My house is in a residential area but the upper backyard is part of a natural animal corridor. I set up a wildlife camera to capture video of coyotes, raccoons, possums, and even the occasional bobcat and mountain lion.
We have owls and hawks too, and every so often I’ll find a bunny or a rat that tells the story of predator versus prey.
Last night was different…
I was watching Red Rock on Amazon Prime because there’s literally nothing else — it’s a show about Irish cops and feuding families — when I heard a scream outside. It was a sustained and distinctive sound of distress and I’m sure it wasn’t a human and I’m sure it wasn’t a cat. I’ve heard the scream of a bobcat too, and it wasn’t that, either. (That sounds like a shrill woman.)
I think it was a rabbit because they also scream when they’ve been hunted by a predator and I have a lot of bunnies around here. A couple days ago I counted five of them on the lawn at the same time.
“The sound of a rabbit screaming will send chills down your spine for two reasons. First, it sounds eerily close to a terrified child. Second, rabbits only scream when a predator is chasing them down or they are dying. It is never a false alarm when a rabbit screams.”https://www.thesprucepets.com/sounds-that-rabbits-make-1835745
All the nearby dogs started to bark like crazy and there was the sound of a scuffle. I turned on the deck lights and got out my spotlight but saw nothing.
This morning I went out to search for any signs of an injured animal or fur or any indication about what had taken place, but I didn’t find a thing. As sad as it is, we must learn to co-exist with wild creatures. They have to eat, too, and bunnies and rats make up most of their diet. This was first their home and we need to respect them. Learn more at Project Coyote.
Later on, I’ll do a more thorough search but right now I’m on my own hunt for the perfect gifts for a little girl who will be two in a couple of weeks. If only Chanel had a kids line of organic lotions and potions!
What has happened to Luna is nothing short of intolerable cruelty.
Personally, I am absolutely heartbroken and disgusted. There is no justification for her suffering.
One of the valuable tools of being a blogger with a following of about 5,000 inclusive of all platforms-is the ability to ask for help, to send a message, to build awareness.
This is an urgent call to action.
Please read this post, visit the links to learn more, make the calls, and do something good before the end of the year.
Friends , this is very important to me personally as well as to our wolf and coyote communities. PLEASE HELP.
Please try to help this tortured soul Luna get back to her safe haven of 13 years with Tomi Tranchita in Illinois.
This is an emergency.
The State of Illinois is trying to get a judge to dismiss her case NEXT WEEK
We need you all to make calls immediately asking that the Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton‘s office steps in and stops this nonsense that continues to hurt Luna.
Please comment and make calls to her office as well — Be prepared to leave an informing message asking her office to step in as we rightfully expect this judge to order the state DNR attorneys to STOP BULLYING Tomi and to mediate and settle this matter — NOT DISMISS IT.
Phone: (217) 558-3085
Fax: (217) 558-3094
Phone: (312) 814-5240
Fax: (312) 814-5228
Fax and/or calls better than emails right now.
Luna should be allowed to return to Tomi’s Federal and State licensed facility without fear of another illegal raid.
History: At dawn on April 24, 2019, Tomi Tranchita’s Wildlife Education facility and her home were invaded by armed officers brandishing assault rifles and beating on her doors. These Illinois State agents seized Ms. Tranchita’s four coyotes, needlessly shooting them with tranquilizer guns, and dragged the animals by their throats with pole chokeholds, leading to the death of all but one of her perfectly healthy animals. The brutal handling of the animals was in violation of federal regulations governed by the AWA. In actual fact, the raid itself was done on a fraudulently obtained warrant, violating Tranchita’s property rights and her 14th amendment right to due process.
This raid wrongfully shut down Tranchita’s long-established, licensed Wildlife Education Program. Therefore, we ask the State to affirm that Ms. Tranchita has satisfied all state requirements to resume her Education Program and that her surviving ambassador coyote may be returned to her facility.
The excessive use of force and intimidation was orchestrated by one “peace” officer (“Officer M”) employed by the IDNR State Fish and Game Agency (IDNR). Having recently moved into her neighborhood and hearing a coyote howl, Officer M was determined to seize Tranchita’s animals. He investigated her program and found that she had inadvertently forgotten to renew a $25 state permit.
However, in applying for a seizure warrant based on that technicality alone, he neglected to inform the magistrate that Tranchita’s facility has been federally licensed the entire 13 years of its operation.
Fraudulent warrant in hand, Officer M led the violent raid showing no regard for the animals’ well-being. Beautiful, healthy coyotes, all crate-trained, were dragged by their throats, choking and bleeding. When Ms. Tranchita offered to crate the animals for their own safety, Officer M would not allow it, saying he was in a hurry because he was going on vacation.
The traumatic, brutal handling in this seizure of her four long-established educational coyotes is portrayed on several videos like this one. These animals had never before experienced violence in their lifetimes.
The brutality continues to outrage more than 40,000 citizens. The stress perpetrated on Ms. Tranchita’s animals resulted in three dying, still with no confirmed explanation. Luna, the last survivor, has been moved three times and was in state custody for five months — all on the taxpayers’ dime.
Officer M also lied to Ms. Tranchita, saying her coyotes would be taken to huge one-acre enclosures. In fact, Ms. Tranchita’s facility is significantly larger than the small enclosures they were moved to. Before he left her property, Officer M told Ms. Tranchita he knew she was upset, and he suggested she call a mental health hotline.
The IDNR denied Tranchita’s court-ordered visitation for weeks.
The agency still refuses to return any of Ms. Tranchita’s personal property, licenses, and documents Officer M took from her.
Officer M attempted to instigate neighborhood concerns but failed. By his own admission, no other neighbors had any problem with the coyotes in the 13 years Tranchita operated her facility. Every neighbor, every facility visitor, and every annual federal inspection report for 13 years stated Tranchita took excellent care of the animals; they had no concerns about her facility, or her educational program, which has also had a flawless safety record.
Indeed, the IDNR has known all along of Tranchita’s facility and her coyotes. They had been to her facility. They had themselves licensed the facility for years. They also knew of her USDA-issued federal license and that she’d held it for 13 years.
Even though this officer is under investigation by the Inspector General’s office for his failure to uphold due process procedures before instigating this raid, as well as his unprofessional and derogatory comments and brash behavior, IDNR proceeded to file charges against Ms. Tranchita instead of firing this rogue officer and apologizing for the damages his actions caused.
Months of court hearings followed the seizure, beginning in traffic court. The judges there had no wildlife law experience. Therefore, they deferred to what the IDNR’s attorneys claimed the obtusely complex rules meant.
So what did the IDNR ultimately conclude Ms. Tranchita was guilty of?
The only violation they could charge her with was the lapsed $25 “furbearer” permit — a document you can simply acquire online from the IDNR agency’s website. Conversely, the USDA-APHIS license requires annual onsite inspections of the facility and the animals, as well as acquiring the same from the veterinarian of record. These requirements, and their costs, are mandated of all licensees annually. A renewal packet is sent to every federal licensee each year prior to their renewal date, while the state IDNR offers no such oversight, not even a renewal reminder.
Is it unreasonable for a citizen to presume that she is not violating any laws when, for 13 years, her federal government renews its approval to continue operating? Further, is it unreasonable to expect that our federal and state agencies, which both regulate these activities, would communicate with each other?
Clearly, Ms. Tranchita’s missed permit payment was inadvertent; she was not trying to get away without paying a $25 fee (and immediately acquired the permit). Consider the expense and investment: She invested tens of thousands of dollars in her 13-year Wildlife Education Program and facility; and since incorporating the non-releasable coyotes as ambassadors into her program, she has paid all costs and requirements of annual inspections by both state and federal veterinarians and officials. Due to her investment and her dedication, her renewal has always been approved, and she has remained licensed under a USDA-APHIS Federal Class C Exhibitors educational use permit. There has not been a single infraction or complaint in 13 years. The facility exceeds recommended requirements for caging, public safety, and federal AWA animal care standards. And it certainly exceeds the IDNR’s standards.
This disturbing, unwarranted, and completely unnecessary action was an egregious civil rights violation by the Illinois wildlife agency. The State is blatantly exhibiting a double standard. The IDNR makes many allowances for various captive wildlife purposes and pursuits, and Tranchita’s interests are not unique among them. Selective enforcement is unacceptable.
All non-releasable wildlife is required by the State to be euthanized. One of the very few exceptions is the rare availability of a licensed sanctuary or education program willing to accept such animals. Rare, because it is a tremendous undertaking requiring extensive knowledge, expenses and personal sacrifice to meet these animals’ needs for the duration of their lives.
Tranchita took pride in these animals and found it rewarding to educate the public about coyote biology and behavior, their value to our ecosystem, and methods and solutions for coexisting with them to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
These animals were not house pets. The four non-releasable coyotes were safely held in large enclosures spanning her property. Tranchita’s program is clear about its position on the risks and challenges of responsible, qualified possession. Contrary to the State’s attempt to now repudiate Ms. Tranchita’s program despite its acknowledged approval, her program’s tutelage has fully supported the State’s opposition to keeping coyotes as “pets”. Education program animals are always given names and provided personalized care and attention. That does not define nor classify them as that of a house pet, and it is not a crime. Belittling the value of 13 years invested into such an animal is malicious manipulation of public opinion and of decision-makers unfamiliar with this professional pursuit.
It is heavy-handed incidents like this — when citizens are denied their right to due process — that solidifies the public’s distrust of government authority and law enforcement. This display of authoritarian government was and is not acceptable.
We ask that Governor Pritzker advise his appointed IDNR Advisory Board to direct the IDNR agency to review its prejudice in this matter and immediately seek an amicable settlement agreement with Tomi Tranchita. Specifically, we ask that IDNR affirm that Ms. Tranchita has satisfied their requirements and may resume her Wildlife Education Program. Finally, we ask that in so doing, the State will allow Ms. Tranchita to immediately reacquire possession of her last surviving ambassador coyote.
This is the first color video of my nightly visitor. It was about 6:00 a.m. Isn’t he absolutely gorgeous?
In this black and white video, there are now two coyotes and since we know they mate for life, I have my fingers crossed waiting to see if they bring me any grandchildren! Wouldn’t that be amazing?
Some coyote facts:
Urban coyotes can create territories out of a patchwork of parks and green spaces.
While many urban coyotes make their homes in large parks or forest
preserves, this isn’t the case in all situations. Urban coyotes don’t need one
cohesive piece of green space like a single park or a single golf course to
call home. They manage to make do with surprisingly small patches of hunt-able
land woven together as a whole territory.
Coyotes can thrive in a small territory if there is enough food
and shelter, but if there isn’t — such as in sections of a city with only a
handful of small parks, soccer fields, green spaces and the like — then they
will expand the size of their territory to include enough places to hunt for
food to sustain themselves. The size of an urban coyote’s range is dependent on
the abundance of food and can be anywhere from two square miles to ten square
miles or more. Urban coyotes tend to have smaller territory sizes than rural
coyotes because there is so much more food packed into smaller areas, even if
that area has only a few scattered parks.
Studies have shown that coyotes much prefer forested areas and large parks where they can steer clear of humans, and they try to avoid residential areas. But when that’s not available, they still figure out how to make do. In a large-scale study of urban coyotes by the Urban Coyote Research Program, it was discovered that “29 percent of collared coyotes have home ranges composed of less than 10 percent of natural land and 8 percent having no measurable patches of natural land within their home ranges.”
Urban coyotes may live in family packs or on their own at
different points in their lives.
It’s common to see a single coyote hunting or traveling on its
own, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is alone. Coyotes are highly social
animals and this didn’t change when they entered the urban ecosystem. Coyotes
may live as part of a pack, which usually consists of an alpha male and female,
perhaps one or two of their offspring from previous seasons (known as a
“helper”) and their current litter of pups. The pack may also welcome in a
solitary traveler if their territory can support another member. Packs living
in sizable protected areas can have as many as five or six adults in addition
to that season’s pups.
However, a coyote may also spend part of its life on its own,
known as a solitary coyote. This is common when young coyotes disperse from
their pack and go in search of their own territory, a new pack to join, or a
mate with whom to start their own pack. A coyote may also spend a stretch of
time as a loner if it was an alpha in a pack but lost its mate. According to
Urban Coyote Research Program, between a third and half of coyotes under study
are solitary coyotes, and they are usually youngsters between six months and
two years old.
Because coyotes hunt and
travel alone or in pairs, it is often thought that they don’t form packs. The
study of urban coyotes has helped to correct this misconception and has
revealed much about the social lives of coyotes.
Urban coyotes mate for life and are monogamous.
Speaking of mates, coyotes mate for life and are 100 percent
faithful to that mate. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Mammalogy found
that “among 18 litters comprising 96 offspring, [researchers] found no evidence
of polygamy, and detected a single instance of a double litter (pups from
different parents sharing the same den).”
This loyalty holds even when there are other coyotes in adjacent
territories and plenty of opportunity for cheating. But coyote pairs stay
faithful and faithful for life. Some of the pairs followed by the research team
were together for as long as 10 years, only moving on when one mate died.
The researchers believe that this monogamy plays an important role
in the success of urban coyotes. Because a female can adjust her litter size
based on the availability of food and other factors, she can have larger
litters of pups in a city where there is a buffet of rodents, reptiles, fruits,
vegetables and so much else in a relatively small area. She also has a
dedicated mate to help her feed and raise the pups, so these large litters have
a higher survival rate, resulting in more coyotes reaching an age to disperse
to other areas of a city.
Even when food is less
abundant or there is territory pressure from other coyotes, the couple stays
together year after year. Coyotes may be opportunistic about matters of food
and shelter, but not when it comes to love.
Urban coyotes do not feast on pets and garbage; they typically stick to a natural diet.
Due to sensationalistic reporting, many urban residents think all
coyotes are out to eat their dog or cat at the first opportunity, or that
they’re dumpster divers of the first degree. On the contrary, studies have
shown that urban coyotes stick mainly to a natural diet.
Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores and will eat fruits and
vegetables along with animal prey. A study by Urban Coyote Research
Program analyzed over 1,400 scats and found that “the most common food items
were small rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%).” Only
about 2 percent of the scats had human garbage and just 1.3 percent showed
evidence of cats. “Apparently, the majority of coyotes in our study area do
not, in fact, rely on pets or garbage for their diets,” say the researchers.
This aligns logically with urban coyotes’ preference of sticking
to parks, preserves, cemeteries, and other out-of-the-way areas as much as
possible. The food available in these locations is rodents, reptiles, fallen
fruit and other food items that are part of a natural diet.
Coyotes of course take feral cats or the occasional domestic cat
that has been left outdoors, and there is certainly evidence that coyotes that
have become habituated and overly bold will go after small dogs. However pets
are not primary prey for them, not by a long shot.
Urban coyotes often switch from naturally diurnal and
crepuscular activity to nocturnal activity.
When urban residents see coyotes “in broad daylight” it is often
assumed that the coyote has grown overly bold or is ill in some way. Actually,
it is perfectly normal for a coyote to be out during the day, as this is their
natural time for hunting.
Urban coyotes have made a behavior change to avoid humans,
switching from being active at dawn and dusk or during daylight hours, to being
mostly active at night. This strategy lowers their risk of encountering a
species of which they are naturally afraid while still hunting in an urban
However, if a coyote needs
to be out during the day to hunt or to get from one place to another, there
isn’t necessarily anything wrong or odd about the coyote’s behavior. In fact,
in the spring and summer when raising their pups, coyotes need to find more
food and so may be more active during the day and thus spotted more often.
Urban residents frequently misinterpret daytime sightings as a rise in the
urban coyote population or that the coyote could be rabid, neither of which are
Urban coyotes help control the populations of other problematic urban wildlife like rodents.
It’s so easy to think of urban places as home to humans, pigeons,
crows and raccoons, and that’s about it. But our cities are increasingly home
to an ever more diverse array of wildlife species rats have been an issue in
cities ever since cities were invented. Coyotes play a role in limiting the
populations of these species and more, helping to keep a balance and increase
biodiversity in urban ecosystems.
Rodents are the primary food source for coyotes in rural and urban
areas alike, and studies have shown an increase in the rodent population in
areas where coyotes are removed.
The easiest way for city residents to avoid
negative interactions with coyotes is to avoid feeding them, either
accidentally or on purpose, and otherwise habituating them to humans.
When coyotes become overly bold or aggressive, and in the rare
instances when coyotes have bitten humans, it usually is discovered that they were
Coyotes have a natural fear of humans, and like most wildlife,
will start to lose that fear and even become aggressive if they are being fed.
This is the reason wildlife managers warn people to never feed wildlife, and
there is the saying, “A fed coyote is a dead coyote.”
Once a coyote loses its fear, it is likely to become a problem
animal and that means animal control will have little choice but to lethally
Feeding coyotes sometimes happens on purpose, but it can also be
done accidentally when people leave pet food on their porches intending it for
cats or dogs, when they leave scattered seeds under the bird feeder, or even
when they leave fallen fruit or compost in their yards.
Educating the public on the
importance of not feeding wildlife and removing any food sources, as well as
educating them on safe and humane coyote hazing strategies to maintain coyotes’
fear of humans, is the best way a city can avoid negative interactions and
instead enjoy quiet coexistence.
Trapping and killing or relocating urban coyotes does not
reduce the overall population of coyotes.
A common reaction from urban and suburban residents when they
learn coyotes are living in their area is to ask for the removal of the
coyotes, either through lethal means or by trapping and relocating them.
However, animal control officers have learned through a lot of experience that
this is not only a lot harder to do than it sounds, but it does nothing to
reduce the number of coyotes living in an area. In fact, it has the opposite
Coyotes are territorial and keep other coyotes out of their home range.
The larger the territory of a coyote pack, the fewer coyotes are present
overall. Removing coyotes from an area opens that location up for new coyotes
to come in and claim it as their own (and there will always be more coyotes
coming in to fill a void), often resulting in a short-term increase in coyotes
as the territory lines are redrawn by the newcomers. Additionally, when there
is less pressure from neighboring coyotes and more food available, female
coyotes will have larger litters of pups, again creating a short-term increase
in the number of coyotes in that area.
There are other problems with trapping coyotes. As the Humane
Society points out, “The most common devices used to capture coyotes are
leg-hold traps and neck snares. Both can cause severe injuries, pain, and
suffering. Leg-hold traps are not only cruel and inhumane for coyotes, but may
also injure other wildlife, pets, or even children. Non-target wild
animals are also caught in traps, and many sustain injuries so severe that
they die or must be killed.”
If a city wants to limit or reduce the number of urban coyotes
living there, the easiest thing to do is allow existing coyotes to work out
their own territories, naturally stabilizing the coyote population. There will
never be more coyotes in an ecosystem than that ecosystem can support, so
(despite what some may think) a city can never become “overpopulated” or
“infested” with coyotes.
We can take extra steps to make an area less appealing to coyotes by removing all extra food sources – from fallen fruit or ripe vegetables from backyard gardens to pet food left on back porches – and removing sources of water. The fewer resources available, the larger the territories need to be to support the resident coyotes, and the fewer coyotes there are overall.
Sorry, no pics to share ‘cos the video is grainy and black and white, but these were my three visitors last night at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.
In that order. The first video shows a cat sitting on the steps, looks to be dark gray and I’ve seen him before. The next is of a very large rat running down the steps, and the third one is a bat flying directly across the camera lens.
It sounds like it could be the start of a joke…”A cat, a rat, and a bat walked into a bar…” (Although I have no idea what kind of a punchline to write. Maybe Mrs. Maisel or Suzie could help.)
Or a children’s book, “The Tall Tale (Tail) of the Cat, the Rat, and the Bat”,
Or as Theo would say, “Grandma, that rhymes!”
Since I don’t have any decent pics of last night’s guests, here’s our beloved Bandit who ruled us all for thirteen years before she died of chronic renal failure.
The bat is from one of my favorite books, Stellaluna, by (my friend) Janell Cannon.
And the rat, well, this gif says it all…
(There were no coyotes this time, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been seeing TWO beautiful creatures in the garden, which is awesome as coyotes mate for life. I would be even happier if one day they brought some little ones to visit. It would be a dream come true. I could be their grandma, too!)
I bet you NEVER would’ve guessed that, would you? WOULD YOU?
I took myself on a little hike today to a local spot, and was so happy to see several piles of coyote scat (that’s “poop” for those that don’t know.)
It warms my heart to know that coyotes are still living in this concrete jungle, in spite of the egregious overbuilding here in Carlsbad, that insatiable and sick hunger to remove habitat for any and all living creatures that don’t have the capability to line the pockets of our city leaders–allegedly, of course…
Another “s” word!
Facebook friends said it’s harmless; I’m still glad I gave it a wide berth.
Destination…top of the hill!
Beautiful oasis even though it’s manmade…Lake Calavara
When we first moved to Carlsbad in 1985 well before a LOT of indiscriminately built developments encroached upon animal habitats, our street abruptly stopped at a magical and wild hillside covered with sage, buckwheat, and coyote bush. There were deer and bobcats; even a mountain lion sighting now and again.
And always the ubiquitous coyote.
I’ve only spotted them a dozen or so times, but their scat is always present, and the symphony of songs we’ve heard over the years has been part of the joy of living here.
At sunset, at midnight, before sunrise, our lives have been punctuated with yips and howls.
Recently, there’s been one particular voice that belongs to a specific coyote we’ve named “Old Man” because he has a distinctive lower tone, and his signature song is one solitary defined melodious cadence.
What is so amazing about “Old Man” is not only his distinctive voice, but he seems to be located in our yard, and silly or not, we believe he’s communicating with us.
I know. Crazy, right?
That’s one reason why we’re so upset about all the development that willfully destroys their environment: coyotes play a necessary and important role in managing rodents and rabbit over-populations.
Urban coyotes do not feast on pets and garbage; they typically stick to a natural diet.
Due to sensationalistic reporting, many urban residents think all coyotes are out to eat their dog or cat at the first opportunity, or that they’re dumpster divers of the first degree. On the contrary, studies have shown that urban coyotes stick mainly to a natural diet.
Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores and will eat fruits and vegetables along with animal prey. A study by Urban Coyote Research Program analyzed over 1,400 scats and found that “the most common food items were small rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%).” Only about 2 percent of the scats had human garbage and just 1.3 percent showed evidence of cats. “Apparently, the majority of coyotes in our study area do not, in fact, rely on pets or garbage for their diets,” say the researchers.
This aligns logically with urban coyotes’ preference of sticking to parks, preserves, cemeteries, and other out-of-the-way areas as much as possible. The food available in these locations is rodents, reptiles, fallen fruit and other food items that are part of a natural diet.
Coyotes of course take feral cats or the occasional domestic cat that has been left outdoors, and there is certainly evidence that coyotes that have become habituated and overly bold will go after small dogs. However pets are not primary prey for them, not by a long shot.
As it is with the presence of apex predators in any ecosystem, having coyotes living and thriving in an urban area is a positive sign of the health and biodiversity of urban areas. Their presence can be considered a thumbs-up for the quality of a city’s urban ecology.
Project Coyote, a North American coalition of wildlife scientists, educators, predator- friendly ranchers and community leaders, promotes compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife.
As a national non-profit organization based in Northern California, Project Coyote works to change negative attitudes toward coyotes, wolves and other native carnivores by replacing ignorance and fear with understanding, respect and appreciation.
All of our work — through education, science, and advocacy — strives to create fundamental and systemic changes in the ways wild carnivores are viewed and treated in North America.
As the most persecuted native carnivore and a species that has existed in North America since the Pleistocene, the Coyote represents all misunderstood and exploited predators. Poisoned, trapped, aerial gunned and killed for bounties and in contests, an estimated 500,000 coyotes die every year in the U.S. alone — one per minute.
Revered and respected by Native Americans for their intelligence and resilience, coyotes have much to teach us about the capacity to evolve and coexist in the face of rapid ecological and social change.
By changing attitudes toward coyotes, we replace fear and misconceptions with respect and appreciation for all native carnivores as ambassadors for healthy and sustainable ecosystems
How to make your community coyote-aware:
Whether you live in a rural or urban area, you can help to educate your community about coyotes and coyote coexistence strategies.
Many state wildlife agencies are underfunded and understaffed and simply don’t have the resources to address increasing human-wildlife conflicts resulting from urban sprawl, habitat fragmentation, and growing human populations.
Here are just a few ways that you can help make your community Coyote Aware:
Organize a Coexisting with Coyotes event in your community; contact Project Coyote to see if one of our staff or Advisory Board members can speak in your community or suggest someone locally.
Coyote, America’s song dog, is an amazing and magnificent animal who is very misunderstood, historically maligned, and tragically and reprehensibly persecuted. Coyotes are intelligent, playful, affectionate, and devoted caregivers. Native Americans appreciated them as cunning tricksters. They are among the most adaptable animals on Earth and are critical to the integrity of many diverse ecosystems. I know coyotes well having studied them for decades.
North America is home to a very special wild dog—the coyote. Highly respected by Native Americans, coyotes have held a special place in our history. The Navajo’s sheep and goat herders greatly revered coyotes, and referred to them as “God’s dog.” It wasn’t until sheep ranchers began running large herds of unprotected sheep that coyotes began to be viewed in an unfavorable light.
Quiet and intelligent, coyotes play a special role in our sense of the natural world and in our eco-system.
Though our interactions with coyotes are rare, these fascinating animals live in nearly every city in the country, and in every forest and town in between. Because they’re predators that will occasionally prey upon the domesticated animals we love—our cats and chickens—coyotes have been reviled by many. But it’s important to keep in mind that, like any predator, coyotes play an important role in keeping our ecosystem in balance.
42% of a coyote’s diet is made up of rodents. That means that coyotes work hard every day to keep a cap on the mouse and rat populations in our area. In farming areas, coyotes can be seen following farm machinery as they catch the voles and rodents that flee the machine. Nearly 30% of their diet is berries and grasses.
Like all omnivores, coyotes will take food wherever they find it, which means that they will also eat insects, fawns, birds, frogs, snakes, and human trash. Coyotes eat raccoons. And, given the chance, a coyote will eat a cat. This happens rarely, however—studies show that cats make up less than 1% of a coyote’s diet.
In many parts of our region, coyotes are an apex predator, which means that they are at the top of the food chain. By nature, they keep the other animal populations in check.
Humans and Coyotes
Because coyotes are predators, their history with humans has been filled with violence. Coyotes are hunted in many parts of the country, including Washington State. Yet studies show that where coyotes are hunted and trapped, females produce more pups per litter than in areas where they are protected.
Many people worry that coyotes might attack or bite a human child, but the truth is that coyotes shy away from people. In Kitsap County, for example, in 2007 there were 189 dog bites reported. There has never been a coyote bite incident in Kitsap.
Not all humans fear or dislike coyotes. For many of us, the coyote is a mystical, elegant animal. There’s magic in seeing a silent coyote standing on the forest’s edge, watching us warily before trotting, light-footed, into the woods. Coyotes are the closest thing we have to wolves, to the wild equivalent of the dogs we know and love in our homes.
Some coyote pairs live together for years, hunting and raising pups together. From time to time, these bonds last for life. Coyotes breed in late winter (something to think about on Valentine’s Day.)
During pregnancy, the female digs a den under an uprooted tree or log or in a thicket or other protected area. The den usually has a small opening, but is 5 – 15 feet inside with a sizeable nesting chamber at the back end.
After 63 days of pregnancy, the female will enter the den to give birth to a litter of pups. The average litter is four pups, but this varies depending on food availablility and the density of the local coyote population.
Coyote pups are mainly cared for by their mother, sometimes with help from an older sibling. The male hunts for the family during this time. After the pups emerge from the den at 2 – 3 weeks, they’re ready to start eating regurgitated food in addition to their mother’s milk.
Coyote parents with young pups often move from one den to another in order to keep their pups safe and secret. Moving also helps limit the mess in any one house!
Young coyotes usually stay with their parents until they’re 6 – 8 months old.
Coyotes are incredibly adaptive, even to human society. In pioneer days, coyotes lived exclusively in the Intermountain West, but as people have expanded their territory, so have the coyotes. Human trash, development, and infrastructure have helped coyotes spread all over the country.
They may be quiet around people, but coyotes have plenty to say to each other. They bark and howl to signal danger, woof and growl to show threat, and they whine or yip in greeting. Group howls are often given when the family is trying to communicate with an absent family member.
When we first moved here in 1985, our street was a dead end (literally).
My son and I would walk our dogs to where the pavement ended and there we abruptly entered a wonderland of nature: along narrow paths with overhanging vegetation; sage, coyote bush, sumac — and wildlife; coyotes, bobcats, deer– even a mountain lion was spotted now and again.
In other words…heaven.
It was a sad day when the bulldozers appeared and in a matter of minutes completely raped the hills, scraping the native flora down to bare earth, uprooting mature trees, and displacing dozens, if not hundreds, of animals.
It’s unrecognizable now–if you hadn’t lived here as long as we have, you’d never know the rich beauty that once existed.
It’s regretful that the city leaders didn’t and don’t seem to care about respecting, protecting, and preserving native flora and fauna.
Instead of conserving and sustaining our unique beauty, they’ve allowed Carlsbad to become an Orange County clone — heavy on the ubiquitous business parks and subdivisions totally disconnected to the land.
They’ve mostly destroyed the unique personality and beauty of our little coastal town.
In my opinion.
Historically, Carlsbad/Agua Hedionda Lagoon was the former home to two Native American groups, the Luiseños and the Diegueños or Kumeyaay.
Did you know that Agua Hedionda means “stinking waters”?
(It does and it does.)
Although the Spaniards (and other settlers) decimated the Native American connection to this area, over the years I’ve heard about nearby sacred burial grounds that might still be intact, and that’s a good thing.
In spite of the destruction of habitat, there are still a few surviving animals attempting to coexist.
In the evening, we hear the song of the coyote, not as often as we used to, but it makes us happy. Check out this audio. So close!
I’ve seen fresh bobcat tracks, too, but no actual visual sighting.
On a recent walk, I stepped out of my front door, walked across the street, and was immediately greeted by this amazing sight, a Great Blue Heron nearly as tall as me. After I snapped a dozen photos, I continued walking, and spotted a White Egret.It was a day for wildlife; these are not good pics for some reason, but a couple of different rabbits made an appearance.
On a front lawn. Overlooking Agua Hedionda.
I believe this is a Cooper’s Hawk; don’t think it’s a Red Tailed Hawk.If I ruled the world (or at least my little part of it), I’d make sure that any planned development would respect all wildlife and make appropriate plans to not only preserve habitat, but encourage MORE animals to coexist with us.
Especially predators. We need predators. We need coyotes and bobcats and mountain lions and hawks and falcons for balance. Without them, we’re inundated with their food source; rabbits, rats, and squirrels.