Of the Canyon: Coyote


Laguna Canyon Foundation was formed to preserve and protect the South Coast Wilderness. We accomplish this through unique partnerships with land managers, City and County leadership, park users and the environmental community. Together, we can #keepitwild and #protectwhatyoulove.

If you have ever taken a hike or a ride in Aliso and Woods Canyons or in Laguna Coast Wilderness or even driven by the open space, then you’ve seen the rich and diverse ecosystem we are privileged to live near. We have a collective responsibility to ensure the inhabitants – both plants and animals – have their place to call home.

Coyotes have been in North America for thousands of years and, because of regular encroachment to their habitat, coyotes remain very adaptable.  The coyotes’ preferred space is the open grassland, but they will, of course, go where there is food.  They are omnivores with an excellent sense of smell and they are skilled hunters.  Coyotes are nocturnal animals; however, if outside forces (including humans) cause imbalance in their environment and adaptation is necessary, coyotes will hunt during the day.

Coyotes are loyal, often mating for years to raise pups, which are birthed every spring (April/May).  Coyotes’ social organization is built around the mated pair and includes packs, solitary residents, and nomads.

The name coyote is a Spanish derivative of the original Aztec name, coyotl, which means “barking dog.”  Coyotes communicate with howls, yelps and huffs.  Local Laguna residents often describe the sound as “lighting up with the canyon” with coyote song.  When a coyote howls, it is communicating its location to other coyotes.  Yelps often mean celebration or discipline with pups and adolescents.  Huffing is a coyote’s whisper to its young.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife have an initiative called, “Keep Me Wild.” Its slogan is:  “Wild animals don’t need your handouts.  They need your respect.” How fitting as Laguna Canyon Foundation strives to #KeepItWild.   As stated on the CDFW’s website:

 [We] may not realize it … but a simple bag of garbage, bowl of pet food, or plate of leftovers left outside our home or in a neighboring park can cause severe harm to wildlife.  Most wild animals keep their distance – so long as they remain fully wild. 

If coyotes lose their natural fear of humans, they become bolder, less wild, and more dependent on us.  A few tips to #keepitwild:

  • If you see a coyote near you, haze it.  Make loud noises and big gestures. If you have a jacket, wave it like a cape, making yourself big. If necessary, throw rocks near the coyote.
  • When walking your dogs, keep them on a leash.  Coyotes are clever and can lure domestic dogs to a vulnerable place where you cannot protect your pet.
  • Seal garbage cans; pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.  Do not leave trash anywhere.
  • Install motion sensitive lighting around your house and switch up its location from time to time. Remember, coyotes are smart.
  • Above all, keep your pets inside! An outdoor cat or small dog left alone in a yard is a prime target for hunting coyotes.

For more tips and information, talk to an OC Park Ranger, visit the Nix Nature Center or go to: