Coyote Howling

You may hear coyote (Canis latrans) vocalizations across the Nevada landscape any time of the year, but they are especially noticeable right now. You may wonder: Why the increased activity from coyotes?

It is breeding season, where coyotes are forming new bonds and establishing territories. Coyotes are usually devoted to one mate, forming two bonds that last until one of the pair dies. Coyotes that are already paired up and have established territories use yips and howls to tell other coyotes to stay off their turf!

Coyote researcher Brian Mitchell decodes the yips and howls in an article of the Adirondack Almanack:

“Group yip-howls are produced by a mated and territorial pair of “alpha” coyotes, with the male howling while the female intersperses her yips, barks, and short howls. The pups may join in if nearby or respond with howls of their own. This group yip-howl is thought to have the dual purpose of promoting bonding within the family group while also serving as a territorial display.”

When a group of coyotes howl, it sounds like a much bigger group than is actually present because each call varies in pitch and sequence, and often echo across the landscape. This deters other coyotes from entering a pack’s territory. However, this also makes people think that there is an overpopulation of coyotes in a landscape, provoking them to hunt more for fear of being overrun!

Each coyote has a distinctive call, and each pack has a unique accent, that allows family members to recognize each other. Understanding more about coyote vocalizations may help us coexist with them in the future!

Jessica Whalen

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