Coyote Interlude

eastern_forest_sceneIt is 9:30 pm near our campsite in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in southwestern Kentucky. Sunset was a few hours ago and the moon is up and almost full. I am standing on a dirt road with a marshy area in front of me and a wooded hillside to my back. The recorder has been on for several minutes, capturing the exquisite early fall chorus of insects. There are also the plops of nuts that have been cut by a foraging flying squirrel and the snap of a twig here and there.

Suddenly I hear the lone wail of a coyote, and the hairs on my back tingle. Even though I know that coyotes prey mainly on small mammals like mice, squirrels, and rabbits, I cannot help feeling vulnerable. Then a second coyote joins in, and a third. Pretty soon there are several of them, calling back and forth. To me these are lonely sounds, but with their own strange beauty.

Coyote Interlude at Land Between the Lakes Kentucky_Bob McGuire_10 Oct 2009.

I recall that at this time of year the coyote family breaks up. The pups leave their home territory to go off and establish territories of their own. What am I hearing? Is this the final family conversation before the pups leave for good? I only wish I could actually see what is going on.

Just as suddenly as the coyotes began, they fall silent, and as I wait for more howls, a distant Barred Owl comes on to say “goodnight”.


  1. This is one of the most amazing recordings I’ve ever heard, when it comes to mammals! This recording is wonderful, and eerie.

  2. The malamute response was to look for another pack. Mals are not wolves, but their are similarities. When the pup departs from the mother, the mother welcomes the departure. She’s tired of the burden of nursing and care giving. The father or alpha might be more inclined to miss them, a good father usually plays with the pup and teaches the pup proper manners, and submission. And then their is a foster mom in the pack, who like to guard the pups and watch them while mom is away, and she might be more inclined to miss them as well. She does not have the burden of care giving. She more or less babysat the pups.

    We have one adult male’s that was born in my pack who comes back to play with the pack, and they accept him. And his brother, was returned to us after a year, and at first he was greeted with growls and snares, he was taught where he fit in the order, which is at the bottom, and he submits, so he is welcome to run with the pack as well. Both males are neutered though, so they are not a threat. I don’t believe it would work if the two males were still in tact. But I do think, that mals, coyote and wolves recognize their own, even after being separated. And yes, the howl is a sad and lonely song. However, you never heard such a sad and lonely song as the howl of a male who wants to mate with his female. And this goes on for a couple of weeks.

  3. I absolutely love this recording. I have 4 Alaskan Malamutes and am familiar with the howls and growls of these animals. Malamutes are great communicators and to have them as pets, we need to understand them, not the other way around, where they understand and obey us. In fact, when we learn to understand their opinions, the hierarchy in the pack and what they are telling us, they make the bets pets in the world.

    I love the haunting reverberation you used in the recording. Very beautiful and engaging. My mals listen with great interest. Will post reactions later, this may be more telling than any human response! lol

  4. This is awesome! Some perfect bedtime music (for me tonight, as well, at 11:17 pm). The depth and the “hellhound” quality, and the hollow woodiness make it just… awesome!

  5. I first heard this at Lang’s talk at Cornell and was thrilled to be able to re-live the experience again at home… Bob, this is a really remarkable recording, it paints such a beautiful and haunting picture.

  6. I loved this audio clip! It reminded me of a month ago when I was camping at the tip of Leenenau County, just north of Traverse City Michigan. In the middle of the night we heard a lone coyote singing in the distance. One of our three beagles who were with us woke up and listened with awe, as we did.