Three Disturbances in One Morning is Too Much

Most coyotes you might pass in the mornings in the parks are on their way “home”. For the most part, they are shy so they don’t linger where they can be seen for too long — they prefer not being seen at all. However, they might stop out of curiosity: “what are you doing and where are you going?” Soon they will have ducked into the underbrush, and they are gone.

The few bolder coyotes, usually mothers and leaders of their families, don’t mind being seen at a distance on occasion. Until they go “home”, they might sit in a protected spot high up where they can rest in peace, like the little bull Ferdinand in the story book, and where they can keep an eye on things. If these coyotes are disturbed, interfered with or chased, they will complain loudly and openly rather than just run away, and they may turn around to defend themselves. I watched as this type of coyote was interfered with three times today.

I arrived at the park in time to hear the distressed barking that a coyote engages in after it has been chased or disturbed. This intense barking can go on for as long as 20 minutes. I decided to follow the sound and found the coyote still engaged in its complaining. Although I had not arrived in time to see what actually caused the complaining, I assumed that the group of walkers I was hearing had had an encounter with the coyote, and this distressed barking was the result of that. After taking a photo, I left the coyote barking, and continued up a hill on my walk.

Soon afterwards, I found this same coyote, calmed down, in a different part of the park, on a ledge where it had stationed itself. I watched it and took photos for a while. It relaxed most of the time, but stood up now and then when a runner or dog on a nearby path caught its attention. It always went back to its perch after these had passed.

THEN things changed. The coyote bolted up and stared at something on the path below which I could not see. The coyote got flustered and began running away as a woman yelled for her dog which was now chasing the coyote . The dog pursuing the coyote was a very large German Shepherd. The coyote ran towards a more protected part of the park and started, for a second time, 20 minutes of distressed barking. The dog owner must have grabbed her dog because I did not see it again. Meanwhile, the coyote continued its complaining, keeping its eyes on all paths that might lead to where it was. I have seen that these incidents only happen with unleashed dogs. Although everyone knows that coyotes are in the area, not everyone wants to take the precaution or responsibility of leashing a dog they know might disturb the coyote.

The coyote then trotted a little ways in the direction where the dog had come from, where it continued barking for a short time. The barking session then ended with a few little breathy grunts. The coyote, now calmer, walked back over to the ledge where it had been resting before the German Shepherd chase. The dog and owner were gone.

And now, there is an important point I would like to make. These two incidents may have emboldened the coyote somewhat. If they had not occurred, the coyote may not have gone into a defensive mode or set herself up to be ready when a third dog appeared. What I’m seeing is that if several dogs chase a coyote or interfere with it, the coyote’s defenses may build up. If one person lets their dog confront the coyote, it makes it harder for other dog owners to deal with the coyote which now has its ire up and is emboldened and feeling defensive.

The reason I say this is that I then watched a THIRD disturbance for this coyote — the third in one morning. Right after this last incident had subsided, a female runner could be seen jogging with her two Weimeraners. These also were unleashed. The coyote saw them and stationed itself to watch from a place where dogs could actually reach it — wasn’t this a bit provocative? The coyote now seemed prepared for defending itself if it were chased. As the woman ran by, one of her dogs went towards the coyote — maybe out of curiosity — I did not see if it was a full blown chase. The coyote was in no mood to be interfered with again and it did not head away from the dogs. Instead, coyote gave the display you see here and even ran after the lagging dog to herd it on. The woman ran ahead calling her dogs which were some distance in back of her. As this group ran out of sight, the coyote stood and watched them, and then trotted off in the other direction.

My point in writing this is to let everyone know that coyotes don’t want these interactions. They do not want to be interfered with. They want to be left alone. They want to rest calmly. But, if this type of coyote is approached or interfered with, and if its ire has already been awakened so that it is in a defensive mode, it might very well stand up for itself. ALSO, if a dog has had previous interactions of this sort with the coyote, the coyote remembers, and is prepared for this particular dog. The coyote may even make the first approach in an effort to warn the dog off before the dog even thinks of disturbing the coyote: better warn them off before they chase you.

These encounters can be avoided if we keep our dogs away from the coyotes to begin with by leashing them. Please help establish a peaceful coexistence with our coyotes. A coyote only has its self-protective instincts to follow. Dogs also have to deal with their instinctual and “playful” needs, but in this case the owner can call the shots by preventing an encounter. It is the dog owners who have control. They need to prevent all interactions so as to protect both our dogs and the coyotes.

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