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Coyote howling


At night, all noises can sound strange and even a bit scary to those who cannot sleep. It is not a surprise that the noises we hear after dark seem to be louder than the ones we hear during the day, and it obviously is connected to our cities getting quieter in those hours. However, hearing howling in the middle of the night in an urban area is not a typical sound. It may indicate that your neighbor has a really loud dog or a pack of coyotes is lurking nearby. So, is it a problem worth worrying about?

First, it is important to understand why coyotes may be in your area. These omnivores are crepuscular which means they are most active during twilight hours. When you hear them during the night, chances are they are hunting for food or looking for new places to hide. Coyotes try to avoid humans as much as possible, and their night activity makes this easier for them.

As more and more coyotes move into urban and suburban areas, it is worth noting their ways of vocalization as they are one of the wild animals we may be hearing the most.

  • Yelping – it is often heard during play among young animals and indicates celebration or criticism
  • Barking – usually can be heard when a coyote is defending a den or a kill
  • Huffing – sometimes may be quite hard to hear as it doesn’t require a lot of noise, and usually used by coyotes to call pups
  • Howling – most common sound, usually heard during the night as either a high quavering cry or a series of short, high-pitched yips

Even though a lot of people are concerned that coyotes’ howling means that the pack has just made a kill, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Howling after downing prey would alarm competing coyotes or other predators and lead them to the pack’s location. Hungry coyotes are definitely not generous ones, and you can be sure they wouldn’t want to share their food. Coyotes’ howl is nothing more but communication between the animals and establishing territory – it shouldn’t be considered a warning sign to us.

Coyotes’ howling may be alarming especially for those who have never heard it before. As we mentioned, the noises during the night hours appear to us louder and scarier than they really are. Because of that, people usually overestimate the nu

mber of animals they hear. Human-Wildlife Interactions Journal (Do you hear what I hear? Human perception of coyote group size, Autumn 2017) conducted research showing that people consistently misjudged the number of howling coyotes on the recording by nearly two-fold. So, next time you hear howling at night and it feels like a pack of twelve coyotes, in fact there may be only around six coyote adults in the area.

There is nothing to worry about coyotes’ howling – it is just their way of communication. As long as the animals are not aggressive towards you, other people, or pets, then they don’t pose any threat.