A misunderstood coyote tries to avoid trouble
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2009:
Captioned “An urban coyote strolls through West Hills, a
suburb of Los Angeles, California, in July 2002,” this photo
appears in Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem, in which
Robert M. Timm, Rex O. Baker, and USDA Wildlife Services employees
Joe R. Bennett and Craig C. Coolahan allege that coyotes are losing
their fear of humans, and are increasing threats toward humans and
The evidence in the photo, on closer look, tells a
different story. The little girl in the background appears to be
completely unaware of the coyote, but rather than stalking her, the
coyote is not trying to conceal himself. His tail is held low in a
submissive or defensive posture. He is not running as if flushed
from cover, but is walking in the apparent shadows of trees that may
have been cover he has just abandoned. His left ear is cocked toward
A reasonable surmise is that this coyote is attempting to
decoy the photographer’s attention away from his mate and her pups,
who may be hiding in a nearby crawl space, a favorite denning
location of urban and suburban coyotes. In July, when the photo was
taken, coyote pups would normally still be with their parents.
The coyote is avoiding the girl, angling as sharply as the
geography permits from intersecting with her path. His intent
appears to be to go in exactly the opposite direction from the girl,
perhaps ducking under the partially visible car parked behind the
girl to conceal his escape.
If stalking the girl, the coyote would turn to follow her.
If stalking a prey animal taking the same path as the girl, and
opting against a direct attack in the open, the coyote would
probably cross behind the animal and try to run around the red car
parked in the driveway to strike from ambush–but the coyote shows no
interest in doing any of this.