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.

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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

Let’s Address a Little-Known Law that Promotes Hunters, by Kiley Blackman

As the war of words rages stronger than ever over gun violence and how to deal with it, there is one little-examined contributing factor that needs attention: The role of the overwhelming hunting culture going on all across this country.

Where does it start? All “environmental conservation” agencies, including the Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and APHIS, have a requirement that, by law, only hunters can serve on their advisory boards. These laws, established almost 100 years ago, guarantee a deckstacked, lethal outcome for the wildlife they are intended to protect – by deliberately banning non-hunters from decision-making about wildlife, while encouraging all forms of hunting as the “norm” for wildlife “conservation.”

At a time of calls across the country for gun control, these arbitrary, discriminatory laws that baselessly promote hunting need to be examined, as well. In fact, breaking the hunter/National Rifle Association stranglehold on our laws must be finally be addressed.

Such laws are being challenged all over the country: “Pro-wildlife citizens demand seat at DNR table” (Madison, Wisc.), “Fish and Game commission needs greater diversity” (New Hampshire), “Hunting foes want to snare seats on Vermont’s fish and wildlife board” (Vermont). The public needs to be made aware of these facts – and that there is finally a bill to correct this injustice in New York State: Sen. Tony Avella, champion of several other animal protection issues, has introduced S3327 (companion bill A6519), currently in the Environmental Conservation Committee, which abolishes the unfair “hunters only” requirement of the NYS DEC. We don’t want to take your guns; we just want our right to contribute our voice – yet, hunters vociferously fight such change.

Hunters indignantly insist they are the only ones “qualified” to oversee these directives – and claim their license fees entitle them to a special, exclusive position on the DEC advisory board. But the fact is, “non-consumptive” users of NYS parks (defined as bird watchers, wildlife photographers, etc.) are at a record high, with almost 72 million visitors in 2017, yet they have no voice in DEC policy making. This is an outrageous injustice, with hunters stridently objecting to each and every suggestion for modifying this slanted system.

The DEC homepage states, “One of DEC’s main responsibilities is to protect New York State’s wild animal and plant populations,” yet it’s next to impossible to find anything on their website except pro-hunting advice, lists of wildlife killing contests, where to kill animals, fairs and other public events that are “admission free” for hunters, etc..

As the national movement and demand for gun control and banning assault rifles – both of which hunters fight against passing – steamrolls across the country, the effort to pry their undemocratic monopoly of wildlife management away from them is hard fought, as hunters – who supposedly stand for America, democracy and the Flag – attempt to deny us our rights. Hunting is in decline, and the hunters know it, yet they hold all the cards; their suppression of democracy just adds more taint to this questionable, antiquated and cruel activity.

An innocent woman walking her dogs upstate is dead because of hunters, and it’s not the first time that has happened. With the DEC’s excessively-promoted hunting culture in place, upstate New York residents fear going out to their own backyards during hunting season, and children at the tender age of 12 have been empowered and encouraged by the DEC to slaughter animals for sport. In Syracuse, the DEC confiscated a pet squirrel they deemed “illegal,” but they promote and encourage squirrel killing contests. Despite nationwide marches for gun control, a NYS bill awaits votes that would allow hunting in densely populated cities. Although studies have been done on the strong correlation between animal cruelty and violence toward human beings, a current NYS bill would permanently lower the age for universal hunting licenses from 14 to 12 years old; while Florida officials answer the call for gun safety by raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, our senators and the DEC want to put more guns into the hands of children. The “hunters only” DEC law must change: In 2018, we expect all our voices to be enabled; we expect kindness, respect and saner, more measured input to prevail for all. Until the Avella bill passes, suppression and denial of our civil rights to participation in government process will define the DEC. This is not the American way – and it certainly isn’t democracy.

Kiley Blackman
Founder, Animal Defenders of Westchester
(reprinted with permission)

A Nice Compliment!

I received a wonderfully supportive email a few weeks ago from Dan De Vries. I asked if I could post it and he said yes.

“Hello Janet, I imagine you have seen this by now, but just in case I’m forwarding it.  Much in this brief essay reminds me of your work. Keep it up! And, yes, feel free to use my name.  One of the things that struck me was that Jane Goodall doesn’t have an academic degree in a science.  Which makes her a citizen scientist (of the world).  I believe that there is definitely a place for humanists in the “natural” sciences.”

I’ve received this same compliment numerous times, but this time it was with the attached article which indeed shows a lot of overlap! Thank you, Dan!

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