My Run-In with a Coyote (I had a dog with me)

Yes, this happened to me because I had let down my guard.

The background is that most evenings I set up a couple of field cameras where I know coyotes frequent. I usually go alone, but lately I’ve been dog-sitting my *granddog*: my oldest son drops Zak off at our home on days he will be out for a long period of time.

Zak knows my routine and has the choice of staying home with my husband or coming with me. I was actually hoping he might want to stay home, but as he heard me get ready to leave, there he was at my feet, wagging his tail and looking up inquiringly: “May I come?” I’m always impressed with animal communication and I couldn’t stand to let him down, knowing he wanted to accompany me. So I said, “Okay, you can come!” He excitedly went to get his ball and then waited for me ebulliently. When I tell him, “No, not this time,” with no emphasis on any of the words, just speaking like I would to anyone else, he knows exactly what I mean. He walks slowly over to his bed and curls up, offering me a knowing and forlorn look as I thank him for staying home to guard the house.

Zak is a little mostly-beagle-and-hound of some sort, weighing about 45 pounds. At the Peninsula SPCA, it’s this little dog who chose my son, my grown son, by jumping on him repeatedly and almost beseechingly: “I want YOU to take me; please choose ME; we could be BUDDIES”. He communicated his wishes well and endearingly and my son chose him because the dog had chosen him. That was five years ago. I watch the dog when my son is busy for extended periods of time.

I’m writing about this dog, because it’s actually your dog companion who creates all issues with coyotes — not you.

So, Zak came with me. We got in the car and drove to a park where we walked and greeted other dogs. Zak is always on a leash. Then Zak and I headed to a couple of other parks to set up a couple of field cameras. It was dark by the time we entered the last park: 8:30 at night. My field camera was already set up at this place and all I needed to do was change the media card and check the batteries. I hadn’t seen coyotes for quite some time in this place even though the camera showed they were there regularly towards midnight. So my guard was not up for an encounter — I definitely did not have my eyes open for them.

As we reached the camera I was suddenly startled into alertness with a scream point blank under foot — and I’m not exaggerating: it was right at my feet. The field camera in fact caught the scream, so I’m including it here. I pulled Zak closer to me and shone the flashlight into the darkness. And there she was, the alpha female of the territory who I could see (at that time, a month ago) was very pregnant. The coyote had approached us from behind and emitted that unsettling scream as a warning to get us to leave. It was startling and unnerving more than anything else. If there had been enough daylight to see her, I probably would also have seen her in her scary *halloween cat stance*. This is how coyotes *message* dogs when they feel intruded upon. I’m always at a distance, and I’m always without a dog when I observe coyotes: the dog is what upset her and drew her towards us. With the flashlight aimed at her, she moved about 75 feet away from us and sat under a tree, keeping an eye on us — I was able to capture a flashlight shot of her before Zak and I walked away quickly. I won’t be taking Zak with me anymore to that site.

Here is the short several seconds of video — it’s the sudden and startlingly loud scream I want you to hear — it’s a vocalization I haven’t posted before. It’s freaky and scary, especially because it was so close and so unexpected in the quiet of the night — a very effective message telling us to get out of there.

And here is one of the few non-blurry photos I captured of her with my flashlight.

Please remember that dogs and coyotes do not mix — they don’t like each other. A coyote will warn a dog around denning areas, and this can happen as far away, as far as I have seen, as 1/4 mile from the actual den site. It’s always best to abide by the warning: please walk away from it to keep the peace! And avoid the area with your dog for the next little while. In a known coyote area, an encounter can occur when you least expect it — you need to stay alert and should always be prepared to walk away the instant you see a coyote. Keeping your dog leashed allows you to control the dog: to pull the dog towards you and away from the coyote. The leash does not keep a coyote away, which, weirdly, is what some people think.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bobbie Pyron
    Apr 29, 2022 @ 11:49:41

    Wow! She certainly made her point!

    Reply

  2. Lisa Febre
    Apr 29, 2022 @ 13:27:38

    WOW!! Just wow. So glad you & Zak are ok, but what a great capture. Dogs of all sorts are such great communicators that we can’t mistake their messages for what they are.

    After my close encounter two summers ago, I realized that it was my dogs they coyote was fixated on, not me. I have since become way more cautious, never bringing my dogs on the trails without a bell attached to my backpack and, if I can, a constant stream of chatter toward them.

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Apr 29, 2022 @ 21:30:41

      Hi Lisa — I don’t think Zak and I were ever in any physical danger — I just hadn’t used my noggin beforehand — I, of all people, should have been prepared: I should have been vigilant and ready. Yes, it’s always about the dogs. A coyote isn’t going to approach YOU specifically unless you intrude on a densite. Nice to hear from you! Janet

  3. yipps:janetkessler
    Apr 29, 2022 @ 21:48:51

    A friend wanted to know what Zak’s sentiments were with regard to the whole situation. Zak is a bit myopic — not at all interested in coyotes — I’m not even sure he appreciated what happened. Smells were much more appealing to him than the coyote herself, and he dove right into sniffing, paying the coyote no attention whatsoever. Coyotes probably think he’s an idiot!! :)) Part of this may be because I don’t get upset, so Zak may simply have taken his cue from me. ??

    Reply

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