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Posts Tagged ‘coyote luring dogs’

In most of the US, coyotes, people, and domestic dogs live quite close to each other, and there are certainly conflicts. Coyotes can behave as predators toward small dogs and cats, and when someone loses a pet to a coyote, it is a truly sad event.

One idea that seems to be out there is that coyotes lure dogs to their death. This is an old cowboy story, but it goes this way. A coyote runs up to a dog that you’re walking. They coyote tries to play with the dog, and most dogs will play with the coyote. The coyote runs away the dog, taking it back into the cover where its pack then leaps upon the dog and kills and eats it.

These events may happen, but I doubt they are as common as people assume.  What is actually going when something like this happens isn’t anything planned out by the coyotes. Coyotes generally don’t regard dogs that are their size or larger as being distinct species.

Coyotes are socially monogamous. Only one female per territory has a litter every year, but very often, offspring from the previous year will remain with their parents. They will often be on a look out for a potential mate, and if one these young, unpaired coyotes discovers a dog, it might try to flirt with the dog.

The problem happens when the flirting coyote, usually a young female, takes the dog back to meet the parents. Coyotes generally hate when dogs get near their dens and rendezvous sites, and the parents may attack their daughter’s new boyfriend.  These encounters almost always occur during mating and denning seasons.

They may kill the dog, if the dog is of the right size and the coyote pack is large enough. However, they never planned out that they were going to kill a dog in this fashion. That is attributing far higher reasoning powers upon an animal than the animal possesses.

Large and mid-sized dogs are not easy prey for coyotes. They have jaws and sharp teeth, and even if a pack were to swarm a large dog, the risks of injury are quite high.  Coyotes are generally smart enough to avoid taking unnecessary risks with their prey sources.

So the idea that coyotes have a predation strategy that involves luring dogs into their deaths is based upon a faulty understanding of coyote behavior.

And it is a textbook example of projection. Why do I say this?

Well, one well-known method for hunting coyotes involves using decoys dogs.  During the denning and mating season, a coyote hunter will play coyote howls or prey in distress sounds.  These sounds, when played in a sequence, will tell a resident coyote pair that a poacher is upon their land.

When the coyotes come in to investigate, a well-trained, mid-sized dog is sent out. This dog, called the “decoy dog,” plays the role of the poaching coyote that was howling and killing prey on their territory. The coyotes rush the dog. The dog annoys them, and when the coyotes decide to come in strong, the dog runs back toward the hunter who then shoots the coyotes.

This way of coyote hunt is essentially the same as the behavior ascribed to coyotes when they are alleged to lure dogs away.

Indeed, I bet if we actually knew the real numbers, dogs are responsible for killing more coyotes than coyotes are for killing dogs. Not only are dogs used to hunt coyotes in the way that I just described. but there are plenty of scenthounds, curs, HPRs, and coursing dogs that are maestros at taking out coyotes.

Because coyotes are so controversial and often so reviled,  very few people have questioned the behavioral sequences that lie behind that old cowboy story.

I am not denying that coyotes can and do kill dogs. I know that conflicts between humans and coyotes are very real, and they often can only be addressed through lethal means. I am also not opposed to coyote hunting, because hunting them can be a way of keeping the peace between coyotes and farming and hunting interests.

But we do animals a disservice when we attribute human characteristics upon them, whether it is to confer positive or negative intent. We need to accept that animals are animals and appreciate what they really are.

 

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