An elk hunter in Wyoming encountered a strangely aggressive coyote over the weekend while hunting along the Wind River. Using his phone, David Mossburg caught the whole encounter on video and uploaded the footage to YouTube. On Monday, he spoke with Cowboy State Daily about the stand-off, and he explained that he almost shot the coyote during the minutes-long standoff.
“In the video, you see him take two steps forward, and I was thinking he was coming for me,” Mossburg said.
Mossburg, who lives in Riverton according to his Facebook profile, told CSD that he was hunting with his son on his brother-in-law’s property along the Wind River that day. The two had split up to increase their odds of seeing an elk. Carrying a shotgun loaded with slugs, he was set up in a brushy gully near the river when he saw two coyotes trotting his way.
The coyotes didn’t notice Mossburg until they got within 40 yards, at which point one ran away while the other coyote stood its ground. By that point, Mossburg had already started recording a video through the brush.
“Yeah, what are you gonna do? Huh?”he says to the coyote at the start of the video. “I have a 12-gauge with a deer slug. Do you want me to shoot you? Why don’t you go with your buddy and live another day.”
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The lone coyote then barks repeatedly at Mossburg, who reminds the critter that he could easily kill it right then and there. Coyotes – along with jackrabbits, raccoons, red foxes, porcupines, and skunks — are classified as non-game species in Wyoming, which means there are no bag limits, and they can be taken year-round without a license.
“If I drop this phone that means I’m shooting,” Mossburg narrates, and over the next couple minutes he tries to scare the coyote off by yelling at it. This just makes the coyote bark even louder, and it postures aggressively while keeping its eyes fixed on Mossburg.
Finally, around the video’s three-minute mark, the coyote turns tail and slinks into the brush. A relieved Mossburg says, “whew, that was weird,” and turns off his camera.
Mossburg explained to CSD that the main reason he didn’t shoot the coyote was because he didn’t know exactly where his own son was. This ended up being the right call, he said, because he later learned that his son was only 100 yards away from him at the time.
“He told me that there was so much barking, he thought maybe a pack of coyotes had surrounded me, because it seemed like a lot of noise for just one coyote,” Mossburg said.
As for why the coyote was acting so aggressively towards him, Mossburg’s best guess was that the two canines were a mating pair, and that the male was standing its ground to protect the fleeing female. This theory would make sense, as coyote breeding season runs from December through March and peaks in January and February. This holds true across the species’ range in North America.
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“Because females go into estrous during late winter, both genders are super-active at that time in order to be certain of either being bred or doing the breeding,” John Olson, a furbearer biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, told Outdoor Life in 2021. “Males can become very aggressive [around then]. Part of that aggression is to defend their territories from other males, part of it is to attract females.”