Still Looking Up To Mom: Coyote Behavior

One early morning walker who was out early with her small dog had something interesting to say about her small dog’s behavior when the dog became aware of coyotes up ahead on a path. As the unleashed dog came over the crest of a hill along the path, it suddenly turned back and hugged against its owner’s legs. The owner said the dog was “asking to be leashed — asking for protection”!! When the woman herself reached the crest of the hill, she found out why. There were three coyotes. They were quite a distance away, but nevertheless, the little dog was nervous about them. The woman sat down, hugging her dog, and watched for a while and then she took a path which circled way around where the coyotes were. When I saw her again the coyotes had moved a bit, but they were still there.

The small leashed dog was actually trembling and began barking when it saw the coyotes again, yet at the same time, this dog was very curious about the coyotes, and vice-versa. I think with many dogs there is a “push-pull” interest about the coyotes. Coyotes appear so familiar to us all in many ways, yet at the same time they are sensed by the dogs as being so completely different from themselves. The woman took a quick photo and decided to walk on. That her dog had asked for protection — that he had asked to be leashed in the face of potential danger — was fascinating. Could this also have been meant as a message to the owner: “beware of what is ahead?” The same behavior had been described to me once before, but in this previous instance the dog had been a very large male Labrador.

While this woman was circling around I watched the coyotes. There were two young ones — they were very alert. But what was of primary interest was that they kept their attention on “mom” who was sitting up higher on a hill. The young coyotes moved around a little bit, but mostly they were still and strained their necks at times to keep their mother in view or to find her.

As a set of dog walkers went by in the distance, the mother went further up the hill where she was now hidden — she kept her eye on this dog group. I could not see her, but the young coyotes knew she was there and they kept their gaze on her. As the walkers and their dogs descended the hill I noticed that the mother coyote had come up behind them: she wanted to see them, but didn’t want them to see her! There must have been communication between the two young coyotes and their mother because the youngsters wandered slowly towards a brush area as they kept looking back at her — as if they were following her orders or getting her approval. After 25 minutes of continually returning their gaze to their mother, they finally slithered into the underbrush. These young coyotes are not quite a year old.

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