Appreciate – but don’t mess with – the coyote

Appreciate – but don’t mess with – the coyote

By RVer

He must be one of Warner Brothers’ favorites: Wile E. Coyote, facing off in those “can’t win” situations with the Roadrunner. No, that poor four-footer just couldn’t ever seem to get it straight. Sadly, many people — including some well-meaning RVers — can’t seem to get it straight about coyotes either.

If you RV just about anywhere in the U.S., you may have occasion to run into the humble coyote. Come winter, many of the contacts are in the desert Southwest, where the relatively warm winters bring thousands of RVers out onto the desert and into prime coyote country.

“Are the coyotes dangerous?” “Will they eat my dog?” “Should I carry a gun?” These are frequent questions of newcomers to coyote country. Some, sitting by the firelight, will head for the rig as soon as a coyote “tunes up” anywhere nearby. For those familiar with Canis latrans, the howl of the ‘yote is pure music to the ear.

The desert coyote is a fairly small critter compared to his mountain-dwelling cousin. Quartzsite coyotes run about the size of a mid-sized collie. What do they dine on? Typically the desert coyote is only interested in rabbits, mice, an occasional baby mountain sheep and plenty of ground squirrels. They’ll also eat bugs, fruits and vegetables. And yes, if your dog, cat or other small companion is left out in harm’s way, the opportunistic coyote may take a bite. It’s always wise to keep a close eye on your pets — never chain them out, especially at night — but on occasion, coyotes are seen near human habitation even by day.

Will a coyote harm you? Typically coyotes avoid contact with humans. An ill coyote, particularly a rabid one, might approach people. Thankfully that’s a pretty rare occurrence. But if a coyote approaches you, it’s best to try and shoo him off with a shout and a waving of the hands. If that doesn’t work, then by all means take shelter in the RV, car or other available hideout and call local authorities.

Some well-meaning folks think it’s good sport to feed the coyotes. Please don’t! Coyotes are very well-equipped to provide for themselves, and associating food hand outs with humans can put coyotes at a great disadvantage. They then can become a nuisance and line themselves up for destruction.

The song of the coyote: Coyotes have distinctive calls for varying purposes. As you sit by the campfire, see if you can sort out the signals. Howling is used for long-distance communication. For males, a howl tells another male coyote to stay out of the area. It can also be an invite for a little fun with the opposite sex. Yelping is often heard among groups of coyotes, who can form up clans. A yelp could be a bit of a celebratory note, or it could be a disagreement among the family getting itself sorted out. Among coyote pups, yelping is common among playmates. Barking, akin to dog barking, is usually associated with protective behavior, as when somebody’s getting too close to the den. Some RVers swear that coyotes also use barks to lure household dogs out on the desert to come to (and become) dinner.

Coyotes are just another wonder of the desert creation, one that most RVers appreciate as part of our special lifestyle.

photo: justinjohnsen on flickr.com

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