What to do when you see a coyote?

Shiva and I met a coyote last week. We weren’t hiking in the mountains or bushwhacking in the woods. It was 6:30 on a Monday morning and we had just begun our ritual walk in the ravine. I saw movement ahead and my first assumption was an off-leash dog. Before I could even roll my eyes, the animal turned to trot in our direction and I knew my initial inclinations were wrong. There was no mistaking the confidence of a wild predator. This was no muttski.

He looked like this, actually, only not as healthy.

He looked like this, actually, only not as healthy.

He, or she, was thinner than other coyotes I’ve seen. Rangier, even, than the photo I nicked from Wikipedia to the left. The animal, whatever his or her sex, was built almost like Shiva. He was the same height and shape, only with less muscle and lacking her adorable puppiness. I haven’t spotted one in Alberta for a long time, not since I lived in the South and I would see them wandering down the side of a prairie road. Shiva and I hear them often but seeing them is rare. In a way, we were lucky.

Shiva doesn’t have a lot of experience with predator-type animals. Or any. Her response to most of the wild creatures we have encountered is much the same. Raccoon… Friend! Duck… Friend! Deer… Friend! Porcupine… Best! Friend! Ever! For the most part, she sees the world as full of animals dying to be sniffed. Her sole objective is to get her nose up the other animal’s bottom as soon as she possibly can. I had hope that she would be smart enough to tell the difference between a rabbit and a species who could cause he harm.

I was wrong.

Shiva responded to the sight of the coyote with the same alert anticipation she responds to off-leash dogs. Cautious, to be sure, but not afraid. Ears erect, tail high on her back, she wanted to investigate. If she hadn’t been connected to me via a thick nylon cord, she probably would have. Would this have been a problem? It’s hard to say. It was just one coyote. In all likelihood, he or she would have taken off and all would have been as normal. Then again, I wasn’t willing to take that kind of risk.

I am still unsure as the best thing to do in this scenario. While I have read all the books and heard all of the well-meaning advice, I don’t know if there is any one right way to respond. Sometimes the right thing turns out to be wrong and sometimes the dumb thing turns out to be smart. Show no fear, they say. Don’t look weak. Stand your ground. In an actual dangerous situation, I think all one can do is trust her instincts. More often than not, my instincts tell me to get the heck out of there.

Not that I think Shiva and I were in any danger. The coyote was far enough away and outnumbered. There was no need to do anything. Still, I chose to leave the park and take a different route. It seemed more reasonable at the time. Who needs that kind of stress on a Monday?

It makes me wonder, however, if I need to prepare myself better for future encounters. We live in bear country now and if I am going to follow through with my goals to hit up the back country this year, it is very possible a coyote will be the least of our problems. It’s not just my safety I have to worry about. The quickest way to ruin a good backpacking trip is to watch Shiva run up to a Grizzly and shove her nose up his butt.

Do you have any dog-wild predator encounter stories? How did you handle it? What do you do when you see a coyote?

14 thoughts on “What to do when you see a coyote?

  1. First thought is to put a bear bell on Shiva’s collar. All that jingling will warn off a lot of wildlife.

    My dogs would have chased that coyote to the ends of the earth if they had been off leash. We don’t have them where I live but we do have lots of foxes and my guys are always on the look out for a good chase. Leashes are a must as a result.

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  2. When we lived in California we would see coyotes a lot. Great Pyrenees were actually bred to ward off predator, such as coyotes, from the flock that they guard. Every time we would see one, it became instinctual for Mauja. There wasn’t way she was letting one any where close to us.

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  3. I’m sorry I have no experience with rural predators. Junkies, muggers, and home burglars, yeah. So give me a call if you ever move to an iffy neighborhood in Toronto.

    But seriously, I’d reach out to savvy dog people who hike or live in areas where they’ve probably had similar experiences, perhaps Roxanne Hawn of Champion of My Heart, Jessica at You Did What With Your Wiener, and even Patricia McConnell.

    I hope your encounters with coyotes remain safe. It’s a privilege to be able to live near a little bit of “wild.”

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  4. I see/hear coyotes all the time in our suburb, and have had more than one way-too-close encounter where they’ve actually approached.
    For coyotes, I recommend an air horn if it wouldn’t freak Shiva out too much. I’ve used mine a handful of times and it works well and strikes me as a better option than wielding a large stick or throwing rocks.
    For bears, get a good bear banger. We have one and have successfully used it in the back country (black bears and grizzleys). If you anticipate getting really intimate with a bear, bear spray is also handy.

    But I had to lol at your description of Shiva’s attitude towards other species – it is the exact same as Moses’!

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  5. We run into them quite often – the danger with a lone coyote is that they may be trying to lure you/your dog into a trap. Another concern is rabies. Sometimes they are just curious and will follow us. I carry mace and in some 30 plus years of running into them I’ve never had a serious encounter while walking dogs. We also keep our pups on leashes. A few neighbors had loose dogs attack and killed by them. It’s a good idea to keep lots of space between you – don’t walk towards them, change direction, etc. Last year we had trouble with a pack coming after the horses. Turns out we rode close to a den with pups. Thank goodness we could out run them – I don’t know what would have happened if we had been walking.

    Good luck!

    Monty and Harlow

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  6. So very interesting! I live in Chicago and a few years ago the city released coyotes to help with rats and other varmint. I have seen them roaming in the early morning hours and hear them occasionally. I have not encountered one walking Barry yet. I have no doubt Barry would act just like Shiva. He wants to meet each animal within site.

    Here is something I found helpful for encountering coyotes: http://www.wikihow.com/Act-when-Near-a-Coyote

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  7. So very interesting! I live in Chicago and a few years ago the city released coyotes to help with rats and other varmint. I have seen them roaming in the early morning hours and hear them occasionally. I have not encountered one walking Barry yet. I have no doubt Barry would act just like Shiva. He wants to meet each animal within site.

    Here is something I found helpful for encountering coyotes: http://www.wikihow.com/Act-when-Near-a-Coyote

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  8. I want to echo what Sam saod, my friend who lives in Calgary actually watched a situation where they lured in a Golden retriever. Fortunately everything was ok but it was scary. They tend to hang out in the River Valley. The dog park by the zoo even has signs posted warning about the coyotes.

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  9. Yikes! I am so glad Shiva was tethered to you. I saw a YouTube video a woman posted of a coyote trying to get her BC to chase it into an area where the rest of the pack of coyotes laid in waiting to attack. It freaked me out so badly that now I am so cautious. I doubt that a lone coyote would attack you and Shiva together, but Shiva alone might be a different story. So glad you were both safe.

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  10. We have coyotes around here but rarely ever see one.

    Once we saw one quite close on the walk with JD. The coyote stood there, looking at us. We stopped, looking at it trying to decide what I should do.

    I decided to try canine language 🙂 I stood tall, with JD beside me, put my hands on my hips to make myself bigger and leaned forward a bit. The coyote looked at us again and walked away.

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  11. SCARY. We have been lucky, mostly it is deer we run into, so far we haven’t seen one, but a neighbor less than a half a mile away had one in her back yard.

    I carry a pepper blaster, I’m not sure how that would work but that’s what I have. I have no idea how my dogs would react. Probably similar to Shiva. I’m glad you had a good hold on her and that were both okay.

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  12. And I thought I had a lot to worry about with possible snakes in the area. Could you try making some noise as you walk or carry something with you that could? If ever I start to worry about snakes I start stamping my feet (as someone told me the vibrations will scare them off, if this is not correct do not tell me, I do not want to know!)

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