“Rattle Snakes, Coyotes and Dogs”, by Charles Wood

On two occasions a few years ago my dog was off leash in two different locations where I suspected coyotes were present.  Both times we were in areas my dog hadn’t previously explored.  Both times a sole coyote approached my dog from behind.  Each got rather close and my dog didn’t seem to sense that he was being approached.  I was near enough to call off the coyote each time.  One of the coyotes was easy to call off.  The second one wasn’t as easy to call off, seemed more purposed and grumpier than the other.

A few nights ago I was glad I had my dog on leash.  I was on the riverbank and a coyote was fording the shallow, narrow river to come over onto our side.  My dog began to bark incessantly and pull on the leash.  Without that restraint, my dog would have chased the coyote.  My dog has an adversarial history with that particular coyote where neither much cares for the other.  The outcome of a chase wouldn’t have been predictable.

Coyote habitat is ideal for dogs to just be dogs.  Coyote habitat may also be home to rattle snakes.  Despite how we might assess our dog’s ability to emerge unscathed by contact with a coyote, the fact that rattlesnakes may also be present is a possibility I had not fully considered until yesterday.  Dogs like to chase and they also like to dig.  Off leash, my dog likes to dig out ground squirrel burrows.  I released him in a mesa where I can spot a coyote from a quarter mile away, farther than my dog can see.  I neither heard nor saw the rattlesnake my dog disturbed.  I did see my dog’s swollen and punctured back foot and soon discovered that the two vials of antivenin needed to treat him cost $485 each and aren’t necessarily stocked by an urban or suburban family veterinarian.  The total cost of his treatment could well approach $3,000.  Off leash, a dog may successfully chase away a coyote.  It may then proceed to investigate interests that prove more dangerous than coyotes.  There are more reasons than coyotes to leash a dog.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. webmaster
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 23:18:59

    Goodness. I’m sorry to hear that. I do hope your dog recovers completely. Is this somewhere near Los Angeles?


  2. Misty
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 08:22:44

    Forgive me, but I am surprised after all these stories that you still allow your dog off leash, particularly in wilderness areas where the dog can disturb wildlife (or be hurt by it). I mean, as much as I appreciate all the work you do capturing and perhaps advocating for these beautiful creatures (coyotes), it also seems rather ironic that you are allowing your dog to run around and risk getting in altercation with them, as well as allowing it to disturb things like ground squirrel burrows. It would seem as a wildlife advocate, it would be more prudent to keep one’s dog on leash in a wildlife area, no?


  3. Charles Wood
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 17:14:01

    Yes it was in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in north Orange County. He is recovering well, strength and mobility much improved. And Misty I appreciate your honest and accurate assessments.


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