Nighttime Howler – The Coyote

The first times I remember hearing the nighttime yips, wails, and howls of coyotes in the night, was back in the early 1980’s when I did a lot of tent camping. Back then I was scared of them and had all sorts of thoughts about these wild dogs coming into camp and attacking me. But, at that time, I was also completely ignorant about the coyote and its habits. It really wasn’t until 2011, when I was raising orphaned Daisy deer, that I took an interest in learning about this wild canine. My interest was not that I wanted to know more about its well-being, rather, I needed to know more about its hunting habits and range of territory – I needed to understand what Daisy was up against when we set her free. I no longer feared the coyotes presence. Instead, I was ferocious about protecting Daisy.

As it turned out, Daisy showed me that she was able to outsmart coyotes without my help. And, as the years rolled along, I tried to remind myself that somehow Spirit, one of the first of Daisy’s eight fawns, survived, and how a few other woodland fawns over the last years have been seen to survive from time to time as well. I remember, too, how many times Daisy showed me that instinct, along with her body’s ability to heal when she was injured, indicated that Nature had prepared her for survival. Still, the fact remained that there had always been healthy coyote numbers in the area – perhaps an over-population, and statistics had shown that the largest loss of fawns in this county was due to coyote predation. For a long time, because of my love of deer and other gentle critters of the woodlands, I had an attitude about the coyotes. I did not like them at all.

I spotted this coyote off the back porch slope. Every now and then they come up top from the canyon. Likely the sound of chickens clucking and roosters crowing draws them here.
Coyotes are very cautious. This one spotted me as soon as my camera clicked. It ran back down into the woods!
Coyote scat tells me a lot about what they are eating throughout the year. In spring and summer, deer and small mammal hair is mostly present. Sometimes small teeth can be seen in the scat. In autumn, I often see grasshopper parts in the scat. In lean winter months it’s common to find berries and woody looking material in the mass. Coyotes are truly survivalists.

Then, in 2016, I discovered an adult coyote in the old river channel suffering from mange. Somewhat surprisingly, I did not feel as elated as I thought I would feel, knowing that this particular coyote would live the remainder of its life in pain and misery and would probably not last the winter. I did not really like to think of any life form suffering, and wondered if this disease might spread, or if perhaps it was nature’s way of dealing with the over-population. I never considered that nature had its own way of taking care of the situation, and that it would cause me to think differently of my attitude about predators.

Last fall I spotted this male coyote many mornings while making my rounds in the pecan orchard. Even with my zoom lens I could never get a good photo of this fella. He spotted me coming down the buggy path and ran off quickly.
It’s rare to find the complete skull and jaw of any animal out in the wild. Hair and other bones of this coyote went untouched for nearly a year.
During fawn birthing season, this is an unfortunate and common sight in the woodlands. Coyote predation is the leading cause of death in fawns.

But nature had not yet finished educating me. While I cursed seeing coyotes roaming areas all through our property, I softened when we captured game camera image of a coyote family not far from the old river channel. There were also night videos of a female and a pup, hunting for prey. And there were the trips to the west end of the property, where I found a lone pup sitting on a knoll each day. Possibly, the parents had left it there to attempt hunting on its own. Seeing all this, I felt torn inside. As much as I did not like the thought of a new generation of coyotes on the place, I also saw a family, struggling to survive like any other life form.

I surprised a young coyote pup on a knoll at the west end of our property. Likely it was watching for small mammals or birds to hunt.
The game camera captured this young family of coyotes near the old river channel.

Now, when I hear the distant cries, yipping, and barking of the coyote at night, I wonder at how my perspective of them has changed. Admittedly, I will probably never love the coyotes, but I recognize their role in the ecosystem, and I see them in a more respectful light.

© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


31 thoughts on “Nighttime Howler – The Coyote

  1. Like you, I am torn about how much I really do not like the coyote. It has played a part in how I am so protective of my cats and my dogs. I had a large catico (a completely enclosed indoor/outdoor system) built so that I can keep my cats safe. I am also very protective of my dogs and do not let them run, at night, even in my totally fenced yard, . The coyotes live in the surrounding ravines that are not far from my house. Yes, the coyote is a survivalist and an opportunist. This is an animal that has learned to adapt to human encroachment. The coyote can be found in the suburbs and even in some cities. It simply knows how to survive. I have also read about and have seen photos of fox in the city . But not to be outdone, hawks and owls live and hunt in the suburbs and even in some downtown areas. All these species of wildlife hunt for small dogs. cats. pigeons and other birds feeding at backyard feeders.

    So, yes, I would be beside myself if I had raised deer that were now at the mercy of mother nature. But what I have read and know, the carnivores hunt for the vulnerable and seek at the slowest, the oldest and the sickest. According to wildlife authorities, this is what keeps populations of animals and birds from exploding and prevents disease from spreading.

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    1. I too, understand how nature works, and I try to be respectful of it all. We see the fox and coyote in town as well – and in my last post I mentioned a city worker told me he’d seen a bobcat moving through the alley and on into the residential area to the east. People have no idea that what they do attracts these predators. People leave cat or dog food outside, they leave trash and fast food wrappers laying about. Wildlife are opportunists. Those food sources are free. I can’t blame them for taking advantage. What really disgusts me is that we commonly find disposable diapers in the pecan orchard. People that litter, often give these dirty diapers a toss out the window, and a wild animal picks it up and eats it. And of course it is that time of year approaching where our neighbor will harvest a deer and throw the discarded parts at the fence line bordering his property and the orchard. I can hardly wait to see the trail of deer parts strewn all across the orchard into the old river channel.

      I can tell you I watch my little house dogs like a hawk each time I take them outdoors.

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  2. I was glad to read your views of coyotes. We’ve heard them often this summer, closer and louder than ever before. We have no pets, so we are not involved, but we are concerned for a neighbor’s cat that lives in a garage and is free to roam 24 hours a day. Hopefully, she has sense enough to stay inside at night.

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    1. It is interesting you mentioned your neighbor’s cat, Anne. Last year we started seeing a lot of feral cats in the woods. As the summer and autumn rolled along I began finding paws and legs of these cats on the driveway or out in the pasture while I was mowing. We didn’t really see any coyotes on game cameras, but I did see a fox quite often on camera and during daylight. I think foxes are mostly the culprits here where cats are concerned. I often see them heading into town. I understand cat food is a favorite snack of theirs and I know a few folks around here who leave food out for stray cats.

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    1. I loved that family photo too, Henrie. It kind of softened my attitude. And no, adult coyotes do not have any predators except perhaps a mountain lion which we do hear about every now and then – but they’re not common. I do think though, that the pups are preyed on by other mammals, perhaps wild dogs or even wild hogs.

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    1. There are some pretty good tips in that article, and I especially found the hazing section very good information. I have done the waving of arms and shouting and growling to run coyotes and foxes away from the chickens and deer pen before. https://littlesundog.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/hear-me-roar/ I think we all can be ferocious when adrenaline kicks in. However, I’m not so sure I’d be so tough facing a mountain lion or a bear!!

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  3. In your work, I’m sure it’s hard to appreciate the predators, but Nature wins. When I started seeing coyotes and hawks again in Iowa, I was thrilled. To me, it meant the land was healing from decades of DDT use.

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    1. What an interesting thing to note, Sandy. I remember when DDT was used, and all of the controversy over it being banned finally. You’re right, all wildlife flourishes here because the land is healthy. Thank you for this positive perspective!

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  4. An interesting post, Lori. I have only ever seen coyotes traveling alone, and I have never seen a young coyote! Your trail camera shots are a real treat for me. Although I have heard a pack of coyotes in the night on several occasions the one that sticks so vividly in my mind was on our honeymoon. We camped in various places in the Indian lands, most vivid of those would be Chaco Canyon. At the time it was a hard entry. A very narrow, rocky, bumpy, dirt rut, and when we arrived we had the whole campground to ourselves. To hear them yipping and howling through our little tent’s walls in that quiet place was eerie. They sounded very near.

    I know my comment this morning is very much grandstanding, but your pictures have brought to mind my memories of that time thirty-eight years ago, and enhanced that one of Chaco Canyon in a meaningful way. ❤ Thank you.

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    1. I was in Chaco Canyon two decades ago, and the road was still very primitive at that time. I imagine you would be very alone in that area. No one else was visiting when we were there. Not even the coyotes!

      I’m glad this brought back wonderful memories. It is good to remember that the coyotes communication skills are quite interesting and beautiful. We hear them often in the evenings and early morning hours.

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  5. We live in a small town in western Washington, across from a park. It’s not uncommon to hear a pack of coyotes howling in the night. I grew up in rural Indiana so the sound is not unfamiliar to me, but I never ceases to raise the hair on my arms and send a chill down my spine. The coyotes in our area never get close to our house because we don’t see them on our security cameras, but the deer in the area frequent our yard, so I think it’s just a matter of time before one or two wanders closer. Thank you for posting these pictures – they’re beautiful animals, even if they do cause a healthy amount of hesitation and torn feelings.

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    1. I think you are right – you will see the coyotes venture into your area soon too. They’ve acclimated to the outskirts of town here. Foxes are very common in nearby neighborhoods. And like you, the calls and cries give me a chill down my spine too. Especially if they sound halfway close,in the woods just behind the house, in the canyon out back!

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    1. That’s interesting and maybe they howled because of the music. I often find if the ambulance or fire trucks have their sirens on here in town, that neighborhood dogs and distant coyote yips and howls can be heard. What a cacophony!!

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  6. Like Lynda, I found your post reminding me of the first time I heard a coyote. I was in Nevada, up on a butte near the Black Rock desert just after sunset. I had no idea what I was hearing when they began to howl, but when some folks grinned and explained it the next day, I was amazed.

    Now, I hear them when I’m out in the hill country, or down the coast but I never see them there. I get an occasional glimpse here in town, especially when I’m out and about really early in the morning, but they’re pretty stealthy. We know they’re keeping the feral cat population down, and doing a bang up job of it. Actually, that’s all to the good, as it helps out the birds that the cats otherwise would be hunting.

    They’re resilient creatures, for sure. If we just could train them to hunt feral hogs in packs, we might have something going, but a single coyote, or even a pair, is no match for those critters.

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    1. Now wouldn’t that be something? I would have a much better attitude about them if they hunted down and killed or ran off wild hogs. We have been seeing a few wild hogs on the game cameras, and lately a couple have come as far as the slope just behind out home. I’m not too keen on my river hikes knowing those beasts are around. I always make sure when I’m hiking to keep an eye on a tree with a low crotch so I could at least climb to safety. I don’t think my tazer would do much but make them even more violent!!

      I’m always glad when an experience brings about pleasant memories for someone. We do have to hand it to the coyotes for their communication skills. The howling and yipping is unlike any other mammal. Wouldn’t you love to know what it all meant, if anything?

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  7. As you would know from reading my blog, the coyotes remind me of our dingoes. The howling in the darkness is so eerie. I hate the thought that they prey on the smaller kangaroos and wallabies, which only eat grass and are seemingly innocent. But even the kangaroos can expand populations to become terrible nuisances to farmers, and even populate landing strips so that the flying doctor has trouble landing on a property in case of emergency. Like you, I know these things but it is still hard to accept the seeming raw cruelty of it all. I wish they liked the feral cats. Now THAT would be fantastic. We have a terrible feral cat problem here. Thank you for this thought provoking post, Lori. x

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