Insistence in Coyotes

Dear Janet,

My name is Lynn and I live in Berkeley.  About one year ago my friend Billee told me about something that happened to her son Tod, who’s about 20, when he was walking home late one night from a cafe where he played guitar.  He was on a tiny narrow street of houses en route to his house which is near that mountain that has the cross on top of it.  He noticed some– what he thought were dogs– slipping around him and then two coyotes faced him in the road.  He’s an outdoors guy, he’s always been an independent kid, and their family is a very kindly anti-materialist family with ancient pets who live forever and are cherished the whole time– just so you know.  Well to Tod these two scared him so much– he could not pass them, and I believe him.  It went on a long time and he ended up yelling for help and a woman called to her husband to open the door when she looked out from an upstairs window.  He opened the door and Tod ran inside their house.

He could not get used to the feeling that these animals really felt such ill will toward him.  But that was clear to him.

When he got home,  nobody could believe in this experience, especially his brother who picked him up.  But I believe it must have been true because why should he lie?  He just isn’t like that.  I thought maybe someone was feeding them there, and they thought Tod had come to steal their food.

I’m so glad to be able to ask you about this.  I read about coyotes in the book, “The Secret Lives of Dogs”.  I think that’s the title.  It was very poignant, about the coyotes. It said, “they know people hate them.”  If that’s true I hope they don’t know it.

Sincerely, Lynn

Hi Lynn —

Thanks for contacting me about this story! It’s an interesting one, and I’ll give you my thoughts about it.

I think there are various things that might be coming into play here. First, late night and shadows can play tricks on human imaginations — especially if the human is tired or might have had a little bit of alcohol or such? But also, depending on the time of year, a parent coyote could have shown a little more bravado or insistence than normal if a youngster coyote was nearby that the parent wanted to protect. And I’ve seen males become protective of their females in the same manner at certain times of the year. Another possibility is that these coyotes could have been protecting a source of food that they just found — say some garbage.

If a coyote is insistent, which is what Tod was saying, it can be VERY frightening. This actually happened to me once years ago. It was the coyote’s insistence that was so scary because it left me feeling helpless: none of my actions caused the coyote to move, and resorting to screaming for help did not work either (no one heard me), but walking away, with my dog in tow, did help. This is what the coyote wanted.

There is also something known as “demand behavior”: (see “Demand Behavior”). You speculated that Tod might have looked like someone else who had been feeding them. I suppose this also could have been driving those coyotes’ behaviors.

It’s important for everyone to know that anyone can save themselves a lot of anxiety and fear by always backing off and moving away from a coyote the minute you see one, before it ever even comes to what happened to Tod. Tod’s kind of encounter doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s best for us all to remember to take the step that’s easiest, most comfortable, and most effective for us and the coyotes: move away and then keep moving away. That’s really what they want.

I don’t believe the coyotes were after Tod due to ill-will towards him or humans in general. IF coyotes harbor any ill-will towards humans, as far as I know it would be in areas where humans caused that ill-will in the first place. I’m in contact with ranchers who have confirmed my own observations: where coyotes are respected and left alone, coexistence works well. But where coyotes are persecuted/killed, there’s a never ending battle revolving around a coyote’s need for survival. Read some of the postings on my blog by Walkaboutlou. So yes, I’m sure they know and feel the hate and antipathy towards them where people indeed have persecuted and hated them. Interestingly, I myself have felt the continued animosity of several walkers who I’ve had to confront about their unleashed dogs chasing coyotes: it’s palpable.

Hope this helps? Let me know if you want to discuss more!!


The minute you see a coyote, even if it is in the distance, walk away from it rather than getting closer and closer.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gail
    Dec 10, 2019 @ 04:06:31

    I believe there is some sense in many coyotes that humans can be a danger, therefore their relatively recent tendency for many to hunt and feed mostly at night. This may differ in various geographic locations. “Ill will” seems a bit anthropomorphic; coyotes are better than that.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Dec 10, 2019 @ 04:22:40

      Hi Gail — Yes, I agree. But they sometimes aren’t running from the danger, rather they are standing up for themselves and their space in an “insistent” way. It’s this insistent defense of the space they are in that scares some people. And yes, I agree that “ill will” and “hate” are known as human feelings and not coyote ones. Thanks for your input!! Janet

  2. lancer223
    Dec 10, 2019 @ 04:58:18

    This is so right on. Thank you Janet for your info to all to help know and facilate existing with these facinating creatures. I enjoy visiting their domain at dusk in MacLauren Park and checking them out (and being checked out by them too.) People all need to realize that they are part of our environment here and learn to live in peace with them.


  3. Hilary Cole
    Dec 10, 2019 @ 07:57:58

    Hi Janet and Gail,

    I definitely agree with you both… I don’t think they feel that sort of ill will towards people.. but I feel that they are wary, and will stand in defence if the are protecting, either their pups or territories, and that to me is quite justified, considering the way in which they are persecuted.

    The Coyotes mentioned, I think had a good reason for their stance, but I don’t think they meant any harm to the person involved…

    As you say .. if you see one, just back off and leave them be. To stand your ground could be construed as a challenge …

    All in all, I think they are very much misunderstood, and treated terribly.. which saddens me greatly…

    Very interesting article tho…

    Hilary Cole 😊


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Dec 10, 2019 @ 22:23:51

      Hi Hilary — Yes, it’s really obvious from what I hear that these animals are terribly misunderstood. Their “insistence” in protecting their space is just that: an insistence. The only way for them to get their message across effectively is to be insistent in their messaging. Humans will always be a potential threat to them due to our larger size and intelligence. We can let them know we are not a threat by simply walking away — and then the incident is over.

    • Hilary Cole
      Dec 11, 2019 @ 10:06:08

      Hi Janet.. yes definitely agree with what you say… walking away is the best bet bet in most cases…

      Hilary 😊

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