Three behaviours people mistake for aggression in coyotes

Three behaviours people mistake for aggression in coyotes

A hiker wrote in to their local newspaper, advising others in the area to be aware of coyotes he had come across. “They were the most aggressive and bold” coyotes he’d ever seen.

The Fur-Bearers often come across well-meaning individuals who see wildlife, particularly coyotes, acting in a way they believe to be aggressive. These observations are typically simple misunderstandings – but the consequences can be dire, leading to poor policy or general public fear of innocent animals.

Some of these behaviours include:

  1. Following:coyotes are highly intelligent and curious creatures, kind of like your own domestic dog. It’s not uncommon for them to follow hikers, joggers, or cyclists as they make their way through a path, particularly if they have a den nearby.This behaviour is curiosity, not aggression.
  2. Staring:perhaps the most intimidating thing any wild animal can do is simply stare. Those big eyes watching you, and sometimes not running away from unusual noises or motions you make, can seem very frightening. It isn’t about being aggressive or bold, however, it’s about caution. You might be near a den site, a food source, or even have just startled the coyote. Most of the time, the coyote is watching you because you’re a big, frightening animal, and they don’t know what you’ll do.This behaviour is caution, not aggression.
  3. Howling and yipping:the cacophony of coyotes making noise at night is a remarkable thing to hear, and it’s also frequently misunderstood. Of all the many things The Fur-Bearers have heard from various sources (celebrating a kill, announcing a hunt, attracting dogs), the scientific explanation is much more simple: they’re sounding off. Coyotes use their howls and yips to let other members of the family know where they are, and to let other coyote families know that this is their territory. Additionally, coyotes are capable of many different sounds, so only two or three can sound like as many as ten!This behaviour is the family GPS – not aggression.

Remember that coyotes, just like most wildlife, don’t really want to be around us. But when they are, it’s because we’ve encouraged them (direct or indirect feeding), or created a situation where it’s unavoidable (exploring areas where they live).Coyotes want what we want: a safe place to raise their young and provide for their families. And it’s up to us to make sure we can allco-exist.


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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible.

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