Meet “Hunter”: Gold Medalist in High Airborne Pouncing

Coyotes are as individual, unique and different in their competencies as are people: for instance, not every coyote is endowed with the same pouncing ability, or has perfected that skill to the extent this fellow has. He consistently gives stellar leaping performances, day after day after day.

All of the following photos are of that single coyote I have named “Hunter”.  His exceptional skill consists of ease in springing up high, aiming, and then either diving directly down with an added end-bounce, or first sailing through the air for a few feet before his dive. He has eliminated all the extraneous movements which might make another coyote look more clumsy or awkward at times. I’m mesmerized each time I watch him. And usually his only reward is an itsy bitsy little field mouse in the end. I’ve come to believe he’s not in it for the reward, he just seems to love springing up and sailing energetically and efficiently through the air — and that’s probably why he’s so good at it.

Press on each of the photo groups to see them enlarged, and watch the video above which I’ve slowed down so you can appreciate his every move.

Observations of Coyote Behavior On Ranches, by “Walkaboutlou”

“Believe it or not, we determine what they will become.” This quote is from ‘Walkaboutlou’ who just wrote me about his observations of coyote behavior on farms and ranches. Whether you live on a farm/ranch or not, I think you’ll find these observations fascinating!

Greetings! I’ve enjoyed following your posts on Instagram.

I’m just an amateur coyote fan, but after studying them coast to coast for the last 30 years, I find them just as fascinating, and mysterious.

I hate when people say “coyotes always or never do this or that”. The reason why is because like many intelligent beings that live in a variety of environments, and with varying genetics, there are going to be differences. Some slight. Some quite marked. The common theme is survival. But a coyote habituated to humans living in a city may well act markedly different, than, lets say, a hard hunted coyote living among ranches. Or a coyote that deals with wolves rather than people. There’s so much variety. Even the ages and social settings. An established bonded pair will act differently than a footloose nomad.

For the past 5 years, I have been walking and traveling among ranches, inspecting fences, and with my dogs, perhaps collecting escaped cattle. I get walking rights in exchange for my services. And am retired, so I have the time.

Most ranchers are enemies of coyotes. It’s almost a cultural, religious feeling. But one rancher in particular I’ve enjoyed being around. He’s very open-minded, and wise. His rule on his vast property is this: “don’t touch the yotes”. His reasons for this are not sentimental, but learned by his father and passed on to him. He literally feels if you leave the coyote alone, they form pairs or small packs. These groups then become very intimate with the land, and with their neighbors. They learn what is safe and dangerous. They learn, for example, the nature of the dogs, llamas, and livestock. They then pass their knowledge down to surviving pups. And he feels, the permanent coyotes are very jealous of their land and will chase off coyotes that don’t know the “rules” of this ranch.

He literally is practicing science-proven tactics. To help him keep his sons on-board, I volunteered and promised to report any signs of livestock predation. 1st of all, coyotes almost never bother cattle unless the cattle are dead, or a very sickly, newborn calf is abandoned by its mother. And in regards to the sheep of this ranch, they are guarded by really efficient, well-trained experienced dogs, or donkeys, or llamas. They aren’t left lying around if they die. It’s a very well run ranch.

Finally, in the 5 years of checking coyote scat (I wear a mask and gloves if I really am going to study them) I’ve never found sheep wool or bones in the local coyotes. I’ve found exclusively rodents of all sorts, berries from July until early October. Deer/elk hair and bone almost directly coinciding with hunting season. Once in a great while the remains of a feral barn cat that wandered a bit too far. But in 5 years, no wool, or feathers or evidence of raids.

On the other ranches, that’s not the picture. Coyotes are shot indiscriminately, so there are almost never long-lasting bonded pairs keeping a territory. In fact, on the other ranches, I see or hear many more coyotes or their tracks. They are often nocturnal. And there is a more helter-skelter, chaotic feel to their movements and calls. I feel these are either nomadic, younger coyotes, or coyotes that have been hard hunted and are survivors of war. And like any survivors of war, they change. I feel the canine guerilla type of skirmishes ranchers have come to associate with coyote are human caused. It’s true, a coyote has the tendency to be smart and have tricks. They were pulling tricks when the mastodons were roaming those ranches. But when hit super hard, the coyotes become super smart. And they have minimal time to hunt relaxed because of human pressures — so they will hunt harder, and faster, and, I feel, take on certain sheep, or are emboldened to raid a chicken coop or garden. All because of human pressure. It’s a behavior boomerang. At any rate, the rancher with the “no yote” rule continues to have 0 losses to coyotes. While the ranches surrounding him keep up their unceasing warfare with coyote, and the coyotes survive to hit back, so to speak with pressure caused behaviors.

If we keep sharing knowledge , maybe one day we’ll understand how to live with them with common sense knowledge.

Keep up your fine work. And pics!


After 5 years of checking coyote scat on a ranch that doesn’t allow them to be hunted, this is the most common find: rodents (though I almost never have found a partial skeleton like this). Rodents, rodents, and more rodents. With some berries in late summer/ early fall. And deer/elk hair and bone that coincides almost exactly with hunting season. On other ranches, I find cattle hair or sheep wool, but almost always can locate a carcass left by ranchers of an animal that died and was left about. At any rate, I will continue to share this knowledge with my ranching colleagues. Keep up your fine work. [Photo and text from Walkaboutlou]

A Solution Offered For Ranchers: I have found cattle killed by cougar, livestock guard-dogs who roam to kill neighbors sheep (rare), and again, discovered areas where indiscriminate hunting leads to livestock predation. For example, where coyotes aren’t hunted, you will often see them during day, hunting rodents. Its natural, but it takes time to hunt this way. And focus. And standing still, sometimes for periods of time. However, a hunted coyote learns this is a death trap. To be out in open is death. To stand in the open focused on something else means you’re not watching your back. To stay still makes you a target.

Hunted coyotes will obviously still hunt rodents. But they face pressures, time pressures (they’ll become nocturnal if they learn) and will find out the best food sources, as quickly as possible. The scattering of packs, and the forced displacement and high numbers of nomads, also has a bearing on hunting, because nomads never hunt in complete ease. They find food quickly, and keep going. Years of living this way creates coyotes that are quick to move in, kill as much as they can, eat as much as they can, and move on. Hence, scat with wool is almost always a sure sign of hard-hunted, stressed, but also thriving coyotes. I just report what I see. But I also make suggestions. Like, for example, if a ranch has 2000 acres. If 5 acres spots can be saved, even just one or 2, and grass be allowed to grow there, the mice, rodents, pack rats will flourish there. If you can hold off hunting for spring and summer, those little “tall grass allotments” will attract, and hold coyotes all summer, and take pressure off sheep. Its my 1st step in getting a rancher to at least recognize coyote solutions naturally. I call it “Rats or Lambs” program. Coyotes prefer rats in a natural setting rather then the stress that comes with livestock predation. It’s just a 1st step, but a step towards solutions. Sorry I meandered with my words. I’m just a volunteer hiker/walker/ fencelines checker!

Basically, I view myself as a covert coyote conservationist. They are by no means endangered. They will likely outlast our times and governments. It’s just that they fascinate me. I love them. Both emotionally and from a ‘scientific view’. As well as I see ways where both humans and animals can share. So for example, I know that a 3-5 acres of tall, natural grasses are paradise to rodents of all kinds of rodents. Which is a magnet for coyotes. If I can get a rancher, or city planner to give it a try, then the Rancher sees less or no predation on his place, the city isn’t overrun with complaints of coyotes “hunting cats, small dogs, or kids” (often complete hoaxes) and some of the coyotes will stay more natural. If this is repeated enough, people will see the less you hunt or otherwise interfere with coyote, the more apt they are to live lives more in tune with natural settings. [This will at least insure the survival of the more discreet coyotes — and the bolder ones could learn from these]. Either way, coyotes will thrive. I’d rather see natural living, bonded, content and territorial coyotes (easier to study and enjoy and live with) than coyotes living endlessly nomadic, being pushed or hunted ceaselessly, which creates a more desperate, braver, less discriminatory hunter that would have no qualms about jumping over a fence on overfed livestock or pets.

What kind of coyotes do we want?

Believe or not, we determine what they will become.


Addendum from Janet: In the same vein, Timm and Baker long ago wrote about how dangerous habituated coyotes were. In eleven years of many hours of daily observations, I have NEVER seen habituated coyotes become aggressive or dangerous to humans. Could it be that constant or intense hazing (harassing) certain coyotes — which is what Timm and Baker advocate “to keep them wary and fearful of people” — is what might have contributed to any aggressiveness they saw? In other words, again, stressed animals respond in a stressed manner, or, “we determine what they will become”.

Territorial Fighting Can Be Vicious

I cried when I came across this fellow yesterday. Although I know him well, he was almost unrecognizable due to the lacerations on both sides of his snout and the resulting swelling. This is part and parcel of being an alpha male coyote: they must defend their territories and families when challenged.

Territorial fights between coyotes can be vicious. I have observed  fights such as the one below on numerous occasions in San Francisco, and around this time of year. Notice these two latching onto each other’s snouts without letting go.

Life is hard enough for coyotes without us making it harder for them. Their lives are fabulously rich with family interactions, but also fabulously tough at times. Let’s give them a break whenever we can! [Also see posting on injured father].

[More graphic photos, for those who aren’t squeamish, can be found here:].

Handling A Coyote Encounter: A Review

If you know this information, great! If you don’t, please review it. Also, help get it out there: no dog-owner should be without it. The chief issue folks have with coyotes is encounters with pets. These can be easily averted by walking away from them always, especially if you have a dog.

Here’s a flyer that I first designed and put out in 2014 as “How to Shoo Off A Coyote”. It has since morphed and been refined into its present form through watching hundreds and hundreds of coyote/pet/human encounters and observing what works best. I continue to subtly revise it to give you the guidelines that have proven to be the safest and most effective for avoiding incidents with pets. Please share this far and wide! “Leave no dog or dog-owner behind!” Pressing on the images below will enlarge them for better reading, or press the link below the images to read or download the pdf.  Janet

Here is a link for downloading the two sided PDF: Encounter GUIDELINES 2018

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!

She Who Laughs Last, Laughs The Loudest

Here’s a fun photo-essay involving two coyotes and their ownership of a mouse.

SHE caught a mouse and began to play with it. HE, of course, noticed and approached.

Aware that HIS eyes were on HER mouse, she distanced herself fast.

Then she teased him and taunted him, provokingly, and continued to play with her mouse by tossing it and catching it, and dropping it sometimes: “ha ha, this is MINE and you can’t have it!!”  But he watched her carefully, and . . .

the minute that little mouse was tossed a little too far, HE grabbed it and ran with it. She watched him tear off with it. Now it was HIS.

He distanced himself far enough not to be reached, and then played with what was now HIS prize. He kept looking over at her thinking she might try to grab it back. But she was sly and pretended not to care –she pretended to be otherwise occupied.

Then, when she felt HE believed that it didn’t matter to HER, and when he was occupied with “his” mouse and no longer watching her, she snuck over and,

now it was payback time: when that little mouse was tossed too far, SHE grabbed it and took off.

This time there was no more tossing the mouse around. Why take the chance of its being grabbed again? She chewed it up and down the hatch it went. After all, it had been HER mouse before HE stole it from her! And then she grabbed HIS snout in hers to show who was boss: she who laughs last . . .

Teasing each other is something coyotes do a lot of. It’s a form of interaction, and most of it is done in good-will.

Beautiful Solo Howling to Sirens by an Older Male

He has a fairly large family, but they didn’t join-in this time.

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