Friendly Coyote-Dog Contact

Recently I observed actual contact — friendly contact — between a young insatiably curious coyote and a dog in one of our parks. A fairly small unleashed dog headed to the bushes where a squirrel was jumping around. The coyote has had his eye on this particular squirrel and the bushes it lives in for a long time, so I’m sure the coyote claimed them as his own. I don’t know if the coyote approached the area initially for the squirrel, as the dog had, or if it was another instance of the coyote’s keen interest in particular dogs.

The coyote reached the dog — the dog owner was not within view. The dog neither ran off in fear, nor showed any antagonism whatsoever towards the coyote. Rather, the dog stood totally still with its ears back and allowed the coyote to sniff from behind. Coyotes approach animals always, if possible, from behind, where there are no teeth! When the dog turned it’s head to look at the coyote — facing the coyote — the coyote’s hackles went up high and it flinched in preparation to flee.  But the dog again looked away, so the coyote continued sniffing and investigating the not-unfriendly dog.

No tails were wagging, so it was not necessarily a “happy” moment. It was more of a “discovery” moment, with neither canine nor canid knowing what to expect from the other, yet each sensed something other than hostility or antagonism from the other. Each animal was allowing an unknown stranger — therefore possible danger — into its personal space. Neither animal was trusting nor overwhelmingly apprehensive, but their mutual hesitant behavior showed that they each had inklings of both. They touched one another briefly and then it was time to go. Both of these canines are full-grown youngsters, about 18 months of age. The coyote is a young male, the dog is a fixed female.

At this point the owner appeared and we discussed that leashing was a good idea in the area.  Since we don’t want to encourage interactions between pets and wildlife in an effort to keep the wildlife wild, we’re suggesting dogs always be kept away from coyotes: coexistence works best when minimum boundaries of 30-50 feet are maintained with people. These boundaries should be increased to minimum 100 feet when dogs are involved.

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