt or dead. Or a scattering of lambs in all directions. The coyote scavenge dead sheep, or prey on lambs. Their pups are weaned on sheep. The smell becomes embedded as food-and a cycle is created.

Other reactions caused by human pressure-non hunted coyote females pick a mate around 2nd year. Hunted female coyote often pair bond as yearlings. So daughter’s breed earlier and with larger litters in answer to hunting pressure.

The social ramifications are evident. Many ranchers will hunt and leave a coyote as a magnet for surviving pack members to investigate, becoming targets themselves. Only this doesn’t work long. Hunted Coyotes learn to truly leave the dead behind. Some mothers will not check out a deceased pup or mate. This detachment of survival to me is amazing but sad too.

Also, such hard living Coyotes show other behaviors. They quickly, hurriedly hunt. And more readily raid any livestock or pets that opportunities give. They often do not return to a carcass after one feed. They’ve learned hunters, greyhounds or snares are sometimes waiting.

Pups scatter and really practice independence by Fall. The long puppyhood of stable packs is absent in hunted coyote.

All in all, stable coyote packs and hunted coyote are vastly different. And unfortunately, the unpredictability of hunted coyote makes them unwelcome even among stable packs. They really are different. And bring behaviors that can influence others.

I wish I could just make everyone leave coyote alone. They would still be amazing. But we would see and learn so much more without ignorance or outright war. Coyote are definetly mirrors of the local humans. If I want to know about people’s culture/lifestyle/knowledge or lack of, the local dogs and coyote will inform me.

Keep Studying and Coexisting.

Lou🐾


Hi Janet-I did forget to add one element to my summer coyote scouting.

This pic off internet sums it up well.

In areas where packs of coyote live more or less normally, you’ll find more or less the usual range in size and color of coyote. Especially in West. However, where coyote are hard hunted and scattered year round, you will find some that obviously have more then coyote genetics. This goes in hand with younger females (yearlings) breeding and also lower coyote numbers. If they are hit hard locally, surviving coyote have no hesitation breeding with dogs, especially free roaming ranch dogs (often kelpie/cattle dog/collie types).

This, in turn, can create more variety in local subspecies of coyote-and no doubt affects some. Larger size or bolder demeanor are often traits of 1st generation crosses. They tend to be absolved back into wild populations. But are another aspect of hard hunted coyote.
In laymans words-if you take away a coyote’s mate and think she’s beat, she’ll just recruit your dog as her next husband. And the pups won’t be Lassie. Either way, coyote will turn the dice of man’s efforts into a win.

Lou🐾

Magic Experience With A Coyote Pup, by James Romano

Good morning!

I have to relate an experience I had with a coyote pup that was apparently separated from his family.

I am a tanker (fire bomber) pilot. I am currently based in Lancaster, CA on Tanker 107. On Tuesday morning, I was walking across the ramp from my aircraft to the crew shack and I saw a very young coyote pup sitting on the taxiway between me and the shack. I am guessing he was about 4 weeks old, +/-. He was all alone. I walked around him and sat down on the ground about 10 feet away from him. He was very calm, but was looking around – I assumed for his family. He was very weak on his feet, but otherwise looked healthy. He was absolutely adorable – cute and sweet as can be.

I am not a fan of making contact with wild animals because I believe it ultimately leads to their destruction at the hands of humans down the road, but this guy needed help. As I sat there, I invited him to come to me. After a short time, he did just that. He was only mildly cautious as he approached, continuing to stop and look around. I felt he knew he needed help, and seemed to be comfortable with my energy. He would start briefly as I moved my hand slowly, but immediately relaxed as he continued his movement closer to me while looking around.

Finally, he came to me and leaned against my right thigh. He allowed me to pet him immediately, and was calm and gentle as can be. He never opened his mouth or let out a sound. I gently pet him as I removed the fox tails from his coat. It was cold and windy that day, and I think he appreciated the warmth of my body and the protection from the wind. After a short time, I picked him up and placed him in my lap where I continued to caress and groom him. His coat looked good, but he was very thin. Pretty unstable on his feet.

After a time, a woman from the fire station came out to see why I had been sitting in the dirt for the last 20 or so minutes. When I showed her the coyote, she told me there was a vet tech inside that works on the base part time. I handed the pup over to her. He was very content to go with her.

The short story is the tech took him to Fish and Game. The plan is to get him healthy again and then release him in the same area. I am happy he gets another chance. I just hope my experience with him and his experience with the Fish and Game people do not lead him to be less cautious of humans.

It was a blessing to me to have this experience with this beautiful creature. It was a very spiritual moment, for which I am very grateful. The little soul had messages for me, which I believe I received. My hope is that he does not suffer in the future for delivering them.

I have some videos I took on my phone. If you are interested in seeing them, I will forward them.

Blessings,

James

[Post Script: Shockingly, James passed away unexpectedly a week after he sent me this wonderful story]

Hello Stranger!

Today, who should appear across a chain-link fence but this fella I knew well from a place miles away, but hadn’t seen in many months. Although most coyote families I document are long-time residents of their territories, a few leave their homes for greener pastures. What an amazing surprise! He saw me from the distance and came up to investigate, recognized me, and lay down in the grass facing me but on the other side of a chain-link fence. He remained there, watching me with soft eyes: closing his eyes repeatedly ever so slowly in recognition and acceptance, and I, of course, beamed inwardly and blinked back!

I stayed only long enough to snap a few record shots because I know this is denning time and coyotes don’t want their hideouts discovered. When I began walking away, he knew the visit was over: he got up and stretched and watched me go, and then he turned around and went in the other direction as I looked over my shoulder. He had come over specifically for a little visit with someone he recognized from his past life!

I suppose that I had been somewhat of a fixture in his life as he had been in mine: he had watched me frequently call out to folks to please leash their dogs when he was around, and I’m sure this coyote knew exactly what was going on: that I was watching out for him. I meticulously respected him and his space, and over time he came to know this: the trust and respect were mutual, which was confirmed by his coming over to see and acknowledge me with a, “hello there!” from way across the fence.

Humans Caring

These videos are old, but they tell a really sweet story of human kindness. We should all be aware that when we take over the environment for our own use, we inevitably destroy habitat for other critters. The human in this video, once he realized what he had done, does his best, and succeeds, in helping a youngster out of its dilemma. The event must have been terrifying for the youngster who was not used to humans, but through eye-to-eye contact might he/she have been able to read the benevolence in the big man? It’s how coyotes read each other.

The story: Two years ago, David Bradley was digging through a pile of bedrock to run through his rock crusher when he realized there was a coyote den right there. “On first breaking it open, 4 coyotes ran off. Going back for another rock I uncovered this little guy. The den had collapsed around him trapping him 5 foot below ground. Amazingly enough, even though I couldn’t possibly know that he was there, I didn’t hurt him, and when I moved the next rock he was just ‘there’.” The text continues, so make sure to read it beneath the video on YouTube.

 

Diverting Attention

The coyote had made herself very visible on the side of the hill during the early dawn hours, sitting there and watching the sparse activity on the path and street below: a few walkers, dog-walkers, workers and traffic. Whenever she spotted a perceived potential *threat*, she ran out onto the path in front of whomever she was worried about, forcing attention towards herself so that the youngster up the hill would not be noticed; or she ran onto the path in back of a dog to make sure dog was moving on. A couple of times she got too close to a dog and the dog reacted by growling and barking. But when the dog and walker moved on with a shortened leash, as I advised, that was always the end of it: this is what the coyote wanted.

I looked up and saw the youngster there watching the goings-on. When looked at directly, he moved to a bushier part of the hill and watched from behind the thicker foliage — this was a shy one.

Soon Mom headed down the street a ways while maintaining eye-contact with the youngster, and then she stood in the middle of the street, eyeing the youngster repeatedly. At this point, it became apparent that she was trying to coax the youth in her direction so that she could take him away from the open space. He was too fearful, and during her ten minute effort he did not come. So Mom returned to the hill and sat there close to the path, again drawing attention to herself apparently as a ploy to keep attention away from the kid. It worked: no one saw the kid except me while I observed.

By the next day, the youngster had still not left that space. Maybe reinforcements were needed to entice the little guy to leave, because now, there were two adult females with him. I spotted the three of them sleeping together on the incline before dawn.  The second female was much more reclusive than the first one — she made no attempt to serve as a decoy. Instead, she, too, remained as hidden as possible, similarly to the youngster, while the first female performed as she had the previous day. You would have thought that during the night there might have been a change in the situation, but there had not been.

On the third day, the lot was vacant! I guess the two adult females had accomplished their mission! The day before had been one of the few times I had seen that particular second female whose relationship to the family I have not figured out. Some coyotes are much more reclusive than others. Most likely, she would be related: either a yearling pup herself from the year before, a sister, or even a parent or aunt of the mother coyote. Coyotes are territorial, and it’s only family groups that live in any particular vicinity, keeping all other coyotes — intruders — out of the picture. This is one reason they feel territorial towards dogs.

An Incident: Embracing the Neighborhood Coyote, by Deb

Photo credit: Deb

Yesterday was bizarre. Early in the morning, while sitting in my car (getting ready to take my dog out) I observed a white male jogger stop near where our neighborhood coyote was lying hidden in the bushes. He was angry and started waving his arms menacingly as he quickly walked towards the bush.

The coyote froze for some reason. The man in a very angry tone started shouting, ”Get outta here you nasty thing”. Next he started kicking the bush.  I jumped outta the car & asked the man to leave the coyote alone — that he had been injured. He said, “Lady I don’t have to”.

At that point a Mom driving her daughter to school, stopped her car. She willingly took the time to talk to this man. She walked up to him and said she had seen what was going on and wasn’t going to leave until he did. What a gal! She was spectacular. Her name is Lisa. We exchanged phone numbers. At that point, she persuaded the man to leave. She is very fond of our neighborhood coyote as well — as appear to be most folks as they get to know about him!!

THEN, a neighbor, Jake, who lives across the street came out and said he wanted to help. He had seen the incident unfold while he was getting dressed for work. What is great here is how our neighbourhood community positively responded when we saw a mean person trying to hurt a wounded coyote.  I am proud of my community for quickly defending our wild neighbour whom we have become deeply fond of.

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