Distressed Barking? from Andrew

Hi Janet — I just came across your web site and blog due to my curiosity about coyote communication. I live in the Eastern Sierra on a 50 acre “ranch” (no cattle, just my two dogs) at around 6000′ elevation. We’re surrounded by the Inyo National Forest in sagebrush/pinyon pine country.  The property is fenced with 5 foot “dog-proof” field roll fencing. My dogs will oftentimes howl along with the local coyotes in the distance, but over the past month I’ve been hearing a coyote just outside my bedroom window. The ranch has a lot of rabbits and quail, and I can see why coyotes would pay us a visit now and then. Tonight, about 40 yards outside my window, a coyote was doing a high pitch sort of barking, and so I went online to research what the bark might mean. The barking sounded exactly like that in your “Distressed Barking after Interference from a Dog”. The coyote carried on barking for about 15 minutes, and my dogs barked along for awhile but eventually stopped while the coyote continued.

I’m not sure what to make of this; my dogs are contained within a 20 x 40 foot fenced area adjacent to my house and wouldn’t seem to pose a threat to a coyote. Perhaps the coyote got over or under the perimeter fence around the ranch and then couldn’t find its way out? But I had heard a coyote near my house several times before over the past month, so if it’s the same one I would guess that it knew its way in and out. Also, it had never barked like that (distress or alarm bark). I have no problems with coyotes, and enjoy hearing them. I know you focus on coyotes in an urban environment, but thanks for the site and the info!  Regards, Andrew

Hi Andrew — I enjoyed your email — thanks for writing! I, too, am fascinated by coyote communication. I’m wondering if the distressed barking might have been directed at another coyote rather than at your dogs? This coyote might have been guarding its turf against another coyote who was passing through?! It’s hard to tell without knowing the whole situation, but coyotes don’t like interloper coyotes in their areas, especially one that might have threatened it on some level. Then again, one of your dogs might have simply spooked or surprised the coyote in some way which set off the barking — that happens. Maybe someone else who reads this will be able to suggest another possibility. Thanks for sharing this. It’s nice hearing about your slightly different rural situation. If you heard a change in the type of bark, something different definitely was going on.  Janet

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charles Wood
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 07:23:14

    Hi Andrew and Janet, The behaviors you describe, including the distressed sounding barking, remind me of a lone coyote that used to visit the dog park I frequent after dark, adjacent to a city golf course. It would engage the dogs by staring in through the fence and back off from the fence when the dogs approached. It would run the fence where the dogs could see it and the dogs were very excited by it. A few times it would also bark as you described, apparently at the dogs. After many weeks of this the coyote no longer came to visit. So my speculation on your situation goes like this: There are a lot of other places on your 50 acres for that coyote to be. If it is 40 yards from your abode then it is at that particular spot because it wants to be. Coyotes are known to be naturally afraid of people, so my guess is that the coyote is attracted to your dogs.

    This is the time of year where young coyotes are likely to disperse to find a home of their own away from their parents and siblings. My guess is that they strike out on that journey and are alone until they enter the breeding season that generally lasts from January through February with pups born about two months later. If it is a disbursed young coyote, it is certainly lonely and wants a mate to set up housekeeping with. Coyotes have little other reason to associate with each other, being sole hunters or hunting in pairs, where a larger group are certainly parents with children, some of the children being as much as 1.5 to even two years of age. So my guess is that your coyote is looking for love in all the wrong places.

    It can find food anywhere, but a love interest isn’t something that comes along for a coyote every day. Coyotes are canine, and we know our canines approach others of their species with a mixture of fear/aggression/play/submission/acceptance. It is also known that disbursed coyotes, wandering around looking for the promised land, are viewed by coyotes with established territories as interlopers, intruders to be chased away. A lone young coyote is a vulnerable animal that needs a mate with whom to hold territory and dig a den. It knows it is vulnerable and it is understandable that it would display some competent warning barking when approaching other canines. On the one hand it must approach in order to get a date. On the other hand there is risk of being punished for violating another coyote pair/family’s territory. Coyotes are an intelligent animal and yours will probably go away before spending too much time trying to find out what your dogs are about.

    Generally, it is a good idea to not leave animal feed outside where a coyote could help itself to an easy meal. Coyotes are best enjoyed from a distance, and 40 yards is too close to your home. I would encourage the coyote to respect your space and to scare it away, you can bang pans, yell. You’ll be doing the coyote a big favor by reinforcing its natural fear of humans. And you will be telling the coyote that your dogs are already spoken for.


  2. Charles Wood
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 08:29:08

    PS Regarding your fence: I firmly believe the coyote got through it, knew where it got in and exactly how to get out. It knows how to find breeches in the fence, or how to scale it. Entering and leaving your place is child’s play for a coyote. Charles


  3. Andrew
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 04:20:05

    Janet and Charles: thanks so much for the comments!

    My dogs sleep outside all the time (they have free choice to sleep in or out, and prefer out most nights). And they seem to enjoy “talking” to the coyotes in the wee hours of the morning, which, up until last month, has been at a distance.

    After that long distance communication (a mile or so) it’s certainly plausible that my dogs had actually attracted a young, “disbursed” coyote who was searching for companionship.

    Charles wrote:

    “Coyotes are an intelligent animal and yours will probably go away before spending too much time trying to find out what your dogs are about.”

    Haven’t heard a peep out of the coyotes or my dogs (better sleep for me!) since emailing Janet, so you may be right.

    Thank you both for you helpful comments.



  4. Lisa Reynolds
    Apr 24, 2013 @ 04:43:10

    Hi – I need to add that I hike in this area with my small dogs off leash. Are the coyotes in the area likely to rush my dogs and try to grab one? Thanks!


    • yipps
      Apr 24, 2013 @ 05:31:32

      Hi Lisa —

      If you walk in a coyote area, it’s your responsibility to leash your dogs and keep them close to you. A coyote can’t distinguish between your dog or any other small wiggling critter which it sees as prey. It doesn’t happen often, but small dogs have been grabbed. Leashing protects both your dogs and the coyotes. It’s the “win-win” solution for everyone involved. Janet

  5. Pipas pipa
    Dec 04, 2013 @ 22:39:34

    I’d be interested to know if anyone else has heard what someone told me today about coyote barking. there was a coyote near my house (in the woods, isolated) that walked in front of my house (about 30 yds away). My dog (in the house) started barking at it and running around. Then, when it got to the side (about 60 yds away, the coyote then started barking. S/he and my dog barked at each other for about 39 minutes. ), When I told this person this story, he said that when a coyote is alone like that and barks, it is because he is calling in the rest of the pack (for the kill?). Anyone know anything about this?


    • yipps
      Dec 05, 2013 @ 04:10:19

      No, I don’t think the coyote is calling in the rest of the pack for the kill. I think the coyote is simply enjoying the song session with your dog! You know, the howling would just scare off any prey — why would they do that?

  6. Charles Wood
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 18:43:07

    I also don’t think the coyote is calling to its pack for the kill. For example, for the last month or so a coyote has been barking up a tree in the park at the end of my street. It comes before midnight and can bark for over an hour. It is literally barking up a tree, probably at a squirrel. Some dogs may join in the barking from their homes in the neighborhood, but the coyote is mostly interested in what is in the tree.

    In my walks off trail with my dog, I’ve had a coyote bark at us to message us to leave its area. The coyote’s family was usually around nearby while the one coyote barked at us. If the coyote family was also out and visible then at times they joined the barking. Other times they didn’t. Also, if the coyote family was not out they wouldn’t all come running out into the open to go to the one that was barking. Instead they just kept hidden. The first time that happened, where the one coyote was barking at my dog and me, I thought other coyotes would come running to help. They never did come running to help like I had thought they might.

    The idea that a coyote would summon its pack for a kill doesn’t make sense to me because coyotes are solitary hunters, not pack hunters. They walk around looking for rodents. lizards, fruit, etc. They don’t need to cooperate in a hunt to get food, although they can learn how to do that, it just isn’t the regular way that coyotes get their food. Also, coyotes chase off, not kill, other coyotes that intrude on their territory according to one study I read. So their territory defense isn’t a killing operation, its a chasing routine.


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