When Coyotes Meet People
Coyote behavior varies depending upon environment. In the wild, where they are actively hunted and trapped, coyotes are generally elusive. Near cities or in areas where hunting and trapping is not allowed, coyotes may be aggressive. In urban settings, they can lose their fear of people and may even threaten domestic pets. Although attacks on humans are extremely rare, there have been cases where coyotes have attacked young children.
What To Do If You Live in Coyote Country
If you live in areas where coyotes have been seen, protect your pets! Coyotes will attack and kill cats and dogs. Do not allow your pets to roam, especially at night. Make sure your yard is appropriately fenced. We suggest at least a 6-foot fence, or, better yet, keep your dog in a completely enclosed kennel.
Do not allow dogs to run with coyotes. Although it appears they are “playing, ” coyotes can turn on dogs to defend their territory.
Don’t leave pet food outside. This invites wildlife into your yard, and problems may result.
Protect livestock, especially chickens, young calves and sheep. Contact your local extension office for appropriate methods to prevent depredation.
Keep your garbage in a storage facility or in a tightly sealed container. Clean garbage cans regularly to reduce residual odors by using hot water and chlorine bleach.
What To Do If You Meet a Coyote
Coyotes provide an enjoyable wildlife viewing experience. Keep your distance and do not approach the animals. Enjoy the opportunity to view wildlife.
Keep your pets on a leash when walking them.
If a coyote approaches you or your pet, you can throw rocks or sticks to frighten it away.
Use a loud, authoritative voice to frighten the animal.
Mating and Breeding
Coyotes typically pair for life. If one dies, the other will look for another mate. They are capable of breeding with, and will breed with, domestic dogs. Males are capable of breeding when they are less than one year old. Breeding occurs between January and March. Pups are born from April to mid-May. The litter size is determined by local population density and food availability. More pups are born when there are low coyote densities and when food sources are abundant. The female prepares the den. The male assists in the raising of the young and initially supplies most of the food. The pups are born blind and hairless. They begin eating meat at 8 weeks of age and start hunting between 8 and 12 weeks. The pups disperse between November and March. The family may hunt together temporarily in mid-winter but do not form true packs. People should never approach pups or attempt to take them from a denning area. Even if you see pups unattended, their parents are usually just a short distance away. Adults rarely abandon their young.
The coyotes’ range has expanded over the last century. They are found in all habitats, ranging from grassland and deserts to urban areas and mountains. Coyotes are common in areas where rabbits, mice and gophers live. These may include lush rangelands or overgrazed pastures. In order to provide shelter for their pups, coyotes den in a wide variety of places, including brush-covered slopes, steep banks, rock ledges, thickets and hollow logs. They will also dig their own burrows or use abandoned dens of other animals.
Coyotes may travel alone, in pairs or in small groups. One factor that seems to affect coyote sociability is prey size. In populations where the major prey items are small rodents, coyotes tend to be solitary. In populations where large animals, like deer, are available, large groups of coyotes are formed. Coyotes tend to be more social during winter, when carrion is a very important food source. (Large groups have better chances of finding food.) Females generally have a home range of a few square miles; males wander over larger areas. They are generally nocturnal and sometimes diurnal (active both day and night). When coyotes are in close association with man with no disturbances (trapping or hunting), they are less timid and are frequently seen during the day. Coyotes have excellent senses of hearing and smell and are very “clever” predators. They have been known to kill porcupines without being “quilled.” They will also use teamwork to bring down prey.
What is a coyote?
The name “coyote” (Canis latrans) is derived from the Aztec word coyotl. They are found throughout the United States (except Hawaii) and in most of Canada. Prior to 1900, coyotes were restricted to areas west of the Mississippi in the United States and the west of Ontario’s Lake Nipigon in Canada.
The coyote is a member of the Canid family that includes both wolves and domestic dogs. The coyote’s success is attributed to the decline of wolf populations and the coyote’s own ability to adapt. Coyotes have adjusted very well to human-disturbed environments and now thrive in close proximity to people.
Coyotes are opportunistic hunters. They prey on small mammals, domestic pets, livestock and domestic fowl but will readily eat carrion and plants. A coyote will adjust its diet depending on the food that is available. In Colorado, coyotes are classified as a game species and may be taken year-round with either a small-game or a furbearer license. Landowners may kill coyotes without a license on their land if the coyotes threaten their property or livestock.
Coyotes range in color from near black to off-white. Coyotes in the southwest deserts are the smallest and the lightest in color, whereas those in the northern forests are the largest and darkest. Colorado coyotes are usually rust colored, with white or gray throat and belly. Like other predators, coyotes vary in size. The males are larger than the females. The average size of a coyote is 37 inches long and 18 inches high. Their weight varies from 20 to 50 pounds. The coyote is distinguished by its long, narrow snout, pointed ears and general dog-like appearance.
Source: Colorado Division of Wildlife