Coyotes’ Social Behavior (12 Facts)

Coyotes are intelligent animals who live a highly social life. These communicative canines live in packs of up to six adult coyotes where they work together to defend their territory, coordinate nightly hunts, and raise the pups of their alpha coyotes.

Each member of the pack has their own role and must live according to their pack’s hierarchy or else they face the risk of expulsion. 

Although they are fearful of humans, coyotes are very social animals. There are many similarities between this secretive canine and our domestic dogs which you can see directly in their social behaviors like the way they play with their siblings or how they raise their young and thrive in a pack! 

Coyotes are very playful animals, however, this unique canine relies on a strict social structure to set rules and boundaries for their pack members, so they stay in line.

Because of the strict social structure, some coyotes will break free from their pack to live solitarily or in pairs. In any case, coyotes are smart and can adapt their social behaviors as they see fit to survive. 

Are Coyotes Social? 

If you have ever heard a pack of coyotes howling at the moon, then you already know these song dogs are more than social. In fact, the same canine that is known for running away at the wave of a hand and a stamp of your foot also thrives on a powerful social hierarchy!

Social Hierarchy of Coyotes 

Socially, canines live according to strict hierarchal standards. According to an unspoken canine law, each coyote is destined to fulfill a specific task based on their size, gender, age, strength, and much, much more. 

There are three key parts of the hierarchy.

Alphas dominate the social hierarchy and are typically the oldest members of the pack. The other members, juniors or residents, are typically their offspring or in some cases, other coyotes who gained their trust and became resident members of the pack. Finally, are the pups. These are the newborn offspring of the alphas which are the responsibility of the entire pack to raise. 

Alphas are chosen for many reasons like their brute strength and cunningness. But in addition to age, the alphas are chosen based on their chances to reproduce healthy pups.

The ability to reproduce healthy pups is crucial since the alphas are the only two coyotes in the pack who reproduce. Alpha males must also be strong and willing to defend their territory from predators and other coyotes.

Betas act as the alpha’s right-paw-coyote. The beta male will always hunt alongside the alpha male and the beta female acts as a second mother to the alpha female’s pups. Resident coyotes work together to defend territory from predators and other coyotes. 

Coyotes are territorial and when they live in packs all resident coyotes will come together to defend their territory. If the coyotes live in pairs or are transient coyotes, they typically do not attempt to claim any territory given they do not have the numbers or ability to defend themselves.

How Coyotes Interact with Humans 

Coyotes are often fearful of humans and will not approach them. A simple act of hazing will send them away. However, they can act aggressively in some situations and no matter what, you should never turn your back from a coyote or run from them.

How do Coyotes Socialize? 

Coyotes socialize vocally through yips, howls, and barks. They also portray the same social behaviors as our domestic dogs like playfully nipping at their coyote siblings’ legs or chasing one another around open fields. 

It is not uncommon to see coyotes in urban areas, which is why many people have a growing concern about the growing comfort these animals feel around humans. Remember, despite their presence in your neighborhood, coyotes are still very fearful of humans.  

What Howling Means for Coyote Socialization 

Howling is a coyote’s way of communicating with other members of their packs. This can also be a coyote’s way of expressing their interest in mating.  

Often, after a night of hunting the group will come together and ‘sing’. 

What Playing Means for Coyote Socialization 

Coyotes love to play fight other pack members. It can easily be mistaken for aggression because of the concerning yipping and yelping noises that coyotes make while they play but there is no need to worry! 

If the tails of the coyotes are wagging, then the coyotes are most likely playing. On the other hand, if you see the coyotes have their tails tucked, this could be an indication that the fight is no longer playful!

How Coyotes Interact with Domestic Dogs 

Coyotes are a lot like domestic dogs behaviorally, socially, and physically, which makes coyotes very defensive when they see large breeds in their territory.

This is especially true during mating season when alpha males become increasingly defensive and are more likely to attack animals that approach their den. 

Because of their similar genetic composition, coyotes and large domestic dog breeds may easily confuse scents during mating season and mate with one another. It is also common for female coyotes to lure male dogs into the woods to hunt them.

What is the Social Structure of a Coyote?

The social structure of the coyote’s pack is intimately connected to the pack’s social organization. That means a coyote pack will only be as successful if they maintain their hierarchy. This means that abiding by rules and following the orders of their alpha male and alpha female. 

Coyote Hunting Tactics

The way coyotes hunt is very dependent upon their social connections, the size of their prey, and what time of day they are hunting.  

The size of a coyote’s prey is important to consider given they have expendable resources.

Given a fully grown adult coyote is roughly 30-40 pounds, coyotes like to work in pairs while hunting their frequent prey, the white-tailed deer, which is double their weight at full-grown. This is a smart idea because it makes taking down their prey easy and quick.

But when a transient member does not have any pack members at their disposal it can be seemingly impossible to hunt large prey. Luckily, coyotes are highly adaptable and often hunt by themselves too.

In areas where small animals are the only thing available, coyotes are more likely to split up for their hunting needs and work alone. This way, they get as much food as they need until they are called back by their alpha male.  

On the other hand, it can be more beneficial for coyotes to hunt in pairs or small groups when they are going after larger prey. In these cases, they will work together to bring down the prey and then consume the animal as a group.

Q & A  

What Is a Group of Coyotes Called? 

A group of coyotes is called a pack.  

Will Coyotes and Dogs Play Together? 

Coyotes are likely to attack large breed domestic dogs because they see them as a threat to their territory. They are much more likely to attack small breeds because they mistake them for their prey. 

Are Coyotes Smart Animals? 

Yes, they are very smart animals and are often known for tricking humans. 

How Large Are Coyote Packs? 

Coyote packs are typically no larger than a dozen coyotes. 

Conclusion 

Coyotes are surprisingly smart and communicative animals who are known for their trickster ways. They are often fearful of humans and will respond well to hazing methods, however, these social animals are not afraid of urban environments because of the readily accessible food.

These sneaky animals work alone or in pairs to hunt their prey and often reproduce in diverse habitats with dens that are often underground or in unpredictable places. Whether they are part of a pack or are roaming as a transient coyote, these canines are built to survive as long as they have a sufficient food source, water, and territory.