The coyote is the most common predator you will encounter while boondocking. Understanding some basic coyote behavior and following a few safety tips, you should not have a problem with these cunning canines.
About the Coyote
The coyote is a very adaptable animal; once confined to the West and the Great Plains region, the coyote can now be found all over North America. In fact, there are around 20 subspecies of coyotes, two of which dominate Canada and the United States.
Eastern and Western Coyotes
The two most common subspecies you will find in North America are the eastern and western coyotes.
The eastern coyote is found in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. The ancestors of these coyotes came from the Great Plains, and as they moved east, interbred with wolves. As a result, eastern coyotes are bigger than western coyotes, sometimes reaching twice the size of their western relatives. However, they really can’t be considered “coywolves,” but coyotes with some wolf genetics. Their size, along with their wolf genes gives them the ability to hunt deer.
The western coyote is the original wild canine of the west, however, there can be wolf and dog genes in individuals. These are the coyotes boondockers are most likely to encounter (since most boondocking is west of the Rockies).
Coyotes are most active at night but don’t be surprised to see them at any time of the day. Coyotes can be solitary, as well as pack animals. Compared to dog footprints, coyote footprints are more elongated, and less round in shape. This information may be helpful if you see what looks like dog footprints but have not heard howling at night.
Coyotes hunt small animals, such as rabbits and rodents, but your small dog or cat could also become a target. As adaptable hunters, coyotes will also rummage through garbage. These two pieces of information are very informative; do not leave your pets unattended, and do not leave garbage outside. A coyote’s keen sense of smell will also lead them to food that has fallen into the fire pit, such as marshmallows and hotdogs.
Coyote Safety Tips
Coyotes are generally afraid of humans, so, if you encounter one, do not turn your back and run. That will trigger its hunting instinct and you could become prey. Rather, yell at it and wave your arms. Make yourself look like the aggressor.
Never leave your pets unattended outside in an area with coyotes. That is especially true at night. Also, do not let small children out of your sight; a toddler could not only fall prey to a coyote but could also simply wander away and become lost.
Keep your dog on a leash, and be extra cautious walking your dog at night, or dusk and dawn. However, it’s not unusual to encounter a coyote in broad daylight. If you do encounter a coyote while out, keep yourself between the coyote and your pet or child. Make noise, and make yourself look big and aggressive.
Finally, do not leave garbage outside and clean out any food scraps from the firepit. While they are fascinating and charming creatures, do not feed coyotes. Coyotes are smart and opportunistic, and they’ve learned that people equal easy eating. While it seems harmless, feeding coyotes could eventually get you, the coyotes, and other campers in trouble. If the coyotes become habituated to humans, they could become emboldened to attack pets or even people.
Live and Let Live
Coyotes are fascinating creatures to watch, and their nocturnal howls are a primal reminder that they serve a valuable purpose in the natural environment.
As a camper, there is no reason to fear coyotes, as long as you follow these common-sense rules. Don’t leave pets or children unattended, don’t leave garbage outside, and don’t run.