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]

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