Pupping Season: “Scary” Does Not Translate Into “Dangerous”, but Heed The Message!

2015-05-31 (1)

Hi Janet —

I had a very scary interaction with two coyotes in the heart of a park where the trail runs parallel to a dense brushy area. My dog Ginger and I were by ourselves, surrounded by two coyotes that would not go away. I jumped up and down, waving my arms allover the place and yelling and they didn’t budge. Finally one went into the bush but just stayed there and then the other on the trail started towards us.

I did the jumping yelling thing and the one backed away but turned around, started walking towards us again. Like 15 feet away.  Finally I just pulled Ginger’s leash tight to me and ran. I know you’re not supposed to  do that, but nothing else was working. We ran up to a knoll and were not followed there. It was getting dark, past 8pm, a bit scary indeed!

I wish that man was not doing that thing with his dog, challenging the coyote, corralling his dog to go after the coyotes. I have a feeling that sort of human behavior is a bad influence and perhaps contributed to this situation I had.


Hi Scott —

I’m sorry about your negative experience with the coyotes — and especially that it happened to you, a coyote sympathizer, even though it is best that it happened to you and not someone else with no feeling for the coyotes. In fact, you were being messaged to keep away from a den area.

Coyote messaging can be very, very scary — it’s got to be to be effective, otherwise dogs and people would just ignore the message. The coyotes  you encountered were not pursuing you and they were not out to hurt you or Ginger — they were keeping you from getting closer to something important. You were simply being told not to get any closer — to move away: “Go Away!”  But next time don’t run! Sometimes running will incite them to chase after you! And next time go the other way the minute you see a coyote, totally avoiding the animal from the word go.

If and when a coyote doesn’t back up, it’s almost always because of a den, and it’s always best to shorten your leash and leave right away. If coyotes don’t move after one or two attempts to get them to move, this should be the protocol: leave the area. You don’t want to engage with a den-defending coyote because they will nip at a dog who cannot read their “standing guard” message — we already know that this is what they do, and by not listening to their simple message, you would actually be provoking an incident.

It’s an instinct, and really has nothing to do with the idiot who was attempting to force his dog on the coyotes. That is a totally unrelated issue which needs to be addressed.

Encountering a den-defending coyote always creates a lot of fear in people, and I understand why — it’s meant to.  People need to know about it, why it happens, and how to deal with it. It’s a situation which should always be walked away from, no different from what you would do if you saw a skunk with its tail raised, a dog warning you off, or a swarm of bees. We know how to read the messages from these animals, and we usually abide by the messages to keep the peace and not get stung or sprayed or bitten. We can do the same with coyotes. A defensive or protective coyote is only doing his job — such an encounter in no way means the animal is aggressive.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. pierceflynn
    Jun 09, 2015 @ 18:15:18

    Thank you, Janet. Excellent information!


  2. Charles Wood
    Jun 10, 2015 @ 05:37:56

    Hi Janet and Scott. Janet I agree with your reply to Scott entirely and a few years ago had many encounters with a family of denning coyotes. At first I misread their messaging and you helped me to understand where they were coming from. I hadn’t even noticed that the mom coyote was so obviously lactating. I found one thing that did work when I was surprised by a dad coyote with pups around that kept insisting I leave.

    I had my dog with me just like Scott did; and I recognized that I had to leave no ifs ands or buts about it. But I didn’t feel comfortable turning my back on the coyote. So what I did was to walk backward while facing him. If he came forward I stopped and planted my feet and yelled. Once he stopped I continued on walking backward. At some point he let the distance between us grow larger, and at some point I felt comfortable turning my back on him, walking a few paces with my back to him, and then turning again back toward him to see what he was doing. I can’t say for certain, but the dad coyote did seem to understand what I was doing: leaving and letting him know not to get too close.

    I read that between coyote neighbors, it is usually just one coyote who will chase out an intruding neighbor coyote. So with Scott, where one went away and the other didn’t: that seems to be behavior that matches the pattern I saw and read about. I had wondered in my retreat if the other one was going to try something funny. That was never the case in my experience, one acted alone and did not have another one deployed in some kind of master plan, e.g., never had one of the two circle around me and get us from the side or from behind or anything like that.


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