Coyotes and Dogs, Coyotes and Humans, and How To Shoo Off A Coyote

The updated presentation — updated on June 13th — is at the top of the page in the second posting on this blog: It’s called Coyotes As Neighbors: Focus on Facts.

The version I’m posting today, here, in this posting, is called Coyotes As Neighbors: How To Shoo Off A Coyote. It is a shorter version of that first one: I’ve cut out some of the coyote behavior slides and the section on killing coyotes, and I’m concentrating on human and dog relationships to coyotes, and how to shoo them off in each instance. This version here is 20 minutes long, versus 30 for the one at the top of the Yipps blog. Otherwise, they are exactly the same.

**PLEASE NOTE A PROTOCOL CLARIFICATION FOR WHEN WALKING A DOG (not addressed in the video): Your safest option always is all-out absolute AVOIDANCE: Whether you see a coyote in the distance, approaching you, or at close range, leash your dog and walk away from it, thus minimizing any potential dog/coyote confrontation or engagement. If you choose to shoo it away, follow the guidelines in the videos, but know that what’s safest is unmitigated avoidance. Shooing off a coyote should really only be used if a coyote is in your yard or if you do not have a pet with you and the coyote has come into your personal space.

I don’t think a lot of the information in these videos can be found anywhere else — I don’t think much of this detailed urban coyote/dog behavior has been observed or documented — at least at the time I made this. Except for some statistics and the section from F. F. Knowlton that killing coyotes increases their populations, most of the coyote information in these videos comes from my own years of first-hand observations. I spend 3-5 hours daily in our parks, engaging in my “pioneering photo documentation” (that’s what one journalist called it!) and research of coyote behavior and their interactions with people and pets. I believe these are the first such presentations which concentrate on the urban coyote himself! I’ve been told by coyote specialist professors that the dog/coyote observations are new.

Anyway, I would like to to get the information out there now because we’re in the middle of pupping season — there might be more coyote encounters coming up.  This information will be useful especially to dog owners. If you have time for the longer version, I recommend that one. If you don’t, try this shorter version. They are both pretty long, but they contain most information that you’ll need, especially if you are a dog walker.

An Instance of Seeing A Coyote One Day

I met Jona with her rescued greyhound on the leash in a park early this morning — she called out hello to me, asking if I had seen the coyote which lives there. As I answered, she spotted the coyote! The coyote disappeared, but as we talked it reappeared. Ahh, it always is nice to talk to people who understand and love the coyotes. I found out about Jona’s previous park work within the national parks  – I hope she can help us with what is going on in the parks here.

As we spoke, a woman with two active dogs began up the path. I warned her that a coyote was around: if her dogs might chase, could she leash them? It did not happen immediately, but she was able to grab them and leash them. She did not want to be followed by the coyote and anxiously asked if the path she was on would be okay. The coyotes make some peoples’ day, and unmake others’!

Then Hunter showed up with his dog. The coyote still was perched high above, observing us below. Hunter’s dog ran up to me but then calmed down. As he and I talked, the coyote watched us, but particularly it watched the large labrador. Hunter told me that when he encountered this coyote several nights ago, he was surprised that his dog actually greeted it “in its own fashion”: a crouch and then a leap up! Coyote behavior, and dog-coyote behavior are always favorite topics of conversation.

Hunter walked on, while I snapped some pictures. The coyote was grunting, which means it was preparing for a barking session, as it watched Hunter and the dog leave. The coyote suddenly decided to follow them, so it raced down the hill, keeping its distance, and I, of course, followed too. So we ended up in a long single file: Hunter in front, the lab, the coyote and me at the end. At a certain point, Hunter’s dog decided to let me know that he was happy I had re-joined them. As he came running at me, the coyote wandered off to the side. I’ve been knocked off my feet before by this dog, so I crouched low, so that a fall would be a short one. The lab danced around me. The coyote became agitated with all the commotion and started its barking: a very high pitched and continuous bark. We knew the coyote was already in a mode for barking because of the grunts we had heard earlier: there had been enough dog activity earlier to set this off: coyotes do not seem to like a lot of commotion. This particular coyote really gets into its barking. The barking sessions sound like arias, so we call this one a “real drama queen”. She sits still when she barks, sometimes rearing up on her hind legs, sometimes raising her hackles, but always tilting her head back. She really gets into it.

So Hunter walked on out of the park — he doesn’t want his dog to be the reason for prolonging the barking — and I watched. Another dog walking on the trail, seeing and hearing the coyote, started to chase her. I pleaded with the owner not to allow this, and she was able to grab her unleashed dog. Then two more walkers with leashed dogs walked by as the coyote was still barking away. I think we all appreciated the “drama queen” and her performance. Things then became calm and the coyote settled down to rest and sleep — yes, right there in the open and in plain view.

Then suddenly, well before I had noticed any change in the surroundings, the coyote took off like a flash into the far distance and was gone. The “cause” of the fleeing appeared: it was a dog running up to where the coyote had been. The dog had not seen the coyote’s split-second departure. I approached the owner who didn’t have verbal or leash control over the dog — she had been yelling ineffectively for the dog to return to her. Our Animal and Care Department has been sending out someone to enforce the leash law at odd times — I thought I should warn her. This person was very upset that she might have to keep her dogs leashed, and she was upset that Animal Care and Control was coming to the park in order to protect a coyote. Dogs have always been fairly free in the San Francisco parks — and dog owners don’t want to give this up.

I’ve been speaking to a wolf specialist who said there really is “no middle ground” with coyotes. We need to protect the coyotes. The park situation has changed since our coyotes have moved in. We are the ones that need to adapt to this with stricter rules.

It was time for me to go. I had been in the park almost two hours. It is always nice to see a coyote. More often there is no coyote to be seen, or a coyote is much further off.

I want to add a conversation I had several days ago with Jacob, who has two dogs and is very enthusiastic about the coyotes and about his dogs’ behavior towards them — behaviors in which they engage at a distance from each other. He has noticed that some dogs, including one of his, are totally in-tune to eye-contact and communication with the coyotes — this translates into them being wary; whereas other dogs are totally oblivious to a coyote, as is his other dog. Jacob has noticed that the particular coyote we have lately been seeing will “lock” into eye-contact with some of the dogs, and he has noticed that this is an indication of this coyote’s dominance, which only those dogs who are in-tune to are able to discern.