“Monitoring”: Coyote Behavior

There is a coyote in one of the area parks that enjoys “monitoring” the dogs as they are walked — morning time is prime time for watching dogs for this coyote. After most of the dog walking activity calms down, the coyote usually heads into some underbrush or up onto a hill where it snoozes. One of the places from which the coyote keeps an eye on the dogs is way up on a rock ledge. The coyote is definitely not interested in people as shown by where its gaze is, and by where its attention is, and by how its movements are directed — except to keep a safe distance from them.

On a particularly foggy morning, I was out walking with a friend when we spotted this coyote on this high ledge. My friend has a very old and large, calm dog. We went to a place where our view would not be obstructed by branches. The coyote looked at us all, but particularly at the dog, from way up high, with not only height but also distance as a barrier. It is always exciting to see a coyote.

After some observing and some photos, my friend and her dog departed to continue their walk, but I continued to watch. The coyote’s attention turned towards a group of dogs and their walkers coming down a path. It was much too foggy to see very far, but the coyote’s attention and gaze was riveted on the group — I became part of the woodwork, apparently. The coyote stayed in its safe location, keenly watching the dog group until they had passed below and further on. When they were far enough past, the coyote scurried down to another rock ledge, a much lower one, from which it could continue to watch these same dogs until they exited the area. The coyote then remained resting on this rock for some time, until another dog spotted it and went after it. I had moved on at this point, but I was able to see the coyote whiz by as it evaded the dog. The coyote escaped the dog by dashing away and nimbly jumping up a rock cliff  to its original high ledge way above reach until the dog and its owner had walked out of sight.

I am writing this here again to emphasize that coyotes monitor dogs for their own safety — they have to know what dogs are around and which dogs might threaten them and pursue them. Coyotes have shown no interest in humans whatsoever except to keep their distance. Coyotes have never approached people in our parks, they have always fled when people get near them. The coyotes in our parks have not altered their behavior at all towards humans since they first appeared several years ago.

However, coyotes do keenly watch dogs whom they have visually gotten to know, and they defend themselves when necessary from unleashed dogs which have chased them. I’m wondering if our coyotes are becoming more bold with dogs because owners have allowed their dogs to interact with them on some level, including chasing them? This would be a kind of “habituation” to dogs? It is something to further look at.

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