What Does t Mean When Coyotes Howl Alone or Together?

what does it mean when coyotes howl

Have you ever heard a coyote’s howl? It’s a sound unlike any other, especially if you are unfamiliar with the animal or its calls. Whether alone or in a group, the howl of a coyote is one of the most compelling sounds that can be heard in the wild.

Nowadays, even urban dwellers might wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of a coyote howling, barking, yipping or making another of the many sounds these perseverant canines make. The coyote is not called the song dog for no reason! But what do the coyote’s vocalizations mean?

Chances are good that if you have heard one coyote call out then you have most likely heard others respond. A pack of coyotes gives the night a chorus unlike any other animal. So this brings us to the question:

What does it mean when a coyote begins to howl?

The answer to this question is by no means a simple one, and can best be explained in several steps. The first thing to consider is just how many coyotes are calling out and what sounds they are making. The calls of one coyote can mean different things than the calls of a pack.

The coyote’s howls come in a few subcategories. A coyote who is howling alone begins the performance with a group of barks called herald barks. As with the voices of individual humans, the sound of an individual coyote’s howl is peculiar to the animal. It lets its pack mates know where it is. A lone howl can be heard over a mile away by a human and is nearly always answered by another coyote. Given their keener hearing, a coyote can probably hear another’s howl about three miles away.

The sound of the calls is also important to consider. Some sounds resemble a dog barking or a muffled whine while others can be the widely known wolf howl. Depending on the noise you hear, the animal in question is conveying some very distinct information.

 coyote howl alone mean

A Single Lone Call

This is the most iconic of all coyote calls. The one lone howl that seems to come out of nowhere is a sound familiar to most people. If you hear a single lone call from only one animal, chances are what you are hearing is a single member of a pack attempting to locate other members. Coyotes are very social animals and will often seek out other members of their group. If you hear one call, pause and wait for the response. It will be there.

Note:

  • It is important to recognize that not all coyotes belong to one pack. Coyotes generally live in families with two alpha animals (male and female) and their offspring. Most packs stay in this manner until the offspring leave the den and head out on their own.
  • If you hear a single coyote call and it receives a rapid response from others, you may be hearing several different things. You may be hearing the response to a returning pack animal or an intruder in the area. These response sounds are very distinct to a trained ear, but can be lost when multiple animals join in.

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A Group Chorus

This is two or more coyotes howling at the same time, either because they have met up after a period of separation or to answer the howls of another group of coyotes in the distance. Coyotes can also give a sound called a whoop during these group howls.

If you hear a chorus of coyotes in the distance, what you are hearing are members of a single pack converging together. The reasons they can have for making these types of noises can range from greeting one another to displays of dominance and unity.

The group chorus is often times a method used by a pack to mark their territory. An unfamiliar coyote who calls out in a pack’s territory may receive the chorus response in return. This announces to the stranger that this space is taken and they need to leave.

coyote how together mean

Rapid Yelping Calls

Another call that coyotes can make is a series of rapid yelping calls. These sounds are often made in response to a coyote being startled or a pup in distress. They are a loud call and are more drawn out. Think if you have ever heard a dog begin to yelp and you will know this noise.

A yelp can be a more intense sound of submission or can be a sound of surprise. How surprised the coyote is can be told by the intensity of the yelp.

This is also a popular call one may hear if they or a predator were to travel too close to a coyote den. Often times, parent coyotes will flee their den when a threat is perceived and will make rapid yelping calls in order to distract and draw the threat away from their den and potential offspring.

Yipping Calls​

These sounds are distinctly different from the rapid yelping call mentioned above. They are made in quick succession and are extremely high pitched. Often times, you may hear coyotes make noises similar to this if they are hunting something as a group.

The Group Yip-Howl

This diagnostic sound is given by a pack of coyotes after they’ve reunited or before they part to go on solitary hunts. The more coyotes gather, the louder and more complex the yip-howl. This makes scientists believe this sound helps to strengthen the bonds between the individuals in the pack and let other coyotes in the area know that this is the pack’s territory. The yip howl also lets the auditor know who’s who in the pack and is accompanied by enthusiastic body language between dominant and submissive coyotes. During a yip-howl session, the male of the alpha pair mostly howls. The female also howls, but her howls are shorter and interspersed with barks and yips. This can lead to chains of coyotes yip-howling for dozens of miles. Also, when a few coyotes howl together they can sound like a crowd of coyotes, which further intimidates interlopers. Whoops are also made among the group yip-howl.

Yodel

This is a howl that sounds like a question and may be used when a pack member is lost.

Growl

Coyotes growl for the same reason as dogs. It is a warning sound, though pups have been seen to growl when they play.

Bark-Howl

This is a sound prompted by a serious threat. It’s also an alarm. It starts off with a bark that escalates to howl.

Huff

This sound is made through expelling air from the animal’s mouth and nose. It is a close-in warning sound aimed at another coyote that’s forgotten its place in the pack hierarchy.

Woof

This is also a warning sound, but it is of lower intensity than a growl. It is made by an animal who’s not sure if they are facing a threat or not.

Bark

The bark is also a warning sound, but it can also be an alarm. The threat, if there is one, is low or medium. Some researchers can tell different coyotes by the quality of their barks. Barks and barks combined with howls also tell another coyote where the animal is, whether it is a pack member and its mood.

Whine

A whine is a sound made by one coyote to show submission to a dominant animal.

Greeting Song

This is also called a woo-oo-wow and can swing from a growl to a whine and back again. It is heard when a bunch of coyotes happily meet up.

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So What Does It All Mean?

Whenever you hear a coyote, it is clear that this animal is saying something. If you should hear a coyote, try to take these steps:

  • Listen for distinct animals (if possible)
  • Do your best to locate the direction of the sound
  • Know you are generally not in danger!

Though coyotes found in the eastern part of the country are a different subspecies than those found in the west, scientists have not yet studied coyote vocalizations enough to learn whether coyotes have regional accents. Humans have a hard time differentiating between the calls of male and female coyotes.

So what are your experiences? Have you ever encountered this elusive animal or heard its cry at night? Do you have something to share or a question about coyote calling that wasn’t answered here? If so, please feel free to comment below!

Check Coyote Pack Howl​:

Last update on 2021-09-21 at 02:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

By Joseph Gleason

With a dedicated respect to the environment, I understand the importance of being an informed hunter who learns as he goes. I truly recognize the value in how things were done before and how things are done today. Born and raised in upstate New York, I grew up exposed to skilled hunters who taught me the importance of what responsible hunting can provide both to myself, my family, and to the environment. I continue today to work towards refining my craft and finding new ways to practice the time honored traditions that were passed down to me from those who came before.

12 comments

  1. we have a pack of coyotes live across the street from my house in the woods and we have cats and dogs at our house and was kind of wondering if we should worry about them being lunch.I have seen him behind a fence silver x can I have a walker and Springer Spaniel mix and he thinks he’s big and bad but I wonder if they will jump the fence we have a 5-foot fence and I was wondering if they might jump over and the side that want to play.I have killed 23 over in the field across the street already but being baited with theguts of a dead deer on the side of the road works really good appreciate if you could get back to me thank you

  2. Took my kids and two other neighbour kids for walk through our conservation. Of corse my dog – a Weimaraner, came along. Had beautiful walk. On the way back upon almost exiting the woods we stopped to untangle something from one of girls hair.. it at least 15 minutes to stand there and clean out the hair.. of course fog was running actively around. Till suddenly we heard the Howling of a pack literally right next to us.. I yelled to kids to run.. it was still a distance out of the park and we could nearly run with the stress and scariness in kids eyes… we made it out sadly but I was really wondering if we were in real danger. I know coyotes were after my dog.. ( not first time..) but could I have put kids 9,9,11,13) at danger….?

  3. I live in a 5500 wooded area, we have a lot of wildlife including the coyote. My question is this, is my neighbor allowed to trap and skin those beautiful animals for profit? I’m in middle Tennessee and my problem is that he is friends with the local police and game warden, so you see my dilemma.

  4. I live in oceanside can, my back yard is a large river bed, nature preserve, and camp Pendleton. We have a LARGE coyote population, we believe at least 3 major packs, and would be surprised if we didn’t hear 10 major pack howls a night. They will cross within 20 feet of us in broad daylight, I’m hoping to record some sound soon. Our hill to the river bed is 15-20 feet down, and they are all over our hill. If there is somewhere I can send files to please email me. Needless to say, both our dogs go out at the same time at night in our fenced yard, and we don’t leave them out very long because neighbors have had dogs taken from inside their fence.

  5. I was walking to my deer hunting blind about a hour before sunrise. I hear what seems to be a single coyote howl. Every few minutes after that the coyote would have a shorter howl then the first one and the distance and location was the same as the first. Any idea what it was saying?

  6. A year ago we moved to a subdivision with a small portion of woods behind us. I had lived in the country for over 10 years. We saw and heard coyotes all the time. Now we only hear them in the month of March. I find this odd but I am betting there is a reason I don’t know about. Is there? We live in Northern Ohio. Thank you for any information.

  7. I have a pack of coyotes I’ve been trying to call in the last 2 nights they come in but won’t show them selfs

  8. I want to know if the coyote does any howling after the loss of one of it pack ? I experienced this today. It was very painful to hear a coyote in distress, by the time someone got to it ,it was to late. But behind my house I heard two soft howls after the other one passed. I didn’t k,ow of coyotes to do this. I thought it to be more of a wolf trait .
    Thank You
    Nin

  9. I have encountered and been up close to coyotes numerous times. I found in Henderson, Nevada, the coyotes were more aggressive than here in the Flathead Valley of Montana. In Nevada I would walk my dog at 4am to beat the heat. We saw lots of coyotes at that time in the morning. I carried pepper spray but never had to use it. My most memorable experience was running one morning down our street with my 185 lb. Newfoundland. As we were running he kept looking behind us & trying to stop. I finally was able see a young coyote running a few feet beside us. When I stopped, the doyote did the play bow & my dog was eager to play. This is when I became nervous because I am familiar with coyotes using tricks to lure unsuspecting animals away so the pack can attack them. This young coyote followed us, trotting along side us, until we reached the highway. It then disappeared into a yard & was gone. There were numerous times when hiking in the hills, several coyotes would yip, & follow you. Here in Montana we live out of town. You hear the coyotes but rarely see them. They have not become unafraid of humans like they were in Nevada.

  10. Coyotes mostly howl at night and its too scary when coyotes or dogs howl. the sound pitch is so high and makes my nerves. I am an animal lover and I start a blog on animals life and I inspired by Joseph Gleason great content if you have time then visit HunterHunts.

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