By Melissa Wynn

Autumn brings much of natures beauty to the forefront here in the Sierra. The leafy trees splash the mountain greenery with a rainbow of color and the coyote puppies born in early Spring, have finally wandered out into the open.

Coyote sightings are common in the mountain areas, and this time of year is best for catching a glimpse of the entire family together on the hunt. Unlike wolves that maintain constant family groups, coyotes are much more lax with social structure. Packs are occasionally seen during harsher winter months when chances of filling their bellies are increased by working together. Many coyotes, especially young males, tend to be solitary until they find a mate. Mated pairs or two or three siblings running together are also common sightings. The kicked-back coyote just likes to do its own thing.

Although the cunning coyote wanders at will, they do like to keep in touch with the neighbors. The howl of the coyote is an iconic sound synonymous with American folklore and a classic symbol of all that is wild. This sometimes-eerie sound is the coyote’s way of communicating that “I am here and this is my territory.” Competing males are invited to stay away but lonely females are welcome to follow the voice saying, “Please answer and let me know where you are so we don’t have any unwanted conflicts.”

Yelping is more a family conversation, a celebration or criticism within a small group of coyotes. Hearing this happy chatter usually means the coyotes are very close and it is most often heard during play among pups or young animals.

The scientific name for coyote is Canis Latrans and actually means “barking dog”, even though the coyote doesn’t bark very often. When coyotes do bark it is thought to be a display of threat, like when a coyote is protecting its home, its young or guarding a kill . A growling or barking coyote means “back off and leave me be”. As with all wildlife, the coyote’s beauty should be enjoyed from afar. Never approach a wild animal.

Look and listen as you wander the forests and valley this festive fall season and you too might catch a visual or musical performance by the classic country coyote.

Facts courtesy of