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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.
In recent work conducted by Franklin & Marshall students, Lancaster residents reported that they rarely saw coyotes, or that they were not even aware they were present in the area. According to the data from 200 self-reported surveys, Lancaster residents did not consider coyotes a risk to residential property. Coyotes were not considered a risk to human or pet safety.
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.
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.
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.