Coyote pupping season is in full swing, which is obvious from coyote behaviors I’m now observing in our parks. Since mating occurred through mid-February and, now that it is mid-March, dens are being selected and dug. In preparation for the big event, all coyotes, especially males, are vigilantly contributing their share to the process: they are safeguarding their family territories to help make them safe for pups. Where does this come from?
We all need to become aware of coyote behaviors so that we can know how to prevent issues. Coyotes don’t like canine intruders in their territories: they even don’t allow non-family coyotes in. All canines, be they wolves, dogs, foxes or coyotes, don’t really like each other and all will exclude the others, as well as members of their same species who are non-family members, from their territories. This is instinctive behavior. We can’t really change their instincts for survival, but we can learn about them and understand them, and modify our own behaviors, so that all of us — human, cat, dog, coyote — can coexist. The guidelines are few and simple.
What behaviors might you see at this time?
1) Coyotes want you and your dog to know they are around so that you’ll know that the area has been taken and is not up for grabs. One way of letting us know this is being more conspicuous. Increased visibility is a “message” to everyone and it’s a pretty basic way of letting us know they are around.
2) Coyotes also may actually approach dogs to get them to “move on” or “go away.” As you are walking along, a coyote could hurry in your dog’s direction and could even try to sneak up from behind in an attempt to give your dog a little nip or pinch on the hind quarters. Remember that they are approaching your dog, not you. They could try to do this when you aren’t looking at them, even if your dog is leashed. Their aim is not to maim, but to firmly “message” your dog to leave. A small abrasion or scratch may result. You can prevent this.
What you need to do during this season is:
1) Be aware, alert and vigilant as you walk your dog during this pupping period. If you see a coyote, even if it’s out in the distance, make sure your dog is on a short leash and continue walking on and away from the coyote. Nonetheless, the coyote, or coyotes, could hurry in your and your dog’s direction — they have a job to do which is instinctive: know what is happening and be prepared.
2) If and when a coyote has come within 30-50 feet as you are walking away — just stop and face the coyote eyeball to eyeball — usually this is all you’ll have to do for the coyote to move on. If the coyote remains there, step in his direction and clap your hands or toss a small stone in his direction (not at him so as not to injure him), if the coyote moves, continue on your way, keeping an eye on him and without running. If he makes a second attempt, do this again with a little more energy. He’ll run off, and you, too, should walk on out of the area.
[For more information on coexisting between people, pets and coyotes, see “Coyotes As Neighbors”, a one-stop video presentation, created by Janet Kessler based on her photo-documentation of coyotes in urban parks].