Should I be concerned if I hear coyotes howling, yipping or barking? in District of Columbia | Coyote
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Should I be concerned if I hear coyotes howling, yipping or barking?
The sound of coyotes howling and yipping at night sometimes causes people concern and alarm. Some mistakenly believe howling indicates that a group of coyotes has made a kill. While coyotes howl for a variety of reasons, it is not likely because they have downed prey. Doing so would draw attention and might attract competing coyotes or other predators to their location, which is not something a hungry coyote would want to do. Coyotes howl and yip primarily to communicate with each other and establish territory. They may bark when they are defending a den or a kill.
People typically overestimate the number of coyotes they hear. Researchers with the Caesar Kieberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University played recordings of 1-4 coyotes howling and yip-yapping and asked people to estimate how many individuals they thought they heard. Listeners consistently overestimated the number of coyotes by nearly two-fold*. Group size in most areas is five to six adults in addition to pups born that year. Groups in urban areas tend to be smaller.
Generally, there is nothing to be concerned about when you hear coyotes calling. If the animals are not showing any aggressive behavior toward humans or pets, just listen and enjoy the wild canine song.
* Source: "Do you hear what I hear? Human perception of coyote group size," Human-Wildlife Interactions journal, fall 2017
Laws and regulations to be aware of
While we attempt to provide guidance about state and federal regulations pertaining to specific species and control techniques, we do not provide information about local jurisdictions (city, town, county, etc.) where regulations may be more restrictive, especially as it applies to discharge of firearms, transport of animals or use of trapping equipment. Contact your local city or county government to inquire further. No guarantee is made that information (or lack of information) associated with a species or control technique is completely accurate or current. You should become familiar with federal, state and local laws before beginning any wildlife control activities.