Curiosity vs. Fleeing

Coyotes generally prefer not to be seen. However, they also can be quite curious which at times overrides their shyness. I think both of these tendencies, curiosity and shyness, are always present in a coyote, but sometimes one is stronger than the other. If you happen to see a coyote, you can be sure that it saw you. It might stop to examine you or your dog, especially if you have stopped to look at it. It is probably best, if you have a dog, to always keep moving on — all interactions between coyotes and dogs should be avoided in order to avert future problem interactions. Here are three examples of coyote encounters I have had:

I was alone when one coyote came in my direction. It stopped when it saw me and placed its front paws on a rock to lift itself so that it could see me better. I stopped to watch it and I was very still — it was probably curious because of my own stillness. This stillness often increases a coyote’s curiosity: it wants to know what you are doing and where you are going, and it can’t figure these out when you are still! The coyote did not hang around long, just long enough to get a good look.

In a second example, the set of two coyotes, pictured above, had been fleeing from a group of dog walkers when they happened in my direction. Again, I was alone and very still as I watched them — they approached a short distance to look at me. At the same time, they kept their attention mainly on the dog group which was coming in their direction.  Dogs have often chased coyotes, so the coyotes often are wary and defensive against dogs, especially the more active dogs. As the dog walkers approached, the coyotes fled.

In my third example, I saw a coyote which was very shy. It saw me walking on a path. Without stopping, it hopped up on a rock to get a better view of me. I continued walking. I could see that this coyote was uncomfortable that it had been seen. It did not stay to examine me, but fled very quickly and I did not see it again.

Please keep your dogs leashed in a coyote area. Please see the posting at the head of this blog: safety measures for keeping a coyote from coming too close. Coyotes in our parks have never come up to humans, though they have approached some of the dogs. Please keep a safe distance for your own, your dog’s and the coyote’s safety.

Fleeing from a Mountain Biker

I came across a young coyote sitting in a field, facing a small path. I sat down to watch for a few moments. Suddenly, and quietly, a biker on his large, very bright yellow mountain bike came up the winding dirt path. The bright colors of the biker and bike were in complete contrast to all the other outdoor colors that one would find in a natural setting: the bike clashed with the environment. The coyote immediately took off at a high speed run — really flying with both feet off the ground — into the distance, about 120 feet away. Here it stayed and watched until the biker had passed through. Interestingly, once the coyote was far enough away, it did not slither into the underbrush, but turned around to watch the biker. This may be because the coyote was aware that the biker was not pursuing it and probably had not even seen it. People very often do not notice a coyote, even one that is only a short distance in front of them — I think we humans have our minds on other things. When I spoke to the biker, he told me that he had not seen the coyote.

Another interesting thing about this particular incident is that shortly after the biker passed, who should appear on the scene but mom coyote. Had she been watching the entire time? When the young coyote saw her, it bounded up to her, and they both proceeded slowly across the field, looking for gophers until they disappeared from my view into a thicket area.