Why That Roaming Pack of Coyotes Could Be a Myth

When we hear coyotes barking, howling and yipping at each other, is that a big pack of roaming songdogs or only a few young ones being rowdy?

Why That Roaming Pack of Coyotes Could Be a Myth

Just two or three young coyotes yipping, yapping and crying can sound like a large, roaming pack of songdogs. (Photo: USFWS)

Back in summer I wrote about how coyotes had moved to a nearby crop field and were more elusive than normal until an ambulance siren made them sound off.

Normally I'd see coyote poop around the lake where I fish. The poop would have hair and tiny bones, I figured from varmints, and persimmon seeds in October after the mast drops. My game cameras would show coyotes roaming around, too. But not this summer. They moved, possibly for better or more consistent food.

Over the weekend an ambulance sped on the highway with its siren blaring. This time, though, the coyotes sounded off on our property again. The yipping, yapping, barking and crying lasted 30-45 seconds, which doesn't sound like much but they were hardcore and gettin' after it. It also sounded like they were running through the woods chasing something.

And then, everything stopped like a light switch had been flipped. Nary another yip, yap, bark or cry. That "giant pack of coyotes," or so it seemed was gone.

As all that was going on I thought about the information the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission sent recently about coyotes and how they communicate. What we often think is a giant, roaming pack of coyotes could be simply a group of young, rowdy coyotes born back in February or March now stretching their legs and vocal chords.

From NC Wildlife:

Once they’re old enough to survive on their own, young coyotes may wander long distances — upward of 300 miles — before settling down somewhere that’s not already occupied by an established coyote pair.

At first, littermates often travel together before splitting off in search of an unrelated mate. During this time, these young coyotes will yip, howl and bark to keep track of each other as well as other coyotes whose territories they are passing through.

Because of the hollow tone of their howl and a tendency to vocalize rapidly in a constant stream of sounds, two coyotes can sound like a huge group and may sound closer than they actually are.

Two? Only two? But, that's a giant pack of coyotes running and tearing through the woods and fields! Listen to them! There must be a dozen of them!

Sounds can be deceiving. Two or three young coyotes being a little rowdy probably is more realistic. 

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