Coyote Voicings

Artwork by Kanyon Sayers-Roods

I have added to my Introductory Pages a writeup of Coyote Voicings — Yips, Howls and other Vocalizations: a Panoply of Sounds and Situations.

Summary: Coyote communication occurs mostly via eye contact, facial expressions and body language and it can be very subtle. Coyotes are not forever vocal as humans are; they tend to be on the quiet side — except when they aren’t! Here I explain their voice communications, based on my own daily dedicated observations over the past 11 years, and then I give about 20 examples, chosen from about a thousand that I’ve recorded.

A Puddle

This scene brought to mind the opening line in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “One Hundred Years of Solitude”,  where the author remembers going “to discover ice”.  Here, the discovery is water. Of course, the coyote knows water — he drinks it all the time, but here he seems to discover something about it beyond its thirst-quenching capabilities or its wetness. For one, the large puddle suddenly appeared where there hadn’t been one only the day before: THAT was something to investigate.

The youngster, a six-month old, curiously tests and discovers its qualities as an object and a phenomenon.  He touches its surface several times: it sends out waves when he does so, he can step through it even though it looks solid, he can see reflections (might he see himself?), it splashes, he can lift a little on his paw before it falls apart and off his paw, he can feel it and it “responds” but doesn’t hurt him, and of course he can drink it, and it’s wet and cold. The natural world is endlessly fascinating, isn’t it!

I was able to capture some still shots when this occurred, which you see above. The video, which I switched to at the very end, captures only the last few seconds of the coyote’s charming investigation.

“Messaging” May Include Growling

Coyotes live in all of our parks, and they can be seen on the streets sometimes. So always remain vigilant when out walking your dog. If you see a coyote, keep away from it. Most of the time coyotes will flee as they see you coming, but sometimes they may not, and I want to address this potentiality here. The safest protocol always is to shorten your leash and walk the other way, no matter how far or near a coyote is. This sends a signal to the coyote that you and your dog are not there to challenge the coyote’s personal or territorial space.

If you see a coyote while walking your dog, shorten your leash and go the other way.

Coyotes are territorial animals. They don’t allow coyotes other than family members into their territories unless they’re maybe just passing through. The good news about this is that territoriality keeps the coyote population down naturally in any particular area. You and your leashed dog should just keep walking on and away from the coyote — just passing through.

Coyotes and dogs know how to read each other on a level that we humans are not very tuned into: the same thing occurs between dogs: one twitched facial muscle reveals their position to other dogs.  So, when walking your dog, please don’t stop and allow this communication to take place or be acted upon — just keep walking away, dragging your dog after you if you must, showing the coyote that you have no interest in her/him.

If for some reason you find yourself closer to a coyote than you should be and the coyote growls at your dog — know that this is a warning message meant to keep your dog from coming closer: “please stay away from me”, “please don’t come closer”, “please go away”.  It may be set off by the dog being in, or heading for, the coyote’s personal or territorial space, and/or may involve negative communication between the animals. It is not necessarily an indication that it’s “an aggressive coyote”, rather,  it’s more likely to be “defensive” behavior aimed at making the dog keep its distance or leave. Please heed the message!  Coyotes and dogs generally do not like each other. Every coyote I know has been chased multiple times by dogs, and they remember this and are ready for the next time, or the next dog. You can prevent this message from escalating by shortening your leash and walking away — this shows the coyote you aren’t a threat, and the coyote will learn this.

If you have a dog, always walk away from a coyote, dragging your dog if you have to.

This also holds true for when you are in your car with a dog. If close enough, the coyote might growl if he/she perceives your dog — who is usually hanging out the window and staring or even barking — as a territorial or personal threat. It’s best to drive on rather than allow visual communication between your dog and a coyote.

A coyote who is walking towards you, again is messaging you more than anything else: making sure you are aware of its presence so that you and your dog will know he/she is there, i.e., that the territory is taken, and possibly even assessing if the dog will come after it. There’s an aspect of curiosity here, but it’s more investigative. Again, just walk away, and keep walking away with your short-leashed dog in-tow, even if the coyote follows you for a little bit.

Prevention is always the best policy, and that involves keeping your distance. Once your dog and a coyote have engaged, you’ll have to try your best to pull your dog away and then keep moving away from the coyote. Scare tactics — such as making eye-contact, lunging at (without getting close), clapping and shouting aggressively at a coyote — do not always work. If you choose to shoo it away, follow the guidelines in the video at the top of this blog: Coyotes As Neighbors: what to know and do, but know that it’s best to practice utter prevention proactively than to reactively have to scare off a coyote who comes too close.

Here is a concise flyer on  How to Handle A Coyote Encounter: A Primer.

[These guidelines are the most effective, and the safest I have seen, based on my daily observations of interactions between coyotes, dogs and people in our parks over the past 11 years]

FACTS MATTER #resist — (STOP Trapping)

Sadly, trapping continues big time in vast areas of the country in the name of “management”. This policy produces harm and heartache for the animals and for those of us who care about them. It’s not management, it’s animal abuse and it’s shameful — an immense contradiction for the human species which considers itself the custodians of our planet. Let’s practice the values we believe in. Real “management” involves simple education. Let’s get information out to folks to help turn the tide. This posting is towards that end.

The letter I wrote in a comment below has information for people who don’t know that trapping has only negative consequences. Even those people who love coyotes often believe relocation is best for the coyote and the humane thing to do — they are innocent of the truth. We need to let them know the truth, and at the same time let them know that precautions to make coexistence work are indeed simple.
*[Trapping is not occurring in SF, but it is happening elsewhere. SF has a stellar coyote coexistence policy based on education. Yay, San Francisco!]

A. Resist trapping and killing coyotes in your area

Facts prove that coyotes are not dangerous to humans: they avoid humans. Pets can easily be protected by following simple guidelines. Unbeknownst to many, trapping ALWAYS leads to killing (see letter in comment below). Please #resist those instigating trap and kill policies. Please help get educational materials out to everyone — we all have a stake in this. Call your supervisors, homeowner associations, social media and neighbors: let them know what you think about outmoded trap/kill policies and give them current educational materials.

B. Simple, Effective Guidelines:

1) Keep your distance always from all wildlife and don’t approach — the more distance, the better. 

2) Allowing cats to roam free puts them in danger from dogs, cars, raccoons, coyotes and more. Coyotes don’t know who is a pet and who isn’t: how would they know the difference between a cat and any other prey?

3) Always remain vigilant while walking your pet. If you see a coyote, at any distance, while out with your dog: leash right away, shorten your leash, and walk the other way. See “How to Handle A Coyote Encounter”, below.

C. Focused, Factual Resources:

1) “Coyotes as Neighbors, what to know and do”, an introductory video presentation. [Also in Spanish, Mandarin, shortened English version].

2) “How to Handle A Coyote Encounter”, a downloadable, concise and informative flyer. More coexistence guides can be found on the website.

3) Inside A Coyote Family, an article which appeared in WildCare Magazine about coyote family life. More about coyote behavior and family life can be found on

D. Why Trapping is Inhumane and Doesn’t Work:

See letter by Yipps in the comments for a sample letter you could write about why trapping is inhumane and doesn’t work.

For a flyer version, press here: FACTSMATTER#resist

UrbanCoyoteSquared GALLERY

I have posted a new photo gallery in my Introduction Pages: UrbanCoyoteSquared GALLERY.  Enjoy!!

Coyote Sibling Discord

These are two siblings who, until only a few weeks ago, were buddies and pals.  SHE is the older, by a year, and HE used to love hanging out with her, copying her, and watching her. I never saw any animosity, and the rank difference must have simply been understood: all small pups begin with a low in rank: they are small and they don’t know very much, so SHE was above.

Then, Mom belted the older female which I delineate in detail in a previous posting,  Beatings: Rank Issues Leading to Dispersal. This younger brother participated in the lashing of his older sister. Ever since then, the younger male lords it over his older female sibling who remains subservient, crouched to the ground and lower than her brother, yet she lets her true feelings be known with a snap now and then. The young male often continues these bouts of provocation for several minutes and then wanders off, but sometimes, he begins anew.

I still don’t know if the battle in the previous posting was simply a hierarchical one, or if it was meant to actually drive this female out: it was ferocious. We’ll find out eventually, but for now, she’s still there.

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