Urban Coyote Myth: Coyotes Luring Dogs to Their Deaths (Revised and Updated)

In fact, it’s simply an urban myth that coyotes lure dogs to their deaths. But if that’s the case, what actually is occurring for people to fabricate such an idea? Well, it may in fact look like that if you don’t know what’s going on. Whenever there is a void in knowledge, the void is filled in with what there is: speculations, rumors and myths that pop up suddenly or become legendary and grow over time.

So what is actually going on when dogs chase coyotes and eventually they find themselves confronted by more than one coyote?

First of all, dogs chase coyotes all the time. If you keep your dog leashed in coyote areas, or leash and walk the other way the minute you see a coyote, you can minimize the chance that this will happen. Most coyotes are out minding their own business: either foraging, trekking or resting, when they are spotted by a dog. The chase then begins: it’s fun and games for most dogs, but seldom so for the coyote.

The coyote may try to *loose* the dog by wearing it out, or it may head to a hiding place to get away from the dog. But unbeknownst to the dog, and to the human owner, coyote family members are almost always close by. Coyotes travel together, and they rest fairly close to each other, so there’s almost always another coyote or two around.

Once a dog enters into where the coyotes are, it will be treated as an intruder: coyotes will come to the aid of another member of their family. And, if a coyote sees a dog chasing its mate, it will come out to help the coyote drive the dog off. These are defenses to threats, not *lures*.

The coyote’s behavior has nothing to do with a *plan* to *lure* the dog into a trap to kill and eat it.


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. August Strozier
    Sep 09, 2016 @ 17:30:40

    Maybe you can help explain this scenario. I live on 100 acres in a very rural area of south Texas. We have a robust coyote population (you can hear them howling almost every night from all directions). I was out walking this morning with two of my dogs following. Both are large, athletic dogs who have survived plenty of coyote interactions (they’ve never injured or killed any to my knowledge). I spotted a coyote about 20 yards away. It yelped, drawing the dogs attention, they paused with ears erect, it yelped again and they took off after it. The dogs were quickly out of sight, but I could hear the coyote yelping all the time. I followed, calling out to the dogs to come back. I came up to where the coyote had stopped, still yelping as if it were injured, hidden right behind the tree line in a dry creek bed. My dogs had apparently obeyed my calls and headed back home.
    I climbed up a nearby tree to try and see down into the creek bed. I couldn’t see anything, but the coyote continued yelping. After about ten minutes, the yelping ceased and a coyote, (it seemed to be a larger individual) came out of the brush and looked around for a moment, and then went back. I waited another five minutes or so, (no more yelping), and then left. It certainly struck me as some type of feigned injury ambush strategy, although they certainly would have had a hell of a time with those two dogs. A few years ago a small dog I had was killed and eaten in that same area early one morning. I hold no grudge against them, and enjoy listening to them howl of an evening. Just thought this was interesting behavior and was looking for some input. Thanks.


    • yipps
      Sep 11, 2016 @ 03:44:32

      Hi August —

      What you observed looks like a run-of-the-mill interaction. You said there were other coyotes in the area. It’s not surprising that another coyote was curious about what the commotion was — they are inquisitive and curious. You know, if you want to believe that coyotes lure other dogs to kill them — even if they’re outmatched, which would be suicide — you could interpret almost ANY dog/coyote situation that way. Wild animals (coyotes) do not put themselves into situations where they may be injured by larger dogs. This is because if they are injured, they wouldn’t be able to hunt and they could die. A number of myths like this one have made their rounds, such as that a coyote seen during daytime hours is aggressive. Some people still believe this. There have been hundreds of scientific studies done on coyotes – they are the most studied animals on earth. If “luring” was in fact a “hunting” strategy they use, then because of its “uniqueness” in the coyote world, it would have been noticed and studied and written about. But nowhere in scientific literature that describes their food-acquisition behavior is it even remotely mentioned. When observing coyotes and their interactions, you need to look at it from the perspective of the animal, not from a human point of view, which is invariably wrong and may be colored by all sorts of myths and unfounded beliefs about the animal – that coyotes are “sneaky”, ” cunning”, etc. Please go back and re-read the first section of the original post. By putting these human characteristics on coyotes, you miss a great opportunity to see what a truly amazing animal they are. I am happy to tell you just how amazing, if you are interested.

    • Susan
      Feb 01, 2017 @ 03:59:18

      “Yelping” is usually a high intensity startle and/or submissive response in coyotes. This coyote was probably frightened by the presence of the big dogs.

      Distress vocalizations of this sort could alert any coyotes who are around, as well as other predators such as fox, bobcats – putting this coyote in danger.
 This may be why you saw the larger coyote – it was drawn by, and curious about the vocalization.

      This has nothing to do with any kind of “hunting” strategy used by coyotes. Note that coyotes are pursuit predators – they chase their prey, they don’t “lure” and “ambush” prey. Lure and ambush hunting strategies are almost exclusive to certain fish, insect and reptile species, and carnivorous plants.

  2. Morgan
    Nov 17, 2016 @ 21:24:57

    The coyotes where you live much be special, because those of use who live in semi-rural and rural areas have lost plenty of dogs to coyotes who lured them away from safety.


    • yipps
      Nov 19, 2016 @ 00:18:06

      This is not true. The dogs went chasing after the coyotes and should not have done so. Please let folks know to keep their dogs from going after coyotes — this is safest for the dogs AND the coyotes. Janet

  3. William Logan
    Dec 14, 2016 @ 05:40:49

    You make these cunning coyotes sound like the old-time “loose woman” who lured helpless, innocent young men into temptation and trapped them with her feminine wiles.

    Just like those yong men, your dog was curious and went willingly. Because that’s what dogs do.


  4. Randall S Hardy
    May 01, 2017 @ 17:29:48

    For many years, I had a pet coyote/dog cross. The mother coyote had pups in my tool shed. I saw her only a few times, each time she heard or smelled me first and fled. As she left, I saw that she held one back leg off the ground and hopped or limped away using just one back leg. I have always believed that her injury is what caused her to live close to people and mate with my neighbor’s dog. However, today I happened upon a coyote den. The mother was about 50 feet away when I saw her, and she limped off into the woods on one back leg. Coincidence? or is feigning an injury a stategy to lure predators away from the pups?


    • yipps
      May 01, 2017 @ 17:52:09

      Hi — The biggest cause of death for coyotes in urban areas is cars. When a car doesn’t kill outright, it may leave a lasting injury. I’ve been documenting a coyote with a limp who we know was hit by a car only a few days ago. Five years ago I watched a mother coyote raise her two pups singlehandedly (father coyote had been poisoned) after being hit by a car. It took this coyote months to recover. The injuries are real. I’ve never heard of a mother coyote feigning an injury as a lure, and I’ve never seen a coyote fake an injury. However, I will confirm with a behavioral ecologist I work with and let you know what she says. Janet

  5. Randall S Hardy
    May 01, 2017 @ 18:18:06

    Hi Janet, thanks for the quick reply. For 25 years I have thought that the mother of my coydog had been shot or hit by a car, I only wondered about it being a stategy when I saw another mother act the same way today. When I first saw her, I was about 20 feet from a pile of concrete slabs that had been dumped and she was about 50 feet. After she left, I could hear sounds coming from from the concrete pile so I guessed she had dug under them to have her pups. I gave the whole area a wide berth after that so she wouldn’t be afraid to return. The one that had pups in my tool shed would leave for a whole day everytime I stepped into my back yard, but her behavior may not have been normal.


    • yipps
      May 01, 2017 @ 19:11:28

      Hi Randall — I’ve seen coyotes leave their pups all day long. I don’t think this is unusual mother coyote behavior. They do so to go hunting. It’s during this period of time, when the pups are young, that mothers need extra nutrients to produce enough milk. Fathers hunt extra hard during this time, too, in order to bring more food home. Fathers actually eat the food and then regurgitate it for the pups. Mother coyotes may do the same later on. I’ve cautioned people not to *rescue* *abandoned* pups because, more than likely, they have not been abandoned at all — they’ve simply been left for the day by the parents who went a-hunting!

      You are doing great by giving the mother you saw today a wide berth. I wish more people were as respectful as you are. Thank you for your input, and thank you for abiding by their needs. Do you have a photo of your coydog? I would love to see it! Janet

    • yipps
      May 02, 2017 @ 03:43:54

      Hi Randall — I just got this reply to your comment, which I’m sure you will very interested in reading:
      “It’s called distraction displays for offspring defense. Feigning injury is something that has been observed mostly in birds as “nest protection.” It has also been noted in fish and some mammals such as primates. It doesn’t always have to be feigning an injury, it could be something the parent animal does to attract the attention of the predator away from the nest or den. Sure, female coyotes will do this to protect their young – but what tactic they use is dependent on the coyote. It’s more than possible that the coyote was feigning injury to draw him away from her den.” Janet

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