Tis the season to be extra protective of your house pets. This time of year, coyotes are mating, and their natural timidity is overridden by the evolutionary drive to procreate. If you’ve stepped outside near dark, or at night, you’ve very likely heard coyotes chatting up a storm around Snohomish County. Here are some interesting facts about those vocalizations.
What you’re hearing when they set up chorus is a complex series of vocalizations, ranging from yips, to barks, to howls but only from mature individuals. In the summer, you’ll hear the new pups – usually born around late April to May – learning how to vocalize.
What you’re likely hearing this time of year is the “group yip-howl,” which is the hallmark sounds associated with them.
Group yip-howls are produced by mated “alpha” pairs and is produced by the male howling while the female puts together a series of yips, barks and short howls. Then, “beta” coyotes (which are usually just their offspring, and lower in the pecking order of the pack) can join in if they’re near-by. Once one alpha pair starts, others in the vicinity will respond as well. The purpose of this is to basically know your neighbors, promote bonding within a pack, and announce territory.
Characteristics of the vocalizations are so individual that each coyote can tell which pack member is producing the howl or bark. This can include pitch, how quickly the howls rise or fall in pitch, and “warbles” within the howl itself. If you are curious, you can listen to some of them here.
There are unique calls and “accents” by region and by family, and the urban coyote has picked up on the knowledge that if they forgo vocalizations except in close proximity to pack members, they simply live longer.
Thus far, eleven different vocalizations have been identified by researchers. Per the Urban Coyote Initiative: growl, huff, woof, bark, bark-howl, whine, yelp, woo-oo-wow (this is the “greeting song”), lone howl, group howl, and the aforementioned group yip-howl. Here’s the full details, for the curious: UCI.
Attribution for this article goes to Adirondack Outback, WDFW and Urban Coyote Initiative.