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.

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. Except for some statistics and the section from Robert Crabtree (I think that’s the original source) that killing coyotes increases their populations, most of the coyote information in these videos comes from my own 7 years of first-hand observations. I’ve been spending 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. The video has been reviewed by an experienced wildlife conflict manager with 15 years of experience in the field.

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.

Coyotes vs. Nutria, by Jen Sanford

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Nope, no birds involved, sorry.  At Ridgefield yesterday I watched a pair of coyotes try to take down a nutria and fail miserably.  I thought I was about to vomit my lunch while watching a nutria get torn in half, but nope.  He made a run for it down into the slough.  But it was still cool to watch.

From Janet: I want to point out that coyotes often hunt in pairs like this, especially when there is larger prey than a gopher involved. Also, coyotes, like the rest of us, don’t always have the same skill sets, most of which have to be learned through practice and through watching other coyotes. All the bites by the coyotes were to the nutria’s back: I wonder if they were trying to break its back to incapacitate it?  Or, might they have been trying to pick it up to carry it off, but unable to do so? It looks like the nutria endured several puncture wounds — I hope its injuries were not too severe. Nutrias were “eradicated” from California, but they still inhabit Oregon. Thanks, Jen, for sharing your posting and superb photos!

This posting and photographs were republished, with permission, from Jen’s site i used to hate birds.

Coyote Interrupted

Sirens set this coyote off, with long drawn-out howls and barking, and pauses in-between.  I’ve only included part of the recording here. During one of the last pauses you will hear, unusually, a dog’s response, which surprises the coyote who stops to carefully listen. “What the. . . . . who does he think he is?”  Anyway, the interruption seems to tick off the coyote who throws herself into the next howl with a spirited leap, howls some more, and then hurries off to a place where she might get a view of her competitor. I don’t think she saw anyone. The coyote continued to howl, but the dog did not, and the siren had long since ceased, so things quieted down fairly quickly.

Two Coyotes Squeal Exuberantly After Hearing A Siren

You can imagine my disappointment when this video came out blurry — even when I refocused it stayed blurry. However, the sound is clear: two coyotes yip after hearing a siren. The other coyote initiated the yipping — that one was about 150 feet away from this one, and this one joined in. It was a very short yipping session which lasted just over what I was able to capture in the video. The same high-pitched sounds that were used here for responding to sirens, are also used as happy greeting vocalizations.

Some individuals mistakenly have thought that these high pitched squeals were the sounds of puppies and spread rumors that there were coyote puppies around, when in fact, it was just adults squealing their adult squeals. As you can see from the video, these are adult vocalizations. And, again, there were only two coyotes involved, though one might easily think that the sounds were coming from many coyotes.

Trekking Purposefully

I was able to follow two coyotes for about half an hour as they trekked through an urban neighborhood, crossing streets, over dirt paths and sidewalks and through yards, ducking into and out of hidden spaces — their pace and course were very purposeful.  I didn’t see where they ended up, which might have helped me decipher what was going on, but the half-hour I watched clearly demonstrated their very keen awareness: their consciousness and knowingness and understanding.

They knew how to follow the vegetation, logs or areas which might offer some protection. The coyotes sniffed and marked/urinated regularly as the terrain changed or when they veered into new areas. At one point, one coyote stood sentry for about five minutes, insuring the coast was clear in all directions before both took off through an area where dogs often congregate, but there were none today.  But they also crossed into wide open areas such as streets — once stepping out of the way of a car but remaining in the street within about 10 feet of the car as it passed. Their awareness was keen for everything except cars.

These coyotes were not just meandering around or hunting. They had a plan — a plan they had worked out. They knew exactly what they were doing and where they were headed.  How did they know this, and how did they both know this? And how did they communicate this to each other?  I have seen coyotes head out in this manner to certain lookout points in order to observe dogs and walkers from the distance — it is very purposeful behavior. But this time, these two disappeared from the main dog walking areas, so that could not have been their motive. Perhaps they had recently found a field full of gophers which they wanted to revisit?

Anyway, the point is that coyotes can be very purposeful. They appear to be able to work out a plan and carry it out and communicate this, and deal with unforeseen interruptions along the way yet continue their plan. For instance, at one point a man saw them and threw stones at them. The coyotes veered off the path and circled around to avoid him — but they then continued in the direction in which they were originally headed. I have seen lions communicate hunting strategy and carry it out. The animals can communicate very effectively in subtle ways that we humans cannot pick up on. We humans aren’t quite smart enough to figure it out! We like to measure animal intelligence against our own — for instance, by how many word/symbols a chimp can manipulate. Wow — they can learn our language! Yet we haven’t been able to learn or decipher theirs!

Kickin’ High

This coyote is totally absorbed in the job at hand, totally focused. The high-strung tension is palpable as he hesitates and wavers. He holds back, preparing for his big move. He finally lets go like a wound-up coil when he thinks the time is right.  Watch those legs fly!  In spite of the effort, the vole evaded capture.

Tip Toe!

Hunting takes planning and in this case that plan included moving ever so slowly, and ever so carefully and ever so softly. The coyote had been sitting watching one spot for several minutes, then got up and tip-toed to a better spot where it stood quietly and calmly for a long time — sometimes staring at the ground and turning its head, and sometimes just looking into the distance. Nothing came of it — the coyote was not rewarded for its quietness and patience.  I’m posting just a short clip with the careful tip-toe. I cut out the rest because I know the coyote has more patience in waiting for its meal than we might have in observing it!

FIRST: Coyote Coexistence Guidelines and Safety Information

A ONE-STOP INFORMATION VIDEO on urban coyotes: coyote behavior and how to coexist with them, how to shoo them off from a dog, and why killing them does not solve issues. Updated 6-13-2013.[A shorter version may be seen at:] Para la versión en Español, haz clic aquí:

Click on above poster to enlarge for easier reading.


Lapping Up The Dew

It was fun watching this coyote cross an entire grassy soccer field with it’s head lowered to the ground as it walked, slurping up the dew that was soaking the grass. I wonder if this was something like drinking through a straw?!

Grunting More Than Huffing Here

This video, again, shows the reaction of a coyote to a hostile dog appearing on a path about 200 feet away. Coyotes seem not to be bothered by dogs that have never bothered them. So when a dog appears that causes a coyote to react this way, it is because of the dog’s previous behaviors — a coyote always remembers each dog and its behaviors, be it a blatant antagonism, or something more subtle like a “dirty look”.  I’ve seen this over and over again. By the time I got the camera set up, most of the grunting was over — it had gone on for over a minute.  The grunts are very audible in this video. Fortunately the walker and his dog veered off the path and left the area, so the grunting just petered out, as in the last video I posted. The coyote  took the opportunity to lie down right there where it was camouflaged by the tall grasses. Coyotes frequently are right there in the open, but you can’t see them!

Shortly after this grunting episode, another dog and walker — with a history of being hostile and antagonistic towards coyotes — appeared in the distance. The coyote heard them coming and stood up, waited until they were in sight, and, before being seen by them, trotted off into some bushes rather than wait for the possibility of an encounter. I’m sure if the coyote had stayed down, it would not have been seen, but it chose not to take this chance.

One might wonder why a coyote would be out when dog walkers are out. Do  rodents tend to stick their noses out more during certain times, making hunting more successful at these times? I don’t know, it’s just a guess. Also, though, coyotes seem to want to get a glimpse of what is going on in “their” territories before hunkering down for the day.

The Huffing Continued

This is actually a continuation of the last posting on “Coyote Huffing”. I should have included it in that posting. By the time I took this second video, the coyote had sat down. But you can still see the movements of her throat, huffing and puffing, during the first 13 seconds of the clip. The activity is very quiet, barely audible, if at all in the clip, but nonetheless audible in real life. In this case, after the huffing stopped, at 13 seconds into the clip, the coyote calmed down and the matter was forgotten for the time being. The coyote soon got up and continued her slow trek towards one of her snoozing spots.

Coyote Huffing

The coyote was minding its own business, looking for a possible meal on a grassy area. Occasionally she would look up to watch walkers in the distance. Then, suddenly an unleashed dog caught her eye. The unleashed dog glared at her giving her a feeling of uneasiness. This dog has regularly chased the coyote in the past, and, of course, the coyote remembers all such incidents. Fortunately, the owner saw what was happening and was able to grab the dog.

However, the coyote remained upset — it is not easy for anyone to turn around their fears and uneasiness on a dime. After running over to a bush, she watched as the dog and walker left, but her emotions were running high. She sat there, huffing her discontentment. Notice her throat area which shows the huffing after she reached the bush. Very often, this kind of soft huffing segue’s into a loud and distressed barking session. It did not happen this time probably because the dog left, though that is no assurance that the barking won’t happen anyway. This adult coyote, whom I have seen and know to be an “alpha” coyote — was openly displaying her feelings. In fact, whenever you see a coyote in some kind of fired-up state, it is expressing its feelings — and these feelings are a reaction to the situation at hand.

Nose Punch

A hard and fast “punch” is delivered at the entryway to the burrow of a little critter that will become the coyote’s prey. It’s part of the cycle of life. Coyotes sometimes use their two front paws which they stiffen for this purpose. In this case, the nose is used to deliver the hefty punch. From what I have seen, this punch disables or weakens the critter. Most of the time, as here,  it is followed by probing and digging before the prey is actually captured. The coyote regularly looks around to check out the safety of his surroundings.

Chicken Drama, But No Drumsticks!

This was an exciting day!  Many people keep chickens in their yards these days: chickens are allowed, but not roosters because they crow. But guess what — it is not just the roosters who crow! So crowing is what I heard, and so did this coyote as he passed through a neighborhood. The coyote approached the very well fenced-in yard — there was no chance of him getting in. However, the chickens saw the coyote through the wire fencing and began shreaking and flapping. One flew to the top of the fence where she strutted for a few minutes, and then she flew out of the protected yard into a tree in the overgrown yard next door. I thought: Oh, no!

The dog did his duty by barking at the intruder, but he was fenced in and that is all he could do, so he left. The coyote walked over to under the tree where the chicken had flown. And he waited. And he waited, hoping the chicken would descend to a more reachable level. The chicken crowed continually the entire time, but never budged from her high perch in the tree. And the coyote waited and waited. I wondered if the chicken would make it back. She did. She suddenly flapped her way back after about 35 minutes. As she did so, the coyote jerked to a standing position, but remained where he was, watching.

Maybe chickens are smarter than we think. My thought is that this chicken had flown out of the coop to distract the coyote from the other chickens. She stayed out there scolding that coyote. When she realized the coyote could not reach any of them — which the coyote would have done by then — she flew back to the safety of her yard. Eventually, the coyote walked off. He knew the chickens were not reachable in their yard. There was lots of drama, but no drumsticks this time!

Singing With Sirens

The sirens were loud and they were close by. One of the coyotes became frenzied and upset at the deafening intensity of the sound — he didn’t know which way to go and began running in various directions, as if he had become trapped, looking around for something to focus on and escape from but not finding it.  Finally both coyotes began yipping in response to the siren. Yipping with sirens is normal coyote behavior — the difference this time was that the siren had come so close. I’m wondering if this yipping and howling served to focus and calm the one who had become frantic?  This recording is of only two coyotes and a siren. The recording, unfortunately, picked up a lot of wind sound.

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