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Was that a coyote howling last night … or someone screaming?

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, August 21st, 2008 at 6:47 am in coyotes, Wildlife.

coy howl2

Dear Gary:
About midnight for the last several nights we’ve been hearing strange noises that are a cross between a woman screaming in pain and a warbling sort of call. What animal (we presume it’s an animal!) would be making a sound like that, and why? Actually, it sounds like more than one animal. Thanks.
(PS: Yes, we live right next to an open space area; Shell Ridge.)
G. W., Walnut Creek, Calif.

coy howl1

Dear G.:
Those strange sounds you’re hearing are coyotes howling. I know of at least one coyote den on Shell Ridge in Walnut Creek.

We have a lot of coyotes running around the San Francisco Bay Area. Sometimes they howl when they’re feeling their oats, like when it’s a full moon. Sometimes it’s a territorial thing. And sometimes it’s mom and dad coyote teaching their teenage cubs how to howl. Whatever turns them on.

I sometimes get the urge to howl at a full moon, but I usually manage to restrain myself.

Usually. /Gary

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5 Responses to “Was that a coyote howling last night … or someone screaming?”

  1. Karen Says:

    My parents used to live near the San Joaquin River in the central valley, outside of town and adjacent to a riparian area. One of my favorite treats when I visited in the summer was to lie in bed and listen to the night critters. Owls hooting, raccoon babies chasing each other around the house, intrepid opossums raiding the fig tree (fewer figs — ugh — for Mom to insist I take home, so I was rooting for the opossums), and best of all coyotes. There was a den nearby and I would go to sleep enjoying the howls and yips and what must have been the happy cries when one of the parents brought dinner home.

  2. Lisa T. Says:

    Dear G:

    I live in the Carriage Hills area of El Sobrante & we get our fair share of cool critters around here. I get up at 3am to go to work & recently heard what I thought were screams too. I thought the neighbors were having a wild, raucous party…but on a Wednesday? I listened carefully for a long time…I finally pegged it as coyotes howling. But what howling it was! There had to be at least 4 or 5 of them, all very excited over what I assume was a kill. It also prompted several dogs in the neighborhood to join in the celebration. As I stood motionless at the window, listening intently, hoping all the neighbors’ cats were safe, all I could think was, “Gary Bogue would love to hear about this!”.

  3. anya Says:

    thats soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  4. Cyndee L. Says:

    I thought the loud yipping and howling of coyotes was made when they are making a kill…going quiet after the kill is dead. Could you tell me if this is correct?
    Thank you, Cyndee

  5. Gary Bogue Says:

    Cyndee: Not correct. Coyotes do most of their howling to communicate with each other, or after they get together and are just feeling good. And sometimes to announce when a kill has been made. They don’t howl while making a kill. Too busy doing same. /Gary

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