Coexisting with Coyotes

Coyotes are more prevalent in urban areas as their primary habitat falls to development.

| September/October 2007

  • Leeson-Pups98
    Astute learners, these fuzzy pups will soon be able to fend for themselves.
    Tom and Pat Leeson
  • LEAD-iStock_Coyote Myerson
  • Leeson-15D
    A full garbage can holds considerable interest for a hungry coyote, just as for any canine.
    Tom and Pat Leeson

  • Leeson-Pups98
  • LEAD-iStock_Coyote
  • Leeson-15D

On April 4, a male coyote wandered into a Chicago fast-food restaurant. The following week, a female coyote was captured in front of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Detroit.

State departments of Natural Resources, Humane societies, city officials, and rural and urban families are experiencing close encounters of the coyote kind with ever increasing frequency. This is due in part to shrinking numbers of black bears, wolves, mountain lions and other top predators, but it is also related to urban sprawl and the associated loss of natural habitat. Farmers and ranchers have forever fought with the crafty coyote, but now the battles have moved to town.

How will I recognize it?

Coyotes (Canis latrans) belong to the dog family. With a weight of 25 to 35 pounds, they have pointed ears, yellow eyes, a narrow muzzle and a round, bushy, dropping tail with a black tip. Generally, the coyote’s upper body is a yellowish gray with a light-cream fur covering the throat and the underbelly.

What’s for dinner?

Coyotes are omnivorous scavengers, and while their primary diet consists of mice, rabbits, squirrels, insects, reptiles and berries of wild plants, they will eat garbage and various types of carrion, including roadkill. Coyotes only attack livestock and household pets when such animals are easy prey. Unsecured trash cans, overfilled bird feeders and outdoor pet-food bowls are also part of a coyote’s food supply.

Coyote family life

Coyotes prefer to do their hunting from midnight to dawn. Normally, howling, tracks or scat (feces) are the only evidence that there are coyotes in the area. If they are seen, it’s usually during the breeding season from mid-January to March. In April, the females may be spotted as they begin to look for a den in which to raise their pups.

Similar to wolves, coyotes form packs to socialize and defend their territories. A territory can consist of several square miles or simply the boundaries of a park. A coyote pack may consist of five to six adults plus any pups born that year. Coyotes typically hunt alone, but they may cooperate to take down larger animals.



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