Zoom Talk for El Cerrito Garden Club: 11/11@11 am

“If you have been seeing news articles and reading posts in NextDoor, you would think we’re under attack from coyotes in a new and terrifying way. It’s true that coyote sightings are increasing, and members of the El Cerrito Garden Club are talking about this phenomenon of daylight sightings, mangled cat carcasses, and general worry by hikers, parents and dog walkers.

Since we’ve made room for deer, gophers, and other mammals in our neighborhoods, willingly or reluctantly, why are coyotes so feared and hated? And why do they seem to be proliferating all over the East Bay, especially in the hills? All we have to do is notice just how many rats have made their homes around our properties, nesting in vegetation and under houses, and providing a rich diet for predators, including owls and coyotes. If you know that poisoning the rats is dangerous to pets, to owls and others who feed on rats, and you choose not to use the baits, be aware that coyotes are a big part of keeping the balance in our urban/wildlife corridor.

Come and watch Janet Kessler, naturalist and researcher with 14 years of experience with the coyotes in San Francisco, explain their population and behavior, how to accept these amazingly social animals, and how we can keep our pets and children safe while easily coexisting with them.”

This talk is part of the El Cerrito Garden Club’s *speakers series* that will begin after their monthly business meeting. It will include the same information as Janet’s previous talks, so if you’ve missed them all and wanted to hear one, you are welcome to ZOOM into this one. For the link and access code, contact Janet@coyoteyipps.com. After the 50 minute slide presentation, there will be a Q&A period. Here is the recording.

Coyote, My Little Brother, by Pete Seeger

My friend CJ just sent this to me. I had never heard it, but I wanted to share it here, for the beautiful coyote high pitched howl imitations and for its sentiment. Enjoy!

Addendum: Here are another two favorite coyotes songs, sent by James Mense, in his comment to this post, which I now want to add to the posting (though you can see/hear them in the comments). Thank you, James!!

Don Edwards’ “Coyote”,

Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy.

What Do Coyotes EAT Here In San Francisco?

People keep asking me, WHAT do coyotes eat here in San Francisco? Is there enough food for them?

My reply is always that there’s plenty of food for coyotes in cities. They are known as “opportunistic” eaters — meaning they can eat almost anything.

My observations tell me that their preferred foods are small rodents, such as gophers which run from one to two pounds and voles. Rats and mice are part of their diet.There are plenty of these and coyotes catch them often.

Squirrels are harder to catch for them, as are the more scarce brush bunnies and jackrabbits here in San Francisco, but they do catch these as well. I’ve seen coyotes climb the lower branches of trees in pursuit of squirrels. Rabbits, however, often are just not worth the effort for the coyote, so they often just ignore them.

Even less frequently, I’ve seen them catch and eat insects such as crickets, and snails. I’ve seen them catch snakes and lizards, but only seldom have I seen them actually consume these — or maybe they were just chewing on them and not consuming them.

I’ve seen coyotes gorge on fruit when that becomes ripe in the summer and fall, including apples, pears, loquats, blackberries. You can see when this becomes a larger portion of their diet because their scat becomes very different: goopy and full of seeds and peels.

Mature raccoons are ferocious and can fight off a coyote, but not so juveniles. I’ve seen coyotes feeding on raccoon and on opossums here in San Francisco, but I’ve also seen a coyote almost interacting with a raccoon family socially!

And yes, they catch birds as in the video above: I’ve seen coyotes catch ravens, bluejays (see photo below), and pigeons: they are impressively fast at plucking their prey clean by grabbing a huge mouthful of the feathers and yanking them out quickly and forcefully, and immediately going in for a second mouthful. The lactating mother in the video above is skilled at catching ravens and catches them regularly. But not all coyotes have the same skills and therefore not the same diets: often food preferences seem to run in families, making some of their preferences a “cultural” or “learned” thing which are specific to specific families: these predilections are often “taught”. And I’ve seen coyotes pick up owls who have been sickened by rat-poison which slows down the owl’s reaction times. This is very sad because that rat-poison is hurting many animals. I once found a dead coyote and had it analyzed to determine how it died: its body was riddled with rat-poison.

Coyote catches a bluejay, an opossum, a mouse, a lizard

And coyotes eat roadkill, or carrion — these are already dead animals killed by cars — which helps clean up the environment.

Garbage is usually just a small part of their diet, as seen in scat analysis. They prefer natural foods. However, human food which is left out is picked up by coyotes. Sadly, coyotes get used to this human food and start hanging around for it: the salts and fats are as addictive to them as they are to us — and it’s much easier to sit and wait for food than search and hunt for it: we all tend towards the easiest route. Please don’t leave out your leftovers. Worse, of course, is when people toss food to coyotes on purpose, and even from their cars: I’ve known a couple of coyotes who actually chase cars down the street regularly in pursuit of the food that might be tossed to them. Feeding them directly will cause them to start approaching people as they beg.

There are parking lots at park entryways where coyotes actually hang out waiting for food from humans. Food is used as a reward to train many animals: we are simply training these animals to hang around people and our roadways which is endangering them on roadways, and we are altering their natural and usually wary habits. Please spread the word that feeding coyotes is damaging them, not helping them: there’s plenty of natural foods for them in the city as I’ve shown above.

And . . . hey, don’t allow your cat to roam free! Coyotes DO nab roaming cats, though I know a number of coyotes who actually run in fear from cats! Unless a dog is extremely small, coyotes interest in them tends to be more of a territorial issue: coyotes want to exclude dogs from their areas to keep them from hunting there, the same as they do to other coyotes. You can avoid trouble with your dog by simply keeping away and walking away with your dog leashed the minute you see a coyote.

Coyote skillfully hunting by leaping high over his prey and then stunning it with his nose or his paws.

Angel: A Melanistic Coyote Consigned to Permanent Rehab, by Kathy

Preamble by Janet:Although my primary work and the heart of my investigations are in San Francisco, this posting here carries us out of San Francisco and to Florida. Whereas the coyotes I document are all wild and free — and we want to keep them that way, the one in this posting is in a very different situation and dependent on humans for care and social interactions. The posting is about a small melanistic (black) coyote named Angel. We don’t have black coyotes out here in the West, it’s an Eastern Coyote phenomenon, and even rare there.

Black coyotes are not common at all and rarely seen in Florida— although hunters occasionally post their photos of melanistic coyotes they have killed, photos of live black coyotes are extremely rare: These two were photographed on a Wildlife Management Area in Florida see: http://wildflorida.com/articles/Black_Coyotes_in_Florida.php

A Stanford University team has studied the genetics of melanism (black color morph) in wolves, coyotes and dogs. This study reveals that the genetic mutation for melanism first arose in dogs some 50,000 years ago and was afterwards passed on to wolves and coyotes.

There must be some positive adaptive purpose—but no one knows exactly what the positive purpose is. We know that the protein beta-defensin 3, which regulates melanism in canids is involved in providing immunity to viral and bacterial skin infections.


A little background on me, Kathy:  I have no formal education or training when it comes to animals – strictly a love for them.  I am a volunteer at a reserve for exotics that no one wants anymore.  I fell in love with Angel when she arrived and have been pretty much her sole caretaker. I got involved with this volunteer work after going on a tour of this rescue facility.  It’s less than 5 miles from my house & I was retired.  Wasn’t sure they would want me because of my age, but lo and behold they said yes.  (I was 67 when I started there – now 73!!!)

The coyotes weren’t there when I started.  I found myself being drawn to the animals that other volunteers weren’t spending a lot of time with. (Everyone wants to spend time with big cats & wolves). Consequently, my first 2 special kids were the two female hyenas.  There is no one there who loves them more than I do!  We have a fantastic bond.

Then I decided Osiris, the African Serval, who was someone’s pet for 14 years, needed some human time. African Servals are crazy and very moody. I still love him though. When Angel came along, I waited awhile, but no one stepped up to the plate. Therefore, she’s my baby and everyone knows it. I’m so happy to work with her even though she has become my biggest challenge.

Angel’s backstory:  She was hit by a car in Florida when she was 3 months old.  A woman picked her up thinking she was a puppy and took her to her vet.  She had a broken leg & a broken pelvis. The vet identified her as a melanistic coyote and did not give her back to the woman who found her.  She then went to a rehab facility for 3 months.  In fixing her pelvis, the birth canal was narrowed so she couldn’t be released back into the wild – pregnancy would have killed her, consequently she came to us.

Angel’s behaviors:  I have been working with her for almost 5 years now.  In the beginning she was terrified of everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING.  With [wildlife animal behaviorist] Debbie’s help, I have been trying to get her to trust me more and have been somewhat successful.

When she first came there she would hide during the tours.  She still won’t come out when the group is in front of her enclosure; however, she will come out when they wind back around and are several feet from her home.  So the group does get to see her now & hear her story. Recently she has decided it’s perfectly okay to come out when very small groups are by her cage. She will come out when volunteers are near now. This is a big improvement from when she first arrived at our facility.

When I first started working with her and needed to give her flea meds I was never sure if she had ingested them or not. She didn’t want me watching her eat. After several long months, she now will take her treat & eat it, looking at me while I stand about 20 feet from her cage.  She still doesn’t want me to watch her eat anything else.  She has a log with holes drilled in it so I can put treats in there.  Have never seen her take anything out, but it’s always empty by the end of the day.

We got hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and that was traumatic for her.  Not only because of the storm, but because of the cleanup afterwards.  For quite some time we had tree specialists coming in and cutting down our larger trees so they don’t fall on cages during a heavy storm.  Shortly after the storm and when the trees guys were there a few days a week, she would eat & then vomit all of it up.  She was so scared.  When she didn’t stop this, I started feeding her whole rabbits or chickens & late in the afternoon when everyone was gone.  After a few months, I put her back on her regular diet & feeding in the morning.  Thought she was cured.  However, the other day we had 3 brand new volunteers working two enclosures down & I found her food regurgitated when I went in to clean. I have to pay particular attention to what is happening in her vicinity and change her feeding schedule accordingly.

She will now let me sit in her enclosure with her, but not too close.  She comes down from her elevated den box & will run laps while I sit there.  She is getting better about that & now will sometimes walk instead of run.  Sometimes she will come down to see what I am doing when I am outside her enclosure filing her water pail and splash tub. She lets me know when she’s had enough of me by going up to her den box & lying down.

She loves her stuffed animals & protects them like babies.  Takes them in when it rains so they don’t get wet.  So cute!

For quite some time we weren’t sure if Angel would join in with the wolves & coyotes when they did a group howl.  If has been confirmed by some volunteers who have seen and heard her that she is joining in.  That’s  good news.  She feels comfortable to join them, but not when we humans are within sight!

I can now approach her when she is on her platform without her freaking out.  She lets me get to the edge of the platform before she backs into the den box.  Whenever she is fearful, she will pull her ears back & flatten them.  Of course, I stop whatever I am doing at that point.

I could probably go on and on, but this will give you some idea of how she acts.

By the way, we have 6 other coyotes, who exhibit similar skittishness, but not to the extent that Angel displays. As for these other coyotes, I share the responsibility with a couple of people.  There are 3 pairs and they don’t get along – hence we have plywood between the cages blocking their access to each other.  I prepare the diets 3 days/week & clean their cages 3 days/week.  One of the other volunteers had calmed Sundance down to the point where she will allow a couple of us to pet her, mostly from the outside of the cage.  She has now become very used to me and will let me pet her while I am in her enclosure.  The other day she actually rolled over and let me pet her belly.  What a trusting gesture that was!!Only one of them is aggressive – Cheyenne, a female, who has bitten (lightly) two volunteers on the butt.  Hasn’t tried it with me yet!

Reindeer Cyclone (from Twitter)

Every once in awhile I post something unrelated to coyotes. This is super-fascinating, so I had to post it. I had not seen or heard about this before. Enjoy! :))

Sacrificial Grapes mean no Sacrificial Lambs, by Walkaboutlou

Hi Janet,

I hope you are well at this time. I thought I would share a nice outcome we are seeing take shape in regards a coyote solution.

A local rancher has been diversifying his lands in regards stock and crops. However, one new venture was experiencing a lot of coyote conflict. The past few years a maturing vineyard has lost almost all it’s grapes…to coyote. It started with cameras catching several coyote raiding grapes. His answer was trapping 4 of them. This was futile, however, because that summer, 4 coyote turned into at least 14. I explained to him likely the scenario was he trapped the territorial pair/pack, and at the height of dry season (and pup season),  he suddenly opened a very rich food resource (grapes and rodents) and all peripheral coyote pairs flowed in…and with growing pups in tow. The result was a summer long feast and big loss of grapes. And more coyote than ever.

So we talked, and he implemented some changes. 2 years in, the results are showing.

He planted a long, peripheral vineyard along some woods at the distant end of his agricultural land. He then allowed native grasses to grow among the grapes. This created a rodent rich grassland within a season. In addition, he obtained a permit to collect road killed deer and elk on his road. He takes the road kill and disposes of it in woods adjacent to the peripheral vineyard. The result is in the last year, a pair of coyote has taken over this area. The scavenging from occasional roadkill in woods, and the hunting of rodents in created grasslands, curtails their roaming. They jealously repelled all other coyote as they claimed this rich area. They don’t even range or forage in the older, mature vineyards. Also, the neighbors sheep herds and free range chickens have not had any coyote predation. By changing the landscape and locations of resources, and by utilizing a natural weekly/monthly bonus (roadkill deer are natural…not trying to encourage feeding human foods to coyote) he has allowed a territorial pair to develop and become landlords. They aggressively chase out all other coyote in region. By the pics he’s shown, they are very large, prime sized and powerful. If they want grapes…the peripheral vineyard provides the sacrifice. But literally stuffed with grassland rodents and deer/elk leftovers, they leave most grapes and all livestock alone.

Not everyone can do this. I balk a bit about the roadkill, but he felt he took a situation, and created coyote contentment into better future behaviors. Nothing wasted, and I admit-this strategy created some home loving coyote that are very settled, yet still totally wild.

As spring turns to hit summer, the pups will grow in need. But these coyote parents will enter a grassland/vineyard, and hunt rodents by the thousands. The pups will start foraging here as well. And yes, likely feed on some sacrificial grapes. But between the rodents, the roadkill deep in woods, and some grapes, lambs and chickens are literally ignored. Apparently an abundance of rodents, a side dish of leftover deer/elk, with a dessert of grapes turns coyote into predictable, and full, good neighbors who keep riff raff out as well.
🐾🐾🌾🐀🍇
Take care,
Lou

Presentation at China Camp State Park

I’ve again been invited to give this presentation, this time at the China Camp State Park. For more information, press the above image or press the link here. Again, this will encompass the same information presented at PHS/SPCA on October 18th.

NOT Coyotes

Every now and then I post something that has nothing at all to do with coyotes, and this posting is one of those: Surfing dogs.

More

Mark Twain’s Description of a Coyote

One of the most famous descriptions of a coyote — which was also known as a “prairie dog” by Lewis and Clark — was written by Mark Twain in his 1872 book, Roughing it. For those who have not read it yet, here it is. Twain goes to the extreme to wake up the reader, using over-the-top satire for effect, to depict a standard negative view of coyotes held by Americans at the time. The brilliant irony is exquisite: Clemens sullies and defiles a coyote’s “sorry looking aspect”, but in the end he shows his admiration for the coyote who gets the last laugh when put up against any dog, and wishes him the best. The so called “miserable looking creature” is actually an intelligent, brilliant survivor.  

Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie dog villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I remember rightly, this latter was the regular coyote (pronounced ky-o-te) of the farther deserts. And if it was, he was not a pretty creature or respectable either, for I got well acquanited with his race afterward, and can speak with confidence.

The coyote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolfskin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck, and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is so spirtless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it. And he is so homely! -so scrawny, and ribby, and coarse-haired, and pitiful.

When he sees you he lifts his lip and lets a flash of his teeth out, and then turns a little out of the course he was pursuing, depresses his head a bit, and strikes a long, soft- footed trot through the sagebrush, glancing over his shoulder at you, from time to time, till he is about out of easy pistol range, and then he stops and takes a deliberate survey of you; he will trot fifty yards and stop again- another fifty and stop again; and finally the gray of his gliding body blends with the gray of the sagebrush, and he disappears. All this is when you make no demonstration against him; but if you do, he develops a livelier interest in his journey, and instantly electrifies his heels and puts such a deal of real estate between himself and your weapon that by the time you have raised the hammer you see that you need a Minie rifle, and by the time you have got him in line you need a rifled cannon, and by the time you have “drawn a bead” on him you see well enough that nothing but an unusually long-winded streak of lightning could reach him where he is now.

But if you start a swift-footed dog after him, you will enjoy it ever so much- especially if it is a dog that has a good opinion of himself, and has been brought up to think he knows something about speed. The coyote will go swinging gently off on that deceitful trot of his, and every little while he will smile a fraudful smile over his shoulder that will fill that dog entirely full of encouragement and worldly ambition, and make him lay his head still lower to the ground, and stretch his neck further to the front, and pant more fiercely, and stick his tail out straighter behind, and move his furious legs with a yet wilder frenzy, and leave a broader and broader, and higher and denser cloud of desert sand smoking behind him, and marking his long wake across the level plain!

And all this time the dog is only a short twenty feet behind the coyote, and to save the soul of him he cannot understand why it is that he cannot get perceptibly closer; and he begins to get aggravated, and it makes him madder and madder to see how gently the coyote glides along and never pants or sweats or ceases to smile; and he grows still more and more incensed to see how shamefully he has been taken in by an entire stranger, and what an ignoble swindle that long, calm, soft-footed trot is; and next he notices that he is getting fagged, and that the coyote actually has to slacken speed a little to keep from running away from him- and then that town dog is mad in earnest, and he begins to strain and weep and swear, and paw the sand higher than ever, and reach for the coyote with concentrated and desperate energy. This “spurt” finds him six feet behind the gliding enemy, and two miles from his friends. And then, in the instant that a wild new hope is lighting up his face, the coyote turns and smiles blandly upon him once more, and with a something about it which seems to say: “Well, I shall have to tear myself away from you, bub- business is business, and it will not do for me to be fooling along this way all day”- and forthwith there is a rushing sound, and the sudden splitting of a long crack through the atmosphere, and behold that dog is solitary and alone in the midst of a vast solitude!

It makes his head swim. He stops, and looks all around; climbs the nearest sand mound, and gazes into the distance; shakes his head reflectively, and then, without a word, he turns and jogs along back to his train, and takes up a humble position under the hindmost wagon, and feels unspeakably mean, and looks ashamed, and hangs his tail at half-mast for a week. And for as much as a year after that, whenever there is a great hue and cry after a coyote, that dog will merely glance in that direction without emotion, and apparently observe to himself, “I believe I do not wish any of that pie.”

The coyote lives chiefly in the most desolate and forbidding deserts, along with the lizard, the jackass rabbit, and the raven, and gets an uncertain and precarious living, and earns it. He seems to subsist almost wholly on the carcasses of oxen, mules, and horses that have dropped out of emigrant trains and died, and upon windfalls of carrion, and occasional legacies of offal bequeathed to him by white men who have been opulent enough to have something better to butcher than condemned Army bacon…. He does not mind going a hundred miles to breakfast, and a hundred and fifty to dinner, because he is sure to have three or four days between meals, and he can just as well be traveling and looking at the scenery as lying around doing nothing and adding to the burdens of his parents.

We soon learned to recognize the sharp, vicious bark of the coyote as it came across the murky plain at night to disturb our dreams among the mail sacks; and remembering his forlorn aspect and his hard fortune, made shift to wish him the blessed novelty of a long day’s good luck and a limitless larder the morrow.

Images by J. C. Amberlyn

Not Sharing: Her Selfish Side

This coyote warmly and enthusiastically welcomed a newcomer into her territory a while back: the territory would now be “theirs”, and not hers alone. Since that new inclusion, she and he could be seen teasing and bantering with each other constantly, including where food was involved, such as with a mouse. Who ultimately won the mouse was less important than the good-willed bantering over it — the interaction. They became best friends and, although they would go off in their own directions to hunt, they would “check-in” with each other at regular and frequent intervals, with joyous shows of affection, playfulness, and camaraderie.

SO, it was a bit of a surprise to discover that she had found a dead raccoon and kept it all to herself as far as I have ever saw.  Although coyotes are able to take down juvenile raccoons, more than likely she found it as road-kill. I say this because this coyote actually flees from cats which are about the size of raccoons and much less ferocious.

It was when her new companion was way across the park that I found her in this spot, alone, eating her fill from the carcass. I went back to check on the other coyote: he was still hunting on the other side of the park. By the time I returned half-an hour later, this crafty trickster was hiding/burying her carcass by covering it up so no one would find it. I only saw her return there when he’s not with her, and I never saw him there.

Burying the carcass by covering it with leaves, using her snout, and looking around to make sure no one sees her [photos above, video below].

When I have observed other coyotes share the meat of a raccoon, they usually do it sequentially, with the dominant coyote driving off the other until that coyote has had its fill, while the second coyote respectfully sits and waits some non-intrusive distance away, pretending disinterest, until the first coyote departs. After the second coyote has his fill, the remains of the carcass are often dragged into a better hiding place by the second coyote (the first coyote having departed).

It is common for coyotes to find what another coyote has buried, unearth it, and drag it to a new hiding place where only they can find it. Of course, this could then again, happen in reverse.

When parents travel with their youngsters, you would think they might make sure the youngsters get their fair share of any found food. Nope. I’ve seen parent coyotes glutinously and selfishly devour an entire cache of food — too bad for the youngster who sat back and watched.

Neighbors In The Night, by Vanitha Sankaran at Pacifica Magazine

When asked about the personality of coyotes, Kessler lights up. “Your average coyote is intelligent, curious, playful, protective, adventurous, cunning, independent, self-reliant, has family values and a frontier spirit, and strong individuality. Those are the same rugged frontier characteristics we value in ourselves.”

Writer Vanitha Sankaran from Pacifica Magazine recently contacted me requesting an interview and photos of coyotes for an article she wanted to do. Coyotes were being sighted more frequently in Pacifica, so it was an opportune time to get some information out to the public. I was, of course, happy to do this.

Here is her article, capturing how and why my passion began and grew as I discovered the extent of individual coyote personalities and the profusion of family interactive behaviors, along with the simplest basic guidelines for coexistence. Reproduction of the photos appear a little grainy in these online versions, but that several depict strong social interactions is very clear.

Hopefully the article will help open the door to recognizing that there are commonalities between species vs. “denying these similarities because we’ve been told that animals couldn’t possibly have qualities or social drives that humans have”. Recognizing a kind of parallelism will help you relate to them better, and help you possibly appreciate who they really are.

Feedback I’ve been getting: The writeup is fun and informative! :))  I’ve included the above embedded copy of the article from Pacifica’s website, and a link to a PDF version, below, which might be easier to read.
PDF version: P_NOV2018-web

Speaking To the Lindsay Wildlife Center’s Volunteers

I was invited to talk about coyotes at the Lindsay Wildlife Center in Walnut Creek on Monday. I gave a 94-slide presentation, put together specifically for this audience, based on my first-hand observations and illustrated with my own photos and videos, and then we had comments and questions afterwards.

I spoke about what I do: first-hand researching and photo-documenting urban coyote behavior and family life and their interface with people and pets for the last 11 years in San Francisco and disseminating this to the public, and then I continued with what I have learned first-hand: typical coyote characteristics and their individuality, their family behaviors and communication, their population dynamics and movement into urban areas, coyotes and pets, and finally the social interface of which we humans are a part, along with how best to coexist with them through education and minor habitat adjustments.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Above are nine of the 94 slides I used as starting points to discuss behaviors and guidelines.

For instance, one of coyotes’ normal behaviors (slide 45) is their routine trekking through the neighborhoods after their evening rendezvous: they travel beyond parks, where they survey, hunt, mark and continue to socialize. Being in neighborhoods is not “wayward” behavior — it is totally normal behavior in dense urban areas and should be expected by everyone living in urban settings, especially by those living close to parks or open spaces. It is a territorial behavior and has little to do with the amount of food and water available to them in the parks: so changing the resources or configuration of these resources within the parks (as was offered as a solution for keeping them out of the neighborhoods by someone) is not going to thwart them from trekking through the neighborhoods. There is more to coyotes than just their stomachs!

Below are a few photos of the event. Thank you Lindsay Wildlife Center volunteers for inviting me: it was an honor to share this information with you!

Coyotes Are Appreciated

Might this be a yoga pose?

Hi, Janet.  Today I saw my first coyote in daylight !!!  It was in Pacifica.

At first I thought it was a dog.  Or a wolf.  I even looked at your website’s pictures just to make sure it really was a coyote.  

You note on your website that, “Everyone I know is as thrilled as I am to have them here, even if they’ve never seen one!” And I know that’s true of me!  I want them to keep sharing the habitat we still have.  I am a defender of the coyotes.  Seeing the coyote today was an enormous thrill for me.

I also took pictures of a huge flock of quail in Pacifica today and recently I photographed my 37th California butterfly and that was in Pacifica too.  It was a Satyr Anglewing.

I really enjoy your coyote pictures.

Best wishes,

Jim Musselman

Another yoga position — and he held it for a long time!

 

Red Tailed Hawk Fledgeling Plays With A Rock

For variety, occasionally I write about other animals than just coyotes — and this post is about one of these non-coyote animals.

I found the Red Tailed Hawk fledgling I wrote about several weeks ago playing or practice-hunting with a rock. I had never seen anything like this before and wonder how ordinary, or quirky, or super-intelligent (or the opposite) this behavior is to be able to play like this?  Then again, maybe it’s an indication of character, individuality and special interests as in anyone else — why not?  She was persistent in her play and really fun to watch — almost as fun as watching the coyotes! A few days later, I saw her playing this same way with a pine cone, and before that I saw her attacking a gnarled twig on the ground as though it might be a something edible.

Addendum: I spoke to our local bird specialist, Dom Mosur, who told me that this is normal behavior, that hawks indeed do play with rocks!!

Drama on the Fourth of July

Mom red tailed hawk carrying prey

I didn’t watch the fireworks on the 4th, I watched what was going on around them. Here is a two-day drama with many photos (54) for raptor lovers: a photo essay. This story is not about coyotes, except for the fact that they were there. Occasionally I vary my blog with non-coyote stories.

As I arrived at one of my parks for observations, I heard the cries of a young hawk. They were loud and plaintive, insistent and incessant.

The coyote slithers into the brush

I glimpsed one of the coyotes only for a split second at the spot where the cries were coming from: The cries seem to have have caught her attention, too. The coyote slithered away and that is all I saw of her this evening, as the cries then were to absorb me totally because right then, the screeching youngster red-tailed hawk came into view. The cries were frantic and so were the youngster’s movements.  I recorded a few seconds of the incessant sound:

Audio of Cries:

I watched the little fellow awkwardly move along the fence-line and then into some dense bushes. The screaming went on and on and on. He seemed desperate: he didn’t like his situation, but seemed unable to do much about it.

Frantic screeching and movements on a fence

Then I heard another cry. A deeper and calmer cry in shorter bursts. I looked out into the distance, and sure enough there was Mom in a tree. You can tell who Mom is by her deep reddish/brown and dark coloring, as compared the the youngster who was speckled brown and white, with a white bib. I wondered why she didn’t come over to help. She stayed in the distance, several hundred feet away, and appeared to be eating something.

Mom perched in a tree nearby

Then, she batted her wings and began to fly. She had a huge piece of prey in her talons. I was hoping she would bring it to the youngster in distress. But, no. Amazingly, NO.

Instead, she flew back and forth between various trees, carrying that huge piece of prey, as the youngster cried and cried for help or food. Mom seemed to be trying to get the youngster to come to her, enticing it with food. It was obviously a fledgeling: this bird was not depending on its wings.

Feeding the other youngster in a far off tree

Mom continued flying from tree to tree with the prey for a few minutes, and then she landed on a far tree branch where I almost couldn’t see her. But the camera still could pick up her image, and it showed that, at that tree branch there was yet another youngster, and she was now feeding that one, and letting the other one continue to screech — that one was perched on a thick and solid branch. The screeching youngster was in a flimsy tree, with no place for Mom to land, and maybe this is why she didn’t try there.

Unstable and screeching on the flimsy top of a dense bush

By this time our youngster had worked his way from the high bushes to the tree they grew around — it looked like it required a leap of faith on his part.

Once there, he hopped and walked — as though balancing on a tightrope — from branch to branch, higher and higher up in the tree, all the time crying its little heart out. I could see that the effort was tremendous, and the bird fell to lower branches several times.

Walking and hopping from the base branches to the very tip-top of the tree

He made it to a safe spot at the top of the tree

I imagined myself trying to do what the bird was doing, without the use of my arms — it was a tremendous balancing act. And now, no sign at all of Mom, and the day was waning into darkness.

A coyote hides from the firework noise

Fireworks were exploding in the distance — I could see how much the “booms” disturbed the animals, no different from the effect on domestic dogs, except domestic dogs have owners who will take them indoors. A male coyote dashed for cover into the bushes after a loud fireworks explosion. I read where one city was now only allowing silent fireworks — what a great idea for the wildlife and dogs!

As the loud and incessant noise continued — booms from fireworks and distressed hawk cries — I spotted little hummingbirds — so very tiny compared to the baby hawk — flitting around the hawk and trying to console it? Or maybe they didn’t like the noise?  I’ve seen hummingbirds do this to coyotes who are howling and yipping in distress after having been chased by a dog — no more than 2 feet away and right up to their faces: maybe they pick up on the mood of the distressed animal. The hummingbirds had been around the youngster hawk for an hour now.

Then it was dark. The cries became less and less frequent, and finally stopped. Hawks do not operate at night, so the story would have to continue in the morning. At night there is danger to young hawks from one animal: owls. But I hadn’t heard any, so maybe they weren’t in the area.

I returned to the park before dawn the next day and all was still quiet. But as dawn broke, the incessant cries of the youngster could again be heard. I found the tree where the sounds were coming from — he was still in the same tree — but I could not see the youngster itself hidden in the tangle of tree foliage. And I could hear the other youngster again. I could not see Mom. Somehow I knew that Mom would end up feeding the hungry little fellow — both of them. I knew that this was routine drama that all wildlife has to cope with. It was calming to conclude this, but the event was high drama to me anyway.

A coyote makes his daily rounds

The coyote who had been scared by the booms of fireworks now appeared. He was making his daily rounds. It was a new day. I moved on to other parks.

Sleeping through the bird drama

In the evening I returned. I was greeted by the coyote who appeared amused that my attention was absorbed by the bird drama: he looked at me quizzically. Coyotes are much more aware of what is going on than most people think — including of intentions. He curled up not far from me to sleep in the sun and probably keep an eye on me. As the coyote did this, the hawk drama continued.

Day 2: Mom again is out enticing fledgeling to move

Mom now flew again with more prey towards the fledgeling, but it was futile. The youngster had not moved in 24 hours. He was out on a weak limb and she could not land there, which probably didn’t matter anyway since she was trying to get him to come to her, maybe to use his wings.

Blue scrub jays heckle Mom

So she perched in a nearby tree and waited. She was in clear view of the fledgeling and so was the piece of meat. If he wanted it, he would have to come get it. Her situation was not easy: she had to be patient and sit there, and she did so for 2 hours as I watched, as scrub jays heckled her. Their skydiving her and screeches were mostly of an intimidating nature, but one actually pecked her head. AND, the hummingbirds were back to watch the show or offer solace.

Mom patiently waits in a nearby tree

And then two things happened. Out of the blue, the other youngster appeared and awkwardly landed on top of Mom who held the meat. They became hidden from my view within the branches of the tree so I could not see the details of what was going on. And, our youngster exerted himself again and was able to hop/fly to that tree which was about 25 feet away.

Fledgeling makes a daring leap into Moms tree from where he hadn’t budged for 24 hours, from 25 feet away

Once in the tree, and still crying incessantly, he hopped from branch to branch, slowly, eyeing Mom and moving towards her. And then suddenly he, too, made another tremendous effort and jumped on Mom, so now there was a pileup of large awkward hawks on a flimsy outer pine tree branch, causing the branch to sag and the fledgeling to slip. This was lucky for me, because now I could see a little of what was going on.

Once in Mom’s tree he eyes her, continues to scream, and heads her way, on foot, not on the wing

Landing on Mom

He slips and dangles by I know not what, but he has the prey securily in his talons

Within seconds our fledgeling was hanging by I know not what (the branches of the tree pretty much concealed just about everything), with the large piece of meat dangling below from his talons.

This is the precarious dangling situation from which he is able to extract himself without letting go of the prey and without falling to the ground. Pretty cool!

Finally! Gulping down some food!

He had made the effort to come to Mom, which is what she appeared to be angling for, and had wrestled the piece of meat from his sibling! Wow! He proceeded  to extract himself from the dangling situation, and then I noticed a change. It was QUIET. The incessant crying had stopped for the first time in 2 days (except for nighttime). From then on until dusk I only heard an occasional shorter cry, not at all like the previous cries, not distressed and desperate. So, all in a day — or 2 days.

No one else was concerned about the drama

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