Photos: All Wet in San Francisco

It’s been raining. Yay! Before last year, San Francisco went through a four-year drought, so we love the rain here. I don my rain gear and go splash in the puddles.

Coyotes don’t mind the rain, though I don’t know if they actually *like* it. It’s during rains that gophers, voles and other rodents come to the surface to keep from drowning in their underground tunnels — coyotes seem to know this.
And when a coyote shakes out her rain-wetted coat, dirt that has accumulated gets tossed out as well.

Here are a couple of shots of wet coyotes from the last couple of rains. In the first photo, droplets are clinging to each fur and to the coyote’s whiskers — and the camera caught the rain coming down around her. The second photo is of a totally soaked coyote — she’s been out in the rain for a while!

Rat Poison Continues to Harm Our Urban Wildlife

Before dawn this morning, this barn owl flew to a street sign and looked around for food. This individual, of a normally very alert species, remained on its perch as I approached to within ten (10) feet and stood there.

Poisons dull the way these animals react: this bird should have flown off.  The new rat poisons attack an animal’s nerves and this is what is happening here. Soon, the owl will succumb because his senses will be too dulled to hunt, and too dulled to protect himself.

One year ago, at this time of the year, I found a dead coyote which was found to have been killed by massive amounts of rat poison. Please read the article below: it has the best information I know of about rat poison and its effect on our urban wildlife. It also has a section at the bottom of the page on How To Handle A Rodent Problem.

http://wc.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=Animal_Emails_RodenticideResultsBarnOwl_March2014

And here, for those who can stomach it, is a graphic video of a dying poisoned owl:

What is a Coydog?

This urban coyote, to me, is a little strange looking. The other 9-month olds that I know do not look quite like this (see photos below). I’m not sure I can say exactly *how* he looks different — possibly he’s just a little bit compressed or stunted in size? But maybe I’m wrong: it did occur to me that his oddness might just be a variation of normal that I’m simply not accustomed to. That would be good news. Alternately, he could be *handicapped* or even *challenged* in some way, and that would be bad news. OR, I even wondered if there might be the possibility that he’s an urban coydog? Probably not, but I decided to do a posting on coydogs.

The Coydog is a hybrid between a coyote and a dog. It has many features common to the coyote, both temperamentally and in appearance. A true coydog is 1/2 coyote: it has one pure coyote as one of its parents. Coydogs are MUCH less common than people think. For one, coyotes have a once-a-year breeding season (January through March), while dogs are on a twice-a-year schedule which is well after the coyote’s. The vast majority of reported or claimed “coydogs” are not coyote crosses at all, but simply husky or German shepherd crosses that look vaguely coyote-ish.

Coydogs vary in appearance, depending on which dogs they have bred with. I found that, “they can be differentiated by their typical dark neonatal hair color, a white face mask, ebony coat color in adulthood, and a bushy, downward tail. Like the coyotes, their ears are triangular, and they have piercing eyes.”

It is not known whether fertility drops in coydogs — it does not drop with wolf/dog breeding. Coydogs do only two things that wolves & dogs don’t do: they have the unique ability to gape (instead of a doglike snarl) like its coyote parent, when threatened. And, they can emit a hissing sound like a cat, which other dogs can’t. Besides these two similarities, coydogs make sounds that are a fusion of a howl and a high pitch bark.

The individual disposition of coydogs might range from a shy, timid nature, to a gentle, friendly one, to one who is so overly fearful that it would feel threatened and afraid very easily, resulting in aggression or even biting. Coydogs, as coyotes, are very territorial. Their behavior is skittish and can be outright aggressive towards “intruders”. This is one of the reasons they do not make good pets.Another reason is that they need lots of individual affection and care — much like a human child — which is, of course, what their parents give them. They are intelligent, aggressive (compared to most domestic dogs), strong, loyal and energetic.

Most 9-month old coyotes look like this

another 9-month old

Humans Caring

These videos are old, but they tell a really sweet story of human kindness. We should all be aware that when we take over the environment for our own use, we inevitably destroy habitat for other critters. The human in this video, once he realized what he had done, does his best, and succeeds, in helping a youngster out of its dilemma. The event must have been terrifying for the youngster who was not used to humans, but through eye-to-eye contact might he/she have been able to read the benevolence in the big man? It’s how coyotes read each other.

The story: Two years ago, David Bradley was digging through a pile of bedrock to run through his rock crusher when he realized there was a coyote den right there. “On first breaking it open, 4 coyotes ran off. Going back for another rock I uncovered this little guy. The den had collapsed around him trapping him 5 foot below ground. Amazingly enough, even though I couldn’t possibly know that he was there, I didn’t hurt him, and when I moved the next rock he was just ‘there’.” The text continues, so make sure to read it beneath the video on YouTube.

 

Diverting Attention

The coyote had made herself very visible on the side of the hill during the early dawn hours, sitting there and watching the sparse activity on the path and street below: a few walkers, dog-walkers, workers and traffic. Whenever she spotted a perceived potential *threat*, she ran out onto the path in front of whomever she was worried about, forcing attention towards herself so that the youngster up the hill would not be noticed; or she ran onto the path in back of a dog to make sure dog was moving on. A couple of times she got too close to a dog and the dog reacted by growling and barking. But when the dog and walker moved on with a shortened leash, as I advised, that was always the end of it: this is what the coyote wanted.

I looked up and saw the youngster there watching the goings-on. When looked at directly, he moved to a bushier part of the hill and watched from behind the thicker foliage — this was a shy one.

Soon Mom headed down the street a ways while maintaining eye-contact with the youngster, and then she stood in the middle of the street, eyeing the youngster repeatedly. At this point, it became apparent that she was trying to coax the youth in her direction so that she could take him away from the open space. He was too fearful, and during her ten minute effort he did not come. So Mom returned to the hill and sat there close to the path, again drawing attention to herself apparently as a ploy to keep attention away from the kid. It worked: no one saw the kid except me while I observed.

By the next day, the youngster had still not left that space. Maybe reinforcements were needed to entice the little guy to leave, because now, there were two adult females with him. I spotted the three of them sleeping together on the incline before dawn.  The second female was much more reclusive than the first one — she made no attempt to serve as a decoy. Instead, she, too, remained as hidden as possible, similarly to the youngster, while the first female performed as she had the previous day. You would have thought that during the night there might have been a change in the situation, but there had not been.

On the third day, the lot was vacant! I guess the two adult females had accomplished their mission! The day before had been one of the few times I had seen that particular second female whose relationship to the family I have not figured out. Some coyotes are much more reclusive than others. Most likely, she would be related: either a yearling pup herself from the year before, a sister, or even a parent or aunt of the mother coyote. Coyotes are territorial, and it’s only family groups that live in any particular vicinity, keeping all other coyotes — intruders — out of the picture. This is one reason they feel territorial towards dogs.

Another Cat Scares Off a Coyote

coyote sniffs something interesting under a bush

Within seconds, a cat jumps out of the bush and chases the coyote away

The coyote flees for protection to behind a guard-rail. The cat keeps an eye on her.

Months ago I watched a cat take a walk with its owner. I had never seen a cat do this, but was told that this cat walked regularly like this, and for some distance. Sounds like a uniquely special cat to me. So I alerted the owner that a coyote hung around the area. Yes, the owner knew about the coyote: it turned out that the coyote and the cat had a special, mutually respectful relationship. Yes, I thought, it was a very special cat — or the coyote was a very special coyote.

So a few days ago I watched this coyote sniffing for something under the bushes. I wondered what she was sniffing for, until the cat popped out and scared the coyote away. Yes, scared the coyote away. The coyote ran off and found protection behind a guardrail where she waited for that cat to go, but the cat took his time, possibly testing his power over the coyote. He was smart enough not to turn his back on the coyote, but remained facing her.

I caught several shots of the coyote’s very worried expression. She looked ready to flee if that cat came towards her.

The coyote even gestures with her tongue, “Peace, please?”

Eventually the cat took off and the coyote, then, proceeded again to sniff for whatever was under the bush. Obviously it hadn’t been the cat the coyote was sniffing out because the cat had gone.  This time she came out with something. It was a dead bird, which probably had been left by the cat. The coyote ate it: coyotes are opportunistic eaters and can eat anything lying around.

Finally, the cat gives up first

Coyote goes back for what she had wanted in the first place — it was not the cat, but something left by the cat.

So this turned out to be an interesting little triangle: cat, coyote, bird. The cat caught the bird but left it probably because of the coyote’s presence in the bush — even this brave cat appears to know not to get itself too close to the snout of a coyote! Neither animal felt at-ease enough to hunt while the other animal was so close. By the way, many of the animals that coyotes eat are carrion: they were killed by cars or another animal and then found by the coyote. And yes, as you can see, coyotes eat birds.

Again, as I’ve stated before, please do not allow your cats to roam free. Coyotes are uniquely individual, each with it’s own unique personality, temperament, habits and even family culture, and you won’t know how a coyote will react to a cat until after the fact. Most coyotes will opportunistically grab a cat if it appears within sight, not run from it! And most cats, left to roam free, will snag little birds.

An Incident: Embracing the Neighborhood Coyote, by Deb

Photo credit: Deb

Yesterday was bizarre. Early in the morning, while sitting in my car (getting ready to take my dog out) I observed a white male jogger stop near where our neighborhood coyote was lying hidden in the bushes. He was angry and started waving his arms menacingly as he quickly walked towards the bush.

The coyote froze for some reason. The man in a very angry tone started shouting, ”Get outta here you nasty thing”. Next he started kicking the bush.  I jumped outta the car & asked the man to leave the coyote alone — that he had been injured. He said, “Lady I don’t have to”.

At that point a Mom driving her daughter to school, stopped her car. She willingly took the time to talk to this man. She walked up to him and said she had seen what was going on and wasn’t going to leave until he did. What a gal! She was spectacular. Her name is Lisa. We exchanged phone numbers. At that point, she persuaded the man to leave. She is very fond of our neighborhood coyote as well — as appear to be most folks as they get to know about him!!

THEN, a neighbor, Jake, who lives across the street came out and said he wanted to help. He had seen the incident unfold while he was getting dressed for work. What is great here is how our neighbourhood community positively responded when we saw a mean person trying to hurt a wounded coyote.  I am proud of my community for quickly defending our wild neighbour whom we have become deeply fond of.

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