Defensive Coyote Being Chased During Pupping Season

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The photos I have included show a mother coyote defending herself from a large hunting dog who came after her. It is still pupping season: pups are being carefully raised right now, and female coyotes are extra-defensive about their space. In this case, a very large dog chased after the coyote as if it were play. The dog-walker did nothing about it. The coyote, a lactating mom, became as defensive as she could, barking intently as she did so. She put on a furious display and was able to keep the dog away from herself and ultimately tire him out. Her intent was not to just flee and let the dog win. No. It was important for the coyote to remain there and get the dog to leave. This is how it ended. Here are the photos of that encounter.

It might look somewhat alarming to many, but also there is a beauty in the intensity and plan of the behavior. For the dog, this is a game, but for the coyote it is a real life-and-death matter. We need to understand this. Dogs seldom, if ever,  have to make life and death decisions because their owners make these for them. A coyote has to be totally self-reliant to survive, and has to call into use mental and physical resources that dogs have never tapped into. This entire incident lasted a full twelve minutes.

This young coyote is a mother — we could see that she had still been lactating a month earlier. When I first spotted her on this particular day, she had been sitting quietly on a hill. She was resting, probably taking a break from her family. Then, a large, long haired hunting dog came zooming up after her. The dog was panting with excitement when he first arrived. At first the coyote sped off, but then, as can be seen from the photographs, she stood her ground behind some branches and brambles, and then she came further out in the open. The dog was unwilling to approach the coyote too closely. The coyote took the initiative at a certain point to chase the dog off, but the dog came back after her one more time — and she fled from it, but only to a certain point, where she again stood her ground. When the dog finally fled the scene, the coyote, this time, followed, chasing after it. But the coyote again fled from the dog when the dog turned back after her. In the end, when the dog was totally worn out — coyotes are known to wear out their pursuers — the owner finally was able to grab her dog and leash it. They walked out of the park. But the coyote didn’t see that the episode over until the intruders actually exited the park. The coyote followed them fairly closely right to the park’s exit. She then trotted halfway back to where she had originally been resting, but then veered off into the underbrush. In this case, the coyote and dog never actually made contact with each other — there had been no actual bites — there seldom are.

This mother coyote, pictured here, as almost all of them, is not aggressive. However, coyotes will defend themselves, especially if they are parents with pups in the area. Defensive behavior, as you can see, takes on a very aggressive appearance. In our city, coyotes are allowed to defend themselves. If a dog gets nipped by a coyote which was defending itself, the crime is not the coyote’s, but the dogs. Please keep your dogs leashed in coyote areas — for both the safety of your dog and the safety of our wildlife.

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