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Pets such as free roaming house cats and smaller dogs are considered legitimate prey species by coyotes

Coyote trapping, control and removal

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Captured Coyote - © Desert Wildlife Services
Captured Coyote - © Desert Wildlife Services

Coyotes are one of the major wildlife success stories of the Western Hemisphere. Once unknown east of the Mississippi River, they can now be found throughout the continental United States. From Alaska to Panama, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, coyotes have proven their adaptability to a wide range of habitats. In some areas, this was achieved after humans exterminated wolves, which were lethal predators of their smaller cousins.

Coyotes are doglike in appearance. They stand about 2 feet tall at the shoulder, weigh between 20 and 50 pounds and generally average 3.5 to 4.5 feet long, including a brushy tail. Northern and eastern coyotes are often much larger than their desert counterparts. These wild canids have sharp pointed noses, erect pointed ears, and hold their tail downward when they are running.

Coyote Tracks
Coyote Scat
Coyote Scat

The fur on their upper parts is usually a dull yellow-brown with grizzled black markings down the back. The belly area may be pale cream colored. Vocalizations include howls, yips, and barks and have been found to comprise a communication “language”.

Coyotes have well-developed senses of hearing and smelling. They are intelligent, omnivorous, monogamous, and prolific. Breeding season runs from January to March and pups are born following a two-month gestation period. A birthing den could be a burrow, rock cave, hollow log, or shelter under a manmade structure. Litter sizes usually include 5 to 10 young, although numbers twice as high have been recorded.

More pups are born when coyote densities are low and food supplies are high. Both adults care for and train their offspring. A coyote’s diet includes everything from insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals to fruits, nuts, berries, and carrion. They hunt alone or in family groups and can sprint 40 miles an hour to catch a jackrabbit or use teamwork to capture a deer. Hunting and foraging territories are quite large, often ten square miles in size, and are protected from competitors as much as possible. This is one reason why fox populations tend to decline when coyotes are present in high numbers.

Like all predators, coyotes are opportunistic hunters and scavengers. Proximity to humans in urban, suburban or rural settings offers a whole new menu for them. Garbage, dog food left outside, vegetables from gardens, poultry, and smaller livestock like calves, sheep, and goats have all been consumed with great regularity.

Pets such as free roaming house cats and smaller dogs are considered legitimate prey species by coyotes. When people attempt to feed or otherwise “tame” coyotes, they run the risk of being bitten or acclimating the wild canines to the point where they lose all fear of humans and are apt to start looking upon small children as possible food sources.

The number of attacks by coyotes on humans is usually directly related to the behavior of the people within a coyote’s territory. “Abnormal behavior” on the part of humans is likely to draw a similar response from wild animals.

Coyote attacks in Middletown, NJ

Distemper, mange, and rabies are diseases that sporadically affect coyote populations. Since the rabies virus is both transmittable to humans and invariably fatal, being bitten by a coyote should be avoided at all costs.

For the most part coyotes live both on the edge of our physical environments as well as on the fringes of our imaginations, cunning, wary, and the epitome of a true survivor. They are the tricksters in numerous Native American legends and are viewed either as an icon or the scourge of our modern desert environment.

Calls from customers Peaks in late winter (Feb.–March) when the coyotes are establishing their territories, then again in early spring and summer, when they need more food to raise their pups. During the winter peak, coyotes aggressively defend the area around their den site. This is when they often come into conflict with dogs (March–April), who they view as a threat to their pups. This is especially true if the coyotes are trying to move into the dog's turf (a yard).

In the early spring and summer, coyotes seek easy prey to keep up with the food demands of their pups. "Easy prey" may include cats and dogs in suburban areas, and young livestock (lambs, chicks) in rural areas. There may also be complaints during the fall, as young coyotes try to establish their own territories, because that can be a noisy process. But they're fussing among themselves, and tend not to wrangle with dogs then.

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