Battling Balloons: Compelled to Find Out About A Novel Object

Coyote Contends with Curiosity and Fear: Curiosity Wins

At first glance, you might think the little coyote in this video has flipped out, but keep watching: she’s found a bouquet of balloons that were left overnight and is having a ball testing them and making them bounce around. She zooms past them quickly because she’s not quite sure what they are capable of. As she does so, she prods, taps and tests to find out. Contrary to what some folks think, coyotes are drawn to novel objects, not driven away by them!

Coyotes are innately curious, inquisitive and nosy: they have a need to know. So they are compelled to investigate, to test new objects: it’s a survival skill. Place any novel object, including unpredictably bouncing balloons in a field, and although their initial reaction to most new things might be to stand back and watch, soon, sometimes over the period of several days, but sometimes right off, they begin to investigate, gingerly moving in closer and closer until they can touch it ever so quickly and then jump back or withdraw their paw — just in case it bites — little by little examining and testing its reactions/responses.

Coyotes test an object’s danger and limitations in order to allay their fears. This may be one of several reasons they approach some dogs: they are investigating what a particular dog’s reactions might be to them and if the dog’s intentions might be harmful. How to handle this? Keep your distance always. The minute you see a coyote, especially if you have a dog with you, shorten your leash and walk away.

 

In The ‘Hood: Confused, Scared and a Little Lost

walking down the middle of the street

walking down the middle of the street in San Francisco

Some of our coyotes are dispersing right now as their parents prepare for the next breeding season. Usually between the ages of 1-3, coyotes disperse: they leave their birth homes to make their own way in the world. A coyote may be forced to leave by a sibling or parents, or it may leave on its own. As they explore new areas where they have not been before, you might see one — hurrying through a neighborhood, either down a street or on the sidewalks. They stick to these passageways because coyotes, just like humans, like taking the *path of least resistance*. When they find a place with adequate natural cover, they might try it out as a place to take refuge for a while.

on the sidewalks

on the sidewalks in the heart of San Francisco

They may live for the time-being without a territory and alone. Recently dispersed coyotes tend to live in smaller open spaces, and in-between and on the edges of other coyotes’ claimed territories, and they are not territorial. These individuals are called transients or interlopers. Transients include not only dispersed youngsters, but others who have been displaced from a family — even oldsters! Being social animals, they may get lonely and may at times seek out the company or achieve a mutual *truce* with amenable dogs although they are usually not quite willing to let down their guard totally to become friends.

traversing the neighborhood

traversing a San Francisco neighborhood

Please do not befriend them, and never feed them. As consummate hunters and opportunistic eaters, they are totally able to provide for themselves. Please let them do this. Instead of being friendly, give them the cold-shoulder. They will be safer and so will your pets if you keep this psychological barrier in-place.

And please remember never to feed coyotes: it could lead to their death warrants. Food conditioning, which results from feeding them, causes coyotes to hang around humans, and sometimes approach and demand food. Wild animals normally defend themselves from fright, a startle, or anything else by nipping, and they will do so if provoked, even if you don’t think you are provoking them.

In alleyways

In alleyways

They will, of course, continue looking for a territory which has not already been claimed by another coyote family, or one that has been vacated for a number of reasons by another family.

Note that, once the carrying capacity of an area is filled, such as in San Francisco, coyotes move out of the city and south, where they have been found as far away as 60 miles within just a week or so. Dispersion is a high-risk time when more coyotes than usual are killed by cars. Please be careful when you drive.

finally, in a natural open space where there is hard orange for her to hide in

finally, she comes to a natural open space where there is natural coverage for her to hide in. San Francisco has plenty of these small havens.