Coyotes, like dogs, make many noises. They yip, bark, whine, growl, and howl. But, why? What do these sounds mean? Do they have any significance? Just as much as our tone and volume of voice carry meaning, so do these different coyote sounds.
Rally the Troops
After hunting, coyote packs can get separated. They often will travel distances of several miles to get their dinner, and they don’t exactly have GPS. Consequently, a locator call is needed to help the pack members find one another. This call is what is most often heard by humans at night when they say the coyotes are, “howling at the moon.” The moon may or may not be full when these coyotes are howling despite the mental image this paints for us thanks to many popular cartoons. But, one things is for sure, a coyote reunion is coming, and there will be plenty of yipping and eating to be done soon.
Keep off my Land
The other main howl coyotes will do is a warning howl. This long, stern howl warns other packs to keep on their side of the territorial lines the packs have established. Coyote packs are family oriented and very territorial. The areas they claim are marked with urine and protected by the alphas. Any animals that threaten this area or the pack will hear this warning howl, and if it advances will scuffle with the alphas of the pack. Something like a warning shot, these howls can be heard across long distances and get the message across, loud and clear.
Mixed in with howls are often yips and barks. These complex harmonies often make one or two coyotes sound like many and instill fear in prey animals and humans alike. While some howls warn others to stay away, mixed with a few barks they can also warn pack members of danger. These barks are meant to somewhat intimidate what is intimidating the coyote while simultaneously warning his friends of the threat.
Not all coyote communication is as aggressive sounding as a howl or bark. Yips mixed in with howling likely indicates the reuniting of pack members. Like seeing old friends or family members that you haven’t seen in a while, coyotes are happy when they are reunited and yip to express this excitement.
Whines and Whimpers
Bonding between coyotes, especially females, usually involves some vocalization such as whining and whimpering. These sounds offer feelings of respect, mutual interests, and companionship. Much like when women say “aww” when listening to their friends and families talk about the new events in their lives, these sounds express interest in and care for one another. These expressions foster bonds that last lifetimes and strengthen packs.
While on the topic of relationship building, the assertion of dominance is one practice in coyote culture that certainly is not quiet. Growling, snarling, and scrapping often take place when one coyote assumes dominance over another. These relationships must be established in order to create order amongst packs and establish leadership and breeding order. Growling is much like talking smack during a brawl on a play ground or in a bar in our human world. It says, “hey tough guy, if you think you’re big enough to handle me, why don’t you come over here and prove it.”
All communication truly boils down to relationship building. Whether it be friend or foe, communication determines the relationship and fosters that bond. Coyotes are no different. They are quite talkative critters. From howling to whimpering, every noise has a meaning in the coyote world. Some are greetings, others are warnings, but, all establish some sort of relationship with other coyotes.