It is coyote pupping season. We all need to remember to stay away from coyotes and their dens. Coyotes are feeling particularly edgy and protective of their space right now. When the pups are brought out of the dens, and when they begin to explore further afield, the coyote parents will defend a much wider area around the pups and they will do so more fiercely than usual. We need to give them plenty of girth so that they feel safe. After all, we are the ones who are intruding on their homes.
Coyotes will inevitably flee from human beings when there is a chance encounter on a trail. They may stop for a moment to look — they are curious — but they don’t care to tangle with humans and will move off — unless you get too close to a den area, in which case they may stand their ground. With dogs, there is always the potential for conflict. Coyotes always see dogs as potential threats — this increases many times over for a coyote when there are pups to look after. Leashing dogs in coyote areas, which both keeps the dog calmer and closer to you, is the single most effective way to avoid problems. But even a leashed dog — whether he is active and displays antagonism towards a coyote, or if he is calmly walking by without even noticing the coyote — can occasionally incite a negative coyote reaction.
If you have a dog, keep walking on, away from the coyote. Try not to stop and stare because this sets up an opportunity for the dog and coyote to communicate through body language and eye contact — it almost always involves mutual dislike. If the coyote feels threatened, he/she may stand his/her ground with a warning display which includes what I call the “Halloween Cat” display: arched back, hackles up, snarly face with teeth bared, head down, pacing or bouncing: this is a message — it is the only way a coyote can make you understand what its needs are. Sometimes, this can then erupt into a long distressed barking session. And ultimately, the coyote may try to herd the dog away by actually nipping at its butt. You need to tighten your leash and move on — away from the coyote, even dragging your dog if you have to.
As you retreat from an upset coyote, make sure that you WALK away, don’t run. Running might incite the coyote to chase — it’s an instinctual reaction. If the coyote is right at your heels, you could use an angry and loud voice, sharp noises such as clapping and flailing one’s arms. Someone suggested flashing a small fold-up umbrella — open and closing — to startle it off. Honestly, if you have a dog, the best method is simply to GO AWAY — increase the distance between yourself and the coyote. Coyotes actually get used to these “scaring” tactics, so much so that they begin ignoring them, so it’s best to simply avoid them in the fist place. [See: Total Avoidance!]
NOTE: I’ve never had a negative encounter with a coyote. But I have watched other people have them. Every incident I have seen has been caused by a human with their dog who inadvertently or purposefully refused to respect a coyote’s space. I’m writing this to let everyone know that you can control a situation by becoming aware of known coyote behaviors which I’m hoping to show in this blog.