Some Fun and Mischief?


I had been casually following two coyotes on a path. One was a bit ahead of the other and was out of sight when it suddenly raced back in my direction. It was running away from something. It looked back at where it had just come from in a semi-fearful way , and it communicated this clearly to the other coyote — simply by example. They both hurried off to a rock ledge where they could examine whatever was coming. Coyotes learn by example and they communicate by example — by “showing”. I have seen younger coyotes often look at their mother’s face and body stance to see how they should react — whether they should be fearful or not. I, too, waited on edge, putting myself in the same frame of mind as were those coyotes. Hmmmm. What appeared around the bend was a runner and three very active and very little dogs. One of the little dogs — a brave fellow — saw the coyotes and ran after them, furiously barking. The coyotes ran away simply to avoid the little dog — or maybe they ran off to humor the dog?

This same kind of situation has happened before between these dogs and these coyotes: it is this “known” situation which caused the first coyote to run off the way it did — they could anticipate what was about to happen and prepared themselves for it. The dogs and the coyotes know each other from simply being in the same park over time — they’ve seen each other and read each other’s intentions. The dog that went after the coyotes did so rather self-assuredly in spite of his small size. But then the coyotes turned around — it was their turn to chase back, and the little dog fled in a flash! There was teasing and testing, and judging from the dog’s and the coyote’s facial expressions, it seemed very much of a game from everyone’s point of view. The dog and coyotes came within touching distance of each other. But you don’t take chances with small dogs, so I helped grab the dogs and the owner leashed them before going on.

That was not the end of it. There is “oneupmanship” which seems to be at play with coyotes sometimes and these coyotes may have wanted “the last word.” From what I have seen, this “oneupmanship” has a definite message, even though it might be delivered in a teasing-testing-playful sort of way.  One coyote continued the encounter begun by the little dog by following the runner and now leashed dogs. When the runner stopped and turned around to face the coyote, the coyote stopped, but remained on the trail about 40 feet away. Only when the owner leaned down to pick up a pebble did the coyote run off. When the owner continued running, the coyote continued to follow, but at a greater distance than initially. Fortunately, the owner was not particularly bothered by this game, and eventually, when runner and dogs arrived at a more populated trail, the coyote headed off. The second coyote tagged along for only a short distance and then got distracted by the possibility of a gopher meal.

This mischievous fun, testing and teasing on the part of coyotes may startle some dog owners who expect all wildlife to keep hidden in the bushes. But, although wildlife may for the most part follow that model, they do not always. My impression was that the coyotes were prepared for a little fun and adventure — when the opportunity stepped right in front of them with an invitation to chase back, they did so. However, it should be known that if a coyote had actually reached the dog, it could very well have nipped it — the message is always the same, even if it is mixed with a little fun and games: “this territory is mine, don’t mess with me.”

one coyote follows

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Charlotte Hildebrand
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 16:08:34

    Great post. it seems coyotes are one-step on the other side of the civilized world, but chose not to go there….(except for the coyote in my neighbor’s yard who passes the time with cats, skunks, crows….)


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