The Singing Dog’s Language, Part I

From microscopic organisms that communicate with chemicals to humans that have learned to reach one another from opposite ends of the globe, interacting with others of our kind is a common thread in the web of life. Communication is one of the most important components of living itself, and too often do we forget that we’re not the only animals that have learned to talk.

Coyotes are often referred to as the most vocal mammal in North America. Indeed, with over 11 distinct vocalizations, the coyote lives up to that moniker and its scientific name, Canis latrans, which means “barking dog”.

Just like humans, the type of vocalization a coyote uses depends on context. Look towards domesticated dogs for a better idea of what they mean — growls are a warning verbalization towards a nearby threat, and woofs and barks serve as an alarm to fellow pack members. Biologists researching coyote vocalizations determined that individual coyotes have unique variations in their barks, which allows them to identify each other solely by sound; think of how we can recognize our friends & family by the pitch and timbre of their voices even from afar.

Tune in next time as we yap about perhaps the most important vocalization in a coyote’s noisy repertoire — the howl. Hope the wait isn’t too ruff on all of you!

Aaron Huelsman

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