Shifting perspectives: Coyotes aren’t luring your dog and other myths busted

A coyote (Canis latrans) walking in the snow.

Are you seeing social media posts alleging coyotes will lure your dog from your yard to be ambushed? What about that the sounds you may hear of coyotes at night are them celebrating a fresh kill? You may have even seen the notorious “coyote in mating season” meme by this point. These posts have two things in common: they’re an attempt to give people safety information, and they’re wrong.

That’s not to say that what pet owners or others in nature have observed is inaccurate; it’s that the wild perspective, or in this case, the coyotes’ perspective, isn’t being considered. To best explain this idea, it’s easiest to break down a few of the memes and posts that are currently circulating:

  1. A coyote will “lure” dogs from the safety of their homes to an ambush point, when other coyotes will attack and kill your dog. From a human perspective, this seems logical. However, we know that dogs will often follow things that interest them and that coyotes will go home (to their families) when they feel threatened. We also know that in the majority of incidents reported, dogs were off leash when they came into conflict with coyotes. To people it may seem that coyotes are “luring” dogs, but the reality is that dogs are following coyotes – and coyotes are protecting themselves from this threat.
  2. Coyotes make noise to celebrate a kill. While people celebrate with loud noises and celebratory calls, most animals in nature don’t. In fact, doing so would alert all the competitors you have to a brand new food source. Coyotes do make a lot of noise to communicate with each other though; what we hear at night is often the family GPS system in action.
  3. That coyote was as big as a German Shepherd Dog! Coyotes can be quite tall and have extremely fluffy fur, but even Eastern coyotes (who are larger than western coyotes) don’t get much heavier than 50 pounds (22 kg), whereas dogs like German Shepherds average between 60 to 90 pounds (27 to 41 kg). Don’t let that fur fool you!
  4. Coyote mating season means pets are at risk. Coyotes are going to be mating soon (as are many other wild animals across Canada) and that can mean they’re more visible. But the indication that coyotes will target dogs is unfounded. In fact, a viral meme purporting to show a coyote attacking a dog is in fact a group of dogs attacking a coyote caught in a leg-hold trap (click here for the analysis and full image series).

Coyotes can be intimidating animals, particularly with all the stories we’ve been told about them. But they’re very much like domestic dogs: they want a warm place to sleep, food in their bellies, and to be with their families. Let’s help them by not feeding and teaching others to let coyotes be wild.

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