Known in Native American lore as the "trickster," the Coyote has survived and thrived by being highly adaptable. Coyotes make their homes in diverse habitats from deserts to forests, also living close to people in rural areas, suburbs and even cities. Coyotes are generally active throughout the day, with activity peaking at dawn and dusk. They may also be active at night, especially in cities where they feel safer after dark.
Coyotes are omnivores, eating whatever is available. Their diet includes small mammals and birds, carrion, fruit and improperly stored garbage. Coyotes more often eat small wildlife species, such as rats and mice, but have been known to eat small pets, mostly cats.
Unlike wolves, who form highly structured packs, Coyotes associate with each other in loose groups. These groups vary with habitat conditions and food supplies. Coyotes also are less territorial than wolves.
Coyotes communicate with each other through a broad range of vocalizations. Their yips and howls carry for long distances, often creating the impression that they are closer and more numerous than they actually are.
Coyotes breed in late winter, with mated pairs producing an average of six young, who are fully weaned within six weeks. In fall and winter most of the young leave their parents' territory to establish their own.
Solving and preventing conflicts
Coyotes are survivors
Within the last century, the Coyote's population numbers have increased and its range has expanded, even though Coyotes have been trapped, shot and poisoned by the thousands.
The "trickster" knows how to prosper in the face of adversity. Wildlife biologists have observed that when Coyotes' numbers decline, they react by having larger litters. This reproductive strategy safeguards against extermination.
Coyotes have adjusted well to living in close proximity to humans, even in large cities. Long vilified by ranchers and farmers for taking livestock, Coyotes often get the blame for damage done by packs of domestic dogs.
While Coyotes have adapted well to living near people, they are generally shy animals, and would prefer to avoid confrontations with people. That's why even though there may be a Coyote or two in your neighborhood, you may never see one in person.
Keeping Coyotes at bay
Coyotes are opportunistic and will seek places where they can find easy pickings. To Coyote-proof your environment, take the following measures:
- If you keep livestock or small animals, confine them in secure pens, especially from dusk to dawn when Coyotes are most active. During birthing season, keep young and vulnerable animals safely confined at all times. Discontinue use of remote pastures or holding areas. Guard dogs, especially those bred to defend livestock, can help protect against Coyotes.
- When used correctly, electric fences also deter predation. Consult your local zoning office and review your neighborhood covenants to determine if electric fences are permitted in your area, and, if so, what kinds.
- Solid wood fences must be 6 feet high to keep Coyotes out. If Coyotes seek cover on unfenced land, remove brush piles, low-growing vegetation, and other possible shelter sites.
- Coyotes are attracted to food scraps in garbage. Dispose of trash in a metal can, making sure the lid fits tightly. Secure it further with a bungee cord or chain.
- Coyotes infrequently prey on domestic animals such as cats and small dogs. However, they may be attracted to areas where there are free-roaming pets. To prevent potential conflicts, keep companion animals indoors, especially from dusk to dawn. Read more about pets and wildlife.
- It is best not to feed cats and dogs outdoors, but if you have no choice, pick up food and water bowls, as well as leftovers and spilled food as soon as your pets have finished eating. Do not leave bowls or food scraps outside at night.
- Call PAWS Wildlife Center at 425.412.4040.
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife