HOWL by Charlotte Hildebrand

My own HOWL woke me up yesterday, early morning. First the crows making a racket on our railing, then caw caw cawing overhead.

Then a swish and movement in Thea’s backyard.

I snuck outside along the walkway between our houses, and saw my old neighbor Thea putting two plates of food down on the ground next to the canyon, and a second later, a coyote cautiously approaching. . .

I would say with almost certainty this is the same coyote I saw in the canyon at this time last year, when it was only a toddler. I worrid then that Thea might be feeding it, but never imagined she’d be so blatant, deliberately putting out food for it to guzzle down. And guzzle down it did, indicating it’s probably dependent on my neighbor — in her delusions of goodwill and ignorance — for the food it eats.

. . . but I freaked it out!

It caught me peeking around the corner to take its picture. For the next hour, it filled the canyon with its growls and barks, howls and HOWLS, pursuing me, through the canyon, to the back of my house (how did it know where I lived?) and approaching in its awkward, frightened, vulnerable, sad way.

Do I call animal control? Do I let Thea continue feeding it? What is the right thing to do?

You can hear it’s yips and yaps, along with the crows, in the video below:

[Reprinted with permission by Charlotte Hildebrand from her blog “The Rat’s Nest”:]

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charles Wood
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 21:59:56

    Hi Charlotte: your video of the barking/yipping coyote reminds me of the video I took of one of mine posted here:

    My coyote exhibited similar behavior in its own territory where I was the intruder. Similarly, your coyote seems to be exhibiting the same behavior and it seems to me that in its mind, your coyote seems to perceive itself as in its own territory. And perhaps it thought you wanted to eat the food it claimed as its own. Perhpas its argument with you was over who the food belonged to.

    Our coyotes are also about the same age, about a year old or so? I would say it is awkward and frightened for its youth, but I would not go so far as to say it is sad, and it is not vulnerable because it can run away at over 30 mph, hide well, and seems to have, if I understood your narrative correctly, succeeded in chasing you back into your house. If that is the case, then the case is that it came out unambiguously on top in that exchange. I also suggest that it is possible it knows where you live either because you led it there, or because your house smells like you, as does your yard.

    I certainly hope your neighbor agrees to stop feeding the coyote!


  2. Charlotte Hildebrand
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 00:11:00

    Thanks Charles! All good information. More and more, I realize, I did indeed scare the little fellow (yes, only about 1 year old) when i poked my camera around the corner, threatening it, and thus, to be warned. He did a good job of warning me, as he barked for over an hour. I think every crow, skunk, raccoon and snake in the canyon was aware of the disturbance, not to mention the neighbors. But it’s been pretty quiet next door of late, and I’m hoping, through info gleaned from some others who wrote, that the coyote is probably foraging around the canyon for his own food and not totally dependent on my neighbor. That’s a relief. I haven’t talked to her yet but am going to soon, when the opportunity presents itself. Will update on this post. Thanks again for providing such useful info.


  3. Charles Wood
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 20:14:59

    There is a lot of value to me in having read about your interaction with your coyote and also to have the video and photographs to engage with and try and absorb and speculate about. My video: I had my dog next to me and wondered if my coyote was reacting more to my dog than to me. Seeing your video confirmed for me that a coyote will behave towards a human in a way similar to how it behaves towards a human with a dog. What is behind the behavior, the intent of the coyote, is difficult to conclusively, or objectively, read. At the same time, as I try to read coyote behavior and make decisions about how to behave when engaged with them, I have to sort through my subjectivity. I feel, with my coyotes, that I am engaged with both their bodies and elusive minds. One clue I get about what is in their minds I get by watching their feet.

    In your video, the coyote’s feet became progressively closer to you despite it having fear expressed in the way it approached. That your coyote got closer to you leaves me with the subjective impression that your coyote was less scared and that it was more something else. Was that something else warning behavior? I don’t know except that it was undesirable behavior.

    Janet’s earlier post shows desirable behavior from a wild coyote, in the second to last picture, tail to us fleeing, feet farther away: . In my coyote photographs and in my video, the running away behavior of the animal isn’t the point of interest I try to convey. My desire to get a photograph causes me to linger, giving the coyote some inappropriate space in which to operrate. I have misgivings about my allowing them inappropriate space. I hope I haven’t left my coyotes with a misimpression about the wisdom of their having done more with a human than to simply run away. After I photograph my coyotes, before leaving, I do back them off if they haven’t settled back to an appropriate distance.


  4. yipps
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 01:34:17

    I think the important behavior in this encounter is the human one. We’ve all been told over and over again about what happens when wild coyotes are deliberately fed by humans. Here we have a prime example of this. I have seen many, many coyote-human encounters — and none has ever even come close to this type of behavior.


  5. Charlotte Hildebrand
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 20:00:22

    Janet and Charles, sorry was away for a week.

    My friend Melissa, a blogger at a very wonderful nature blog,, thought the skittish behavior was a warning, but she wondered if the coyote might be thinking, because he’s being fed by one person, would another also be a source of food? Nevertheless, the barking was definitely a warning to stay away, so it’s very confusing behavior.

    So i throw this out to you, a rather unconventional idea: a case of coyote multi-tasking: warning by barking and checking out a new food source at the same time…?? Possible?


    • yipps
      Jun 12, 2011 @ 20:25:17

      Hi Charlotte —

      We probably will never know exactly what was going on. Coyotes are known for their very individualistic behavior — each one is very different from the next, so it would be hard to generalize. We do know that when a coyote is fed, it may eventually demand food aggressively. And we know that coyotes give this type of warning to keep intruders away. I think that yes, an aspect of both might be involved. It was a fascinating encounter and I’m really glad you shared it with us all.

  6. Charles Wood
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 10:38:42

    Hi Charlotte – I haven’t ever seen a coyote demanding food aggressively, I don’t know what that looks like when it happens. The one and only time my Dad coyote freaked the way yours did was when I startled him. It is more typical that Dad warns me that he is about to turn up the heat: stretch, with or without yawn, peeing, pooping, dirt scraping and then an approach with his head slung low. The only time he instantly went to barking and approaching was when I startled him.


    • yipps
      Jun 13, 2011 @ 12:34:14

      I, too, have seen this same coyote response when they have been startled — in my observations always by a dog — with the barking continuing for 20 minutes to an hour, even after the intruding dog and owner have long left the scene. Charles’ point is important — about the element of surprise. And, as with Charles, I have never observed a coyote being fed nor demanding food — my response to you on this issue is based solely on what I have read about coyote behavior.

  7. Trackback: “In Shifts”, by Charlotte Hildebrand « Coyote Yipps

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