Accomplishing The Opposite of What Was Intended

Whereas coyotes are opportunistic omnivores and can eat almost anything animal or plant, we don’t think of squirrels as being omnivores. Although squirrels apparently can’t digest cellulose — which means in the springtime they can go hungry when their buried nuts begin to sprout — they are more omnivorous than most people think. Squirrels eat mostly a variety of plants, including nuts, seeds, cones, fruit and mushrooms, but they are also known to eat meat in the face of hunger: this includes small birds, young snakes, smaller rodents, bird eggs and insects [Wikipedia].

For predators and prey depending on which end of the food chain you are on, you are either at the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time.

Squirrels can evade a coyote most of the time unless they’re caught unawares or have let their guard down. In this photo above, the squirrel had been diverted from its path on the road by an approaching car: that split second of indecision and hesitancy by the squirrel allowed the coyote to catch it. Either or both of these critters could have ended up under the wheels of the car. Instead, nature played out a little more naturally through the food chain — one had to die so that the other could live.

Note that, after catching small prey, coyotes often “toy” with it in a very cat-like manner. I’ve been told that this prevents the animal of prey from biting vulnerable parts of a coyote’s face, such as their eyes or tip of the nose, without which coyotes would have a hard time surviving.

Human interferences changes the equation, of course, most often without the knowledge of the human who is thinking of their generous “kindness” to nature rather than the nefarious effects of their actions. Here is a story about what can happen.

These are photos of coyotes looking up and waiting for food tossed to them by a human from her house.

Several weeks ago I became aware that a youngster coyote was hanging out in back of someone’s house. I decided to watch, and sure enough, a woman called to me from her porch to tell me that the coyote I had just photographed was “her” coyote who came out when she fed the squirrels. Within a few days four different coyotes had waited out there at various times.

I assessed her of the situation: that feeding brings in not only squirrels, but also coyotes, and it was a bad idea to feed coyotes. She defiantly told me that she was not going to stop feeding the squirrels. She closed the door so she wouldn’t have to hear me. She doesn’t realize that she’s not helping the squirrels, she’s “luring” them into a coyote death trap.

Here is the impact of feeding squirrels in a coyote area:

Squirrels congregate in the area at “feeding time”.

These squirrels have become fat which actually slows them down: they are less quick to get away.

Because of the presence of food AND fat squirrels, coyotes now hang out at the back of her house regularly. These coyotes are constantly looking up towards her porch and the door Dotty emerges from to feed the squirrels. Coyotes are associating food with humans.

Younger coyotes are becoming trained to wait out in plain view — it’s much easier than hunting. 

A neighbor complained to me that the woman is attracting rats to neighboring houses.

Another neighbor walking his dog complained to me that the coyotes now are always there and he has to deal with them: they stand on the path and don’t move, blocking the path.

I’ve experienced the coyotes walking towards me and surmise that they’re beginning to protect that area with it’s “valuable resources”. One coyote has “escorted” some of the leashed dogs (following them) out of the area.

Attracting the coyotes to this pathway makes them vulnerable to being chased by unleashed dogs.

Attracting coyotes here also makes them vulnerable to other people feeding them and trying to befriend them — and it makes them vulnerable to accepting harmful, even poisonous foods. They are learning not to run away from humans, and becoming more comfortable with human nearness. 

The woman says she feeds the squirrels only on her porch and in her yard, but I’ve seen bread on the path outside her house, and I’ve seen one of the coyotes venture repeatedly into her yard through a hole in the fence to get food. The effect of what she’s doing is feeding the coyotes directly: see “Food, The Behavior Shaper.” 

Worst of all, the squirrels are unsuspectingly being lured into a death trap. I don’t think this is what the woman intended. I’ve seen two squirrels downed already just while I was there.

Recently, I’ve seen scat from the fed coyotes which looks different from their normal scat. Might the bread diet itself be bad for coyotes? 

[9-21 jim Giles video]

Forensic Coyotes, by Walkaboutlou

Good morning Janet,

An interesting event happened on a ranch I patrol.

Coyotes helped us solve a mystery. And crime.

The situation has taken weeks to unfold, but thanks to hard work, intense scouting, and persistence, it’s over thankfully.

This ranch has over 4000 acres. It has allowed Coyotes to coexist for 3 human generations. The patriarch of this ranch knows the coyotes, literally. He knows packs, individuals and territory. He knows his ranges and livestock and dogs. His land abuts BLM lands, and has abundant wildlife, including wolves, cougar, bear. His family follows his traditions. It’s an incredible place.

At issue was his cows started losing calves. An unusual amount lost without a trace.

So we literally started scouting/tracking/patrolling every square foot of 4000 acres for clues. His instructions-specifically look for any scat. Particularly coyote scat. Why? His words- ” A lot of things can be happening. We’ve got bear and cougar. Maybe wolves have discovered Fall calving areas. Maybe dogs are raiding. But 2 things I know-1)the cows are calm. They aren’t acting like a predator is around. And 2) whatever is taking calves, the coyote scat would tell me where. Nobody kills without coyote scavenging. The coyote will tell me where calves are lost/killed by the scat.”

So we spent weeks combing the land. Lost more new calves. We found cougar, bear, and wolf scat. We found coyote scat by the hundreds scattered and honestly presented. Not a single calf hair or part was found. Nothing.

The rancher made this conclusion-“coyote eat and scavenge everything out here. We’re not losing calves to predators. I have another suspicion.”

So trail cams were moved. And old driveways, roads patrolled.

Eventually, the mystery was solved. It was humans. Poachers. Efficient. Quiet. Humans. They would drive in secretly in 4 wheelers or on foot. Shoot new calves with .22 rifle. Hoist calf over fence to waiting vehicle. And leave. No trace of kill. No parts for Coyote to scavenge. Ironically, the poachers where same men who vehemently stated wolves, cougars, bear and coyote were responsible.

Calm Cows, and Coyote scat aroused the Ranchers suspicions. Intense scouting and tracking confirmed animals weren’t cause. Again coyote scat verified.

Trail cams and law enforcement finished the case. And found the calf killers. Poachers. Humans.

The patriarch said this in conclusion “my coyote tell me everything. If you listen and take the time, they’ll tell you everything. They are my 1st watchdogs. They tell me if wolves come through. They haven’t bothered my livestock for decades. They respect my LGD. And their scat literally shows me everything they eat and what’s going on. Not a single calf hair for 2 months. No animal can hide food from coyote. No animal can take calves without a trace. Except a human. The coyote told me it wasn’t wolves bear or cougar. It was men.”

So…Coyote Scat was a factor in catching poachers.
Truly, animals can show us worlds within worlds. If we allow it and take time.

Calm Cows and Coyote scat cleared suspicions, proved who it wasn’t, and led us to a conclusion. A human conclusion proved by trail cams and law enforcement

Maybe coyote should work for forensics.

Lou🐾

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.

Habitat Destruction

Coyote Pups: A Tragedy

Nextdoor photo sent to me by a friend. I’ll give credit to the photographer when I find out who that is.

Many “abandoned” coyote pups are “kidnapped” by caring humans who want to “save” them. Of course, coyote parents often leave their pups for a full day or two as they go off hunting, so no pups should ever be removed without monitoring for several days. But situations can be more complicated than this, and this is one of those.

The den was in a residential neighborhood, under someone’s porch. The owner sealed off the area under his porch (hopefully this was done inadvertently). When this was discovered, not for over a week, the area was unsealed and the emaciated and ill-looking, starving pups were removed for treatment, including hydration. They were then put back with warming pads under them. It is after their removal-and-return that monitoring of these pups took place, to see if the parents would return. The parents of course knew they had been taken so they had no reason to return, after all, they hadn’t been able to even get to them for a week. This information comes from our ACC and WildCare who tried to save the pups.

Since the parents did not return, the pups were then transported by an ACC volunteer to a rehabilitation facility where they both soon died. This is a tragedy because a number of people suspected there might be pups. I myself knew there were pups because Mom was lactating, but I had no way of knowing exactly where the den was, or that the porch had been sealed up. No one knowing there were pups would have gone anywhere close to the area: coyotes want their dens kept secret, and I help them keep it that way by staying away and by asking others to do the same.

Were there any signs at all about what was going on? For a month, the male had been acting like a protective father. Then, during the last week, neighbors had been complaining of the male coyote’s following them and gaping threateningly: they said he was acting intensely strange — that maybe he was sick. But he wasn’t. Coyotes are smart. This coyote knew it was humans who had sealed off the pups. He was desperate, and simply “messaging” folks with dogs to stay away so they wouldn’t cause any further damage. Animals sometimes “ask” for help: I don’t know if this happened, but I do know that few people would be able to read such a request.

It’s really important to note that when a coyote’s behavior changes, SOMETHING is going on to cause it. Unfortunately, I did not see the male during that week — only reports by others made me aware of it. This male and female have been in the area a long time, and as far as I know, they’ve always acted appropriately.

PS: I met the German Shepherd which had been followed for four blocks by the coyote: that dog barked at me threateningly. The owners made her sit to keep her from lunging at me.  I was told by her owners that she was a “guard dog”. This is precisely the type of dog, a dog protective of its owners — whether leashed or not — which is most threatening to a coyote. The coyote had a need to let this particular dog know to stay away from him and his den area. I don’t know if there had been a previous incident between the dog and the coyote, but even if there hadn’t, visual communication is acute with coyotes and the coyote could read that dog as a dangerous threat to his family. Know that it’s not the dog’s or the owners’ “fault”. These just happen to be the circumstances which clashed. If you have such a dog, you can help the situation by altering your walking route for several months, or even by altering the time you walk towards the middle of the day. There is always something humans can do to help a situation, if you care enough to help. By the same token, neither is this situation the coyote’s “fault”: he’s doing his job as all coyote fathers do — and as they have to do.

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.

 

Why Are Coyotes Sighted Regularly in The Neighborhoods?

Summary/Abstract: Coyotes have been seen repeatedly in the parks’ surrounding neighborhoods and beyond ever since they first appeared in San Francisco. Their trekking behavior appears to be a built-in part of their behavior. It occurs mostly during the darker hours. These sightings are not so anomalous as we’ve been told they are.*

Sightings. The following was posted on the Golden Gate Heights *Nextdoor* site here in San Francisco yesterday morning: “I now have seen Coyotes in many unexpected places in SF This time a block from where I live. this one was a pretty small, healthy looking, probably female. I hope she eats the 15th Ave Skunks!” On the same day, in another *Nextdoor* site, Westwood Park, this was posted: “Saw a young coyote walking down Colon Ave about 10am this morning. Please watch your cats to be sure they are safe.”

Many similar postings on social media, and many more by word of mouth, reach me regularly, be these from Filbert Street, Cow Hollow, Park Merced, Diamond Heights, Mission Street, etc.  Sightings of coyotes in neighborhoods have been noted since I started documenting San Francisco coyotes over ten years ago, though more people now know about them due to the social media. Coyotes have been seen trotting down my own street in the late mornings, infrequently but repeatedly for some time — nowhere near a park.

Some of my neighbors are thrilled and accept this in stride; others worry for themselves and their small pets, or they say it’s “wrong”. The sightings are usually in the very early morning or in the evenings, but not always — coyotes are not nocturnal animals, though they do tend mostly to avoid human activity times and areas.

When coyotes are seen in neighborhoods — trotting down a street or standing at an intersection, passing through yards or resting there — it is still reported with a bit of surprise because it’s not where people expect to see coyotes and it’s where, purportedly, “they should not be.”

Backdrop: Coyotes are native only to America where their range has expanded considerably over the last 100 years or so from the southwestern part of North America to all over North America. More recently, over the last 20 years or so, they have been moving into most urban areas. It’s a relatively new development which is being studied all over the US and Canada: Chicago has 2000 of them, Los Angeles reports 5000 of them. They are in Central Park in New York City, in Atlanta, in Westchester, NY. There are multiple dozens here in San Francisco — but not hundreds and hundreds of them — we are a small peninsula, and territoriality limits their numbers in any particular area.

Various reasons and explanations have been given for coyote sightings in neighborhoods or outside the parks. For instance, we have been told that adverse weather conditions — say, our recent 4-year drought — was a factor in neighborhood sightings — that coyotes were expanding their hunting range into neighborhoods and increasing their time there to compensate for the diminished food supply in the parks — therefore, the sightings there.

Weather may be a contributing factor, but it is not the sole nor the primary factor for their being in the neighborhoods, otherwise I simply wouldn’t have been seeing them outside of the parks so regularly, in some cases daily, over the last ten years, well before the recent drought and when their population was sparser, and even now after the heavy rains this winter.

An explanation for increased coyote sightings within the parks at certain times is when pups begin venturing further from their dens, or when parents can be seen patrolling and protecting den areas — a coyote may suddenly appear from nowhere. Throughout the year dispersing individuals (juveniles who leave home) may turn up in unexpected places until they eventually find their own niches, which may lead them miles outside of the city. All of these explanations — all valid — are offered as anomalies to the norm (the norm being that they aren’t in the neighborhoods). They all add a little more to our understanding of coyote movements in an urban area, but they miss the entire picture which I have been seeing.

The bigger picture. Each coyote requires about a square mile to sustain itself, though it has been found that smaller areas sometimes can support them (see Stan Gehrt): need for the resources on the land is what drives their territorial behavior. To this end families claim areas and drive out non-family coyotes in order to preserve the resources there for themselves and their youngsters. This is how territoriality works in the parks and open spaces. It helps keep the population down in those places.

But these same coyotes who often claim some of the largest and lushest parks (with streams or bodies of water, grasslands and plenty of thickets abounding in close proximity to each other: these are coyote’s required resources), have been seen trekking through neighborhoods routinely. Why don’t they stick to the parks and hide out just there? Why are we seeing them in the neighborhoods? It appears to be because of that same territorial imperative — an instinct built into their behavior through years of evolution — causing them to reach out to know the wider area, to confirm or redefine their boundaries, to know what is going on there and check it out, to push the envelope or be pushed back, to move into unclaimed or vacated areas, to search for a mate.

It is because of this behavior that they came to most of our cities, and then city parks, in the first place. And it is because of this behavior that they are seen outside of the parks, not only close to the park peripheries but in the neighborhoods even further out. Truth be told, trekking through the ‘hoods and outside of park boundaries is part-and-parcel of urban coyote behavior: It’s what coyotes do. It’s a function of their daily territorial behavior. If and when they linger in any particular area, it is because of some attractant. These are my observations, supported by the reported observations of others in the city throughout many years.

In addition, coyotes who claim smaller parks as their territories may occupy several natural open spaces — their territories are fragmented and they must move between them, crossing through neighborhood areas to do so. So neighborhoods are not excluded from their ranging areas.

Several years ago I was able to follow along on a number of early evening coyote treks which I wrote up. I went along to find out where they went and what they did — it was a real honor that they allowed this. Here is an example of one of their shorter treks: Mapping Trekking Behavior.  Other posts about coyotes in neighborhoods include Coyotes in Neighborhoods, and In The ‘Hood.

What to do. So, seeing coyotes in neighborhoods is something that does occur regularly, whether or not the weather has impacted their food supply, or whether or not they are dispersing. What can be done? Is there an issue to be resolved? Not really, except to please just be aware of it so that you won’t be startled by one. They usually won’t hang around for long. Also, please don’t allow pets to be out-of-doors without supervision: even though coyotes avoid humans (unless they have been taught to approach by food-conditioning) coyotes don’t have the same aversion towards pets. If you are walking your dog and see a coyote, please tighten your leash and continue walking away from that coyote, dragging your pet if you have to.

If coyotes begin hanging around your home and you don’t want them there, please remove all attractants, including bird-seed and compost which attract small rodents which, in turn, attract the coyotes. You can also scare them off by banging pots and pans as you walk towards them. If you need help with diverting a regular trekking pattern away from your yard, please send me a comment which I will reply to privately: I can put you in touch with the right hands.

For an introductory summary of what to know and what to do about coyotes in the city, please see Coyotes As Neighbors or see the list of resources listed on this website on the first page, at the top.

[*All my postings are based on my own dedicated observations, as stated in the introduction to my blog]

Gifts From The Universe, By Charles Wood

Dear Charles —

This is an absolutely gorgeous story!! What a beautiful “gift” the universe gave you, and what a gift YOU have for being able to see it! You tell it well. You always have told your stories well. May I share it on Yipps? You were a a big part of Yipps — many people will remember your postings about Mom, Dad, Shy, Bold, Rufus and Mary, and that you and Holtz and Lucas used to watch the coyotes together. I miss your Yipps contributions!

One of the reasons for not *killing* or *removing* coyotes is that coyote territories soon are refilled by newcomer coyotes, often within a matter of weeks. I assumed that your coyote territory, where you had made all of your observations, had not been filled by another family since we no longer received postings, and I wondered why.

I asked you about the territory. You replied with the wonderful story below, explaining how strongly the coyotes had impacted your life. About sharing this, you said, “Sure, let’s do it.” Thank you! Janet

Good to hear from you, Janet:

As to Mom and Dad coyotes’ territory. Rufus and Mary may not have stayed. But I did see coyotes there 49 days after Lucas, Lynne and my German Shepard, died. 49 days in Japanese traditions is the day the soul leaves us. (Lynne is third generation JA). So I went out with ailing Holtz and took Lucas’ leash so as to take Lucas’ soul on his last walk with Holtz and me.

I was texting Lynne as I did so. It was late twilight. I had in my mind that I would release Lucas’ spirit from the leash once we reached Mom and Dad’s old territory. I texted Lynne that I saw a coyote. I hadn’t seen one. Instead I was creating a good-bye in our imaginations. Then I texted her that I saw a second coyote. Then I texted her that OMG it was Mom and Dad. Which of course it couldn’t be because Mom and Dad died years ago. Then I said wait. There’s a third canine. A pause. I texted Lynne:  “It’s Lucas with Mom and Dad!” It was a sad yet happy good-bye to Lucas’ spirit.

Janet. As soon as I had texted that to Lynne about seeing 3 canines:  I looked into the field and saw that there were indeed three, real, live canine’s in Mom and Dad’s old territory. To be certain, I used my flashlight to light up their eyes. I took a picture of the light reflecting back from their eyes. I can’t explain it, but I take gifts when the universe offers them to me.

So there are coyotes in Mom and Dad’s old territory. I wanted to let you know that.

Charles

three coyotes

three coyotes


Poop Bags In Coyote Country

2016-11-05

Coyote sniffs a poop bag to assess what it is

“Has anyone else noticed all the used dog poop bags that dog walkers throw to the sides of trails in the parks? I find it disgusting, and the arrogance and entitlement on the part of these dog walkers is appalling. I know some dog walkers will say that they only leave the bags for an hour or so before returning on their way home to pick them up. However, it’s never legal to litter, even temporarily, and most of these bags sit for days, even weeks, before they get picked up by someone else or tossed into the bushes. Even if you plan to pick it up on the way out, this is considered littering.”

The above is a quote from the Facebook page of a dog-owner’s group I visit. Poop bags left around seem to be a growing problem in the city. I was spurred to post this when I saw a coyote giving her opinion of the problem by peeing on a bag!

2016-11-05-1

A coyote gives her opinion of the problem

Let’s Applaud ABC7 News and Elissa Harrington!

Finally, a station, in San Francisco, the city of Saint Francis, the saint who cared so much about animals, has aired a coyote report from the right perspective, not capitalizing on negativity towards coyotes, fear-mongering, danger or aggression. Thank you, ABC7 and Elissa Harrington!!

The story originated from an article I wrote for a community news blog about the perils of feeding and befriending their local coyote. It was supposed to be an educational and advisory piece for the local residents only. So, initially, I declined an interview from the news station, letting them know that my priority was the coyote — we didn’t want to imperil her any more than she already was with harmful news about her. The next day ABC called me again, and when I repeated my concerns, they agreed to interview me off-site and more generally about guidelines and advice. I hadn’t known that my interview would be just part of the news spot and that the news spot would actually zero-in on this coyote.

Although the coyote was sensationalized in the news clip, there was good that came of it. The clear message was that this coyote is loved and the residents don’t want her hurt. Neighbors are concerned for her well-being and safety. This was not your run-of-the-mill anti-coyote story. Yay!!

The gist of the story was that we humans were causing unintentional problems and harm here by our behaviors of feeding and attempts at befriending. Human “kindness” in this case is actually misguided and may end up killing the coyote who is now in the streets looking for the rewards she’s been trained to expect from car windows and people. Take away is: Please, don’t ever feed coyotes, don’t try to be friendly or commune with them, keep your distance and walk away from them always, especially if you have a dog. We need to respect, honor and love her *wildness*, and the way to do that is to give her the cold shoulder.

Thank you ABC7 News and Elissa Harrington for presenting the right perspective and for getting the guidelines out!! [Also see SFGate]

Responding to Recent Postings on Social Media: A Recap of Some Urban Coyote Behaviors and Some Explanations

This posting is a slightly revised and expanded version, with photos, of what was originally written for, and posted on, Bernalwood.com on May 27th.

our Bernal coyote at dawn

coyote at dawn

We have coyotes in most of our parks here in San Francisco, and most folks I’ve spoken with are thrilled about it!  Enjoy it and respect its wildness! At the same time, there are some people, especially pet owners, who are not so thrilled. Here is some information I’ve put together about coyotes, much of it based on my own observations, as a response to concerns and comments which have appeared in some of the social media recently. This is information that applies to urban coyotes everywhere, not just here in SF.

COYOTES ARE TERRITORIAL AND LIVE IN FAMILIES

coyotes in our parks

coyotes in our parks

Most parks in San Francisco have one stable resident family, or a loner. Coyotes are not “pack” animals of unrelated individuals. Families “claim” territories which they “own” from which they exclude other coyotes — this is what keeps the population density down. They trek through the neighborhoods every night, during the early morning or early evening hours — and, more rarely, during the brightest hours of the day — marking their territories to keep other coyotes out and looking for hunting opportunities. Studies show that in urban areas, there is generally about one coyote per square mile — a family of 4 would require about 4 square miles. You will always be seeing the same individual coyotes in any particular area.

Although we have parks with loner coyotes, most parks have mated pairs with families. Coyotes mate for life, and both parents raise the young. Coyotes mate in January or February and produce young in April — births occur only once a year. 

The number of family members fluctuates up and down continually over time. In one park, it went something like this: 2-5-3-4-2. The fluctuation is due to new pups, and then to their dispersal or deaths. There is only about a 30% survival rate of pups during their first year — disease and nutritional issues take their toll.

When it’s time for youngsters to “disperse”, the parents will drive them out, or they may just pick-up-and-go. This usually occurs between one and two, and sometimes three years of age, and it occurs throughout the year — there is no “dispersal season”. However, the breeding adult pair will remain in the same territory over many years. Interestingly, wolves will actually kill their own kin in order to preserve their own statuses and territorial rights. I’ve not seen this in coyotes, but I have seen the altercations that drive coyotes out of their birth territories.

Cars are urban coyotes’ chief cause of death — please drive carefully! They often trek on our traffic grid — it’s often the “path of least resistance”.  A few days ago, in our Diamond Heights neighborhood, a car swerved right into someone’s house to avoid hitting a coyote during the early morning hours.

MORE ASSERTIVE OR INSISTENT BEHAVIOR

coyote shows her anxiety and displeasure with a dog by jumping up and down

coyote shows her anxiety and displeasure with a dog by jumping up and down

As the individuals in a family mature, some of them may go through phases of what might be called more “assertive”  or “insistent” behavior, such as: following or running in the direction of a dog. During pupping season, the assertiveness is strongest, with coyotes even approaching and possibly even nipping at a dog’s haunches. These are coyote “messaging” behaviors: coyotes want dogs to move on and to know the territory is taken. These behaviors don’t “define” a coyote, and they don’t last. Think of these as phases in a teenager’s life, or in a parent’s life — there’s an ebb and flow to behaviors for each coyote, often based on what is going on within the coyote’s individual family: Are there new pups? Is there increased sibling rivalry? Are parents having issues with the offspring, or trying to get one to disperse? I’ve seen no evidence to indicate that such behaviors build up towards more aggressiveness. Many of the more apparently “assertive” behaviors, both in juveniles and adults, are based solely on circumstances and happenstance encounters, so keep your distance.

SIGHTINGS

trekking through the neighborhood

trekking through the neighborhood

A substantial increase in “sightings” doesn’t necessarily translate into a spike in the coyote population, though this is what many people assume. Again, increased sightings could be due to their current family dynamics which may cause individuals to wander farther afield.

Unusual weather conditions can have an effect on sightings. San Francisco has just been through a four-year drought. Drought conditions cause coyotes to hunt further afield and for longer hours. They become more visible to humans and more prone to incidents during these times when their activity overlaps with ours. It takes 8 full months for an ecosystem to recover from a drought.

Human changes to the environment, including new construction, will affect coyotes in an area. In San Francisco, coyotes may be lingering longer in neighborhoods recently, and therefore be seen more, because of the current program of thinning and eliminating dense and protective thickets in the parks, reducing coyotes’ normal secure habitat.  Stopping the destruction of the habitat, and compensating for the exceptional weather or drought in various ways until the ecosystem has recovered, both are steps that could be taken to reduce sightings, and possible dog/coyote encounters, and coyotes’ spending the past-twilight hours in neighborhoods.

FEEDING

feeding coyotes is not good

feeding coyotes is not good

Please don’t feed the coyotes. Feeding breaks down the barrier that keeps coyotes wild. If they become food conditioned  — which is different from “habituation” (see below) — problems could develop, including approaching people, which increases the chances for a negative incident to occur. Feeding them also encourages them to hang around yards where people don’t want them.

Coyotes are opportunistic eaters, which means they can eat almost anything, but their preference in San Francisco is for gophers, squirrels and voles, which they eat whole: they need the meat, muscle, bones, fur — all of it — to nourish themselves properly. They also eat fruit, nuts, bugs, weak or juvenile raccoons, skunks, opossums, and possibly snakes. They prefer their whole foods over human-made foods, but if that human food is available, they’ll try it. And they will eat the occasional cat or small dog if circumstances are right — they don’t know who is a pet and who isn’t. Don’t create the right circumstances that could add your pet to the food chain. Please protect your pets by not allowing them to roam free and by supervising them closely when out-of-doors.

As top predators to an area, coyotes have helped rebalance the environment: they control rodents and some mesopredators, such as opossums, skunks and raccoons.

HABITUATION

a habituated coyote is not a dangerous coyote

a habituated coyote is not a dangerous coyote

Urban coyotes do not “fear” humans — that is an incorrect term. Rather they are “wary” of humans. This means that, although a coyote won’t flee lickety-split in fear when they see a human, they nonetheless will maintain distance and not approach us. And we, in turn, need to respect them and their wildness by keeping as far away from them as we can. “Habituation” is a normal progression in urban areas — you cannot prevent it because you cannot stop coyotes from seeing humans on a daily basis — they get used to seeing us. A habituated coyote is not a dangerous animal. In fact, the term “habituation” was first used to describe bears as being more dangerous if they got used to people and lost fear of us. This assumption has been turned on its head: scientists now know that bears who are habituated tend to ignore humans, whereas bears who have never seen humans become reactive. In Africa, to make gorillas less reactive to humans, for the tourist trade, people purposefully habituate them — they become less dangerous.

Coyotes also habituate to “hazing” tactics, which is why such tactics should not be used if a coyote is way out in left field. Scaring off a coyote should be used sparingly. It should be reserved for when a coyote has come too close to you. It is a useless tactic unless the coyote is closer than 50 or so feet to you, which generally delineates its critical distance for discomfort.

Note that “habituation” is different from “food conditioning”. When visibly feeding or hand-feeding a coyote, you are conditioning it to approach humans. Don’t feed coyotes.

THE ISSUE IS WITH PETS

suspicious coyote mother and a dog owner not being vigilant

suspicious coyote mother and a dog owner not being vigilant

Whereas coyotes don’t approach humans, dogs are a different story because of territorial issues and because of prey issues. In many ways, coyotes and dogs look alike, but coyotes and dogs are naturally antagonistic towards each other. Remember that coyotes keep other coyotes out of their territories. Coyotes are also both curious and suspicious of dogs: they may feel compelled to come in closer to investigate. Always supervise your pets to prevent incidents: the minute you see a coyote, leash and go in the other direction. Most dogs have a tendency to go chasing after coyotes. Please don’t allow your dog to do this.

coyote messaging a dog -- the dog should have been kept away from the coyote

coyote messaging a dog — the dog should have been kept away from the coyote

Coyotes have approached dogs. If they get too close, they could either grab a small dog or “message” a larger dog who the coyote considers a threat to its territory or its personal space. They can only do this when they get close enough. Don’t let them. You can prevent an incident by keeping your dog away from coyotes in the first place, by leashing when you see one, and by walking away from it. It’s no different than when you encounter a skunk with its tail up: keep your dog off of it, and move away from it. 

coyote following

coyote following

 IF, inadvertently or by surprise, a coyote gets too close, that is when to scare it off, otherwise just walk away without running: see http://baynature.org/article/how-to-get-along-with-coyotes-as-pups-venture-out/

Coyotes may follow dogs to find out what the dog is doing and where it is going (they do the same to non-family coyotes). If you and your dog are moving away from the coyote, and away from any denning site, the coyote soon will no longer follow. If you don’t want the coyote to follow at all, toss a small stone in its direction (not at it), and/or approach it (but don’t get too close) using your own blatantly angry body language and angry yelling. Noise alone, or waving flailing arms, is not always effective in making a coyote move — something has to move  towards the coyote. And it isn’t going to help if you are too far away. You’ve got to get within the coyote’s critical distance — at most 50 feet — and you have to be assertive about it. Walking towards the coyote while slapping a newspaper viciously on your thigh works, but tossing stones towards it is probably more effective. However — and this is a very important “however” — if the coyote doesn’t budge, it is probably protecting a nearby den site. In this case, turn around and leave. Do not provoke an incident. See the above link in Bay Nature.

It’s always best to be proactive in keeping a coyote away. The minute you see a coyote, leash up and move away from it, and know how to shoo it off effectively if it comes closer to you than 50 feet.

Note that practically all scratches or bites by coyotes to humans are due to feeding the coyote, or to an owner getting him/herself between a coyote and a pet, so don’t do these things. And, never run from a coyote: this activity actually initiates the chase response in a coyote who may also nip at your heels. They also sometimes nip at car tires when the car is in motion. The phenomena is called “motion reactivity”.

ENCOUNTERS CAN BE SCARY

Encounter: the dog chased the coyote and the coyote stood up for itself

Encounter: the dog chased the coyote and the coyote stood up for itself

Encounters CAN be scary if you are unprepared and don’t know what to expect or what to do. Please learn what coyotes are like, not what you think they “should” be like — for instance, that they don’t “fear” humans but are “wary” of them, and not that “coyotes should be heard and not seen”. By knowing their true normal behaviors, and by knowing what to do *IF* they approach your dog, you will be informed and you will not be so fearful. For starters, watch the video, Coyotes As Neighbors:  https://youtu.be/euG7R11aXq0, which will spell out normal coyote behavior and what you can do to keep coyotes away from a pet.

MANAGING COYOTES

The number one method of managing coyotes for coexistence is through human education and human behavior modification: that is what this posting is trying to help with. These have been shown to be extremely effective. The City of San Francisco has been lax in putting out signs or getting educational material to folks. Some of us have been filling the void, getting material, information and guidelines out to people, but as individuals or as small organizations, we have not been able to reach everyone. Please visit coyotecoexistence.com for specific information, and  coyoteyipps.com.

Many cities have coexistence policies — they all work when folks abide by the guidelines. BUT, as with car driving laws, even if you know them and follow them, there will be some fender-benders that might be frightening. We have fewer than 100 coyotes in the City; the number of dogs is in the 250,000s. There is bound to be an incident now and then.

The number of real coyote incidents in the City is not many. There have been less than a handful of dog fatalities by coyotes — all were unleashed small dogs in known coyote areas — all were preventable. There have been many incidents of people being frightened and reporting “attacks” on their dogs. Few if any of these attacks were reported on a questionnaire which would tease out what actually occurred. Instead, these incidents have been spelled out on the social media with warnings of doom that is awaiting us all.

Most of the sightings of coyotes have been reported as charming. But there have been some fearful encounters, and recently groups of dog owners in some of the parks have turned decidedly against them. Social media tends to perpetuate, spread and amplify the fears, and encounters are inevitably worded as deliberate “aggressive attacks”. For instance, recently, there was a report of an attempted “attack” on a dog at 5:30 in the morning. However, a lone coyote, who weighs 35 pounds, is not going to “attack” a 130 pound Mastiff… Coyotes may watch dogs, follow, or hurry in your direction for many reasons, including curiosity, or investigation. They may jump up and down because of anxiety. These are not “attacks”, nor are they “attempted attacks”. Hopefully, by learning about coyotes, we can diminish the very real feeling of fear which comes from not knowing what is going on.

a coyote standing on a pathway, watching

a coyote standing on a pathway, watching

Our Animal Care and Control Department has had many people report “aggressive” coyotes: but when questioned further, the majority of these reports were of a coyote just standing, or doing nothing but looking at the purported victim.

Two years ago I watched a man, straight faced, tell me that he had been frightened “out-of-his-wits” by a monster 100-pound coyote just a few moments before seeing me. He was visibly shaken. He hadn’t seen me watching the whole incident a little way down the path. The incident involved his dog chasing a coyote. The coyote turned around to face the dog. When the dog ran back to its owner, the coyote proceeded on to where it had been going. But the owner was left frightened, and justified his fright by saying it was a “monster 100-pound coyote”. If the dog had been leashed, the incident would not have happened. It happened in a park where everyone knows there are coyotes.

If you have questions, or if you want help with specific issues, please contact me or anyone at coyotecoexistence@gmail.com

Playfulness of Coyotes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Social Amplification of Risk and Fear

There are many coyote discussions happening on social media platforms such as Nextdoor and Facebook which are engendering and heightening fears of our urban coyotes, and which, for the most part, stem from fear based on misinformation and lack of information about coyotes.

My observations about the effect of social media were confirmed last year at an annual neighborhood association meeting in San Francisco by a police officer who was updating folks on the most recent crime reports. He made a huge point of saying that crime, in fact, had remained the same in the area over the last year or so, but that the perception of the extent of crime had changed tremendously, for the worse, due to social media such as Facebook and Nextdoor. Specifically, there were two crime incidents which social media discussions had so blown out of proportion and altered that they were no longer recognizable from what had really happened. And all of this, of course, increased fear to a crescendo which was simply uncalled for, according to the officer. Sounds exactly like what I’m seeing in discussions about coyotes.

These social media comments appear to be no different from the coyote rumors, passed along by word of mouth, which preceded social media. I became fascinated with how these rumors and myths about coyotes got started, survived, and then became amplified along the way. I happen to be in our parks for many hours every day, so I’ve actually watched and heard tales spin themselves from an inconsequential situation or comment into monster terrors.  My favorite was: “Seven coyotes surrounded my car and wouldn’t let me get out”. The story of fear spread far and wide, the fear level mounting, with folks afraid that the coyotes were coming to get them, until it actually reached one of the City’s governing Supervisors. The Supervisor was promptly educated by coyote experts and the rumor was put to rest. By the way, the single coyote family in the area consisted of just three coyotes, a mom and two pups, and they were a particularly flighty bunch when it came to people and cars.

What actually are the risks of injury by a coyote? Folks need to know that there have been only TWO recorded human deaths IN ALL HISTORY from coyotes and one of those involved the feeding of a coyote. Bites or scratches to people from coyotes for all of North America amount to fewer than 20 a year — and most of these are caused by feeding coyotes or from interfering in a coyote/dog altercation. For comparison, there have been about 20-30 deaths PER YEAR caused by dogs, and over 1000 people A DAY go to emergency rooms for dog bites. There are more interesting statistics which should help folks understand how minimal the risks are of being hurt by a coyote, for instance, did you know that champaign corks kill 24 people a year?

WP-ChampaignCork

One thing I have observed recently is that there are many, many more dogs than ever before visiting parks, and many more people who walk their dogs are glued to their iPhones and don’t have their dogs leashed in areas where they know there are coyotes. Meanwhile their dogs are running wild and out-of-control all over the place. The situation is ripe for the possibility of more dog/coyote encounters, and for these, indeed, precautions must be taken to keep coyotes and pets apart.

Every single dog/coyote incident I’ve seen and heard about could have been prevented by following very simple guidelines, which can be found at the top of the home page for this blog. These include:

  • don’t leave out food attractants
  • don’t let pets roam free — always closely supervise your pet out of doors
  • be vigilant when walking your pet
  • keep your distance from coyotes in the first place
  • if you see a coyote, leash and walk away from the coyote
  • don’t let your dog chase coyotes
  • know how to shoo away a coyote who is approaching your pet and WALK away without running.

To avoid car accidents, we learn and abide by traffic rules and guidelines. Guidelines for coexisting with coyotes are far fewer and simpler than those for the road, but there is a huge resistance to using them for some folks. Their response often is: Wouldn’t it just be easier to kill them?

The knee-jerk solution to many fears has often been to remove its source. Several years ago a tree limb fell on a visitor in a park and killed that person in San Francisco. It was an extremely unfortunate freak accident. But what was interesting was the way some people wanted to deal with their new-found fear: they wanted to cut down all the trees!

I’m now hearing that swing sets will be removed from our parks because they’re too risky. Swings of course are no more dangerous than they ever have been, but as a society we have changed how we interpret risk and fear and how we deal with it. Might our fears have less to do with the object of fear itself than with ourselves, the media and the tenor of the times?

I went to the internet to find out more about fear and risk. What I found is a fascinating exposition on precisely this subject. It’s long, but very, very interesting. I’m including the link in case anyone cares to explore it: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/3053#.VQnN0mTF-94

Getting back to coyotes, you can learn some of the behavior patterns to expect between dogs and coyotes, along with how to shoo off a coyote, and why killing does not work as a solution from the YouTube video “Coyotes As Neighbors”, also found at the top of the home page of this website. If you need or want help beyond this, contact the folks at Coyotexistence@gmail.com for one-on-one help.

Pupping Season: “Scary” Does Not Translate Into “Dangerous”, but Heed The Message!

2015-05-31 (1)

Hi Janet —

I had a very scary interaction with two coyotes in the heart of a park where the trail runs parallel to a dense brushy area. My dog Ginger and I were by ourselves, surrounded by two coyotes that would not go away. I jumped up and down, waving my arms allover the place and yelling and they didn’t budge. Finally one went into the bush but just stayed there and then the other on the trail started towards us.

I did the jumping yelling thing and the one backed away but turned around, started walking towards us again. Like 15 feet away.  Finally I just pulled Ginger’s leash tight to me and ran. I know you’re not supposed to  do that, but nothing else was working. We ran up to a knoll and were not followed there. It was getting dark, past 8pm, a bit scary indeed!

I wish that man was not doing that thing with his dog, challenging the coyote, corralling his dog to go after the coyotes. I have a feeling that sort of human behavior is a bad influence and perhaps contributed to this situation I had.

Scott


Hi Scott —

I’m sorry about your negative experience with the coyotes — and especially that it happened to you, a coyote sympathizer, even though it is best that it happened to you and not someone else with no feeling for the coyotes. In fact, you were being messaged to keep away from a den area.

Coyote messaging can be very, very scary — it’s got to be to be effective, otherwise dogs and people would just ignore the message. The coyotes  you encountered were not pursuing you and they were not out to hurt you or Ginger — they were keeping you from getting closer to something important. You were simply being told not to get any closer — to move away: “Go Away!”  But next time don’t run! Sometimes running will incite them to chase after you! And next time go the other way the minute you see a coyote, totally avoiding the animal from the word go.

If and when a coyote doesn’t back up, it’s almost always because of a den, and it’s always best to shorten your leash and leave right away. If coyotes don’t move after one or two attempts to get them to move, this should be the protocol: leave the area. You don’t want to engage with a den-defending coyote because they will nip at a dog who cannot read their “standing guard” message — we already know that this is what they do, and by not listening to their simple message, you would actually be provoking an incident.

It’s an instinct, and really has nothing to do with the idiot who was attempting to force his dog on the coyotes. That is a totally unrelated issue which needs to be addressed.

Encountering a den-defending coyote always creates a lot of fear in people, and I understand why — it’s meant to.  People need to know about it, why it happens, and how to deal with it. It’s a situation which should always be walked away from, no different from what you would do if you saw a skunk with its tail raised, a dog warning you off, or a swarm of bees. We know how to read the messages from these animals, and we usually abide by the messages to keep the peace and not get stung or sprayed or bitten. We can do the same with coyotes. A defensive or protective coyote is only doing his job — such an encounter in no way means the animal is aggressive.

Janet

What Is Natural Coyote Behavior Towards Humans?

2015-05-07Malcolm Margolin’s book, The Ohlone Way, has a brief description of the setting in San Francisco, including the vast number of animals that inhabited the land, before the European settlers moved in, and the behavior of these animals towards humans. I am reprinting this excerpt, with permission, from pages 9 and 11 of his book. It goes a long way to explain the very natural behavior seen in this video between a bobcat and a coyote who are caught in their own very natural interaction with humans standing close by being ignored by the two animals. It is the ignoring of humans which is of prime interest in this posting, though the interaction between the bobcat and coyote is fascinating. I’ve seen the same kind of interaction between a skunk and a coyote:  https://www.facebook.com/jon.snow.56481/videos/vb.25318743/10101407149702764/?type=2&theater.

“The environment of the Bay Area has changed drastically in the last 200 years. Some of the birds and animals are no longer to be found here, and many others have vastly diminished in number. Even those that have survived have (surprisingly enough) altered their habits and characters. The animals of today do not behave the same way they did two centuries ago; for when the Europeans first arrived they found, much to their amazement, that the animals of the Bay Area were relatively unafraid of people.”

“Foxes, which are now very secretive, were virtually underfoot. Mountain lions and bobcats were prominent and visible. Sea otters, which now spend almost their entire lives in the water, were then readily captured on land. The coyote, according to one visitor, was “so daring and dexterous, that it makes no scruple of entering human habitation in the night, and rarely fails to appropriate whatever happens to suit it.”

“Animals seem to have lost their fear and become familiar with man,” noted Captain Beechey. As one read the old journals and diaries, one finds the same observation repeated by one visitor after another. Quail, said Beechey, were “so tame that they would often not start from a stone directed at them.” Rabbits “can sometimes be caught with the hand,” claimed a Spanish ship captain, Geese, according to another visitor, were “so impudent that they can scarcely be frightened away by firing upon them.”

“Suddenly everything changed. Into this land of plenty, this land of “inexpressible fertility” as Captain la Perouse called it, arrived the European and the rifle. For a few years the hunting was easy — so easy (in the words of Frederick Beechey) “as soon to lessen the desire of pursuit.” But the advantages of the gun were short-lived. Within a few generations some birds and animals had been totally exterminated, while others survived by greatly increasing the distance between themselves and people.”

“Today we are the heirs of that distance, and we take it entirely for granted that animals are naturally secretive and afraid of our presence. But for the Indians who lived here before us this was simply not the case. Animals and humans inhabited the very same world, and the distance between them was not very great.

“The Ohlones depended upon animals for food and skins. As hunters they had an intense interest in animals and an intimate knowledge of their behavior. A large part of man’s life was spent learning the ways of animals.

“But their intimate knowledge of animals did not lead to conquest, nor did their familiarity breed contempt. The Ohlones lived in a world where people were few and animals were many, where the bow and arrow were the height of technology, where a deer who was not approached in the proper manner could easily escape and a bear might conceivably  attack — indeed, they lived in a world where the animal kingdom had not yet fallen under the domination of the human race and where (how difficult it is for us to fully grasp the implications of this!) people did not yet see themselves as the undisputed lords of all creation. The Ohlones, like hunting people everywhere, worshipped animal spirits as gods, imitated animal motions in their dances, sought animal powers in their dreams, and even saw themselves belonging to clans with animals as their ancestors. The powerful, graceful animal life of the Bay Area not only filled their world, but filled their minds as well.” 2015-05-09Note that if the humans in the video had approached the coyote, the coyote would have moved away immediately, and yelling or throwing a small pebble towards the coyote would have caused it to move away even quicker.

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