Tuesday, August 7, 2012


 I was walking with a friend of mine from work (and her friend) with their two dogs.  We were in the woods.  The dogs were behind us, sniffing something along the side of the path when I noticed a large dog walk across the path.  Or more accurately, lope across the path.  I came this close to cooing at it when I realized that there was no person following the dog.  And then I realized that was a coyote.

Now here's the thing about coyotes--I was very leery of them, until I learned how small they were.  Then I figured that yes, you have to be careful with regard to kids and pets but a fully grown adult doesn't need to worry too much.  But this animal was quite large--not the size of a wolf, but the size of a very large dog, certainly.  I did some Googling later that week, and found out that when coyotes--which used to be limited to the west--migrated east, they interbred with red wolves.  They seem to act mainly like coyotes--they are comfortable enough around people that they have made their homes in suburbia and even urban areas (they are around in Boston) but timid enough where they won't hang out with people openly--they try to make themselves scarce.  Having said that, I was glad I was with friends.

I can see why Jonathan Way, a researcher who studies the eastern coyote, calls them coywolves.

Coyotes are opportunistic animals--like raccoon, bears, crows (have you seen what those birds to do trash bags?), and squirrels.  If you live in an area where they are around--and chances are, if you live in North America, they're around--you can take steps to discourage them from hanging out in your yard.

First, they will go through your trash.  Keep it in your garage (or make sure it's in the dumpster if you live in a complex).  Don't take it out until the morning of trash pickup.

Second, if you have a dog, let it just hang out in your yard unsupervised.  Coyotes can climb chain link fences.  If you have a fence, make sure it's one they cannot climb and make sure it's deep enough underground that they cannot dig under it.  Coyotes regard dogs as competition, not prey.  Sometimes they are just curious about them if you're out walking with them, and sometimes they'll sort of shadow you (but not bug you) because you're unknowingly near their pups--so they "escort" you away from the pups.

Third, if you have a cat, keep it indoors.  Cats are ace predators, true, but there are plenty of animals that will go after cats and eat them--fisher cats (a type of weasel), coyotes, some birds of prey, among others.  (Between the predators and cars, it's a good idea to keep your cat indoors if you can.)

Fourth, do not leave pet food outside for your pets.  It will attract coyotes--and other critters.While we're at it, you may want to rethink birdseed.  If you live in black bear country, they'll eat it.  And coyotes eat it--and they'll certainly be attracted to the squirrels.  Basically, you don't want to feed wild animals intentionally or unintentionally.  I love birds and would love a bird feeder.  And while birds (and the thieving squirrels) seem to do just fine with being fed, a large fed mammal does not survive well.  They acclimate too much to people, they might attack someone, they become dependent upon people providing food, they end up dead.  There is a saying, "A fed animal is a dead animal."  If you love the beasts, don't feed them.  They are quite good at feeding themselves.

You can see more advice on how to avoid coyote interactions on Jonathan Way's page.  You can also learn more about eastern coyotes there.  It's fascinating.

I am not one of those people who goes out into the woods and communes with nature--and I don't seek out large mammals.  The larger they are, the more nervous I get.  One of my biggest fears around eastern coyotes is mistaking one for a dog--it's easy to do--and trying to call it over.  While they are beautiful animals and I get the urge to scritch and pet beautiful animals, wild animals are so not into that at all.  As it should be.

I do appreciate them from a distance.  I respect nature--which means I let wild animals be wild animals and I don't try to feed them or tell myself that I have some special bond with them.  I don't entertain the thought of having them as pets (that's very cruel to the animal).  I'd like to smack people who do that.  But that's another post.


  1. Wow, that's amazing! The biggest thing we have is foxes I think! :) (Although there's talk of reintroducing wolves to Scotland). What did the coyote do when you were there?

    1. It just loped across the path and into the woods. Took no notice of us (or the dogs) at all, thankfully. Probably patrolling its home range--a coyote's home range is apparently quite large!

  2. Excellent advice, Pamela. We have them here too, unfortunately.

  3. Living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for over 10 years gave me a huge appreciation of these animals. Yet when the mix with domestic dogs that the locals called "Coys" they can become very aggressive, also up there I actually witnessed a pack of around 30 coyotes take down a neighbors dog....horrific sounding and witnessing! We use to have to walk a 1/4 mile driveway to the house in the winter around 1am many times and it made me a tad nervous! Beautiful animal though!

    1. Good to know. We just got back from vacationing in Gaylord, MI (northern part of the lower peninsula in case anyone is wondering) and enjoyed hearing them (far off) at night. It's always important to respect wild creatures and you had a good reminder.

    2. I love the Gaylord area, been there many a times :)

  4. We have some coyotes in my area! I think it's super cool to see them.

    Great post!


  5. While I was battling raccoons, someone said there were coyotes across the street and down one half a block. I have my hens' pen dig proof and a secure top!

    I read that a raccoon came on a woman's porch, looking for food the woman usually put out. The raccoon attacked the woman when there was no food. Yikes!