Coyote is the Most Vocal North American Land Mammal
Canis latrans, the coyote’s scientific name, means ‘barking dog.’
Between 11-13 vocalization have been identified. Wildlife biologists have categorized several sound types;
Combative & alarm – barks, woofs, growls, huffs, bark howls, yelps, and high-pitched whimpers
The lone howl, the most recognized coyote vocalization, is thought to be a proclamation by an individual coyote separated from its pack.
Contact & Greeting – ‘Wow-oo-wow’ appears to be a “greeting song” when two or more pack members reunite. Group yips are thought to be a response to the lone howl.
The coyote is North America’s oldest indigenous species
Originating near Yellowstone three million years ago, this medium-sized canine is extremely adaptable and intelligent. They’ve settled into every wild, rural and urban corner of the North American continent.
Unlike other species that were extinguished by eradication efforts, Coyotes create replacement populations when their numbers are reduced.
Coyote experts suggest that it’s easier to train coyotes and people to coexist rather than launching hunting campaigns. Killing coyotes opens more territory for roaming individuals to claim.
Breeding season is February through March. Coyotes are monogamous and mate for life.
In spring, newly mated couples claim territories and set-up dens. Den establishment may be cleaning out a previously used space or taking over an abandoned skunk, badger, or marmot holes.
A pregnancy lasts about two months. Litters range be between 3 – 12 pups. Litter size is determined by the number of other coyotes in the territory and the availability of food.
Once the cubs are born, the male and other pack members help feed, raise and protect them. Pups remain with the parents somewhere between six months to one year.
The Pack & Social Behavior
A family unit contains a reproductive female and her mate. Nonreproductive females, bachelor males, and other young adults may join the pack in the winter for companionship, but this is usually temporary.
Hunting coyotes can be singular or work in groups. At times pairs and small packs will form to take large prey such as deer, cow, sheep, or large domestic dog. (The ever-unpredictable coyote may also initiate play behavior with large pet dogs.)
Occasionally, coyotes will form interspecies relationships. Coyotes have been observed working in tandem with American badgers while rodent hunting. A badger has been seen allowing head snuggles and face licking from a coyote.
Aggressive coyote behavior most closely matches fox behavior.
While not common, coyotes have been known to breed with dogs when there is no other alternative.
Statistics & Threats
Males = 18 – 44 lbs
Females = 15 – 40 lbs
Humans pose the biggest threat to coyotes. In rural farming areas, most coyote deaths are caused by hunting and trapping. In urban environments, the majority of coyote deaths are caused by automobiles.
90% of a coyote’s diet consists of meat, but a coyote will eat almost anything, often experimenting with previously unknown items.
- snakes (Rattlesnakes! Coyotes tease the snake to uncoil, then bites the head and shakes.)
- black bear cubs (unusual)
- also scavenges large animal carcasses
In wild areas, coyotes may compete with bobcats and mountain lions for mule deer.
Scavenging in Rural & Urban Areas
If fresh meat is not available, coyotes will scavenge for;
- dropped fruit under fruit trees
- garden produce
Winter Food Sources
In winter they will also eat;
- other animal droppings
Cities and Populated Areas
In urban areas, a coyote diet can consist of;
- dog and cat food
- feral cat populations
- bird seed at feeding stations
- small dogs
- large dogs (sometimes), with several coyotes working as a team
Coyotes in cities should be wary of humans.
It’s up to people to reinforce the coyote’s fear
Hazing will help maintain healthy boundaries for all.
- throwing rocks
- waving arms
- blowing an air horn
- spraying it with a water hose
- or acting aggressively
- looking at it directly in the eye
- make yourself look larger
- motion sensitive outdoor lighting may discourage coyotes
In areas where livestock is at risk, some ranchers and farmers have found that llamas, donkeys, and dogs bred for guarding aid as coyote deterrents. (See University of California – How to Manage Pests link below for details.)
Identifying Problem Behavior
- Increased numbers of coyotes on streets and in yards
- Hunting pets in the daytime
- Coyotes seen in playgrounds or parks during the day
- Coyotes approaching people during the daytime and/or behaving with aggression
- Chasing joggers, bicyclists or other outdoor enthusiasts
- Attacking pets while the pet is on a leash
When a Coyote Becomes a Safety Hazard
A coyote becomes a public safety hazard when it no longer fears humans and behaves with aggression.
Coyotes that bite humans have usually been fed by humans
If a coyote has developed bad behavior, a predator removal professional must be called (it is illegal to shoot firearms in populated areas). Coyote relocation is not an option, the animal is killed. Nevada County’s Federal Trapper can be reached at 530-470-2690 during office hours.
With their ability to predict outcomes, make changes, communicate, quickly identify new food sources and understand human behavior, it’s easy to see why the coyote is an evolutionary success story.
In Nevada County, and along Deer Creek, it’s important to realize that coyotes are always watching. Just like discouraging bad bear behavior, residents must be vigilant about keeping food and water sources at a minimum. It’s also wise to mindful about creating situations where small pets and farm animals may become prey.
If humans do their part by keeping coyotes wary, the two species can coexist peacefully. Haunting coyote song will serenade us at night and they’ll keep our rodents, insects and rattlesnakes in check.
Coyote Hazing – Keeping Humans and Coyotes on good terms
Coyote Myths vs. Facts
Resident vs. Transient Coyote
Savvy or Silly
Hero or Pest
Dog vs. Coyote
The Shapeshifter – Documentary
ABC 11 Eyewitness News – Coyote Stuck for 20 Miles in Woman’s Car Grill
Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust – How to identify Coyote Tracks
LiveScience – Coyote Facts
Nevada County – Wildlife Services & Information
University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources – How to Manage Pests of Homes, Structures, and Pets – Coyote
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Spotted! A Coyote and Badger Hunting Together
USDA – Coyote Wildlife Damage [PDF]
Wikipedia – Coyote
Nevada County Federal Trapper – 530-470-2690