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Coyote

Background

Coyotes can be found within rural, suburban, and urban areas. Coyotes are established throughout all of the United States, as well, and are only one of many species that are been threatened by human population and industrial growth.

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Description

Coyotes are about the size of a medium-size dog, but have longer, thicker fur. They have a long, bushy, black-tipped tail that is usually carried pointing down. Typically 4-5 feet in length, from snout to tip of tail, their snout is long and slender, and their ears are pointed. The pelts colors of coyotes range from grayish-black to blondes, light tan, dark tan, red or even all black. Female coyotes weigh an average of 33-40 lbs and male coyotes are slightly larger (average 34-47 lbs). Coyotes can reach weights of 50-60 lbs. Their thick fur means that their weights can easily be over-estimated.

Coyote Tracks

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Range, Eating Habits, and Habitats

The coyote can be found from coast-to-coast in the United States (including Alaska), and in Central America. Coyotes are "opportunistic feeders," which means they will feed on whatever is most readily available and easiest to obtain. Their primary foods include fruit, berries, small rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They will also eat animal remains (including road-kill) as well as garbage and pet food left outdoors. In suburban areas they prey upon unprotected pets, such as outdoor house cats and unsupervised domestic dogs. Due to the utilization of so many different food sources, coyotes have adapted to and live in a variety of habitats including: beaches, parks, wooded suburbs, and office parks. Coyotes prefer not to live near human and urban environments, but they have been sighted sneaking into these areas during the night in search of food. The majority of coyote-human encounters occur at night in the coyote’s own habitat. Coyotes are not known for aggressiveness towards humans, and, in fact, they often flee at the first sign of human activity.

Coyotes usually avoid humans, but are frequently seen individually, in pairs, or in small groups near places where there is food. A family group or "pack," consists of: parents, pups, and occasionally, the previous year's pups. The size of the family can vary greatly. Male and female coyotes pair up, establish a territory, and breed in February or March; 4 to 8 pups are born in April or May. Activity is variable; they can be active night or day, and sightings at dawn or dusk are common. They remain active all year-round; they don't hibernate. Once a coyote has established an area, it will maintain a territory of 2 to 30 square miles. One family of coyotes often includes one or more residential suburban areas/towns. Coyotes are highly territorial and keep non-family members outside their territory (individual coyotes and other family groups). They defend their territory through howling, scent marking, body displays, and confrontation with trespassing coyotes.

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Preventing Coyote Conflicts

There are many fears and misconceptions about coyotes. Many people don't know the beneficial contributions that coyotes make to our ecosystem. Coyotes keep prey species in balance with their habitat. Populations of small animals (such as rodents), could increase immeasurably without predators. Coyotes can greatly reduce the number of small animals that farmers, gardeners, and home owners consider as pests (such as woodchucks and rodents). While assisting with these ecological benefits, coyotes will not eliminate other species from the environment. Many scavenger animals (foxes, fishers, and ravens) benefit from coyote predation on other animals due to increased food availability usually from leftover carcasses. Many members of the public benefit directly from coyotes through opportunities including: observation, photography, hunting, and trapping.
 
Coyotes thrive in suburban and urban areas close to people. Coyotes eat many different foods, including small animals, fruits, vegetables, garbage, and pet food. Remember everything a coyote does is related to a potential meal. Here are a few suggestions to make your property less attractive to coyotes:
 
1). Don't let coyotes intimidate you! 
Don't hesitate to scare or threaten coyotes with loud noises and bright lights. Don't hesitate to pick up small objects, such as a tennis ball, and throw them at the coyote. If a water hose is close at hand, spray the coyote with water in the face. Let the coyote know it is unwelcome in your area.
 
2). Secure your garbage 
Coyotes will raid open trash materials and compost piles. Secure your garbage in tough plastic containers with tight fitting lids and keep in secure buildings when possible. Take out trash the morning pick up is scheduled, not the previous night. Keep compost piles in containers designed to contain but vent the material.
 
3). Don't feed or try to pet coyotes
Keep wild things wild! Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause coyotes to act tame and over time may lead to bold behavior. Coyotes that rely on natural food items remain wild and wary of humans.
 
4). Keep your pets safe 
Although free roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than by wild animals, coyotes do view cats and small dogs as potential food and larger dogs as competition. For the safety of your pets, keep them restrained at all times.
 
5). Feed pets indoors
Outdoor feeding attracts many wild animals to your door!
 
6). Keep bird feeding areas clean 
Use feeders designed to keep seed off the ground as the seed attracts many small mammals that coyotes prey upon. Remove feeders if coyotes are regularly seen around your yard.
 
7). Close off crawl spaces under porches and sheds 
Coyotes use such areas for resting and raising young.
 
8). Cut back brushy edges in your yard 
These areas provide cover for coyotes and their prey.
 
9). Protect livestock and produce
Coyotes will prey upon livestock. Techniques, such as fencing, will protect livestock from predation. Clear fallen fruit from around fruit trees.
 
10). Educate your neighbors
Pass this information along since your efforts will be futile if neighbors are providing food or shelter for coyotes.Source: http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/living/living_with_coyotes.htm

Resolving Coyote Conflicts

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There are 3 main options for resolving a conflict with coyote. These options are tolerance, fencing and good husbandry practices, and lethal removal.

1. Tolerance - Most conflicts with coyotes can be resolved by implementing one of the preventative steps mentioned earlier. The long-term solution is for the public to alter their behavior and be aware of their environment, whether they live in a rural, suburban, or urban setting. By adopting these recommendations, there may be a decrease in the frequency of seeing coyotes in the area.Coyotes, as well as other wildlife, are adapting to the urban-suburban environments and are opportunistic in finding foods and resources available in these environments. Implementation of these steps empowers the public to be proactive, rather then reactive, in dealing with wildlife situations in their neighborhoods. MDFW's goal is to try to strike a balance between wildlife and people.

2. Fencing and Husbandry Practices- Coyotes can jump over and dig under fences that are improperly built. Coyotes don't leap fences in a single bound but, like domestic dogs, they grip the top with their front paws and kick themselves upward and over with the back legs. Their tendency to climb will depend on the individual animal and its motivation. Coyotes are also excellent diggers, therefore the type of fence you install may require barriers be built into or extending from the ground.Eliminating the coyote's ability to grip the top of the fence is also recommended. You can do this by installing a PVC pipe that is free to spin around a tight wire. The height of the fence should be a minimum of 6 feet in height and tightly flush with the ground. If you have a lower fence, an outward overhang of fence wire may help prevent coyotes from jumping over

3. Removing Coyotes - If you cannot tolerate a coyote living in your area, the only solution is to have it lethally removed. It is against state law to capture and release coyotes into another area. Often people want to capture problem animals and release them someplace else. However, moving wildlife is detrimental to both people and wildlife populations and is against the law. This law has been in effect for many years, protecting both people and wildlife.Coyotes are a legally protected furbearer and game animal. Therefore, there are statutory laws and regulations dictating how and when a coyote can be removed. A coyote may not be removed simply because of its presence in an area, there must be damage or a threat to human safety by a specific animal.As stated earlier, coyotes are naturally afraid of people and their presence alone is not a cause for concern, though depending on human-related sources of food, coyotes can become habituated.A habituated coyote may exhibit an escalation in bold behavior around people. Behaviors exhibited that indicate the coyote has lost its fear of people are when it:

1) does not run off when harassed or chased

2) approaches pets on a leash, and/or

3) approaches and follows people. When wildlife exhibits these behaviors, corrective measures can be taken.

Source: http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/living/living_with_coyotes.htm

Have you seen a coyote?

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  • Current Research
  • Student researchers at F&M work with Drs. Eric Lonsdorf and Sarah Dawson to examine ecosystem-level effects of coyote colonization in eastern landscapes.