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 *lose* 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 any other intruder, be it an outsider coyote or your dog: 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.

Please note that “luring” into a trap situation to kill is very different from “leading” a dangerous animal away from pups. Coyotes do lead any threatening animal, including humans, away from very sensitive pupping areas, hoping they will be followed. They have led me away in this manner several times.



20 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 —

      I’m updating my reply to you after having re-read your comment. The coyote’s yelping was actually triggered by the presence of your dogs in what they consider their area, possibly close to other coyote family members or even in a denning site. Most likely, there was antagonistic eye-contact before the chase began.

      I’ve seen this distressed yelping behavior often. After being chased by dogs, the coyote runs off to a safer space away from the dogs and engages in a long drawn out and distressed vocalization: it’s almost a complaint, or venting of their frustrations. Coyotes also engage in this very same distressed vocalization when they see what they perceive as threatening dogs in the area, especially if one/some of them have pursued the coyote in the past. Simply SEEING those dogs was a trigger.

      “Luring” had nothing to do with what was going on in the situation you describe. Again, please be aware of the power of myths. Once introduced to myths for which no other explanation has been offered, the fabrications often stick and it’s hard to change them. Try looking at the situation logically, no animal is going to use itself as a “lure” where it could be injured: any injury could ultimately lead to death: wouldn’t that be akin to suicide?

      Also, if this was in fact a “hunting” strategy, then because of its “uniqueness” in the mammal world, it would have been noticed and studied and written about by the many scientists who have studied coyotes — but nothing can be found about it in the scientific literature.

      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. [Wikipedia]

  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 heard of other animals feigning an injury as a lure, especially birds and of course opossums play dead, but I’ve never seen a coyote fake an injury.

  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 — Here’s information from Wikipedia:

      “Distraction displays, also known as diversionary displays, or paratrepsis are anti-predator behaviors used to attract the attention of an enemy away from something, typically the nest or young, that is being protected by a parent. Distraction displays are sometimes classified more generically under “nest protection behaviors” along with aggressive displays such as mobbing.These displays have been studied most extensively in bird species, but also have been documented in populations of stickleback fish and in some mammal species.

      Distraction displays frequently take the form of injury-feigning. However, animals may also imitate the behavior of a small rodent or alternative prey item for the predator; imitate young or nesting behaviors such as brooding (to cause confusion as to the true location of the nest), mimic foraging behaviors away from the nest, or simply draw attention to oneself.”

  6. yipps:janetkessler
    Nov 23, 2017 @ 05:15:53

    The “luring” myth is no less than a form of blaming the victim: it’s the dog who went after the coyote, not the other way around. The myth is a fabrication to excuse the dog’s transgressions (or actually the owner who should have kept his/her dog away).


  7. Bo
    Dec 02, 2017 @ 00:40:07

    Anyone care to explain why the hell coyotes come up to the edge of my yard on multiple occasions and start wimpering like they’re injured when my dog has never even come in contact with them? I know the area I live in, the coyotes have PLENTY of acres to roam they certainly don’t inhabit the areas surrounding my yard. They come specifically to the edge of the woods and pretend to be hurt until we scare them away with intimidating noises.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Dec 02, 2017 @ 13:03:45

      Hi Bo — I’m sorry the coyotes are an irritant for you. I don’t believe they are pretending to be injured — the “whimpering” sounds are simply among the sounds they make all the time. If you continue to scare them off, they’ll eventually, probably, stop coming back.

  8. Bush Girl
    Dec 18, 2017 @ 21:21:23

    You are entitled to your viewpoint, but I have lived in the Canadian north a long time. I have indeed observed coyotes and wolves coming close and making very strange sounds in an attempt to lure dogs. I have also seen a wolf lure an unleashed dog, then the waiting pack that was previously hidden, close in. For any predator to survive, calories expended must be less than those gained. Luring is a very effective way to hunt. If a predator spends the day tracking and searching for prey, they may expend more energy than gained by their meal. Sometimes wolves and coyotes become habituated and learn an easy food source. These are very intelligent animals and very capable of learning.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Dec 18, 2017 @ 21:45:30

      Hi Bush Girl — Thanks for your thoughts. This article was written because there are folks out there who incorrectly believe as you do. Please re-read the posting to know what is going on. Wolves and coyotes often travel with their families. It’s important to keep dogs leashed in areas where there are coyotes and wolves because they often chase after these animals, only to find there are more of them than expected. Please keep your dog away from these wild animals if you want to keep them safe! That’s all that needs to be done!

  9. Bush Girl
    Dec 18, 2017 @ 21:27:45

    Please forgive the swearing in this video – but I believe the sound is actually a habituated wolf luring village dogs. When I think of all the things canines can learn, they constantly amaze me.https://youtu.be/25lzRlwz_u4


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Dec 22, 2017 @ 19:32:42

      Dear Bush Girl — Thank you for sending this, because it is a beautiful example of exactly how myths are born. You have written what you *believe* is going on, without a shred of evidence except your own fears. The posting to which you are responding was written based on many, many documented observations of this same behavior. Wolves and coyotes have plenty of calories for hunting, or they wouldn’t spend so much of their time racing and playing with each other.

  10. Jennifer
    Feb 14, 2018 @ 15:19:51

    Just my opinion here. It seems to me that coyotes are being generalized here, like a specific breed might be… I believe they do have generalized behavior, meaning most of them will behave the same. But that may not be the case everywhere all the time. They are very clever and adaptive. I think their behavior most likely is determined by their environment. For example, during hunting season, while people are in the woods shooting guns, the coyotes in my area come closer to homes and target cattle. (Easier, more available prey) While generally, they just come get their prey, they may not all be opposed to luring on occasion, if it better suits their needs at that time. I would think the point would most likely be to draw an animal away from humans rather than the actual need to lure to kill. Again, just my opinion. (Some info about me= I live surrounded by forest, hear and see coyotes regularly and I also rescue dogs. So at any given time, I can have several dogs of various sizes (though, usually small) in my yard and a coyote will just go by, not paying any attention to the dogs…. or cats. Even when all the dogs are barking like crazy. The coyote just has no use for them. (Thank goodness) (Sorry to all who have lost their furbabies)


  11. Sheila Beard
    Aug 27, 2018 @ 01:31:10

    Janet, I live in a semi rural area of Missouri and I can assure you that coyotes DO ambush prey. Our 15 y.o. deaf terrier was ambushed on our front porch 2 nights ago. There were 3 of them. Luckily, my husband was able to scare them away. They nearly killed him tho. Our dog stopped chasing other animals about 2 years ago when he lost his hearing AND became arthritic. Trust me, he was on the porch and they came and got him!!


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Aug 27, 2018 @ 03:44:42

      Hi Sheila —

      I’m sorry your little deaf terrier was so traumatized — it sounds horrible. But glad he survived!

      I think you are confusing some terms here.

      An AMBUSH is “a military tactic using concealment and surprise to attack an unsuspecting enemy from a concealed position.” I’m not sure this is the correct term for what you are describing, since neither prey nor predator used concealment.

      Irregardless, the point of this posting is “luring”. Luring is not ambushing. LURING is to attract or entice the dog into a trap to kill and eat it. Coyotes would never put themselves, using their bodies, at risk for death by engaging in this.

      So it sounds as though your pup was indeed attacked because the coyotes thought of him as prey. Not ambushed. Not lured.

      Please don’t leave your pet unattended out of doors: coyotes don’t know who is a pet and who is not.

      Hope this helps!


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