My interest in photographing Coyotes and other predators was first sparked by an encounter with a Coyote at Fort Mason. It’s somewhat ironic that most of my subsequent Coyote photography has occurred in Point Reyes. After chatting with @riffle_shots on Instagram for a while, we found time this weekend for him to show me urban Coyote photography in San Francisco.
We met up right at sunrise in a city park and started searching the spots Stephen had recently observed them in. It took about a half hour, but we eventually spotted our first Coyote in a field on the side of the road. Stephen said this was the patriarch of the park’s family unit. He was acting a little odd, repeatedly shying away from crossing the road in a way that Stephen said was not in his usual character. It’s possible this had something to do with the remains of the meal he was busy polishing off.
Photographing Coyotes in an urban park was a very different experience. In Point Reyes, they range much more widely, and I usually photograph them in open fields. If they head into more forested areas, they’re so hard to track that it’s rarely worth the effort (I also take that as a sign that they want a bit of a break from humans). In the city, their ranges are much smaller, and they’re constantly moving from thickets to paths or clearings and back again.
We first spotted this Coyote when the patriarch met up with it on a hill. We got glimpses of but mostly heard the two of them tussling for a bit. This individual had much darker coloring, and eyes much closer to brown than to yellow. It’s almost like it’s showing some dog genetics. It also has a gorgeous dark stripe on its forehead.
The urban forest provided a really different look than I usually get. I did a bit more of an artistic edit on this photo, which was my favorite of the morning.
The park also created opportunities for different perspectives. In the coastal prairie and scrub habitats of Point Reyes, a Coyote up high would mostly have a flat sky background. In the park, the trees provided a more pleasing background for a great shot of a Coyote looking down at us. At this point, we had lost the second individual and found the patriarch again.
One of the shots I was hoping to get was a Coyote crossing in front of park-goers oblivious to its existence. It’s amazing how much natural activity we miss when we don’t slow down to experience our surroundings. Unfortunately, an even more oblivious person was yelling into a cell phone while walking towards the Coyote, who quickly slipped back into the bushes.
We got a couple more sightings, and then things slowed down. This was the final difference from Point Reyes, where the Coyotes are active all day long. In the city, they’re more active near dawn and dusk. Once there are too many humans on the move, the city Coyotes do their best to find a secluded resting spot to wait us out.