Death — Not By A Car

This posting was prompted by these photos I was sent of a dead coyote along a roadside in the Presidio on July 11. The caption stated that the coyote had not been hit by a car but it was presumed the culprits were the resident alpha coyotes in that territory.

© David Soren Harelson, all rights reserved [a walker added the flowers]

I was surprised, based on what I know, by this Presidio wildlife manager’s assessment. Certainly the resident alpha female has shown herself to be an aggressor, but she has never fought to the death — her targets have always fled rather than fighting it out to the end. I have never seen, or even heard of coyotes actually killing one another. They flee from vicious attacks, as did two other coyotes who were assailed by this aggressive female.

I would think this death should be investigated as a vicious dog attack and not assumed as caused by another coyote. That aggressive dog would still be out there at large and needs to be reined in. Teeth wound marks can be examined by those in the know for what kind of animal was the aggressor. If it indeed was caused by a coyote, then it actually should be stated how unlikely and rare such an occurrence would be.

I sent the photo with my assessment to my most knowledgeable friend/colleague, Walkaboutlou, who has had over 30 years of direct experience with this type of thing. He agreed. I’m including his response for its information and educational value:

“Good morning Janet,

Thank you for sharing this information and pictures with me. Your question is a valid one, especially in view of the pics.”I will say at outset what I say always with coyote: Anything is possible. However, in over 30 years of actively studying, tracking and observing coyote coast to coast, I have never seen coyote kill one another in territorial or inter-pack aggressions. I have seen evidence of some fierce fighting, but all indications were coyote flee, or stop, before death. Then, from what I could see in pics, there are the forensics of the bite. I can almost guarantee the tooth measurements don’t match a coyote tooth spacing/size etc. And the lacerations are very “sloppy”. The extent of damage indicates severe violence and power — more than any coyote gives out in fighting. My dogs have hunted for over 30 years as well. I’ve seen what they can do. I’ve also seen many species give bites/injury to my dogs. Including coyote. They can be graphic, but not in this pattern.

I’ve seen this type of bite/attack in 2 settings.
1) I’ve seen it when LGD [livestock guardian dog] catch a trespassing canine, dog, or coyote. (but even this is rather unusual.)

2) Many years ago, I helped infiltrate and break up a dog fighting ring. It was a very proud moment to have those people arrested and jailed. It also meant I saw some horrible things. Many bully type dogs, when fighting, will create damage like this. It’s rather sloppy, powerful, wide and more of a tearing, thrashing bite. Unlike coyote, but very much like a bully/pit bull type or a large, powerful and ultra aggressive dog. I would say this is the result of a very aggressive, powerfully built dog.

That’s just my assessment. Behaviorally and physically, this appears to be dog on coyote fatality. Not coyote on coyote.

© David Soren Harelson, all rights reserved [examination by a Presidio wildlife specialist]

I believe scientific research and PROOF is invaluable. But other than that, it’s based on feelings, belief and inclination. Really, we have to study any situation as a culmination and truly look at evidence. If they wanted true answers, the bites and trauma would be forensically examined. Bite/tooth marks measured. And the ample previous studies perused. Dogs and wolves routinely kill each other. We have literal evidence of that by the hundreds. It simply doesn’t exist in coyote. They can fight (and do) but they are a coursing predator. They usually avoid serious injury and prolonged fighting. I’ve seen dogs kill other dogs and coyote/foxes/cats etc…this is typical trauma for a very powerful, specific type dog (bully type, LGD (rarely) or staghound hunter) In this environment I would say a very powerful bully type latched on. It might even of been a loose dog. It had a lot of aggression. Might have even been “told” to get coyote. This isn’t a normal outcome. I’ve never seen in life, film or study, coyote on coyote fight to death.”