Motion Reactivity in Coyotes


Motion reactivity is a big factor influencing coyote behavior. If you have a dog, you need to know about it.

Motion reactivity is a reaction to excessive or fast motion. Coyotes are programmed to react to this kind of stimulus. It’s because of this that we tell folks not to run from a coyote. When a coyote sees something running, say a running rabbit, it is immediately put on alert and pumped with adrenalin in preparation for pursuit. It is a hunting and a defensive instinct.

If your dog is actively chasing a ball, actively chasing or wrestling with another dog, or fighting with another dog, these involve fast and hyper motions. A coyote’s attention is immediately attracted to the activity. They stop what they are doing and are drawn to it.

Today, we saw a classic example of this motion reactivity. A dog walker, who knew a coyote was nearby, allowed her dog to walk off-leash in the area. The dog’s attention was caught by a juvenile Red-Tail Hawk who had slammed into the grasses to grab a rodent and then hovered close to the ground for a few seconds. None of us noticed how quickly the dog ran off, excited, enthusiastic and full of unleashed energy, after the hawk.

The dog’s excited dash across the field — involving hyperactive movements and speed — immediately caught the coyote’s attention. The coyote had been foraging calmly in the grassy field several hundred yards away — not at all close to where the hawk activity had been. She had been ignoring the continual stream of dogs and walkers passing by for the previous couple of hours, looking up only now and then from her own activity — they all had passed through calmly and uneventfully.

But when the hyperactivity began, and the dog’s quick movements were in her direction and away from the owner, the coyote’s instincts kicked in, and she dashed like a bullet towards the dog. As a number of people yelled at the owner to get her dog, the owner scrambled to do so and was able to leash the dog. The coyote stopped about 75 feet away, deterred by the number of people — five of them — standing by the dog.

Chances are that the coyote and dog might never have made contact. But the coyote is territorial, which means she protects her hunting areas. Coyotes drive outsider, non-family coyotes out of their territories. Territories belong exclusively to the one coyote family which lives there and these territories are not shared with other coyotes. The coyote’s motivation in charging at the dog would have been to drive the dog — an obvious hunting competitor judging by its pursuit of the hawk — out.

The coyote was deterred from advancing further by people. If people hadn’t been there, and if the owner had been alone with her dog, the owner’s option would have been to leash her dog and WALK AWAY immediately, thereby showing the coyote that the coyote nor the territory were “objects of interest”.  This is accomplished by walking away and increasing the distance between dog and coyote. Increased distance is your friend.

The event was very interesting for everyone present, but it could easily have ended with a nip to the dog’s haunches, and been a more frightening experience for the owner. On the other hand, the incident could have been entirely prevented in the first place had the dog been leashed in an area where a coyote was known to be foraging.


Finally, on a leash

Siccing Your Dog On Coyotes Is NOT Cool


Some unleashed dogs, through the negligence of their owners, run off chasing coyotes. If your dog has a tendency to get excited and wants to chase coyotes, you need to keep your dog leashed or walk in a different area. The problem is the repeat offenders: it appears to always be the same few unrestrained dogs who go chasing after coyotes because their owners refuse to leash them when coyotes are around.  But even worse are the dog owners who blatantly prompt their dogs to go after coyotes: I’ve seen this innumerable times, and I’ve heard stories from others who have recounted their observations of this dog-owner behavior. This is not cool. It might be entertaining and fun for the dog owner, but it is not so for the coyotes, nor for other folks in the park who have watched this happen. In fact, it’s illegal to harass the wildlife in San Francisco. Another variation of this human behavior is to leash their dog and then proceed to approach the coyote as close as possible.

Coexistence involves respecting the wildlife and not interfering with it. It involves keeping your distance to begin with. It means leashing and walking on, away from the coyote whenever you see one. It means advising other walkers with dogs if a coyote is out and where it is so that they can take the proper preventative precautions — it’s important to prevent all interactions by keeping these species as far apart as possible. It means understanding that a coyote might approach your dog for territorial reasons or, if your dog is very small, it might even grab your dog. These contingencies are easily avoided by keeping vigilant, by keeping your distance, and by walking on, away from the coyote. Coexistence also means knowing how to shoo one away if there is an encounter which is uncomfortably close or if a coyote approaches your dog. See the YouTube video, “How To Shoo Off A Coyote.”

Please don’t allow your dog to go after coyotes, and please let others know that doing so is not cool. In fact, it hurts everyone in the park when the coyotes are taught by this treatment that they must remain suspicious of dogs even if they are out in the distance. They are territorial and NEED to defend their space — and they are more likely to do so when provoked. To prevent inciting this instinct, we need to keep away from them. It’s not hard to do: I see folks constantly doing their part to make coexistence work. So please let’s all help those not in-the-loop to come into the loop by letting them know good/safe practices and why keeping our distance and moving on is so important.


Managing Urban Coyotes: False Advertising about Hazing and Habituation Can Lead To A Coyote’s Death Sentence (Updated and Revised)

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Managing Coyotes:

Most cities seem to leave it to individuals — not even larger neighborhood groups — to trap and kill coyotes as they see fit. Folks have long been taught that killing them is the way to manage them, even though it has been proven that this results in higher and younger populations, and fewer stable families to keep other coyotes away. In some places a permit might be required at certain times of the year, but usually not, and sometimes a reason is required to get the permit — including that the coyote was a “nuisance”. In one community, coyote yipping sounds were deemed a “nuisance”. These protocols seem to be the norm. There is no education behind them.

Few cities have actual written “coyote management plans”, such as the plans in Vancouver and Denver. More cities have informational websites offering the standard guidelines and explaining that killing coyotes doesn’t work — again, folks are free to trap and kill if they want to in these communities.

Here in San Francisco trapping and killing are not permitted, but we do not have a written coyote management plan per se, because it was deemed unnecessary. A coyote organization attempted to push its plan through in San Francisco — a plan that included extensive hazing — which the San Francisco Animal Commission wisely turned down. Coyotes do not need to be “hazed” whenever they’re seen — it can be counterproductive. See below.

What works here in San Francisco is educating the public about coyotes and their behavior and giving folks guidelines which will prevent conflicts and other issues.  I’ve helped convert many folks to a positive mindset just by telling them a little about coyote family life and iterating the guidelines with some one-on-one help on knowing how to shoo one off. Coyotes do not approach people unless taught to do so with food, so feeding of coyotes is forbidden, and folks are taught not to leave food attractants out in their yards.

As everyone should know, pets are the main issue of concern, but this is an issue which can be easily managed by not allowing pets to roam free, and by leashing and walking away from a coyote the minute you see it. Basically, what the authorities have been saying here in San Francisco is, that if a dog is bitten by a coyote because the dog was not leashed, or if a cat is taken because it was allowed to roam free, it’s really the owner’s fault and could have been prevented by following the guidelines — please take better care of your pet. This protocol is the only way to make coexistence work: it’s easy, it’s effective, it’s responsible, and the burden of responsibility is on the pet owner to guard his/her pets.

Habituation and Hazing:

I would like to add something here. . . . In my opinion, some of the “expert” information out there is counterproductive and remiss — it’s actually hurting coyotes and increasing fears in humans. For instance, “hazing” — mostly noise and erratic movement such as arm waving — is promoted as a cure-all which will cause coyotes to flee. But as I’ve seen here in San Francisco, and as we’ve seen in several cities which have now returned to trapping, for example in Seal Beach in Southern California, coyotes can get used to this and begin responding to it more slowly or even ignoring it.

The big problem then is what this does to people’s perceptions about coyotes: folks are under the impression that if a coyote doesn’t flee quickly when hazed, that it is therefore “habituated” and that it now poses a danger to the community. This is not so. Folks have been taught that a “habituated” animal is a dangerous one. This, also, is not true. Because of what has been taught incorrectly about habituation, folks feel that if they simply see a coyote, or if it doesn’t flee quickly upon seeing a person, it must be habituated, or on its way to becoming habituated, and, therefore, to becoming dangerous. Where does this come from? There is no science at all behind it. Telling folks this is increasing their fears. So teaching that “hazing” is a solution has actually backfired.

Coyote Behavior:

We all need to become aware of coyote behaviors so that we can know how to prevent issues. Yes, coyotes don’t like canine intruders in their territories: they even don’t allow non-family coyotes in. All canines, be they wolves, dogs, foxes or coyotes, don’t really like each other and all will exclude the others, as well as members of their same species who are non-family members, from their territories. This is instinctive behavior. We can’t really change their instincts for survival, but we can learn about them and understand them, and modify our own behaviors, so that all of us — human, cat, dog, coyote — can coexist. The guidelines are few and simple.

The other instinct driving coyote behavior is a food drive. We all need to eat. Coyotes normally hunt small rodents, but they will look for free food which they may find on their wanderings, and they may grab a small pet if the opportunity arises — it happens very infrequently, but it has happened. So, hey, let’s not let those opportunities arise! Keeping your cat or dog away from coyotes is easy.

Roaming through their territories as they visit their hunting spaces is another instinctive behavior. Everyone should know that, by doing so, coyotes in fact are preventing other coyotes from moving in. By the same token, you may sight them now and then in your neighborhood.

Most importantly, coyotes avoid humans. In most urban areas they’ve altered their schedules to avoid us: they are active mostly at night when we are not, even though they are not nocturnal animals.

 Simple Guidelines Are What Is Needed:

What actually needs to be taught is that habituation is normal: all animals become habituated to sounds and movements in their environments. It’s okay, and even fun, to see a coyote. This should not cause fear. We should be shaping the overall mindset of folks to think more positively about coyotes. And we need to teach that coyotes are wary — not fearful — of people: they’ll do their best to avoid us, even if they might not flee as quickly as someone might want them to. All habituated coyotes retain their wariness of humans.

It is feeding coyotes which should not be allowed. This attracts coyotes to yards and brings them closer to people — they could become demanding. Attractants of any sort should be eliminated from yards: you don’t want to invite them to visit, and you might even want to discourage them by shooing them off if you happen to be there. Shooing off a coyote should probably be reserved for when one has entered your yard, or if, for example, you need to get to your car and it happens to be standing too close. Avoidance however, is always the safest strategy: this goes for whether you see a coyote in the distance, coming towards you or if it’s already underfoot — leash your dog and go the other way without running.

The elderly, children and those who are afraid should not feel they need to haze or harass a coyote. Walking away accomplishes what is needed: the coyote’s entire intention in approaching is to move your dog and you away. So, do it! Vulnerable smaller dogs which might be viewed as prey should be picked up and walk away. 

Everyone should be taught to respect a coyote’s space and keep away from it. It is normal to see coyotes in parks, but dogs have to be kept far away from them. Please see this flyer for detailed information on how to handle coyote encounters: PRESS HERE.

Because of territoriality and because small pets are often seen as prey, but also because pets may be seen as an annoyance to coyotes — the presence and activity of small pets can be interpreted by coyotes as harassing or challenging them, so it’s not always about predation — it’s really important that folks guard their pets: keep pets from roaming free, leash pets in coyote areas and especially after spotting a coyote, don’t let pets chase coyotes, don’t leave food and other attractants out in your yards, know how to handle encounters. So, guard your pets carefully! Remove food attractants from your yard.  Notwithstanding, on occasion, you may see a coyote pass through the area — but that this should not be cause for alarm.

Examples of Misinformation or Misbehavior by Humans:

One of the problems in some communities is that the only option they are taught to use to deter coyotes is “hazing.” In some instances, when “hazing” may no longer be effective, because coyotes have become “habituated” to people and/or hazing, residents may see coyotes linger longer in their yards. When this happens, the coyotes are sometimes, incorrectly, perceived as “aggressive and dangerous”, as they have been in Seal Beach, California. Of course, those who have an informed understanding of “normal” coyote behavior know that habituation does not mean aggression — it just means that the coyote has become accustomed to seeing humans — and does not in any way indicate that the animal will react “aggressively” or that it is in any way a danger.

Another problem is when people are so fearful of the “mere presence” of coyotes that they overreact to seeing one — sometimes leading to coyotes being killed unnecessarily. For example, a coyote was shot and killed a week ago in Mamaroneck, NY after a resident called the police simply because they saw a coyote in their backyard — one that didn’t run off which is a sign of “habituation” and therefore “danger” some folks think. The responding officers, instead of providing an escape route for the coyote to walk away, surrounded the coyote and it responded defensively, as any animal would when it felt surrounded and trapped — and, therefore, was deemed “aggressive.”

Here is an example of irresponsible and counterproductive behavior by humans. I’ve been keeping track of a particular group of dogs in one of our parks in San Francisco whose owners don’t leash-up and who allow their dogs to chase after coyotes. Fascinatingly, it’s this group of dogs — almost certainly because of their hostile and antagonistic behavior towards coyotes — that the coyotes watch and monitor.  These dog owners feel that coyotes are a nuisance, but it is their non-compliance with leashing guidelines and allowing their dogs to chase coyotes which makes these dogs subjects of interest for the coyotes. The owners have, in effect, been allowing their dogs and the coyotes to engage and interact. It’s our responsibility not to allow any such engagement: the repetitive cycle can be broken by leashing the dogs. Other dogs in this park are leashed-up and walk on, and, not surprisingly, these dogs and coyotes leave each other alone.

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[revised for clarity 12/9/2014]

Profile by Joel Engardio for the San Francisco Examiner

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get-attachmentA COYOTE WHISPERER FOR URBAN COYOTES: For seven years, 64-year-old Janet Kessler has been voluntarily observing and photographing urban coyote behavior throughout San Francisco’s parks. She regularly logs six hours a day, taking up to 600 pictures. “People think coyotes are vermin, dangerous or the big bad wolf,” Kessler said. “But they’re wonderful animals we can live with if we treat them with respect and take the right precautions.”

Read full essay:

Keeping Friendly Coyotes At A Distance

It is the nature of the situation that in an urban park where there are coyotes, the coyotes are going to get used to people and dogs. However, it is not good for them or us if they come in too close. It is best to scare them off if they get too close. We want to keep them wild. The coyotes have never approached people in our parks, but they have approached some of the dogs when the dog and owner have appeared suddenly in its immediate vicinity.

I have only seen coyotes go up to a very calm dog which the coyote senses will not chase it. I’ve seen several friendly dog-coyote “greetings” of this sort — always between a fairly mature dog and a younger coyote.  For the most part, the greeting consists of a brief nose touch, after which dog and coyote return to whatever they had been doing beforehand.

Coyotes who approach do not always do so out of friendliness or curiosity. A mother coyote that I keep track of likes to warn dogs who get too close that they need to stay back: it is usually just a warning message, but she has nipped a few dog buts for emphasis.

Stealthy behavior in the dark: Coyote behavior

Today I was up way before dawn, so I headed out to see what kind of day it would turn into. It was dark and clear when I left home in the car. As I reached the top of a ridge it was both dark and foggy. Not too foggy, but foggy enough to create a glow around the street lights in the distance. The San Francisco area has wonderful diverse microclimates which can all be found at the same point in time within half a mile of each other. On one of the exposed roads it was windy, lower down it was totally windless. In a swampy area it was ten degrees colder than elsewhere.

I reached my intended park where I encountered a fellow walker and his dog — the only other pre-dawn walker I have come across — and we began to talk. We stood still, remaining in the same spot as we conversed. It was still dark. We then moved on, and as we did so, a form materialized out of the shadows about 40 feet away. The coyote was barely discernible at first and not initially easy to identify because of its stance and the way it was moving. After seeing the coyote for a moment, my first thought was that something was wrong, that maybe the coyote was sick or had been injured. The stance is one I’ve seen coyotes assume, but not maintain for any length of time. This coyote maintained it for this entire encounter. It had its hackles up, its back was curved up high while it kept its head down — it was a strong U-shape, and it was walking on tip toes very slowly and deliberately. It approached the dog that was with us within about 15 feet, but never got closer. Occasionally it pulled its lips back to show its teeth in a menacing sort of way: the coyote was messaging the dog, but the dog wasn’t picking up on the message. The dog ignored the coyote and continued walking on the path in front of us. The coyote backed up along the path, keeping its distance, keeping its eyes on the dog, and remaining in its hunched over position. It did not run off, but remained about 40 feet ahead. Then as we kept walking away from the coyote, the coyote disappeared off to the side somewhere after which we did not see it. It did not follow the dog.

This coyote must have been observing us the entire time we had been conversing in the one spot. It obviously did not like the dog lingering there. I actually had a totally different feeling from this coyote encounter than what I have experienced in the past — maybe because of the darkness, but also maybe because of the stealthy nature of the animal. I remained in the park, but the coyote did not approach anyone else — in fact, it is unlikely that anyone else even saw it while I was there. Later on I noticed it in the distance, just for a moment, where it looked perfectly fine and normal. It had been much too dark to take photos. Over the next little while I was able to tell that this was a coyote messaging the dog to get away. It’s so simple to respect the message. When we walk in the parks, we are invading the only place they have to live.

Coyote Signs

Statistically, coyotes are not a danger to humans. However, signs have been posted on various trails in and around the San Francisco area to let people know that they are around. In these areas it is best to keep our dogs leashed. Although coyotes tend to ignore humans, they do see dogs as potential threats to their territories. The most important rule we have learned about coyotes is to never, never, ever feed them. Breaking this one rule is what upsets the natural balance and often leads to aggression towards humans.

The signs only seem to appear in areas close to urban settings, where one might not expect these animals to appear. I still run into people who are astonished that a city would have much wildlife at all, much less a coyote. Coyotes have not been associated with urban environments until fairly recently. However, in outlying areas, where coyotes have always been a natural part of the environment, signs of this sort are not posted, as far as I have seen.

Dog Reactions to Seeing a Coyote

There are all sorts of dog reactions to a coyote. Some dogs never see a coyote which is right there in the open, some stop and look, some go after the smell without even seeing the coyote, some chase, some bark and chase, and some dogs ignore it.

Dogs seem to be calmer and more in control when they are leashed. If a dog is on a leash, obviously it will be the owner who is calling the shots, whether it is a mild dog or an active one. An owner can easily drag his pet away from a coyote if it is leashed, rather than having to call a distraught dog to him/herself first. Yesterday, someone told me of a bizarre incident which happened a year ago: that they were jogging early in the morning with their dog, when a coyote came in at them from the side, making a running leap to land on the dog. This itself is very unusual coyote behavior and the only instance that I’ve heard of it. The dog owner was able to yank the leashed dog, and the coyote missed its target! This happened last April, which is the prime pupping season — coyotes are much more territorial and protective of their areas during this time.

If a dog is not leashed, there are several ways the dog may react to a coyote. If the dog is more timid and obedient, it may look to the owner for what to do: the dog will either stay beside the owner or come when called. Some dogs have been told in the past to stay off of the coyote, and they do so. One of my friends has an obedient dog, which has been told to stay off of the coyotes, and it always does so. On one occasion, this dog hugged its owner’s leg as it walked. The owner sensed that there might have been a coyote around, even though he never saw it — the owner told me this was very unusual behavior for this dog. In this case, the dog was trying to communicate unease to the owner.

The majority of dogs are somewhat curious about coyotes — they know the coyote is something “different” from other dogs. But different dogs have different degrees of apprehension or fearlessness or sense of fun and adventure regarding the coyote, and they act accordingly.

If a dog is not leashed, and the dog is an active type out for its free run, the dog will often chase the coyote, thinking this is great fun. It may end up barking incessantly at the coyote once it gets within about 15 feet if the coyote does not flee. The coyote will easily outdo the dog in length and intensity of barking — this becomes boring or tires out the dog. However, it is only when the coyote turns to chase or nip at the dog that the dog really starts to think.

Please see my entry on Coyote Safety” of 11/3, as well as the three entries on how coyotes react to dogs: “ANOTHER reaction to dogs” on 11/17, and “Some reactions to dogs” on 11/04. “Significance of a Seemingly Unprovoked Challenge” on 12/1. “Blatant Visual Message for Newcomer Dog” on 2/8/10. “A short back-and-forth chase:oneupmanship verging on play” of 2/4/10.

ANOTHER Reaction to Dogs: Coyote behavior

I saw Jacob again this morning. He has a sheep-dog who is super sensitive to reading other animals. Jacob wanted to let me know of a coyote encounter he had had a few days earlier, an encounter which was closer and therefore somewhat disturbing compared to previous coyote encounters he has had. In the past, he and his dog always passed the same coyote at a distance, the canines would eye each other, and both would become alert to the other’s presence. The coyote might stand up if it had been resting — this is one of the dogs that is much too alert to be yawned at as it passed. The dog also is an enthusiastic ball retriever, which means it has spurts of high energy and activity. Alertness and high activity are clues that the coyote is in-tune with — this type of dog has pursued her in the past, even though this one specifically has not.

On this particular occasion it was foggy and quiet and there was no one else around. Jacob’s dog was ahead of him, when Jacob felt he was being followed. He turned to see one coyote following him pretty closely, maybe at 20 feet, and he noticed there was another coyote further back. As Jacob immediately called his dog to him, his dog noticed the coyote. The dog, now between Jacob and the coyote, walked towards its owner, ever so slowly and carefully, walking backwards, keeping its eyes glued on the coyote. This eye contact may have been seen as a challenge by the coyote.

At this point the coyote backed up a distance, ran up a tiny incline and began scratching the ground with its forepaws and rearing up — a display used to keep the dog away, to keep it from following through on its eye-contact challenge. The coyote’s purpose was to look intimidating — and for the most part it is effective. The other coyote disappeared into the brush. The coyote’s activity didn’t last long as Jacob walked off with his dog. The two coyotes ran off.

Coyotes have sometimes followed walkers the entire length of some park, sometimes at a further distance, sometimes at a closer distance. Curiosity, sizing the dogs up, desire for contact, maybe even a bit of challenge are all possible explanations.

It is always best to create distance when you don’t know what is going on. Jacob did this by calling his dog and then facing the coyote before moving on.

Please see posting of  December 7th: “Dog Reactions to Seeing a Coyote”, November 4th: “Some reactions to dogs”, and December 1st: “Significance of a Seemingly Unprovoked challenge”.  Also, please see the entry on “Coyote Safety” of 11/3. “Blatant Visual Message for Newcomer Dog” of 2/8/10. “A short back-and-forth chase: oneupmanship verging on play” of 2/4/10.

Sharks and Coyotes: on being fed

I met Hervé with his young Rottweiler today in the park. He wanted to know if I had seen any coyotes — he has seen me photographing them. He wanted me to know that his dog had had two encounters with the coyotes recently, very peaceful ones. He said he had seen a coyote right in the open during the day, that the coyote had come up to his dog and sniffed its rear end, then departed. I asked him how his dog had acted around the coyote, and he told me that his dog was uninterested. This is a pattern I am finding. Seldom if ever do coyotes approach a dog who is right next to its owner. However, a couple of times I have seen a calm dog, which has been allowed to wander off a bit, actually greeted by a coyote which is nearby — usually with a brief sniffing before taking off. These dogs are calm and uninterested in coyotes, dogs who mind their own business and are not out to pursue the coyote.

It is the dogs that pursue and chase the coyotes which are the problem. Coyotes are even aware of the leashed dogs who lunge in their direction. The other day Hervé had heard a coyote barking loudly, while a woman yelled ineffectively for her dog to come: this was obviously an incident of a dog chasing a coyote. A coyote will defend itself when chased. Most often the coyote will react by barking, but there have been several instances of the coyote pursuing and nipping at a dog’s haunches to get it to move away from itself. This defensiveness is as close to aggression as the coyotes have ever gotten in our parks. We have very peaceful coyotes in our area.

We then talked about the group in the park who have been throwing stones at the coyotes and yelling at people who get close to them, claiming that habituation leads to aggression. He was very puzzled: “Why would habituation lead to aggression?” I told him that I had contacted one of our premier coyote behaviorists who said “It doesn’t, habituation does not lead to aggression.” Very few coyotes ever become aggressive at all. In an urban setting, coyotes are going to get accustomed to having people around — that is the nature of the situation. What does cause aggression is feeding. Feeding is at the root of all aggression and has to be absolutely avoided.

Hervé gave me some insight into this. He told me about shark and grouper behavior when they are fed. This information seems quite relevant to our coyotes. He is a scuba diver. He told me that groups of people, usually on tours, actually feed the sharks — sometimes by hand — to attract them. The sharks have gotten used to this, and have come to expect it. But, then, when a different group of people come by that don’t feed the sharks — they don’t know that the sharks now expect to be fed — the sharks actually pursue these people for what they have come to expect, and they do so aggressively. Groupers are known to do the same thing. In this manner, feeding leads to aggression. This type of occurrence is common knowledge among scuba divers, he told me.

This might be exactly what occurs when coyotes are fed. This is the sequence that people have to know about. Never ever feed a coyote. Feeding coyotes is the root of all aggression towards humans.

Does Habituation Mean Eventual Aggression?

Most of us are thrilled to have coyotes return to our city parks, and we want to protect them in this environment that they have chosen.  Protecting them entails respecting their needs: especially, keeping them wild by absolutely never feeding them, and keeping our dogs from pursuing them — this being their primary irritant in the parks: both of these could lead to future problems. But also we need to allow them to live peacefully, so that they feel comfortable enough to stay. Our parks are one of the safest places for them to live — they will not find a safer place if they are harassed into moving on.

However, a few individuals in one park have taken it upon themselves to create fear in the coyotes by pursuing them with rocks or sticks — even when the coyotes are far away from these people. These same individuals have also been accosting those they’ve seen within a certain distance of the coyotes. Their reasoning is that they had heard that habituation leads to aggression.

We know that in urban parks, coyotes will get accustomed to people — it is the nature of the situation. I wrote to one of our renowned coyote behavior experts regarding coyote habituation and where it might lead. I asked this professor if habituation meant eventual aggression? How close is “too close”?  I have copied his responses here, in their entirety. I have not including his name since I did not ask his permission to do so, but maybe I will. His responses are in brown, which follow my questions:

*Is visibility the same as habituation? Not necessarily – there are individual differences that must be taken into account …

*Does habituation mean aggression? Not at all

*What is too close?  Depends on the individual coyote, time of year etc etc … I don’t see any measure being generalized to all coyotes … we need to remember that speaking about ‘the’ coyote is misleading because of individual differences …

*Will a coyote’s defensiveness against dogs lead to aggression? Depends on the coyote. . but defensiveness can be a factor among a number of different species….

*Is it okay to throw rocks at or around coyotes to create fear? Can’t answer this but hazing can work … I’m just not sure about throwing rocks … on the other hand it could make them mad and then there could be a problem

*How to encourage keeping dogs leashed around coyotes? Enforce penalties for not doing so .. enforcement is key …

*The idea of stress on the coyotes making them nervous? Depends on the individual .. there will be difference in tolerance for sure …

*I also have read that habituation is not what leads to aggression, that few coyotes ever become aggressive. Instead, the positive correlation, I’ve read, is between artificial feeding and aggression? Typically feeding can lead to aggression habituation … feeding is simply a no no and must never be done … it’s the root of all ‘problems’ …

Maybe an Invitation to Play: Coyote behavior

We have all read about coyotes playing with dogs. Several years ago, in another one of our parks, there was a coyote which was well known for playing with a select few individual dogs who frequented the park. They engaged in short and friendly “wrestling” matches, and playing “chase”. I never witnessed these, but I heard about them. This coyote lived alone, and more than likely welcomed the friendly company and interactions. The coyote always played with the same dogs, and not the others. The coyote probably sought out specific “types” to interact with. It kept its distance from humans.

Except for dogs chasing coyotes, I have seen only a few instances of coyotes interacting with dogs, or trying to. Two of these instances I am going to describe here. One of these occurred this morning, which reminded me of the other.

A couple of years ago, I ran into an individual coyote several times on my morning walks, and I always took pictures with my point-and-shoot camera. My dog and I were often greeted with a very special, enthusiastic show which I’m sure was directed at my dog, even though my dog didn’t show the slightest interest — his attention was riveted to tastier things on the ground. I had found my dog in one of the parks when he was 3 months old, abandoned — and he never lost the habit of picking up clumps of dirt or sticks which he chewed on or ate. Bizarre, I know, but he never changed. We always kept a safe distance from the coyote.

Then, on a very foggy day, I saw this same coyote and decided to try the video-mode on my camera, which I had to figure out. I turned it on for a moment and then became aware that my dog, bored with my having stopped, had wandered off a short distance. Since he was so calm and detached, self-sufficiently occupying himself with what was on the ground, I continued taping the scene.

What I caught on the video was this curious little coyote repeatedly and enthusiastically approaching my uninterested dog who ignored her. For the most part, she kept to her safe distance of more than 30 feet, but then she dashed in a number of times, and finally summoned up enough courage — you can see this on the video — daring herself to touch my dog’s tail, in a real daredevil fashion, before running off.  The end of the video shows these two animals saying good-by — you can actually see this. VIDEO

After this, I kept my dog at my side. With me next to him, she didn’t try approaching him in this playful fashion, though she continued to greet us. My dog no longer comes with me to the park — he is almost 15 years old and his back legs barely work at all anymore. But I often see another walker in one of the parks whose dog reacts to a coyote in the same uninterested way as my dog did, respecting its space and leaving it alone. This dog also gets bored waiting for his owner, so goes off the path where he grabs a stick to chew on until the owner is ready to go. Coyotes are keen observers and I’m sure the dog’s enjoyment of the stick was observed by this coyote.

So, today, there was a lone coyote in this park. After we had been there a few moments, just standing there, the coyote came right up to the dog, almost face-to-face: the dog owner sensed that the coyote seemed lonely.

The dog allowed a pretty close approach, though I heard him give a short “grrr” as a “hey, backoff” warning. The dog had been chewing a stick a little earlier. And then something very interesting happened: the coyote picked up a 10″ stick and carried it a little further off. The coyote held it, put it down, and picked it up, and looked at the dog. Yes, it was an invitation to play. Our eyes were riveted on the coyote, but the dog did not accept the invitation. This dog is very friendly towards humans, and always greets me enthusiastically, but I don’t think I’ve seen him play with other dogs. Rather he is a very self-sufficient type — very similar to my dog. We two observers were quite fascinated. The dog and owner then walked on, and this coyote departed the area at this same time.

I do not advocate coyote/dog interactions — I am against them. However, I can see from the coyote behavior which I have observed, that when another animal respects them, the coyote can see this, and the compliment is returned. Respect is earned. It is not something that can be taught to a dog: they either have an instinct for it or they don’t. The same is true in human interactions with animals. My own dog can sense immediately when someone is afraid of him, even though they deny being so. The person’s fear is communicated, and the dog reacts with a growl and distrust. Distrust and respect are mutually exclusive. Fear engenders distrust.

Four Hours in the day of an Urban Coyote

What does a coyote do all day? It occurred to me that it would be enlightening to see how a coyote spends its day — the part of the day when people are in the park. So I decided to watch one for as long of a stretch as I could. I actually tried this several times, but the coyotes always vanished too soon to call it a day. But, finally I was able to get four hours of continual notes and photos on a coyote. I made a diary of this.The total territory covered by the coyote during these four hours was a mile, encompassing a peripheral trail that rejoins itself, which the coyote crossed back over several times.

Coyotes probably sleep from late morning until late afternoon, because I almost never see them during that time: so I am assuming that after the activity I recorded here, the coyote trotted off for a nap. In addition, there are the dawn, dusk and night hours which are more active for a coyote, with more social activity, hunting and probably playing.

My camera time-stamps my photos, so I was able to record everything solely with my camera! There is no “typical” day, I know. During other days, I have seen this coyote for shorter lengths of time during which there were long hunting sessions, lots of barking sessions, long resting sessions — 3 hours once in one location, following a walker, and so on. But I wanted to put one sequence together, and here it is:

6:00 am: I arrived in one of the city parks to find a coyote calmly resting on an incline. I walked up to a rare pre-dawn dog walker. We noticed two other coyotes close by, young ones, her grown offspring. These stayed together and did some digging. The dog stayed on the path with us. Then the dog moved off the path a bit, causing one of the youths to move further off, but the other one approached the dog, never coming right up to it — this coyote was cautiously interested in the dog. We could see we humans were keeping the coyote at bay: coyotes always keep their distance from people. The walker decided to walk on. Because of the movement, both young coyotes ran into the distance.

6:35 I returned to watch the coyote still resting on the hill. She sat up and seemed to focus attention towards the other side of the park: maybe more walkers could be heard arriving at the park — or maybe she was keeping tabs on another offspring? I suggest this, because later on I saw another offspring in the area this coyote was watching.

At 6:41 one of the youths took off into the brush. The first coyote then got up and stretched, and walked up to the path I was on, but further ahead. The coyote followed the trail right up to where the second youth was still hanging out. These two coyotes had a fabulous face-to-face greeting — the warmth they displayed was extremely charming: they looked right at each other and nuzzled one another. The mother stretched her nose over that of the younger one. The mother then sat down for a few moments next to the young one, then stood up again as the youth trotted off down a trail. Had the mother signaled this one to do so?

6:48 The mother remained. She lifted her forelegs onto a rock to give herself elevation, and she watched the young one trot off. Now alone, she walked over to the other side of the rocks, sat, and looked over the entire area — scoping out the place. There was no activity to be seen.

At 6:54 she decided to move on, stopping to scratch herself on her back in two ways:  with her hind leg and by bending her head over her back to scratch with her teeth. Then she continues on. She has purpose in her gait. At 6:59 she climbs up an outcropping of rocks. Here the intensity of her attention is increased — you can see this by the look in her eye and by the way she turns her head and holds it still. She appeared to be scoping out the area — listening for and looking for something, which could have been more dogs and walkers arriving at the park.

7:00 She scurried down from the high rock after a couple of minutes, and, again, with a quickness and definite purpose in her gait, headed to a favorite knoll of hers where I have seen her often, arriving there in about 4 minutes. Here she first sat, looking around, but then settled into lying down with her head up. She observed the walkers below. There were only about 3 dogs and walkers, but she knows some of them by sight. I notice that her attention was pulled up the hill, so I look up there, and for a few brief moments, at 7:27, saw one of her pups. He returned to hide in the brush almost immediately. Did she come over here to keep an eye on him? Her attention then returned to the walkers for the next little while. She was totally relaxed. During this time I was able to talk to some walkers. We talked about the prevailing issues: that there are several coyotes, that they are peaceful, that dogs should be kept away from them, that all incidents have involved dogs, that a small group has been throwing rocks at them, that someone might be feeding them, and about my photographing them. The coyote adjusted her position several times, but stayed right here.

At 7:42, after about 40 minutes here, the coyote decided to move on. First, she stretched and yawned — she does this often after a rest. Then she wandered, rather casually and slowly, down, around and back to the area where she had shown affection to the other pup. She continued her meandering beyond this point, stopping occasionally to study movement in the ground — there are lots of gopher and vole holes in the area, but no real hunting took place. At 8:09 she heard and saw one of the dog walkers — a woman who throws rocks at the coyote. The coyote knows all walkers and dogs individually, and knows how to avoid being seen. So the coyote carefully slithered into the brush area where she remained fairly still until the woman passed, and then continued her slow easy walk up an incline. At this point, at 8:12, a man appeared on the trail which is off to one side, with a small unleashed dog. I let the man know that the coyote was out in case he might want to leash his dog. He thanked me, leashed up and continued his walk. He never even saw the coyote. The coyote had been absolutely still during my communication with the man, but then slowly continued her meanderings.

Between 8:16 to 8:21 the coyote stopesd to hunt: she saw movement on the ground which probably appeared more promising than before — either of a vole or gopher. She stoped and remained till and kept her attention on this place for a full 5 minutes. Occasionally she looked up and moved a little bit and cocked her head, but she remained poised to catch something. Nothing came of it this time. One morning I saw her catch three gophers, eat two of them and carry the 3rd one off — but not this day.

At 8:25 she reached the street, where a woman and her dog decided to avoid the coyote by going in another direction. A little boy and his dad noticed the coyote — no big deal for them — they told me they wanted to give the coyote plenty of space, so they make a wide circle and head into the park.

At this point I lost the coyote for a few minutes, but not for long. Within less than a minute, the coyote was dashing through the wooded area right by the street in pursuit of a dog. This coyote only chases dogs who have come after her. All became quiet at this point, in fact, it was always quiet except for the rustle of the shrubbery as the animals sped by. As far as I could tell, the dog returned to its owner, because shortly thereafter, at 8:36, I found the coyote headed in a different direction.

The coyote was on some steps, “scooting” — I speculate that she might have worms since I’ve seen her do this several times. A woman was walking her dogs on the path below. She noticed the coyote and walked on. The coyote took the woman’s same path but was not  pursuing, and their directions soon diverged. The coyote then suddenly acquired purpose and direction in her gait.

From 8:42 – 9:27 she arrived and remained at a place several hundred feet away from her favorite knoll. She sat and watched for a few moments, and then circled around to lie down. Everything was quiet at first. But then a man way in the distance below began throwing a ball up the hill for his dog, and the dog retrieved it. He finally was amazed to see the coyote and stopped his activity. The coyote remained totally at rest and relaxed, eyes half-closed. Another dog walker passed on a path way above, she told me her dog does not chase coyotes and it didn’t. Another woman walked her dog on the path below: when I let her know about the coyote right there, she thanks me and leashed up. Everything was very calm that morning.

By 9:28 the coyote was on the move again, this time again slowly meandering, up to a high area in the park through a thicket area. She ended up at the crest of some high cliffs where she found a puddle of water which she lapped up at 9:36. She stood up high here, taking in what was below, scoping out the area for about 4 minutes. She finally stretched and yawned, ever so slowly, before quickening her pace and heading through the thicket below again. She meandered casually in this area, probably looking for any movement that would suggest prey. This area is right next to a trail. At 9:43, as some hikers walked by, she sat still, absolutely quiet, and watched them. They did not see her at all. When they were gone, she got up, pooped, and continued her slow wandering. Then two more walkers and their dog went by as had the previous walkers. This time the coyote took their same path — they are headed in the same direction as the coyote had been going. Since their dog was not leashed, I let them know that the coyote was right in back of them. When they turned around, the coyote headed down a hill, but remained within our sight. It was a nice time to talk about how much we all like this peaceful coyote — peaceful unless chased. They departed.

By 9:46 the coyote was back at her favorite knoll, not totally resting, but sitting up this time. About 8 walkers with their dogs passed by below — about 100 feet from the coyote, few of whom saw the coyote.

At 9:58 a fairly large dog came up in the direction of the coyote, but not after her. She prepared for the dog — just in case — but the dog went on after its owner. For some reason she decided to check this dog out, so she followed them. However, she stopped the minute she saw several other people on the narrow path ahead. She turned back and then headed for an area which is not frequented by people, but then she stopped short. I noticed a large poodle in her path. So I let the owner know that the coyote was right here, could he please leash up to avoid trouble? He defiantly ignored me. So his dog wemt after the coyote, way up the hill, barking at her, as he yelled ineffectively at his dog. The coyote ran off, but then turned around with her defensive stance. She did not pursue the dog but stood her ground. The owner was finally able to grab his dog by the collar and drag it down to the main path. As he got down on this path he released his dog. One of the responsible walkers below yelled at him that he was an idiot for not leashing his dog after that incident.

At 10:00 The coyote disappeared into the direction she was headed and that was the last I saw of her this day.

In Summary, during these four hours, she spent about:

  • 50 minutes: watching her pups as she relaxed
  • 2 minutes: trotting towards her pup
  • 3 minutes:  warmly greeting her pup
  • 6 minutes: surveying the territory from a rise in the ground
  • 6 minutes: purposeful walking – seems like she had a destination in mind
  • one minute:  keenly surveying and scoping out the area from up high
  • 4 minutes:  purposeful walking – again, she seemed to have a location in mind
  • 40 minutes: relaxing on a knoll watching people and noticed another of her pups in the distance
  • 35 minutes: meandering, seemingly less purposeful than before  – included 2 instances of avoiding dogs by ducking into the brush at 8:09 & 8:12
  • 5 minutes:  hunting at one spot
  • 2 minutes: on the street sidewalk or right next to it
  • 1 minute: chasing a dog and I lost track of her, but I found her again
  • 6 minutes: purposeful walking
  • 46 minutes: basking in the sun on a knoll, although a few people saw her, most did not
  • 8 minutes: meanderings up to rocks;
  • 4 minutes: scoping and surveying from high above  – she lapped up water at 9:36 from a puddle
  • 3 minutes: meandering – at 9:43 hikers passed by and then she pooped
  • 12 minutes: at her favorite knoll, sitting up & watching more people who didn’t see her.
  • 1 minute: purposeful walking
  • 1 minute: chased by dog
  • By 10:00 she had left — that was the end of my notes for the day.

She was relaxing 40+40+46+12 minutes=2.3 hours; surveying 6+1+4=10 min; purposeful walking 4+6+4+6+1= 21 min; meandering 35+8+3=46 min; other activities — greeting her pup, drinking water, being chased by dogs, chasing a dog, scratching  3+5+2+1+1=12 min

Some Reactions to Dogs: Coyote behavior

I have been able to observe many coyote/dog interactions. Most coyotes are pretty shy and will keep their distance and then flee from dogs. Some coyotes, cautiously and prepared to flee, will allow a calm dog to get a little closer. The coyote reactions to dogs I am delineating in this posting involve a certain alpha female. This coyote is more visible and bolder than others I have seen. She can be seen at times on elevated areas, where she lifts her head as some of the dogs and owners pass at a distance, and she sits up when she feels there might be a need to escape.

This coyote knows every single dog individually that comes regularly to the park and has assessed their potential threat to her. She does this by “reading” their body language and their type of energy as they walk, and she sees where their concentration is. She is also very aware of communicating through eye contact with dogs. Not all dogs are as keenly in tune to communication through eye contact in this manner — but a few are keenly aware of it.

Different dogs have different awarenesses of her. Some hardly notice her, some notice her and think she is an animal to be chased, some know she is “different” and to be respected. One very sensitive sheep dog can spot her from way across the park — this dog is the keenest observer I have noticed: he and the coyote will “lock” into an eye contact, which means they are interacting at a certain level, during which time the sheep-dog exhibits a lot of uneasiness. The owner calls his dog and they move on.

Most dogs that this female coyote observes fall into the category of being yawned at. She observes them through half-opened eyes. These are not a threat to her. Calm dogs on-leashes and calm dogs off-leashes are in this group. They are seldom cause for concern to her. Runners with their dogs whose full attention is with the runner are also in this category and ignored. Actually, almost all dogs are in this category.

There are very few dogs who are not in the above category. The few who are not, are given quite a display.

These dogs, on the opposite extreme of the spectrum from the calm dogs, are the dogs off-leash, who are more alert, aware of their surroundings, wild-acting, fearless and out to explore. Most of them are medium size to large. These are the ones she keeps her eye out for, the dogs of most concern, especially if they have the reputation of having chased the coyote in the past.

This coyote reacts to seeing these dogs by “becoming ready” to defend herself. She begins by standing up, and sometimes running off for a few seconds. This is not a submissive coyote, so she always comes back to stand up for herself, even though she may have to run off again. She has an elaborate defensive display: bouncing up and down, her hackles up, her ears out to the sides and back. Her back is hunched so that she can “spring” up and down for easier and quick movements — it is like a dance. She paws the ground, scratching with her front paws, and makes short darts back and forth and sideways. Her head is sometimes lowered and her lips are pulled back with her nose wrinkled. These behaviors constitute her basic stance and movements. She may grunt a little, which sometimes leads to an intense barking session — but just as likely, the barking session never even begins. This, then, is a visual reaction — a display.

If the owner can grab his dog, the episode will stop there. If the dog chases her, she may initially run off  – she is much, much faster and more lithe than any dog and can always get away, but she usually comes back. She seems to know which dogs she must run from — she can easily exhaust these dogs with her speed and distance, and she knows which ones she can hold at bay or move away from herself. I have seen her run off to an unreachable ledge and begin a barking episode. If she comes back she might begin a barking episode coupled with the above display. Or she could add a short charge-and-retreat sequence directed at the dog, and, if the dog’s owner is not close by, there have been a few instances where the coyote has tried to nip the haunches of the perpetrator, the same as a cattle-dog nips at a cow’s heels, to herd it away from herself. AND sometimes, twice that I have seen, she has gone even further, “escorting” the dog and owner right out of the park — following them fairly closely to the park entrance.

These are the two extreme reactions to dogs, with the calm reaction occurring most of the time, and the reactive one occurring less often. It appears to me that the coyote knows when walkers leash their dogs — it would be so easy to prevent incidents by doing so. I’ve seen her intensified alertness calm down when she sees this.

The same alert, wild-acting, fearless dogs on-leash may elicit a shorter and milder version of the response to the unleashed dogs: the coyote starts “getting ready just in case”, but then lets it pass after only a few seconds when she sees that the dog is restrained. As far as I know, she has never gone after a leashed dog, no matter how threatening to her, though she has “escorted” a couple of them out of the park following an incident of them having chased her while still off-leash.

I once saw a tiny little dog run wildly, off leash towards its owner — it had been lagging behind and decided to catch up. It raced over the path like a little bullet. But I could see that the coyote became very excited and agitated with the seeming hyperactive, fast running little dog. Even though we humans might think that a coyote would see this tiny dog as harmless, the instincts of the coyote might have been primed due to the dog’s hyperactivity.  In this case, the coyote stood up, hunched over and began running back and forth on the crest of the hill it was on. The dog reached its owner, and slowly the coyote calmed down. One must remember that several breeds of dogs, especially cocker-spaniels, often bite children because they cannot handle the unpredictable hyperactivity that is innate in small children. Dogs like predictability, and I suppose that coyotes do, too.

Another time, I saw a coyote resting on a bluff as a walker with three medium-sized dogs walked casually, but energetically by, at fairly close range. The dogs did not see the coyote, since it was hidden from them by the crest of the hill. The coyote rose to its feet, hunched its back, pulled back its gums and began pawing the ground and bouncing. I think the appearance of these dogs had surprised the coyote during an unguarded moment — they suddenly were in its visual field, having been hidden from it, too, by the crest of the hill. But after only a few bounces, seeing that the dogs did not even look up, it stopped and lay down again.

Another time, a coyote was close to the path while a couple of us were observing it. A man with a medium size dog came by. I suggested he leash his dog, which he did, but he would not walk around to give the coyote space. Even though this dog was leashed and close to its owner, it pulled on the leash, towards the coyote, barking — and this is what the coyote reacted to. The coyote stayed back, but immediately went into a “hunched back, gums pulled back, pawing the ground, rearing up on its hind feet, wrinkling its nose, dart-and-retreat sequence”. However, as the owner pulled his dog away along the path, the coyote calmed down. Then, after the dog and owner were 100 feet ahead, the coyote followed at a quick pace, but changed its mind when it noticed more humans up ahead. This may have been one of those times when the coyote felt like “escorting” the dog out of the park, but the appearance of more people prevented it.

In some parks, certain coyotes appear to have become accustomed to some of the dogs, even liking some of them — at a distance — if they adhere to the path. One of these is an unleashed large unfixed male labrador who acknowledges a coyote it sees occasionally, but leaves it alone. There seems to be a kind of mutual “animal respect” here.  This coyote has, several times trotted closer towards the dog, all the while retaining a readiness to flee. The coyote seems to be observing the dog — assessing him.  This coyote has followed this dog and owner a number of times, at about 50 feet, all the way out of the park — all in a very calm manner. Once, before dawn, two coyotes followed this dog, one of them circling around in front of the dog and and the other ultimately running up to him from behind and mouthing its tail before racing away — almost as a dare!  The owner was amused. This dog normally does not like it when there is more than one coyote to deal with. To show how each situation is different, I want to point out that this same coyote gave this same dog a different greeting once. Maybe the dog was behaving differently — he often runs in an ungainly, waddling manner off the path to grab a stick and chew on it: this kind of unpredictable behavior may have made the coyote wary and nervous. The coyote assumed its protective stance: crouching low, baring its teeth and scratching the ground. The owner called his dog back to the path. The coyote repeated this “challenging” stance three times, and finally ran off to engage in a barking session. I put this incident in here to show that although a lot of dog/coyote encounters are predictable, this isn’t always the case.

In another instance a coyote was sitting peacefully in a field, lower than the trail as a dog and owner walked by. The dog was leashed-up when I mentioned that a coyote was right there. The coyote crouched low, remained sitting, and kept an eye glued on the dog as it passed — this was not an instance of yawning as the dog went by.

Ears are a very important “tool” for inter-coyote communication. I have not looked at what difference the positioning and movement of the ears in dogs makes on the coyote’s behavior. It might be something to investigate.

Please see posting of December 12: “Dog Reactions to Seeing a Coyote”, November 17th: “ANOTHER reaction to dogs”, and December 1st: “Significance of a Seemingly Unprovoked challenge.” Also, please see the entry on “Coyote Safety” of 11/3, and “Blatant Visual Message for Newcomer Dog” of 2/8/10. “A short back-and-forth chase: coyote interaction with a large dog” of 2/4/10.

Safety Around Coyotes; PLUS Behaviors to be aware of if you have a dog: Updated

This information was distributed at a health & safety fair here in the city:


  •  coyotes are a natural part of this environment 
  • seldom are they aggressive, but they will protect themselves and their territories
  • small dogs could be targeted as prey 
  •  an ounce of prevention works! Protect both your dog and coyotes 
  • first and foremost, always be VIGILANT and AWARE when dog-walking
  • when walking a dog, always walk away from a coyote: Just outright AVOID it.

1) Prevent close coyote encounters in the first place:

  • never feed a coyote or try to tame it
  • never walk towards a coyote – give them space
  • never let your dog chase or play with a coyote
  • leash your dog whenever you see or hear a coyote or know one is in the area and walk away from it
  • pick up small dogs and walk away from the coyote

2) Behaviors coyotes use to protect themselves when chased by a dog

  • charge-and-retreat sequence
  • a long barking episode, often rearing up on their hind legs
  • a nipping at the haunches, same as a cattle dog herding, to move the dog away
  • “escorting” or following you out of the park (rarely)

3) If this should happen, first and foremost, GET AWAY FROM THE COYOTE by tightening your leash and dragging your dog away with you. Walk, don’t run. The coyote’s sole intention is to move you away — so please just do it!  If you choose to scare it away, you could throw a stone in the coyote’s direction or yell angrily while clapping and stepping in the coyote’s direction (without getting close), or slapping a newspaper on your thigh (as demonstrated in the video How To Shoo Off A Coyote), but know that what’s safest is simple and plain unmitigated avoidance. So, mainly:

  • grab your dog when you can and leave the area walking

4) Two coyote behaviors to be aware of — usually between a coyote and a dog who know each other:

  • “Chase-Chase” Behavior: the coyote will be traveling in the same direction as a walker and his/her unleashed dog, and will come in close with a little “darting in”  and “retreat”. The dog will return the behavior. It is almost a “dare” or “oneupmanship” with no other intention than just this — it verges on play. Some dogs can handle this, some need to be leashed.
  • A mother coyote may come to the aid of one of her full-grown pups and the two will work as a team to vex a dog to get it to leave: one coyote will distract the dog, the other will come around to dart in from the other side.
  • In both cases, leashing the dog creates a barrier of sorts: it calms down the dog — and this can be seen by the coyote. But also it keeps the dog next to the owner which serves to deter the coyote from coming in. Coyotes do not care to tangle with humans.

*A compilation of more in-depth information and a video can be found at: “FIRST: Coyote Coexistence Guidelines and Safety Information.”

Please read postings on December 12th: “Dog Reactions to Seeing a Coyote”, November 4th: “Some Reactions to Dogs”, November 17th: “ANOTHER Reaction to Dogs”, and December 1: “Significance of a Seemingly Unprovoked Challenge”. “Blatant Visual Message for Newcomer Dog” on 2/8/10. “A short back-and-forth chase: oneupmanship verging on play” 2/4/10.

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