We have coyotes in the country. So do many of you in urban environments.
We also have coy dogs. So do many of you in urban environments.
Coyotes are smart, hunt in packs, but are very shy and wary. You do not see them often though you frequently hear them nearby. They make a terrific racket when they are chasing their prey…rabbits, squirrels, possums, chipmunks, turkeys, juvenile deer, even grown deer, juvenile feral pigs, juvenile raccoons. Coyotes might have their hands full with a full grown raccoon. I expect they’d give one a try, but it would be no free meal. Coyotes also will make a meal of your small dog, or your old, toothless dog. They will eat dogs just as well as they will eat anything else. I have had several disappear over the years, and more than one nearly killed. Your cat is not safe, either.
Coy dogs are another entity, though they are coyote hybrids. They are usually larger than coyotes, since coyotes make a meal of dogs smaller than themselves, and nearly all male domestic male dogs are killed and eaten unless it is one smart enough and strong enough to hold off the pack. Even then, those male domestic dogs never become part of the pack.
Female domestic dogs are a bit different, especially female dogs in heat. The Alpha Male coyote pack leader is quite fond of them and will breed with them. Sometimes they become part of the coyote pack. Sometimes they just become a pack of coy dogs. They look like coyotes for the most part, but may be colored differently, or have shorter hair and less bushy tails, retaining some of the features of their domestic immediate ancestors. But they are wild dogs. They are coyote enough to be smart and wary, but they are domestic enough to have no fear of being around human dwellings, or humans themselves. This is what makes them dangerous.
When we first moved out here, we had several packs of coy dogs ranging the territory. They were far more common than coyotes. Sometimes one would encounter packs of thirty or forty. They were still shy, mostly, but would not run when they spotted you, rather meander off as if to say, “We’ll be back later.”
Twice in my twenty years here, I have been challenged by a coy dog. When I say challenged, I mean a full frontal challenge. All aggressive dogs will challenge the fearful, or challenge a person or another dog when they are seeing the end with no eyes and teeth fleeing before them. Only the most aggressive will challenge you looking straight on when you are not retreating or displaying fear. These are the dangerous ones. What makes them display no fear when confronted with fearlessness?
The first time I was challenged, a pack of about thirty coy dogs came trotting up the road towards the house. When they saw me, they stopped at about a hundred yards distance, watching. That is, they all stopped but one. That one, the largest one, a male, the alpha male, just kept on coming towards me, head down close to the ground, slowly and steadily. I was watching him with great interest to see what his intentions were. I was not afraid. I was not retreating. I am six feet two inches tall. I was displaying aggressive behavior myself by not turning, but staring him in the eyes. He kept coming. He was unaware of the device I held in my hands, a shotgun, which I had from returning from the barn where my step-father and I had been shooting some skeet. I slowly and deliberately opened the breech of the over and under shotgun and replaced the seven-and-a-half size shot shells with the number four buckshot with which it is normally loaded.
The coy dog approached to within twenty-five yards, slower now, but with raised hackles, bared teeth, growling. I raised my shotgun and fired twice, killing him on the spot. The rest of the pack of coy dogs fled pall mall, later to decide among themselves who their new Alpha Male would be.
It would be a long time until a coy dog would challenge me again. It would be last night. It was a direct challenge.
About 10:30, all hell broke loose right near my kitchen window. The dogs were fighting something fierce. This was not the normal growl, bite, and yelp my dogs do when they fight among themselves, re-establishing their pecking order. They never intend to hurt each other when they do that, it is just their way of keeping order in their own pack. As Elsa Belle, the latest addition, a pointer/lab mix that strayed up to the house has grown and matured, now weighing about seventy-five pounds, Relay, another stray, an Australian Shepherd mix, has been resisting the pressure to lose her number three spot in the pack to Elsa Belle. Relay is old and nearly toothless, but she has managed to get away with buffaloing Elsa Belle. Still, they get into it from time to time. Babalu, the pit bull, has to remind them, occasionally, that no one else may ever eat from his food bowl, but that is his only concern. Ruby, the senior dog, is the pack leader. Occasionally, she just feels it necessary to remind them of that with a nip or two. She nips. They yelp and whine. It’s all over in a brief moment.
That’s not what I heard last night. I heard a full blown dog fight, similar to the one I had a couple of years ago when Babalu and Elsa Belle has gotten into it with a real coyote. The intensity and duration of the dog fight let me know that something unusual was up. I went to my gun safe grabbed my Remington 700 30-06 with a green, very bright game light attached to the scope before I even went outside.
My dogs are pretty smart. They know what firearms are. They know what firearms will do. I can take out a firearm and fool with it all day long and it will not bother them. But let them hear just one metallic “click,” and everything changes. They know something is fixing to happen. They know the click is the precursor to the gun being fired. None of them seem to prefer being around when the gun is fired. They head for cover, especially Relay, since I actually shot her one time, from a long distance with nine shot, for getting in the garbage. There was no way I was going to injure her at the distance I was with nine shot, but I suspect it stung quite a bit. Not only that, but she heard the report of a firearm that was actually aimed at her. It was good medicine. She won’t even look towards the garbage now, or if she does, she looks back toward the house, drops her head, and remembers what can happen if she gets in it. There is nothing in the garbage, however appealing to a dog’s nose, that will make Relay mess with the garbage. I suspect she warns the other dogs.
The other thing that will get the dogs moving is the a laser dot, green or red, or a lit flashlight attached to a firearm, and most especially the green light. It is a very bright green light. The green makes game less apt to run than white light. Several feral hogs have succumbed to the mystery of the green light, not running, but standing there staring at it while I was able to aim carefully.
I hit the door, and the dogs were all in a twisting mass of a wad, except for Ruby, who was barking madly from a short distance away. Being the senior dog in command, she thinks it is her job to bark orders to her lieutenants. They seemed to be doing their job, but the coy dog was holding his own. This was being illuminated by my front porch lights. I switched on the green light. My dogs, well aware of the ramifications of the green light, have no desire to be illuminated by it. They abandoned the coy dog and scattered in four different directions at the same speed as Relay did when the nine shot hit her at the garbage bin. The coy dog, his blood up, was not concerned by this. Nor was he concerned that a six-foot two inch human was standing within ten feet of him. He did not run, but lowered his head, swaying back and forth, as it to decide how he would attack: hackles up, teeth bared in a snarl, and growling viciously at me. He was standing on my sidewalk and I did not want to shoot him there, since a bullet ricocheting off the concrete might cause me some grief with the things that were behind. I needed for the coy dog to move off the sidewalk so I could get a clear shot.
I stepped forward and growled myself. “Get Back!” I snarled. He took three steps to his right, got off the sidewalk and clear of Debbie’s flower bed. He was within five feet of the muzzle of the rifle. I pulled the trigger. A millisecond later, 170 grains of Winchester Silvertip bullet traveling at 3,000 feet per second struck him square in his snarling mouth. It killed him instantly.
Debbie and Piper came out to look at him, as did the dogs once I had turned off the green light, except for Ruby. It takes her more than a few minutes to recover from a nearby gunshot. Sometimes it takes her two days to recover from a thunderstorm. She sure is afraid to be the alpha dog, but gunfire and thunder are not her thing. The vet prescribed some doggie diazepam (Valium) to give her before an approaching thunderstorm. It seems to help….some.
The coy dog weighed about forty pounds. He was still rather young as what was left of his teeth were easy to see, sharp and pointy, nor worn by age. He was a bit thin, but my front porch is not the place for him to be trying to steal a meal, and his failure to retreat at the sight of me, and snarling and coming forward in aggression was not in his best interests.
I always wonder how this might play out if my granddaughters were out and about if this happened. I know my own dogs would intervene, just as they were intervening when I went outside last night. My yard, particularly my front porch, is their home territory since that is where we feed them. Dogs do love their territory and will become enraged when someone or something violates their space.
I would say that a small child would be in danger from a coy dog, particularly a small child, thinking at first that it is a pet, then turning to flee when they become afraid. Every dog with aggressive tendencies gets even more aggressive when they are staring at retreating rear end before them. Rear ends have no teeth, nor eyes to see you with. Rear ends are a target to an aggressive dog.
I loaded up the coy dog’s carcass and carried it across the pond where it can rot and be buzzard fodder. Rather than make himself a meal at my house, the coy dog will become a meal for the buzzards, the fire ants, the blowflies, and every other creeping thing that feeds on dead and decaying matter. In the meantime, the smell of dead coy dog/coyote will be a warning to the others who are near about. They know that smell. They can detect it from along way off. They will think danger. That is what I want them to think.
When I returned from dumping the carcass, Babalu was sniffing the blood spot on the ground where I dispatched the coy dog. He sniffed and sniffed, turned, raised his leg, and fired his own shot, as if to say, “There! I’ll show you.” Now any coyote/coy dog that comes around the yard will smell blood and the scent of Babalu. This will give Babalu quite a bit more prestige in the world of canines. He has moved up a notch or two. I noticed this morning that he had his already big chest poked out a bit further than normal, but if I got it out, one glance at the green light and all I’d see of Babalu would be his rear end in full retreat, headed for the safety of the shed.
We all have our limitations.
The coy dog certainly had his. He just wasn’t aware of them until it was too late.
©2017 Mississippi Chris Sharp