People continue to ask me if they could “come along” on my observations, to “study” or “photograph” or “just observe”. Apparently everybody has a worthy project that would benefit from this “hands on” involvement.
I need everyone to know where I am coming from regarding all coyotes, but especially regarding the coyotes I have been able to follow. I am extremely protective of them and their space. I do not advertise their locations, and I make a blanket policy of not taking anyone with me on my outings. This is important in order to be fair to the coyotes. I’m sure everyone can understand this and I’m sure everyone wants this for the coyotes — to keep their lives as even as possible. We need to think about the coyotes first.
Coyotes do not need more and more people intruding on them. When anyone approaches a coyote, or even when people are around, a coyote’s alertness intensifies and its behaviors change. It may flee. This heightened alertness and behavior change are indications of stress. All interventions and intrusions that I have seen disrupt the normal behavior I’m trying to document — this is why I work alone.
I’ve spent thousands of hours in various parks where I seem to have “earned” an “ignored place”, at a safe distance, from a number of coyotes. Even bringing my husband a couple of times to several of the parks changed that whole dynamic: coyotes are much too aware not to be affected by everyone’s presence. My project is not conducive to group activity — I hope everyone can respect that. I want to continue doing my part in taking photos and writing my observations, as a means of advocating for the coyotes in the Bay Area, but I need to do this alone. Nevertheless, everybody who wants can help. We ALL can spread respect for coyotes and all wildlife, and we all can preserve habitat that is already in place, by leaving it alone, and not by re-creating it in the image of just the “native plant” advocates.
I began this blog to share information with those who might feel apprehensive about coyotes generally, and about urban coyotes specifically. My purpose is to show, through my photos and observations, that coyotes have character and personality. They have a tight-knit family life which is very worthy of our respect. They display the qualities which we value in ourselves. I’m trying to help people relate to them in ways which they may not have been able to before. At the same time, I need to remind everyone that these are not cuddly stuffed animals. They are WILD. They are VERY wild. We need to respect this about them: give them space and keep our dogs off of them — co-existence requires just this little from us.
Two incidents recently have distressed me. One was a high school teacher who, before leaving his students to explore in one of the parks, admonished them to “please don’t pet the coyotes.” Do people really think that these are cuddly little animals that can be approached in this manner? They cannot. They could bite if they have to protect themselves.
The second incident involved a father with four pre-teens. I was so pleased to point out a coyote for them — but I should not have. I advised the father that the coyotes were not aggressive, but that we need to give them space. Immediately, this man walked straight up to where the coyote was. The coyote, relaxing on a hill, saw him coming and bolted up to a tense sitting position. The man got closer and closer until the coyote fled. Although most people seem to respect the needs of our coyotes, there are the aggressive few who think it is their right to intrude on the coyotes — you have intruded upon a coyote if you have caused it to alter its normal flow of behavior. We need to remember that the coyotes are not tame farm animals and they do not want to be approached.
Coyotes dislike most dogs: dogs are threats to them and put the coyotes on heightened alert. Even so, I have seen coyotes “hand pick” a couple of dogs as friends — it is always the dogs who show little interest in them!! A lot of my observations involve coyote and dog reactions to each other: in all except a couple of instances this has been antagonistic. Regarding people, coyotes are not interested in people except to stay away from them. Dogs are a different story: because they are a threat to coyotes, dogs are more interesting to them. Coyotes treat dogs the same as they do “outsider” coyotes who would be competing for the territory and its resources. If we keep our dogs leashed in coyote areas, these threats can be kept to a minimum.
One last point I would like to make regarding animal habitats. My policy would be to leave nature alone, the way it is — nature is smarter than humans, who, I have found, feel they need to control and manage everything. My problem with human intervention is that they try too often hide behind the guise of “science”, when science does not have all the answers — science is a human phenomenon and humans do not have all the answers. The plans they come up with often do more harm than good. The Gulf oil spill is a disaster we could have avoided — but we listened to the “sound science” behind the technology involved in deep water drilling. Another is the “native” plant programs which purport to be “scientific” when in fact they are extreme, arbitrary and one-dimensional. Animals live in our thick wooded areas where the balances have been achieved over a long period of time. Mount Sutro Forest, for example, needs to be preserved, not ripped out and re-created. Please see the blog dedicated to preserving this cloud forest. Please do what you can to preserve it. Thanks for listening. Janet