Sitting, Facing Away: Coyote behavior

Various coyotes have sat with their backs towards me, occasionally looking at me over their shoulders, but basically sitting facing away. Three coyotes have done this on several occasions.

Previously I had seen that when they sat this way, their attention was diverted to something more important that they were keeping their eyes on, and that since my behavior was a given, I could be ignored. Usually they were looking out for other dogs or other coyotes and each other. But this last time I had no real indication that the coyote’s attention was being diverted elsewhere.

I initially thought that it might be searching the distance for one of its own, but soon I no longer felt that this was what was going on. And, why would it have walked right into my space to do this? Based on the circumstances and on the trust for me that this coyote probably had developed by seeing me never intrude into its space when I photographed, I concluded that this posture had been assumed very deliberately, possibly to communicate its trust or acceptance? Of course, maybe the coyote was testing me, or maybe there was no reason whatsoever, but my gut feeling went with my first interpretation. See the photos above.

Shortly after I had taken the last of these photos, a walker appeared from in back of me, a walker whose dog was tugging at the leash and gaping towards the coyote. The coyote’s stance and behavior changed — I wanted to include this as a contrast to the sitting and facing away behavior I just described. The coyote now got up and faced the intruders  – the coyote obviously knew the dog was restrained by the leash — it did not seem overly alarmed, but it felt wary enough to get up and keep its eyes on them.  As the owner walked on, the coyote walked and ran alongside them, about 25 to 50 feet off. If this dog had been off the leash, it would have chased the coyote — it was tugging and lunging towards the coyote.

So, the coyote followed, seemingly in order to observe and comprehend and maybe even to test what might happen, or maybe even to taunt — I don’t really know, I’m just thinking of likely possibilities. The dog was showing its desire to pursue the coyote, lunging and pulling at the leash, but it was not doing so because it was restrained. Coyotes can read a dog’s intention well, so this contradiction between intention and behavior may have been a bit of a mystery for this coyote. This coyote was about eight months old and still learning. After a short distance the coyote lost interest and ran up a hill and out of sight. I have seen another coyote comprehend that a restrained dog would not chase it — the coyote actually lay down in their presence as they walked by.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rick Johnson
    Jan 11, 2018 @ 17:52:49

    I like your site, but find the light brown on the grayish photo background hard to read.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Jan 11, 2018 @ 18:05:54

      Thank you, Rick, for your feedback. Are you talking about all the print, or just the quotes, which indeed are light. I can fi that if that is what it is. Please let me know! Janet

  2. Jill St. Vincent
    Nov 13, 2018 @ 20:30:02

    I saw a coyote with my dog at 2:00 am in the front of my home =,…I was standing on the sidewalk one home away (about 35 feet)- the coyote stood there on the road, (live in the suburbs) for a bit – then he/she stretched on the road and then sat down and scratched his hind leg – stood up and looked at us – as I got closer to my home (front door) the coyote crossed the street to get closer to my dog and me – at this point – the coyote was only about 12 feet from us….what do u make of this…..I love seeing this coyote I see her or him often !!


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