I Was Stalked by a Coyote

Colorado coyoteThis morning, during a jog with my Jack Russell terrier close to my suburban home in Westminster (Colo.), I was stalked by a coyote.

I spotted him running across the ice in a retaining pond along 108th Avenue, about a quarter mile west of Wadsworth Parkway. He stopped to look at me and I made an abrupt screechy hiss to scare him off. He was momentarily startled. He turned around and continued on his way. Five minutes later, as I glanced back over my shoulder to see where he went, I saw him coming up the embankment and looking right at me. I continue walking away and he continued to slink forward, the whole time looking at me—tentatively but with a creepy focus.

Earlier this week, coincidentally, I read an article about the increased incidence of  coyote attacks in the March 2010 issue of Outside Magazine. Apparently, eastern coyotes have hybridized in certain places in the northeast to behave like wolves, traveling in small packs and attacking animals as large as deer. Two coyotes attacked and killed a lone hiker in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in eastern Canada in the Fall of 2009. Here in the west, the article states, coyotes have not bred with wolves and still behave like opportunistic solitary animals. From what I know of recent media reports, coyotes here in Colorado are known to snatch unleashed small pets from yards, open space and suburban wildlife corridors, and occasionally (but rarely) approach or attack humans.

I had this idea that if I crossed the road the coyote would be deterred from following me if he saw cars zooming between us and him. Normally, 108th Avenue this time of the morning is heavier with vehicle traffic. Not this morning, unfortunately. Only a couple of cars drove by in the anxious few minutes during which I watched the coyote move closer—still across the street—but looking at me and Skillet intently.

Crap. Now what? I thought. I was still a good half mile away from my house. Behind me was a neighborhood of tract homes I could walk into, and hopefully find shelter on someone’s porch if necessary. I knew from reading that article that the worst thing I could do was act like prey by running. Although, that’s exactly what I felt like doing. I wanted to grab my dog up into my arms and run like hell.

Then I spotted an SUV stopped at the intersection only yards away. I knew the driver was surveying the scene because he wasn’t moving. I decided to flag him or her down and ask for a ride down the road – just far enough to get away from the predator.

The driver of the SUV pulled up next to me and offered me a ride even before I could ask. He was a nice, elderly man who in fact was watching what was happening and knew I was in trouble. He kindly drove me back down to my neighborhood.

I am guessing the coyote wasn’t after me. He was after my little white dog. Another reason not to take your dog on a contemplative hike (ha ha! Although I was just out for exercise, not contemplation). In the future, I’ll be sure to bring a cellphone and the big can of pepper spray I keep at home in case I go walking in an adjacent neighborhood that has a lot of loose dogs. I know the key here is not to overreact and not to let this incident keep me from walking my dog. Coyotes need to know that human interaction of any kind is unpleasant. When they’re successful in snatching cats or small dogs away from their owners and yards, they learn, and they pass that information onto their young.

Coyotes are being pushed out of natural habitat by development, and have learned to co-exist with humans out of necessity. Sometimes that means eating out of compost bins, hunting pets out of the grasp of their owners and scoring on pet food that’s been left outside. It’s the same with black bears and any other wild animals. They’re not out to get us, they just learn that they can get an easy breakfast without much fuss. It’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t make it easier for them to eat from our yard then to hunt down a prairie dog or rabbit.

I suppose if that kind man hadn’t given us a ride nothing else may have happened. The coyote was walking slowly, unsure if we were safe to stalk or not. Maybe I could have gotten away and that would have been the end of that. Or, he might have gathered enough courage to attack, in which case he would have had to jump me and extricate my dog out of my clutch. I don’t know, and I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

Being stalked by a wild animal is probably the most excitement I’ll experience all day.

Here’s a video that’s funny and informative on how to haze a coyote.

3 thoughts on “I Was Stalked by a Coyote”

  1. A very similar thing happened to me with a small group (pack?) of coyotes and my two mild-mannered dogs on a walk near the Meeker Park Lodge last spring – I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder in the prairie wilderness with the wolves at the doorstep – never previously been scared by coyotes but they were huge, definitely tracking us with some intent, and my dogs went nuts wanting to run off after them…It was all I could do to get and keep them on leash until we got back to our cabin, and even then the coyotes stayed nearby yipping through the evening. A little thrilling, but also scary.

  2. Yikes! So scary, yet thrilling! We live off the Indian Tree golf course in Arvada where a pack of coyotes is known to live. I’ve heard tales (hopefully urban legend!) that they like to sneak into the back yards of those homes bordering the golf course and snatch small pets. Needless to say, I make sure both my cats are safe inside each night. And there’s nothing quite like the sound of their ethereal yipping late at night from the depths of the golf course!

  3. I was so glad to find this article because something similar happened to me last night. I was by myself, with no dog. I was walking, with headphones on, around the lake at Eastlake 3 nature preserve, which is near 124th and York/Steele in Thornton, about 20 minutes north of Denver. I’ve been walking in this area for three years, and I’ve seen coyotes a few times in the evening, but they usually run when they see me. Usually I hear them yipping, but don’t actually see them. Last night I was alone on the trail, about 20 minutes after dark (later than I usually walk), and I was singing to music on my headphones as I walked. I have a habit of turning around and checking out the trail behind me from time to time, and when I did this, there was a coyote trotting along about 3 feet behind me on the trail. It freaked me out and I shrieked really loudly. This scared the coyote and he ran into a meadow of tall grass, stopped, and stood and watched me from about 50 feet away. He stayed there as I walked away, so I spent the next half a mile nervously looking over my shoulder. The signs in the nature preserve say to never turn your back on a coyote. This makes me wonder if the coyote would have jumped on me if I hadn’t turned around and scared it. Yikes! Also, I’m wondering if my singing (badly) may have attracted the coyote. If you know the answer(s), please feel free to email me. Thanks!

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