If you’ve never had coyotes wandering in your backyard, languorously howling and yapping at the moon, then you’re missing out on quite the pre-sleep soundtrack. But this snippet of video can give you a sense of the haunting power of coyote vocals.
The first, piercing yip-howl might catch you off guard (if you’d like to prepare yourself, it’s 18 seconds in). This soprano is solo, though coyotes often croon in chorus. While the howl of wolves is longer, lower, and slower, coyotes produce short howls interspersed with yips, yaps, and barks. This diverse set of sounds, as well as the surrounding environment’s distortion effects, often gives the illusion that one coyote is actually a whole pack—an illusion known as the Beau Geste effect.
So, if you’re camping in the backcountry and think you hear a symphony of coyotes nearby, comfort yourself in knowing that it might just be one. Key word: might.
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