Do Coyotes Kill Each Other?

Hi Janet, I have been looking at your website and very interesting blog—love the YouTube videos of coyote vocalizations.

I live on Whidbey Island and am fortunate to have coyotes around me on my 5-acre property–even last summer having a litter of 4 pups born on my property who used to frolic in my heath and heather near the house.

Yesterday, I found two large incisors that might possibly be from a coyote.  Last week, there were at least a couple yipping it up and barking just outside my home in the landscaped area around the house.  I also found a tuft of coarse grayish hair that looks to be the color of one of the pups that lives in or near my property.  My question:  do coyotes attack and kill each other?  I am hoping that nothing has happened to either the mom or one of her pups that regularly hunt on my property.

A little about me:  I have a Master’s in Psychology, with an emphasis on animal behavior.  Hence, my interest in coyote behavior.

I love having the animals around me and as I work in my landscape, they sometimes will sit and watch me or as with the pup, lie down with their legs outstretched and watch me for a brief time.  I think they are as fascinated with me as I am with them!

Thanks for championing their protection.  They have a vital place in the environment and they help keep the rabbit population in my area slightly reduced.


Battle wounds from territorial conflicts

Hi Cindy!

Thanks for contacting me. So glad you are enjoying, and hopefully learning from, the blog and videos! And so glad you are a supporter of the wildlife, especially the coyotes, around where you live. Lucky you to have the acreage that can include a coyote family!!  :))

My knowledge of coyotes killing one another is limited. I have never seen it happen.

I have seen vicious fighting: and

I’ve seen tail-pulling which definitely would yank some of the fur off — in this case, when two siblings were driving out a third sibling:

And I’ve heard of two instances where angry coyote rivals on adjacent territories and probably vying for expansion into the other’s territory,  have killed the pups of their adversaries, but I have no way of confirming this — these “stories” were of “intruding” coyotes doing the harm, which is pretty unheard of — except these two unconfirmed stories I’m telling you about.

I believe a coyote will fight another coyote if that other coyote puts up continued resistance to leaving a territory, but in almost all instances, after a very initial encounter (with minimal damage inflicted) and due to reading each other’s body language, both parties know who will win the battle, and the weaker individual flees the situation rather than endanger his/her life through intense engagement.

I wrote a friend, Lou, to get his insights on your question — he’s out with coyotes constantly in his ranching work. He says,

“I personally have never seen or heard of a coyote killing another. I suspect there are occasionally intense maulings. Usually, the loser quickly runs, or appeases and creates safety/space.

I have also seen where coyote pairs seem to have lost pups to wolves and definitely dogs. Perhaps a dominant coyote pair may kill intruding pups, but I’ve never seen this either. Could it happen? Likely. But my impressions of coyote is they have moments of fierceness but it’s [just] moments. They flee quickly when they lose a fight and they are usually quick to stop attacking when a submissive signal is given.

If it would be rare. The situation would be unique and unusual.  PS-that being said, I have seen coyote with tremendously scarred faces indicating big battles. Whether it came from wolf or dog or coyote i couldn’t say. But as you’ve seen they can fight fiercely.

My impression is wolves and dogs quite often kill each other. Coyote quite often fight but then one runs and it’s over. (Usually is always my go to. Coyote always surprise)”

Dogs can and do easily kill coyotes, and it’s very possible that a dog came through your area.  :((

Right now it’s mating season. Males indeed are guarding/protecting their mates. Those hormones are powerful incite-ors (I made up that word, but I think it makes sense), as can be seen by watching videos of the animal kingdom. At the same time, territorial ownership is being confirmed and even challenged.

Please let me know if this helps at all. Also, if you have any stories you’d like to share on my blog, I would love to post them! It helps round-out the picture to have more people in different situations writing about them. Please let me know!  :))


An Intruder Elicits Reactions: revealed in a field camera

The most interesting thing about this video is the vocalizations which appear at 1:45 as the family heads out. They are in a hurry and have purpose: I’m certain they are after the Intruder, based on all the rest of their behavior in this video. There are also high-pitched squeaky vocalizations at the end of the video clip. Otherwise, the rest of the video is silent.

The cast consists of Dad, Mom and two youngsters, in addition to a mature Intruder. The scene opens with Dad kicking dirt angrily and urinating: he does not like what he finds out which is that an intruder — one he’s known about for the last little while — has been by. At about :28 his mate joins. She enters their fence hole at :32 followed by him after he angrily kicks dirt again.

One of their youngsters is with them: he does not go through the hole in the fence, but follows the fenceline a short distance and then returns and slithers through the hole at :59.

At 1:03 Dad is back scratching at the earth and then slithers through the hole again; Youngster then appears and seems perplexed at what he’s smelling — he seems to stand back and think about it before passing through the fence hole at 1:41 and a second youngster slithers through at 1:53.

At 1:45 are the vocalizations. They have been vocally quiet until now, but at 1:45 either Mom or Dad vocalizes loudly — it sounds like a bugle-like call to action — as all four head out together quickly and purposefully.

At 2:00 a youngster returns and sniffs the area intently again before passing through the hole at 2:34. At 2:40 the same coyote is back sniffing and passes thru the fence hole again at 2:55.

At the 2:58 mark, Mom returns to look around and then passes thru the hole at 3:13. That’s then Dad going thru at the 3:21 mark. Youngster follows at 3:36 and then another youngster at 3:37, followed almost immediately by second Youngster at 3:38.

The reactive actions occurred all during a six and a half hour window of time at night; by the next evening no family members were sniffing for the intruder’s presence.

At 3:44, the Intruder sits in front of the camera in daylight and you can get a very clear picture of who he is. He is not part of the family, but has been hanging around the periphery of the this territory.

At 4:23 there is a fast chase several hundred feet from the previous scenes. The camera was not fast enough to catch the first guy which would have been the intruder, and then the two alpha parents (Mom and Dad) going after him. At 4:49 they return making very high pitched squeaking noises, and then at 4:41 they seem to celebrate their success with body and muzzle rubs and wagging tails as they rejoin a youngster who did not accompany them on the chase..

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Anxiously Awaiting: a family’s cursory rendezvous

Each rendezvous is different in the details, though the purpose remains the same: a family coming together before their family trekking activities at dusk. I’m posting this to show how different these get-togethers can be. My previous rendezvous posting (a different family) included Mom and Dad and two 9 month old pups and two youngsters didn’t show up: from Dad there was discipline, growling, baring of teeth, hierarchy demands. Mom wanted to be left alone. Breeding season being right around the bend probably had something to do with their behavior. That family lingered around for about half an hour before taking off, but not this one.

Mom appeared suddenly and was all business: she was searching for family members.

This one began with Mom suddenly showing up alone in the waning daylight hours. She was edgy and highly alert and purposeful, looking around searchingly for the appearance of other family members, all the while keeping her eyes on the waning activity of people and dogs. At first she walked around a very small area, above, then, below, she stood in one spot where she eventually lay down, turning her head continually from side to side searchingly.

After a few minutes of walking around, she posted herself in one spot and kept looking around, then she stretched, continuing to look around, but now from a laying down position.

After she departed for her another walkaround (below) — waiting and waiting, searching and searching — a yearling abruptly appeared on the hill without me having seen where he came from. Mom immediately returned to where he was and approached him with a quick greeting: nose touches and there was warmth: no snarling at the youngsters as you saw in the previous posting. Then again, this yearling is a full year older than the pups in my last posting.

She got up to search further than what from where she had perched herself, stretching and then returning to her post.

More than any other coyote I’ve ever seen, this alpha mom appears to feel responsible for the safety of all her family members — she exudes this, even years ago, before she had her first family, when she acquired her very first companion after being a loner for four years: Anxious and Concerned for HIS Safety. Maybe all coyotes feel this way, but this coyote puts it on full display.

This time, when she returned to her post, a yearling son was there who she warmly greeted. He must have been one of the individuals she had been looking for and awaiting. Mom is the smaller and wiser coyote on the right.

Mom continued in her anxious state: again she hurried away a few feet, apparently looking for another family member and the yearling followed part way. Suddenly I could see Mom relax — she must of spotted whoever else she had been looking for. I caught only a short focused video (below) (between long stretches when the camera wouldn’t autofocus because of lack of light), of the two of them trotting happily up a hill, wiggling, rubbing against each other and the pup reaching for her and almost embracing her.

The three of them were ready to go, and they headed off together, the same as the other family had. Once out of view, within a few minutes, from behind the bushes, they began a howling session: it was a cacophony of vocalizations which sounded like many more than probably the 5 that were there — it sounded as though the rest of the family, two others: a pup and Dad, had joined them, even though they had never come into view for me. What stood out here was Mom’s anxious awaiting: once the two yearlings appeared in rapid succession, the family was off, joined, it sounded like, by two other family members. I recorded the howling, but the wind absolutely messed it up, so I’m not going to post it.

ASIDE: A happy rendezvous does not necessarily signify that all is running smoothly. Ups and downs come and go. Over the last week or so, a friend reported that there have been intense fighting noises going on at 5 am — repeatedly in this area. What might this mean? It could be two brothers going at it. It could be Dad working to disperse the male yearlings. And then again, it could be a non-family, territorial battle between this family and the coyote family which used to occupy the area but has been moved over: both families hurry through borderline sections of their distinct territories, and they may be establishing more definite boundaries.

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