Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans)

Last Sunday evening I awoke to an increasingly familiar sound…the howls of several coyotes echoed through the neighboring woods, piercing the cool night air. I can tell you from experience that waking, from a sound sleep, to the raucous chorus of coyotes can be a bit startling, but I absolutely LOVE IT! In fact, I sleep with the windows open, most of the year, just so I don’t miss such happenings.

I rent a quaint house, here in Tryon, NC, nestled in a sizable patch of woods. The lower portion of the property contains a small creek, which I love to explore. My creek has minnows, aquatic insects and a few crayfish. Clearly, the creek is the heartbeat of these woods. Deer, turkey, raccoons, hawks, owls, and a multitude of woodland creatures frequent this area…but they are not alone. The coyote keeps a watchful eye on all that happens here. Always observing, calculating and patiently waiting for an opportunity. Make no mistake…this is one savvy wild dog. Perhaps no other wild animal can live in such close proximity to man, and yet be so completely unseen.

This past Winter I had an encounter with the local coyote pack I will never forget…One night, around 3 am, I awoke to the same chorus. I could hear the coyotes moving through the woods skirting my house. They were VERY close. The moon was nearly full and illuminated most of my front yard. I crept out of bed and headed, in darkness, to my living room to retrieve a turkey (diaphragm) call I had on my TV. Having “called in” coyotes before with a predator call, I felt confident I might get a response with some high pitched squeals the call would produce. I knelt beside my bedroom window and did my best impersonation of a dying rabbit (with the mouth call of course:)). I called on and off for about 30 seconds, and then listened. They were pretty close so I wanted to be careful. I heard their footsteps, in the dry leaves, coming in my direction. It was working. The moonlight filtering through a dogwood tree, in my front yard, provided reasonable visibility. As I remained motionless listening to a coyote, trotting in my direction through the leaves, something I didn’t expect happened. A coyote, a different one, appeared out of nowhere! He snuck in, from my left, searching for the wounding animal without making a sound. I was shocked and, at the same time, excited. He loped back and forth across my view, a mere 12 feet from my open window. My heart was racing the entire time. After satisfying his curiosity, he eventually disappeared into the darkness. Wow! I felt so blessed to have experienced it. It’s hard to put emotions into words sometimes. For me it wasn’t just the excitement of the moment, but rather the connection I felt to nature that night is something I will always treasure.

Some people fear and even hate coyotes…for what reasons I’m somewhat unclear. Perhaps they’ve lost beloved pets to them…I have too. Or perhaps they fear the unknown. I once read that “Man fears what he doesn’t know, and what man fears he destroys.”

Besides the wolf, the coyote is perhaps one of the most misunderstood animals in North America. Here in the south, they fill a position the Red Wolf once occupied. They serve the important responsibility of checks and balances, a role that we humans may never fully understand. They are numerous, highly adaptable, secretive and difficult to study. For me, the coyote is a blessing. I’m glad they’re here. They embody the very essence of nature… raw, untamed and inspiring. I am grateful for such things. My relationship with the natural world deeply touches my soul. Without it, life would be mundane at best.

Like it or not, the coyote is here to stay. The next time you hear the coyotes howl…howl back!

Wild Wanderings with Richard Cleveland, teacher of outdoor skills at Earth School in Tryon, NC – a self-trained Naturalist and local fishing and nature guide. For more information and list of programs visit:

What happened here?

What happened here? Can you read the story?