Reflecting on an Exile and Return

Coyote families, and even loners, may leave their claimed territories for any number of reasons, or they may stay in that one location for generations. I’ve known both situations. Of those that leave, the primary reasons seem to be inability to defend the territory from another hostile coyote, or dwindling resources. In some cases, but not always, the same coyotes may come back. Here are some of my reflections and a background recap, along with a video of snippets I put together, on one such coyote’s return to her old home.

Exiled: In this case, the coyote — who I will refer to as “our coyote” — was forced to leave her long-term claimed territory by another intruder coyote whose attacks left her no alternative. During her absence, she became a transient, an interloper with no home of her own, existing in-between other territories in a sort of no-man’s land, and moving about constantly while being repulsed by any hostile territorial coyotes whose properties she slithered through. Maybe her odyssey was necessary: six months of wanderings which had the potential for forcing her to revert to some more essential coyote behaviors and away from all of the humanizing influences which she had lived with for so long — equivalent to an Australian Bushman’s “walkabout”.

Where did she go when she was driven away? It was an odyssey for her. I was able to follow most of her trajectory through extensive swaths of the city: to Glen Park, Diamond Heights, Noe Valley, Dolores Heights, Twin Peaks, and McLaren Park, among other places. And wherever she went, soon the strange hostile/exiler coyote appeared. I was able to catch up with her through friends’ photos, several trap cameras I put out, and Nextdoor postings with photos of her: the postings inevitably warned, “Please watch your cats and dogs”. Few people knew this coyote actually fled from cats! So our coyote kept fleeing. She would travel at night, dusk or dawn. Her amazing intuition told her how to distinguish friends from non-friends, and who would tolerate her presence and maybe even protect her when she took refuge in their yards. Some people named her. Some people fed her out of sympathy and concern: few people are aware of how negatively feeding impacts coyotes, as it already had in her “previous” life when she had been the reigning queen of her slope. Intermittently she tried returning “home”, but invariably she was repulsed again by the hostile intruder coyote gal who kept at her heels.

Tentative return: After months of wandering, remaining in places for a couple of weeks at a time before moving on, our coyote finally returned again to her old turf and, voilá, there was no hostile exiler around to drive her away for the first time in six months! At first people didn’t think this was our same coyote because her behaviors were so different from before: mainly she spent huge amounts of her time marking and “kicking dirt”, as though she were saying to the coyote who stole the site from her, “take that!” Even humans, in a language older than words, if they know what is going on, can read this type of animal body language.

So for weeks after her return, she spent her time reclaiming her territory, walking around while making visual and olfactory checks of the area, marking and kicking dirt extensively, self-grooming for long periods of time, absorbing odors and leaving hers, trotting her old routes, hunting, and generally trying to fit in again. This video depicts some of those activities when she first returned.

In some ways, she seemed wiser when she first returned, and on the whole, more elusive than before her odyssey: she spent less time out in the open and even stayed away for days at a time. I was happy to see this. Many people who knew her were hoping that she might have regained some primary coyote wildness while “abroad and dealing at times with an unfamiliar world”: it was a huge test, with the possibility of bringing into play survival skills which she never had used before. BUT, after only a few weeks back, she relapsed into responding to repeated misguided “human kindness”.  Food was again being left by roadways, so she was back in the streets searching for free handouts instead of hunting. She’s relapsed into again chasing cars and biting at their tires as they drive by: two days ago a car slammed on its brakes to avoid a direct hit. And she made several attempts at begging with a straight-in-the-eye look at people who passed by her. All of these behaviors of hers are a direct response to HUMAN behaviors. We need to change OUR behaviors in order to help her: please don’t feed her or leave food out for her. Coyotes are superb hunters: we can help her be that instead of the dependent beggar we are turning her into.



Recap of early life for those who haven’t followed her story: Until the point in her life when she was forced away, her life had been beyond charmed: unfolding as a fairy tale to many who observed her, and maybe even to the coyote herself. But many observers hadn’t taken the time to reflect on the larger picture: she had spent the first four years of her life being indelibly humanized and she needed to get back to normal — to her essential coyote self. This exile forced her to do so, but the results may be short-lived.

Her early-life urban-situation inherently fueled problems. At one point, she was hit by a car, leaving her with a temporary hip injury. Luckily the injury didn’t hamper her for long: she never lost her mobility — though she toppled over time and again as she attempted walking after the incident — and she stopped limping in less than two weeks. She had been prompted to chase cars by misguided people throwing her food from their cars — it took two years of everyday outreach before I could stop that behavior by halting the feeding. She was lucky that a car hadn’t killed her during that time: her predecessor in that location had been killed by a car which is why she was able to move in there — she had filled his vacated niche. Dogs chased her continually during her early years there, often right into street traffic, endangering both them and her. But actually, over time, people had been getting better and better at leashing up when they saw her, so this was happening much less than ever before. There had been other issues all perpetrated by humans, such as repeatedly feeding her, approaching too close, and befriending her, which little by little had eroded away her “coyote essence”, but these were all being corrected by more and more people abiding by, “just walk away from her; leave her alone and give her space”. On the whole life was pretty good to this happy-go-lucky coyote. It appears that the niche she had found and made her own worked for her: finding the right habitat apparently is primary for survival. I’ve heard that evolution is less about the “survival of the fittest” as previously thought, and more about “finding the right habitat”. Our coyote had chosen hers well.

And then things fortuitously got even better. How could things get better than this? But they did: a male companion appeared on the scene and became her best friend. Although he was a wanderer and seemed to have another lady-friend in another location, he always returned after only a few days’ absence during the four months they knew each other, and he and our coyote spent gobs of quality time in each other’s company simply enjoying each other. No one had ever seen our coyote — who had been a loner up to this point — happier. An added perk of this friendship: he was a supreme hunter, and this began rubbing off on her.

However, unbeknownst to our little female coyote, trouble was already brewing. Her best-buddy fella-friend had some family that followed him to her location, and that, ironically is what led to her life unraveling for the next six months. Few people are aware of how intense coyote internal lives, relationships, and their emotions are, or of their individuality and personalities, all of which have nothing to do with humans: not all good and bad which confront a coyote are created by humans, though, of course, a lot is, as this story points out.

So our coyote was driven away from her haven AND even pursued by a relative of the fella who had made her so happy. The relative was another female transient, an interloper, over two years of age who had recently been radio-collared in the Presidio. San Francisco does not radio-collar coyotes, but the Presidio which is federally owned, does. At the time of radio-collaring, it was found that this coyote had larger teeth than normal. Hmmm. . . Why? More interesting was her angry look. Did she harbor anger from being manhandled when she was collared?? Or from having to wear the large contraption around her neck? My friend Lou has noted that first-generation coydogs often have angry looks about them. Might she, then, be a coydog: a half dog?

Inside The Lives of Urban Coyotes

Most of my talks have been for closed groups, but on October 18th I’ve been invited to give an open-to-the-public talk for the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame. You are welcome to come!

Update 10/27:   I was asked to make a video of the presentation for the group of people who wanted to attend my talk but were unable to, which I have done.  It’s not the same as the talk, obviously, and may feel a little flat without a live person there to make it come alive, but I hope it is informative nonetheless [see below].

My talk which featured my own observations, slides and videos, was really well received. I had an enthusiastic,  interested and complimentary audience of about 80 people, with some people sitting against the walls or standing. There were lots of questions and people wanted to know if I might be able to speak at their city councils and other venues.

The talk, as the flyer stated, emphasized coyote family life, but I spent a good deal of time on people, pets and concerns. It was about an hour long.

Here are a few photos of the event.  I want to thank Kylynn of the Peninsula HS/SPCA, and I want to thank my engaged audience. The talk was a super pleasure because of you all.

(Some topics we covered: family life, most coyote communication which is constant is silent, individuality, too much human love, incidents are rare, food is never unlimited which is the reason behind territoriality, issues with pets).

 

Hidden Wilderness: A Coyote Story, by Claire Gilchrist

I haven’t always been interested in coyotes. In fact, I lived in Vancouver, Canada, for over a decade before I even realized that coyotes were living there! That all changed one fateful night, a night that spurred my fascination with coyotes and eventually pushed me to write my novel Street Shadows.

It was late one evening and I was biking home from a friend’s house. I was almost home, passing through a dark cemetery with my dog Baker running easily by my side. I had done this route many times and was pedaling on autopilot, lost in thought.

Suddenly, a yelp caught my attention and I saw a grey shape surge out of the darkness, heading straight toward Baker. I had no idea what it was, and screamed. Baker, equally terrified, raced away from me. Pursued closely by the shape, he did a lap of the cemetery before turning to head back toward me. As he drew closer, fear made me jump off my bike and lift it above my head, yelling incomprehensibly. A few moments later, the shape retreated into the darkness, and I fled from the cemetery with Baker, feeling like I’d just barely escaped with my life.

It wasn’t until later, when my heart had stopped racing and I was sitting at home in front of a computer, that I realized that the mysterious shape was actually a coyote, and that it most certainly was not trying to kill me! In fact, judging from the time of year and local online reports, it was most likely defending a young litter of pups and threatened by my off-leash dog, who weighs about twice that of the average urban coyote. I’d probably caused the coyote a lot of panic, racing past its home with an unleashed dog by my side.

The encounter surprised and fascinated me because I’d always drawn a line between ‘urban’ and ‘wild’. I love nature, and have spent immeasurable hours getting myself and my family out of the city and into the wilderness, to places so remote we didn’t see another human for a week. What I hadn’t realized until this moment is that I didn’t actually have to leave the city to tap into wildlife. A hidden wilderness was happening right outside my front door. I had never seen it because I wasn’t looking for it.

Over the next few years, extensive research and a very active imagination turned into Street Shadows. An adventure tale of two urban coyote friends, the story focuses on what happens when humans develop some of the coyote territory into a housing development. It’s fiction, but explores a conflict that happens in our cities on a daily basis. I hope young readers will enjoy the glimpse into this hidden world, and perhaps even start to see their cities in a fresh light, with a new appreciation of all of their neighbours, both human and furry.

Street Shadows is geared toward kids ages 8-13, and launches across the USA on September 24th. I am excited to be able to share my fascination and imagination with others who are curious about this hidden wilderness.

Anxious and Scared for HIS Safety

The first part of this video is a rehash of what I’ve posted before. In this video, I’m standing right next to the dog, so you will experience most of the first section as if you were the dog. Also, this recording occurred many months ago when this coyote had just become part of a “pair” of coyotes — it is out of synch with the reality of today. But it has a telling display of one coyote’s concern and worry for another coyote in the last 30 seconds of the video.

For those who are unfamiliar with this coyote, a little background: There is only one dog which this coyote reacts to with such focused intensity as you’ll see in the video: The coyote’s hackles go up, her back arches, her head is lowered, she snarls and kicks dirt ferociously and angrily, and she emits distressful barks.  More often than not, she bouncingly follows the owner and dog for some distance maintaining this scary “Halloween cat” posture and continuing the barking. At a certain point, she’ll stop and watch them fade into the distance. After about 20 minutes, she knows exactly where and when they will reappear for the last leg of their walk, so she sits on a little knoll overlooking the spot until dog and owner come into view, at which point she’ll begin her distressed and anxious behavior again until they disappear down a neighborhood street for good for the day.

The coyote’s behavior, although territorial at its core, also has an aspect of “personal” animosity involving one-upmanship. The dog is a female six-year-old whose owner — he is always very respectful of the coyote and always walks away from her — attempted promoting peace between his dog and the coyote three years ago by squatting down close to the coyote and speaking gently to her to show how harmless he and the dog were. Only the dog was not giving off the same friendly vibes and messages, as revealed by the dog’s behaviors when she slipped her collar a number of times, ending up chasing the coyote, and even running up to this coyote’s favorite lookout posts and peeing there: “take that”. The coyote, of course, runs lickety-split from the dog, but always circles back to keep an eye on the dog after the dog is re-leashed. The coyote’s reaction to this dog is not just a random now-and-then occurrence: it has been going on almost every morning for three years: this coyote’s fear and anxiety towards the dog is major in her life, and given that the dog is three times her size, I think she’s very brave to confront her fears and anxieties so regularly and so directly.

The owner finally tired of this behavior and began taking an alternative route, but on the day of the video, the coyote caught a glimpse of the dog, and her behavior recommenced. Circumstances had changed for the coyote by this time: she had a new companion, a one-and-a-half year old male coyote who had joined her only a couple of months earlier. These two coyotes were becoming best friends. The female coyote had become particularly guardful of the new fellow after his leg injury a month earlier so that when any dogs came around, she frequently ran interference by running in front of them to take them off of his trail.

So on the day of the video, the female coyote saw the dog that had become her nemesis and began her distressed behavior as she had so often done before. I went up to speak to the owner and then stood by his dog as I videoed. The male coyote was not around when the female coyote first began her tirade, but at 1:33 into the video, just as the dog re-emerges for the last leg of her walk, the coyote spots her male companion and she runs off to divert his direction away from the “fearsome” white dog. In the last 30 seconds of the video, the female coyote is terrified and frazzled: she is beside herself with out-of-control anxiety and fear for her male coyote friend and she’s trying to communicate this to the younger male who seems not to get it: he remains calm and unfazed.

When the dog owner sees the coyotes, he quickly move down the street and away from them, and the dog was leashed anyway, so there was no danger of a chase. But the intensity of the little female coyote’s emotions and efforts are on full display in these last 30 seconds — she is beside herself in fear for her new friend and is trying to “save” him by trying to get him to move. 1112

Terrifyingly Noisy Parrots

San Francisco is home to a number of wild parrot flocks. They are an amazingly noisy bunch as they fly by, louder than most I’ve heard here in San Francisco, and definitely noisier than geese and ducks who also fly in noisy flocks.

Today I was watching a coyote casually hunting when the sounds of the parrots flying overhead reached my ear. I pointed my camera up to catch them in flight as they passed by, took a few shots, and then turned back to what had been a fairly relaxed coyote who now was freaking out. She was darting quickly and anxiously back and forth as she looked at the flock passing high overhead.

I’ve seen this coyote become “playful” with some ravens who seem to interact with her every so often, and with a Sharp Shinned Hawk who teases her now and then. Neither of these two birds vocalized as they flew and neither was in a flock: she jumped UP and frolicked a few paces with them, almost trying to reach them. It always appears to be a game of one-upmanship from both sides.

This time, with the noise, which could easily have been mistaken for alarmist shrieks or warning calls, it was very different: the coyote actually DUCKED DOWN into the grasses, hugged the ground, and displayed the same kind of extremely anxious, uncontrolled fear as when she once wanted to protect another coyote from a dog she so tremendously feared. This was the first time I had seen her react to the flock.  I’m wondering if it reminded her of a previous terror, or if it was just something new for her, or if the pitch of the parrot sounds was instinctively alarmist to her. Her distress was intense, but it was short-lived as the birds moved on and their noise faded, and life continued on as before, with her unscathed — maybe to her surprise! This coyote has endured some harsh treatment over the past 7 months, so her reaction might be related to something that happened during that time period.

We have several different wild parrot flocks here in the city. One of these roosts in the Presidio, and another on Telegraph Hill. Those that reside on Telegraph Hill had a book written about them by Mark Bittner, and then a movie based on that book by Judy Irving, both entitled “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”. Author and movie-maker are now married! Chance encounters and experiences can end up in magic!

Vying For Her

This family unit consists of a male and a female litter-mates, and a male who appears to be an older sibling. The two littermates are yearlings born in 2018, and the older sibling was probably born the year before. This older guy now is clearly dominant over the younger male, though I remember when there was more equality between them.

Both males have always catered to the female who seems to have a special position in the family apparently just because she’s a female. I’ve seen this special status given to other lone females in families. These three spend most of their time together.

Above is a video of one of their recent evening rendezvous. It begins with the younger male watching from the distance and very interested in the interactions of the other two. He clearly is apprehensive about joining them. However, even for coyotes, the heart is often stronger than the mind.

He suddenly decides to join them, running towards them. Upon reaching them, he immediately throws himself into a lower “small” submissive stance towards the other male — they appear to have worked out their ranks — but his aim appears to be to get past that male to the female in order to exchange warm greetings with her. Each male, then, makes an effort to continuously wedge himself between the other male and the female. This wedging behavior has been going on for months, as seen below in its incipient stage, when the two males were more on an equal footing: this equal footing has now changed. Now it is more obvious that there is a triangle involving jealousy, control, and ownership. You can probably guess how this will end up.


Several months ago, the play sessions between the three of them were intense: they’d romp, hop over, nuzzle, fall to the ground in a heap, lick, play chase. There was a whole lot of carefree fun. You can see that the snout-clasping was pretty evenly divided between them — there was no definite hierarchy yet between the males.

But even back then, each of the males was very tuned-into the interactions of the other with the female, and each worked on creating a wedge between his brother and sister. The female interacted less, preferring to look on, and sometimes snarled or grabbed the snouts of the others — she appeared to know what was going on. Even in humans, “friendly” play often has a competitive component (sports, board games): it can “measure” where you stand in relation to another individual. In coyotes, this play was a sort of litmus-test for for their eventual ranks in the real world.

Interestingly, I’ve seen this exact same behavior within a family consisting of a male and female sibling and their father after the alpha-mother’s disappearance left a vacancy for that family position. In this case, the father used himself as a wedge to keep brother away from sister, and it was for very selfish reasons: HE obviously wanted to possess her: Adroit At Keeping Two Mutually Attracted Coyotes Apart.

FOOD: The Behavior Shaper

I’ve written this posting to clear up the difference between food-conditioning and simple acclimation — there seems to be confusion about these terms. 

This coyote pictured here has been listlessly hanging around, within five feet of a path in a park, where he dozes and waits for food to be tossed to him. Food is tossed to him off and on, so he is being rewarded for his efforts.  He has a family he could be with — a pup, a yearling and a mate — but food trumps that for this coyote. He should be hunting — but then again, why would he do that when food will just come his way if he simply lies here? In fact, I have not seen him hunt in a while.

There’s a person who feels he is “protecting” the coyote by letting people know he is not dangerous: “Look, I can go right up to him and he does nothing,”  he tells people multiple times, daily. I tried convincing him that his constant approaching the coyote is not helping matters. This guy also feels the coyote needs to be fed: “He’s hungry, right? or he wouldn’t be there begging for food.” Other people approach to look or photograph him with their iPhones, getting as close as 5-10 feet away: few people carry a good zoom lens which would allow them to keep their distance. And further: they then post the coyote’s location on their social media which draws in even more people to approach or feed and iPhotograph. The feeding incidents take a mere second: it’s hard to catch beforehand even if you are standing right there constantly, so the “no feeding” ordinance is hard to enforce.

I’ve been here educating, but I can’t be here all the time, so I’ve been soliciting as many people as possible to be ambassadors to help others in the area understand that feeding by humans and friendliness — which encourages coyotes to view us as potential feeders — are actually “faux amis”: they are robbing the coyote of his independence and survival skills, and encouraging him to lie around within 5 feet of heavy human pedestrian traffic all day. It’s heart-wrenching to watch if you know coyotes.

Some people have even asked me, “What’s wrong with that, after all, he’s not hurting anyone.” But others are more in-tuned and ask if he is sick, or even dead when he’s dozing off. A handful of people have admitted to me that they had been feeding the coyote regularly — they hadn’t known better — but now they do: they thanked me for the clear signs. The signs I recently put out seem to be yielding some results.

Contrary to what many people have been led to believe, the problem here is not caused by the coyote’s having become acclimated to humans. I know lots of coyotes who have become acclimated to our presence without ending up in our midst or as “problems”. In fact, coyotes throughout the city, in any urban area, are all acclimated to humans by definition: they get used to us because we amicably share the same environment, including in the parks. Be that as it may, almost all remain wary and keep their distance: coyotes don’t just up and start mingling with us simply because they’re in the habit of seeing us or no longer see us as fearsome. Why would they — what would be the draw? Nor is there any “progression” in this acclimatization behavior whereby they eventually come ever closer, and then even become assertive or even threatening towards humans. Yet some people promote this as a truth, using the word “habituation”. It’s a concept causing people to fear the presence coyotes unnecessarily. These people are actually confounding “acclimation” with “food-conditioning”. The two are not the same and have to be kept apart.

“Food conditioning”, when it occurs, on the other hand, especially over time, indeed becomes a problem, and that is what is going on here with this coyote. This coyote’s behavior was not caused by simple acclimation to human presence. The rest of his family does not behave as he does. It was caused by the consistent and persistent proffering of food by friendly humans, so that he now associates humans as a friendly food source. Also keep in mind that every coyote is different, so innate personality plays a role.



Words and their meanings. Exact word meanings are important when talking about such an emotionally charged subject as coyotes, where everyone has a strong pre-conceived opinion. Without using exact language you cannot convey what is really going on or how to deal with it, and this seems to be the case where the meaning of the word “habituation” which is supposed to mean “the diminishing of a physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus”, has been expanded to include food-conditioned behaviors: wouldn’t that then be the “increasing of a physiological or emotional response”?  This confounding, then, attributes incorrect causes to certain behaviors. I’ll avoid the word in order to avoid tapping into anyone’s pre-conceived misunderstanding of the term. We need to understand these as two separate phenomenon: “food-conditioning” vs. simple adaptation to humans. I’ll use the word “acclimation” instead.

“Acclimation” is defined as the “the process or result of becoming accustomed to something new.” In this case it means simple “accommodation” and nothing more: the definition is congruent with the italicized definition given above.  Its effect has been noted in all animals including us. So, for instance, by living in the city, we humans learn to ignore and even screen out noises so that we need not waste energy worrying or reacting to something that isn’t going to harm us: these non-threatening sounds include sirens, a blown-out tire, fire-works, or even a rock band in the park.  Acclimation does not cause us to increase our reaction to those non-dangerous things we become accustomed to, it diminishes our need to react.

This is also true of coyotes. When coyotes become used to humans by adapting to our habitual presence — accommodating us — they ignore us because they realize that we are not a danger, that we are simply part of the environment that’s out there. They do not come towards us or beg for food or become aggressive towards us just because they have become used to us. Think about it: why would they? Getting to know humans and our behavior as we go about our normal and separate lives — without trying to intimidate or scare them all the time — actually creates calmer and, yes, LESS reactive coyotes! But scare them all the time and they’re bound to start showing their teeth self-protectively. Walkaboutlou has noted that if you treat coyotes harshly, they’ll become hard coyotes.

Watch the process as it develops to know what is going on: I have been watching specifically this for over 12 years — for coyote reactions over long periods of time from birth to people and our behaviors [dogs and pets are a different issue which I will cover later].

Wariness and keeping distant are actually built into coyote behavior naturally as you can see by the aversive behavior of all youngsters. But this can be trained out of them by humans: food is this behavior shaper. This coyote here is hanging around unnaturally close to human activity: this was not caused by his becoming acclimated to us. What led to this behavior is humans breaching the natural divide by INTERACTING with him first and foremost through friendly feeding. This, then, coupled with befriending, attempting to communicate, approaching, and even prolonged mutual visual contact exacerbated the problem by making all humans potential feeders. These, interactive behaviors by humans, and not simply human presence, are what alter the behavior of coyotes so that they may hang around close to human activity and even follow people in an attempt to get more food: for them, it’s an easier thing to do than hunting. Coyotes are opportunistic and towards that end are constantly pushing their boundaries to their advantage: if it is advantageous for them, they will change their behaviors.

And BTW, I have never seen feeding lead to aggressiveness. In fact the feeding that I’ve observed over time — and it’s always very friendly feeding — results in very docile, meek, and almost tame coyotes who hang around listlessly waiting for food to be tossed their way. They become nuisances more than anything else, and the situation becomes circular and perpetual. Most importantly, this situation could lead to more negative consequences in that this “proximity” could provide opportunities for these animals to grab a kid’s sandwich or even react to a hyperactive small child. My wildlife animal behaviorist contact says that “feeding changes the relationship between a wild animal and humans, putting them on a more equal footing with us, which, if the animal were to become desperate enough it might, potentially, ‘demand’ food from a human. This is not something that is a regular occurrence, but it has happened.” By feeding we are training the animal — shaping the animal’s behavior (talk to any dog owner to find out how food is used to train an animal) to hang around, which could possibly lead to demanding or intrusive behavior. Food is the behavior shaper. Friendliness abets the process.

IN SUM, ALL of the URBAN coyotes that I know are acclimated, and this is due to the urban situation and by definition: they become used to us because we are there –we are ever-present in the parks we share with them. Nevertheless, they naturally keep their distance and only occasionally cross paths with us. They learn to ignore us because we are not a danger to them. We are simply a part of the environment “out there.” This should not be a problem.

But SOME coyotes have been encouraged by people beyond acclimation, to INTERACT on some level with us and become absorbed into our world. Again, every coyote is different, so innate personality will also play a role here. THIS interaction then, is what is unhealthy for everyone: it breaks down the natural safety barriers that were innately in place. It is occurring more frequently due to a pendulum swing from too much fear towards coyotes, to too much love, primarily through feeding, compounded with befriending, interacting with, approaching,. . . . etc.

People need to understand that they are hurting the coyote by interacting — they are shaping the coyote behavior away from its natural state.. Please, always walk away from a coyote, not for your own safety necessarily, though for that too, but for the well-being of the coyotes. Understanding this process is helping many people change their too-friendly behaviors towards coyotes. However, when this education is ignored, maybe it needs to be backed up by enforcement with fines.

Coyotes, too, have attempted to initiate interactions with some dogs as we walk them — it’s a way they use for finding out about these dogs who they see as “intruders” in “their” territories. Coyotes and dogs generally do not like each other, and small pets, of course, can be vulnerable as prey. I’ll get into this in another posting, but it’s important to prevent engagement by simply walking the other way, away from a coyote. If a coyote has approached your dog too closely as you are trying to move away from it, this is when you’ll need to react more pro-actively with anger and intimidation. More on this soon.

Note 1: One of the rationales that has been tossed at me is that feeding coyotes will keep them from grabbing pets. I read where a neighborhood in Los Angeles put out dog food which apparently cut down on disappearing cats. But in fact, you may just be encouraging the coyote to hang around closer to where s/he CAN indeed grab a pet. Even in this case, you would still need to leash your pet to keep it safe especially from chasing the coyote, so why not just start here in the first place and work on keeping away from coyotes?

Note 2: I hope you noticed that this coyote’s ears are hanging low — almost “floppy ears”. I’ve noticed its persistence in fed coyotes. It has been noted by a Russian scientist that this trait grows, and eventually is inherited, as wild dogs, specifically foxes, become tamer. See the famous red fox study about this.

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