Human Interference/Interactions with Coyotes

The Moraga/Lafayette coyote (or see PDF) we’ve all heard about and which is still on many people’s minds, should be seen as a strange anomaly: a single coyote apparently inflicting five bites over an 8 month period — something of this dimension has has not been heard of before. More than likely, there was human involvement in the way of hand-feeding and friendly interactions which may be at the core of what went on. A handful of innocent coyotes were put down before the “culprit” was identified. In other words, innocent animals were condemned. But also, even the “culprit” was simply following through on a trajectory initiated by humans.

I was sent the photographs below, along with a note from the photographer, in February of 2009 but I never published them because I found them very disturbing. Now might be the time to finally get them out there. And here is a video of a human playfully taunting and encouraging interaction with a coyote — the author calls it, “Coyote Attack: Best Footage Ever,” — he obviously published this video for its effect. You just have to look at it to see the coyote isn’t attacking at all so much as being incited by the human doing the videoing — the coyote is not snarling nor in attack mode. The videoer is almost playing tug-of-war-with the coyote as he extends out his foot. When I recently heard of a coyote going up, grabbing and then pulling on an individual’s pant leg, these are the things I thought about. You have to ask yourself, why ever would a coyote do that unless he had been incited by someone to do that?

Interactions with humans are what may lead to what happened at Moraga/Lafayette. This along with an innate higher feistiness of a particular coyote. Please don’t hand-feed or interact with coyotes for their sake as well as for ours. Although it might seem as though these interactions are benign, and most of the time they are innocent, there’s a lot more going on than that initial interaction, and in the end, it’s not good for anyone involved: coyote or human.

click on the photos to enlarge them and scroll through them

Coyotes in Whistler, BC
I happened onto your site. I have had a few interactions with the critters and have a series of photos of one of them. Here is a description of the episode.
Coyotes at pit. My hand was attached to the fingers in the pic. This process took about 4 meetings. Only one was curious enough to get close, the other would only take a biscuit if I tossed it 30 feet from me. The curious one would come up (I had to be crouched, otherwise it would not come close) get close, sniff me and walk right around me.

Hi ‘Coyotes in Whistler, BC’ —

Thanks for sharing your photos with me.

You know, I’m an advocate of coyotes and want people to know how to get along with them. One of the issues which comes up is feeding coyotes — especially hand-feeding them. This may cause them to eventually approach other people who are actually afraid of them. It could cause demand behavior.” Those people end up reporting “aggressive” and “dangerous” coyotes to the authorities, who then go out with guns to shoot them. So in fact, this kind of activity is discouraged by those of us who really like the animals.

I would love to post your photos and story on the blog, but it would be with the above advice, and that it is at the expense of the coyote that a person might engage in feeding them.

Please let me know if you would allow this. Thanks!! Janet

Hi Janet —

I appreciate your advice and admonition.If you want to publish them as a bad example and it helps you get your point across, go ahead, it is a good cause.

Friendly Coyote Video, by John Cremer

It started when I was playing with Minnie when the Coyote appeared. She watched for a bit, and then started romping around as I threw the ball to Minnie. I tried to remain quiet and still and eventually she came down near us. I did not encourage any contact, and broke off play with Minnie and the coyote moved along.

At no time did I feel threatened, same goes for our dog, who basically ignored the coyote.

Friendly Coyote Tags Along

Coyotes are social critters. They mostly live in families and do things together. But when they are dispersed from their birth territories, they leave behind their intense social life for a while. They remain alone for a period of time as loners, transients or interlopers. During this time, they have no one from their own species to socialize with or to play with. Yet they are young, and we all know that youngsters need to, and like to, play. Observers have commented that there appears to be boredom and loneliness in their lives, and indeed I’ve observed the same thing. Coyotes are extremely intelligent and learn to fill their empty time with activities born of their active imaginations, be it play, or a *pretend* social life.

Coyotes, like humans, play a good deal of the time. Their *play* is often *innovative* and may include playing, be it mildly or intensely, with found objects and sometimes treating them as prey. It may involve battling a stick alone because there is no one to play tug-of-war with — coyotes play among themselves this way all the time. It may involve curling up into a little ball and rolling down a hill clenching a ball or even its tail. It may involve caressing a ball and rolling with it on the ground.

The need to socialize also continues. So*stand-ins* are found for *companionship*. The bill may be filled by simply watching dogs play with other dogs and their owners. It could involve approaching dogs playfully in the hopes of engaging on some level with them, if only to get a reaction. It may involve friendly *following* of a dog walker for a short distance.

This video was taken by Jeff Garner who has two large dogs (100 pounds) which he walks daily. The coyote in the video, a young loner, knows them, and they know her: each knows the other’s moods and capabilities due to watching and some unexpected *chasing* when the coyote first came here. In this short video, the coyote tags along on a short section of the walk after approaching playfully. Notice that when something more interesting catches the coyote’s eye — movement in the grasses — she hurries over to examine what it is. She is not focused on the dogs as either threats to her, or to message them to leave her alone. No, she is following for nothing more than entertainment and company.

I’ve seen other loner coyotes who play with a few selected and trusted dogs — something I wouldn’t have believed, except that I’ve seen it many times now. In all cases, the activity began by chance. Owners have reported to me repeatedly that the coyote was seeking company, and indeed, this appears to be so. Dog and coyote don’t ever really become trusted *buddies* for one another, rather it is a very short but friendly interaction. *The civilized and the wild* (or, should I say, *the civilized* and *the becoming civilized*), both sharing an urban environment, touch each other tangentially for a few moments before moving back to parallel worlds whose dictates keep them apart.

Be this as it may, we counsel everyone to please not allow interaction. A coyote could very well end up nipping a dog — on the tail is not unusual. If a coyote approaches, leash your dog and keep walking away, as Jeff is doing in this video. Coyotes are wild animals, they can be unpredictable. Also, allowing your dog, who gets along with the coyote, to interact with a coyote may encourage that coyote to approach a dog who may not have the same feelings towards the coyote that your dog has. We’re trying to keep everyone safe, and feeling safe.