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!  :))


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Claire Perry Artwork
    Feb 27, 2023 @ 15:14:33

    Thank you for sharing this, Janet. Always fascinating to learn about our coyotes from you.


  2. Lisa Febre
    Feb 27, 2023 @ 15:17:21

    I don’t have anything to add, just leaving a comment so you know I’m still reading along. This is a fascinating topic, though, and I often worry for coyotes out in our park when I see big dogs off leash. Since I’m a volunteer with the CA State Parks, if I’m “on duty” and wearing my patch, I’ll remind people that dogs are not allowed off leash in the park. I’m sure they release them again once I’m out of sight, but it’s the best I can do.


  3. Gina
    Feb 27, 2023 @ 22:31:42

    I’m just remembering the epic battle between Scout, who lived in our neighborhood, and an intruding female (“Wired”) a few years ago. My recollection is that Scout very nearly had her throat ripped open in that fight, and so she probably just barely escaped being killed. Janet – what do you think?


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Feb 27, 2023 @ 23:24:46

      Wired wanted her gone, but Scout put up a brave fight and was willing to risk injury to keep HER hill — and the young male Hunter who she had attracted. In Scout’s eyes, it was SCOUT’s hill — and she kept returning for six months trying to get it back. Nonetheless, notice that Scout withdrew before fatal injuries might have occurred: and this is what Lou and I have seen — it’s not a “to the death” battle usually for coyotes because they know when they’ve been had. Remember that Wired had a radio-collar which served as armour around her neck, so Scout could not inflict injuries that might have driven Wired away. Also, Scout’s wounds became infected which I suppose could have killed her. Coyotes can normally fight infection, so I wonder, in the case of Scout, if all that human feeding might have lowered her immune response — just a thought. But to get back to the point, I don’t think Wired would have killed her on purpose — she wanted to drive her away. There may be cases that prove me wrong — I’m relaying what I’ve seen personally, and Lou seems to have seen the same pattern. Thanks, Gina!!

  4. Dr. James B. Mense
    Feb 28, 2023 @ 04:35:58

    “It’s interesting that most academic degrees in animal behavior are about domestic animals (pets and farm animals)”
    My goodness, Janet! I remember when I was in school almost 50 years ago that a number of Graduate students were studying behavior of wild animals.
    Here is a Review of 83 studies of behavioral changes of wild mammals in urban environments between 1987 and 2020.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Feb 28, 2023 @ 19:52:41

      I’ve removed the paragraph, as it was obviously confusing. My data was for the veterinary field which is where a substantial number of Animal Behaviorists end up. A “behavior” usually involves studying animal responses to controlled (controlled by humans) situations, whereas Ethology is the study/observation of wild animal behavior in their specific environments without interference. I’m sure with the rise in environmentalism, more and more folks are looking at the effect of climate change on wild species.

  5. patti p.
    Mar 13, 2023 @ 23:57:52

    I was so interested in your answer here. A month or so ago, I found what appeared to be a newly killed/largely eaten coyote just off trail in a regional park. My first thought was it was a mountain lion attack. In that event, I reported it to park rangers. They checked it out, but didn’t close the trail or post warning signs, so I figured maybe they saw something I didn’t. A fellow iNaturalist user suggested it may have been a territorial dispute between two male coyotes. I was skeptical, but there did not appear to be a good explanation. Your post offers clarity, but now I’m back to the larger predator theory…

    (I’m a huge coyote fan and your blog is wonderful.)


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Mar 14, 2023 @ 00:08:10

      Hi Patti — All we can go by is is what we know by what we’ve seen. What I wrote was what I’ve seen; and Lou seemed to confirm this. If you happen to see something different, by all means, it needs to be added to our information. So far, your evidence isn’t conclusive. And by the way, dogs also maul and kill coyotes. This could have happened, and then another predator could have scavenged the body. OR, even a car could have killed the coyote and it could have been dragged to where you found it. In that case, I would think the predator was a mountain lion. If you find out anything new, please keep me/us posted here. Thank you for your input! Janet

  6. patti p.
    Mar 14, 2023 @ 00:43:56

    Hi, Janet, thank you so much for the response. The only other piece of information that was interesting was this death coincided with the injury of a regular coyote I’d been “following” for the past several months. The day I found the cadaver, the coyote I’d been following had blood on his back leg and what appeared to be a small spot of blood on his head. The next day, he was limping. After that, he disappeared (approximately two months ago). The site of the cadaver showed quite a bit of trampled vegetation and tufts of fur. (I have photos, but I won’t forward them unless you’re interested.) Ultimately, you’re right–I don’t have anything conclusive, and, to my great frustration, this will likely remain one of nature’s mysteries.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Mar 14, 2023 @ 04:33:33

      Hi Patti — Very interesting! It’s like a puzzle, isn’t it? Yes, I’d be very interested in the photos. Would you please send them to Raccoons can also kill coyotes, especially if the coyote is compromised in some way. Thank you! Janet

    • Madeleine
      Mar 16, 2023 @ 05:36:57

      I read your response and immediately thought of my own experience last fall.

      I had been having issues with the neighbors shooting their rifles in to the woods – I was incensed! I confronted the shooter and said there was no shooting allowed – there’s neighbors everywhere, livestock, etc. He apologized. I called Fish and Wildlife. About a week later, my dog and I were walking in the woods, and we came across a dead coyote pup – vegetation trampled and lots of hair tufts all over the ground. F & W at this calling came out and said the coyote pup was most likely poisoned. F & W also went over to speak with them.

      The pup would have been in agony – poisoning, slowly dying in horrible pain and agony. I buried the pup and found several times it had been scavenged – each time I reburied the cadaver, the burial spot was dug up, and after a few weeks, what remained were bones.

      Thank you for being among the wildlife supporters and friends.

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