why do coyotes howl

Why Do Coyotes Howl? 4 Important Reasons

Because of their loudness and different range of vocalizations, coyotes were given the name “barking dog”. They are also recognized as the most vocal wild mammals in North America. Although there are 11 different vocalizations known to adult coyotes, the lone howl is the most iconic sound of the coyote. People, who are interested in wildlife often ask, why do coyotes howl or is it similar to a wolf’s howl? Why does it sound like there are a lot of them in one place? Howling in different vocalizations is a means of communication for coyotes and it conveys different messages.

Coyotes don’t have a large pack like the wolves. They build up their packs in form of a family unit where you have a male alpha, the female, and their little pups. Coyotes breed in the spring. During the summer when the pups are practicing their sound, louder howls can be heard.

Why Do Coyotes Howl?

Coyotes are one of the most adaptable animals known to man. They can go from hunting small animals to eating berries and some other fruits. They make a lot of noise despite their small pack size.

You’re camping in the woods and it is past midnight. You build a camp fire and bring out some marshmallows to roast. Suddenly you hear sounds coming from all directions around you. It sounds like a howl but not quite like a wolf’s howl. You’re so terrified. It sounds like a hundred wild animals are coming at you from all directions.

This is actually not the case, hearing coyotes from all directions doesn’t actually mean there are a lot of them around you. An auditory illusion known as the “beau geste” effect makes this possible. The variety of sounds made by coyotes and the distortion of the sounds can make one coyote sound like ten coyotes.

4 Reasons Why You Coyotes Howl :

Most people who live in areas close to the woods or in areas that have coyotes must have heard a coyote howl before. This high screeched sound that doesn’t completely sound like a real howl has various meaning. Why do coyotes howl? Here are some reasons why

1. Permission to move out.

When it’s summertime, pups who are big enough to move out and build their own packs or find their own territories discuss with their parents about it. Young coyotes communicate with the older ones about moving to other territories and about everyone staying in their own places.

2. Coyotes howl to locate their pack.

One of the major reasons why one would hear a coyote howling is when it is trying to locate its pack. Coyotes sometimes hunt individually, and other times in packs especially when they’re hunting a large animal. When they hunt individually, they spread out to different locations. After the hunt, you can hear a single coyote howl to locate the others in the pack so they can gather together again. These location howls can be heard at long distances. Coyotes of a pack can hear one another howling from any distance; this is how they locate one another.

This method of locating one another is similar to how the wolves gather their packs too. It is like a GPS tracking system. Wolves adopt this method when hunting and when they are gathering the pack.

3. Coyotes howl for protection.

Coyotes are smaller in size compared to wolves. This makes them fall prey to larger predators, their puppies especially are at risk. One of the reasons why coyotes howl is to protect their puppies from predators. A parent coyote would howl to distract a predator from going after its pup. Once an intruder approaches a coyote’s den, the larger ones scatter away from their den and begin to howl. The predator would then follow the sound of the howls instead. They use these howls to draw their enemy’s attention away from the den where the puppies are.

4. It’s a warning.

Coyotes claim territories for their pack. You can hear coyotes howl when they are trying to warn off other packs from coming close to their territories. Because coyotes howl loudly, other coyote packs know the locations they are supposed to avoid.

The auditory effect that accompanies the howls of coyotes, making them sound double the number they actually are also scares off other coyotes from intruding; no lone coyote would want to face off with over ten coyotes. It is unlikely to see a coyote from a different pack stray into another pack’s territory. Coyotes howl to warn other coyotes when there is a threat in the area.

What To Do When Faced With a Coyote :

Coyotes are more scared of humans than humans think. Their small size makes them feel more like prey than predators. When you’re faced with a coyote, the first thing to do is to avoid looking afraid. Do not run or turn your back. It is more likely that the coyote is looking for a way to escape from your attack than thinking about attacking you. Because coyotes are smaller in size, you can make yourself look bigger and make sounds to scare them off. Continue to make sounds until the coyote is completely out of sight. You should leave that area immediately too.


Living in areas with a large population of coyotes can seem scary. Especially at night, their howls have these eerie sounds that can make one afraid. There is however, no need to be afraid when you hear a coyote.

They basically have to communicate with one another just like humans and other animals do too. That’s why coyotes howl. Hearing a coyote howl can just mean that it’s trying to locate its pack or trying to warn others to stay out of its territory.

Understanding the sounds they make and being able to differentiate one variation from the next can help one appreciate these animals more.

Coyotes may have been called a “barking dog”, although the way they make sounds are far different than the dogs we know. Check out future posts about one of the most favorite domesticated animal that is the dog. If you own a chihuahua you may be interested to know why do these tiny dogs shake from this post.

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