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General Biology, Reproduction and Behavior

Coyotes are most active at night and during early morning hours (especially where human activity occurs), and during hot weather. Where there is minimal human interference and during cool weather, they may be active throughout the day.

Coyotes bed in sheltered areas but do not generally use dens except when raising young. They may seek shelter underground during severe weather or when closely pursued. Their physical abilities include good eyesight and hearing and a keen sense of smell. Documented recoveries from severe injuries are indicative of coyotes’ physical endurance. Although not as fleet as greyhound dogs, coyotes have been measured at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and can sustain slower speeds for several miles.

Distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus and mange (caused by parasitic mites) are among the most common coyote diseases. Rabies and tularemia also occur and may be transmitted to other animals and humans. Coyotes harbor numerous parasites including mites, ticks, fleas, worms and flukes. Mortality is highest during the first year of life, and few survive more than 10 to 12 years in the wild. Human activity is often the single cause of coyote mortality.

Coyotes usually breed in February and March, producing litters about 9 weeks later in April and May. Females sometimes breed during the winter following their birth, particularly if food is plentiful. Average litter size is 5 to 7 pups, although up to 13 in a litter has been reported. More than one litter may be found in a single den; at times these may be females mated to a single male. As noted earlier, coyotes are capable of hybridizing with dogs and wolves, but reproductive desynchrony and behaviors generally make it unlikely. Hybrids are fertile, although their breeding seasons do not usually correspond to those of coyotes.

Coyote dens are found in steep banks, rock crevices, sinkholes, and underbrush, as well as in open areas. Usually their dens are in areas selected for protective concealment. Den sites are typically located less than a mile from water, but may occasionally be much farther away. Coyotes will often dig out and enlarge holes dug by smaller burrowing animals. Dens vary from a few feet to 50 feet and may have several openings. 

Both adult male and female coyotes hunt and bring food to their young for several weeks. Other adults associated with the denning pair may also help in feeding and caring for the young. Coyotes commonly hunt as singles or pairs’ extensive travel is common in their hunting forays. They will hunt in the same are regularly, however, if food is plentiful. They occasionally bury food remains for later use.

Pups being emerging from their den by 3 weeks of age and within 2 months they follow adults to large prey or carrion. Pups normally are weaned by 6 weeks of age and frequently are moved to larger quarters such as dense brush patches and or sinkholes around water courses. They adults and pups usually remain together until late summer or fall when pups become independent. Occasionally, pups are found in groups until the breeding season begins.

Coyotes are successful at surviving and even flourishing in the presence of people because of their adaptable behavior and social system. They typically display increased reproduction and immigration in response to human induced population reduction. 

Damage and Damage Identification

Coyotes can cause damage to a variety of resources, including livestock, poultry and crops such as watermelons. They sometimes prey on pets and are a threat to public health and safety when they frequent airport runways and residential areas, and act as carries of rabies. usually, the prime concern regarding coyotes is predation on livestock, mainly sheep and lambs. 

Since coyotes frequently scavenge on livestock carcasses, the mere presence of coyote tracks or droppings near a carcass is not sufficient evidence that predation has taken place. Other evidence around the site and on the carcass must be carefully examined to at in determining cause of death. Signs of a struggle may be evident. These may include scrapes or drag marks on the ground, broken vegetation, or blood in various places around the site. The quantity of sheep or calf remains left after a kill vary widely depending on how recently the kill was made, the size of the animal killed, the weather and the number of predators that fed on the animal.

One key in determining whether a sheep or calf was killed by a predator is the presence or absence of subcutaneous hemorrhage at the point of the attack. Bites to a dead animals will not product hemorrhage, but bites to live animals will. If enough of the sheep carcass remains, carefully skin out the neck and head to observe tooth punctures and hemorrhage around the punctures. Talon punctures from large birds of prey will cause hemorrhage, but the location of these is usually at the top of the head, neck, or back. This procedure becomes less indicative of predation as the age of the carcass increases or if the remains are scanty and scattered. 

Information is from Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage-Cooperative Extension University of Nebraska-Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee-United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Damage Control