Coyote Sounds: Uncovering the Mysteries of Coyote Vocalizations

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Coyotes are prevalent throughout the entire North American continent. They are commonly referred to as prairie dogs but have also been dubbed “song dogs” by members of the wildlife community because of their constant noise-making.

The most common vocalization coyotes make is howling. However, they also bark, yip, growl, and scream!

What do these sounds mean, and who are coyotes talking to when they make them? What is the best reaction if a coyote starts growling at you?

Read on to learn the answers to these questions and so much more!

Coyote in enclosure howling
From, photo by Heather Paul

What Sounds Do Coyotes Make?

Unlike humans, coyotes cannot talk with words. However, they have their means of communicating with each other using various sounds. 

Understanding Coyote Howling

Howling is the most common form of communication for an adult coyote, frequently heard by wildlife observers and homeowners. A coyote’s howl is loud enough to be heard from miles, especially when they do it in packs!

Why Do Coyotes Howl?

Coyotes howl for four main reasons.

While hunting as a pack.

Coyotes usually hunt alone, but they team up to hunt in packs when

  • Taking down large prey like deer,
  • Teaching young pups to hunt, and
  • Covering larger areas.

As with all team efforts, communication is vital. Therefore, coyotes hunting in a pack howl at each other to keep the others updated on their location and coordinate their attack.

To declare their territory

Coyotes are territorial animals. When they travel and settle in a new location, they howl to assert dominance over any existing coyotes in the area.

They may also howl at coyotes encroaching on their established territory to warn them to stay away.

To reunite with their family

Coyotes don’t precisely live in packs with “stranger” coyotes. Usually, they live in family groups within a territory.

Sometimes, if they lose sight of a family member within their range, they howl to locate them or call them back home.

This particular howl usually sounds like a loud, penetrating drone, like a siren.

To find mates.

Coyotes howl to advertise themselves as available and ready to mingle during the breeding season.

FACT: These wolfish dogs never howl after a successful kill. This would only tempt other animals in the area to come and try to steal scraps from them!

How Far Away Can You Hear A Coyote Howl?

A human half a mile away can hear a howl from a single coyote. Other coyotes can hear a howl up to three miles away!

Their howls are also surprisingly loud. Many homeowners have thought that they had coyotes in their backyard due to the loudness of the howls, but the animals turned out to be much farther away.

This may partly be because coyotes like to howl in groups. When they combine their voices, they sound more intimidating to all who hear them.

Two coyotes howling together are said to sound like seven or eight animals!

There is also a strange phenomenon wherein the howls of multiple coyotes sound like they are coming from all directions, giving the illusion that you are surrounded. 

Don’t worry. You’re probably not! It only sounds that way because the sound gets distorted through the environment.

When Do Coyotes Howl?

Coyotes do not randomly howl. They follow a schedule dependent on their daily and annual schedules!

Time of Day

Coyotes are most active during dawn and dusk hours. Interestingly, coyotes in the wild tend to be diurnal (active during the day), while those that live in urban areas are more nocturnal (active at night).

Scientists have explained this switch is due to animals’ efforts to avoid confrontations with humans.

Because of this, people typically hear coyote howls at night. However, it’s not uncommon to also hear howls during the day.

If you walk your dog around dusk, it’s best to keep them on a leash and bring a noisemaker, such as a rattle, to ward off any potential coyotes!


You can hear coyotes howling all year long but may hear them more often during two specific times of the year.

Between September and November, the pups born during spring begin moving out to build their own families. Howls become prevalent as many of them search for new territories and packs.

Meanwhile, coyotes are noisier than usual in winter, usually between February and March. This is the courtship period for coyotes, and many are searching for mates.

Can Coyote Pups Howl?

Coyote pups are typically too small to make large sounds yet. For the first few months of their life, they only make little yipping sounds to interact with their family.

Why Do Coyotes Howl At The Moon?

There are stereotypical images of a wolf or coyote howling at a full moon. Do they actually do that?

Not precisely. Coyotes don’t howl at the moon. However, a full moon casts a bright light over their territory, allowing them to see everything clearly.

This makes them more alert and vocally reactive to intruders entering their range.

The light also encourages coyotes to go for a hunt (and, therefore, howl-fest) because of the improved visibility. Unfortunately, their predators also benefit from the light, sometimes causing coyotes to scatter to protect themselves and their young.

As a result, the coyotes will howl later on to try to reunite with each other.

More Coyote Sounds

Coyotes make a lot more sounds than howling. Here are several other sounds that they make and why.


Yipping is a high-pitched whining sound. It is typically done by coyote pups whose vocal cords aren’t developed enough for full-blown howls.

They may yip when distressed or simply say hello to their family.

Young coyotes between pup and adult stages may emit a yip-howl or something that sounds like a mix of both!

Adult coyotes may yip when conversing with their young or when startled.

Yipping has a territorial function as well. As a family yips and communicates, they subtly make their presence known to other coyotes and warn them that this territory is taken.


Coyotes growl for the same reason nearly all other animals do: to warn off approaching animals and let the intruders know it is not afraid to fight.

Growling typically sounds like a low grumble and is accompanied by a tense stance, as if the coyote is ready to pounce.


If growling does not work, coyotes may begin to bark at intruders. A coyote’s bark sounds very similar to a dog’s bark.

Barking is essentially a coyote’s stronger warning to invading animals, people included, to back off. 

Barking may also be used as means of identification among coyotes. Researchers have conducted studies showing that each coyote has unique barks and howls.

FACT: Coyotes can develop accents based on their geographic location or even within their family group. Can you imagine a coyote with a Southern accent?!

A growling and barking coyote:


Truthfully, coyotes don’t laugh—they just sound like they are.

The laughing sound of coyotes is typically a distorted result of a pack’s various sounds mixing, including their yips, growls, howls, and whines.


One of the most unsettling noises coyotes make is screaming, which sounds eerily like a scared woman’s screams.

Coyotes scream when they are in pain or threatened by a predator. 

If you hear a coyote screaming, it’s best to leave them alone. Whatever is threatening them will likely have no problems harming you as well!

Whining or Whimpering

Lastly, coyotes sometimes whimper or whine to express submission or accept defeat. A subordinate coyote typically does this to a more dominant one.

What Should You Do If A Coyote Howls Or Growls At You?

Let’s begin with what you should not do: Never turn your back on a coyote, and never run away! Doing so will give it the impression that you have submitted to it and possibly trigger it to chase after you.

If a coyote is howling or growling at you, remember that it is scared of you and is trying to intimidate you.

You can begin by holding its gaze and firmly holding your position until it backs away.

If that doesn’t work, resort to coyote hazing. Hazing is appearing larger and louder than you are to scare the coyote away.

Tactics for hazing a coyote include

  • Waving your arms around while yelling
  • Using a noise maker or rattle to startle it
  • Throwing projectiles in their direction but never directly at the coyote or
  • Spraying it with a hose or water gun.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Worry About Coyotes In My Backyard?

Not usually. Coyotes tend to avoid people and will more likely run from you than attack you without being provoked.

However, bring your small pets and other backyard animals (such as poultry, if you have them) indoors as soon as possible. Your dogs may show aggression toward your coyote and spark a fight, or the coyote may try to steal them as a meal.

If you are still worried, though, there are many ways to repel coyotes as pests.

What Animal Sounds Can Be Mistaken for Coyotes? 

Coyotes can easily be mistaken for other animals like foxes, dogs, wolves, and even owls! These animals make similar noises and can be found moving throughout the night.

Why Do Coyotes Howl at Sirens?

Coyotes howl at sirens because the high-pitched sound is similar to their own howl, making them think it is an intruder coyote trying to enter their territory. 

Interested in hearing more coyote sounds and seeing if you can distinguish each one? Here is a video with 30+ sounds!


  • Bernice Go

    Bernice Go is a violinist and orchestra manager by profession but a writer by hobby. She enjoys writing about various topics, from music to animals to self-development. When she isn’t playing the violin or writing, she loves reading, traveling, playing video games, and savoring a good cup of coffee.

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