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Coyotes are as wily as ever

Coyotes are a common sight in rural areas, it pays to be wary of them.

Brent Murphree

January 18, 2024

2 Min Read
Nearly a third of coyote attacks are reported to be by animals that are being fed by humans nearby, thus conditioning them to human habitation.Getty Images/iStockphoto

I was in Missouri recently and watched a coyote saunter across a four-lane highway into someone’s front yard on a farm. It kept its pace steady, comfortable in its path and environment. It struck me as odd that such a wily beast would seem so at ease along a busy road and in such close proximity to human activity.

Recently, I got up before sunrise to take my morning walk with the dog. When we walked outside, a chorus of what seemed like a thousand howling coyotes sang out from just behind my neighbors’ house about a hundred yards away.

Both the dog and I paused. Usually if there seems to be heavy coyote or strange dog activity in the area I grab my war club, a hefty, polished saguaro cactus rib, to fend off any potentially aggressive animal.

I’ve never had to use it – but it is a comforting tool.

When we heard the wild chorus of coyotes, both the dog and I stood there and looked at each other. I gave no thought about the war club, instead we both turned around and walked back into the house.

I have never done that before. It just seemed like a wise decision, given the number of howling and yipping sounds coming out of the dark.

Coyote attacks on humans are rare, but they do occasionally happen – mostly in urban areas and specifically in Southern California for some reason. Some of the reports from Los Angeles County are actually kind of funny – lunch pail stolen, chased up tree, backpack successfully defended, purse stolen.

I can’t say the same about attacks on small, domestic animals – chickens, cats, small dogs. Those reports frequently end with the death of the prey animal.

We had a tough little cocker spaniel mix that didn’t weigh much more than 10 pounds. She was once attacked by a coyote on the farm. It picked her up and tried to carry her off, but our dog was tough. She torqued her body and the coyote lost its grip.

Our dog came screaming through the back door with wounds on both sides of her body. The wounds healed and her fur grew back in slightly darker. She was much more wary after that.

Another family of coyotes lived in a gulch behind the house. When we got too close to their den, the adult male made his presence known by standing just outside the surrounding thicket, yipping quietly until we moved further away.

Experts say that it is not typical for coyotes to attack humans, but when they do it is because they feel threatened, are hungry or are ill. Nearly a third of coyote attacks are reported to be by animals that are being fed by humans nearby, thus conditioning them to human habitation.

My best advice – leave them alone and carry a war stick.

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