Coyotes

We live in Coyote territory. Yes, the coyotes do live in our area and they are here to stay.  It is the Eastern Coyote who is most predominant in our area. The wolf population prior to 1850 was extensively hunted by man and as the wolf population decreased, the coyote population expanded. 

The Eastern Coyote is a hybrid species – a mix of Western Coyote and Eastern Wolf. The Timberwolf or Grey Wolf is mainly located in Northern Canada and is the largest of the species ranging from 80-125 lbs.  The Eastern Wolf located in mainly northern areas like Algonquin Park is a bit smaller ranging from 45-75 lbs.  The Eastern Coyote (the main one in our area) is the smallest of the species ranging from 30-45 lbs.  Since the Eastern Coyote is a mix of Western Coyote and Eastern Wolf, you may see a larger coyote in our area as well.  What we see and hear are mainly coyotes and not wolves. 

Coyotes mate for life.  If one of the pair dies, they find another mate.  Coyotes generally breed once per year, in February.  The pups are born approximately 2 months later in April or May.  The litters range in size from 3-9 with the average being 6 pups.  After one month they leave the den to start investigating outside and 3-4 months after birth, they learn how to hunt.   In the fall, the pups leave the parents to find their own mates and to establish their own territories.  Because they do not stay with the parents or in the parent’s territory, the number of coyotes in any given territory does not increase.  

Up to 50% of the pups do not survive the first year.  If they reach adulthood, they have a better chance of survival.   The life expectancy of a coyote ranges from 8-12 years with an average being 5 years.

Coyotes are very territorial.  Each territory houses one mated pair of coyotes and their pups (up until fall).  Then only the mated adults remain in the territory.  The size of the territory depends on the amount of food supply.  In an agricultural area where there is not a lot of food, there may be 20-40 coyotes in a 100 sq. km. territory.  In an urban area or anywhere there is an abundance of food for them there may be 100 coyotes in a 100 sq. km. territory.  It is all dependent on the amount of food.  When more food is available, the territories can become much smaller.

Most of us have heard the yipping and howling of the coyotes.  Howling does not always mean they are hunting or have just made a kill.  It is their way of communicating with their mates and pups to let them know where they are while hunting or travelling alone.  It also lets other coyotes know that this territory is taken and to stay out. 

Depending on their size, the average food requirement per coyote is approximately 1 kg/day.  Their main diet consists of rabbits, birds, small mammals such as squirrels, moles or mice, amphibians, grasshoppers, wild berries and fruit.  And yes they will eat vegetables in a vegetable garden.  They do like deer, especially if it is wounded or young and if they kill a deer, and have lots of food, then they can fast for a while.  And yes, they will eat cats and small dogs.

Coyotes can adapt to any environment where there is an abundance of food.  This includes urban areas.  They are often found in city parks where squirrels are plentiful, in industrial parks, in abandoned properties, and wherever garbage is stored or freely available.  Some people intentionally feed the coyotes and this is not a good idea, because once the coyotes learn that food is easily available in a certain area, they cannot unlearn it and will continue to come back to that area.  They generally stay in bushy areas during the day and do their hunting and scavenging at night.

If there is not an abundance of natural prey and livestock such as sheep or chickens are available, the coyotes can become a problem for farmers. They are opportunistic hunters and will kill livestock if it is freely available, especially when natural prey is scarce.  

It is permitted to shoot a coyote that is killing livestock on your own property, but not on anyone else’s unless you are a licensed trapper or hunter or animal control person authorized by MNR.  You do require a small game license to hunt coyotes and hunting them is open season all year long in Southern Ontario.  Do check with your municipality though to make sure you are not breaking any municipal bylaws by hunting in your area especially near an urban area.  

It is illegal, however, to poison them or cause them undue suffering.  So if coyotes are causing a problem for your livestock, and you don’t want to hunt them, contact MNR and get a person authorized by MNR to deal with your problem.  If you have a problem with coyotes killing your livestock, call MNR for information on what to do.  Some municipalities will come to investigate and if it is proven that coyotes are killing your livestock, there may be a compensation plan for farmers. 
 
Remember that coyotes don’t want confrontation.  They are simply wild animals trying to survive, to eat and to feed their young.  So to discourage coyotes, there are several things you can do.

Keep Your Garbage in closed containers or inside until garbage day.  If you can, put your garbage out the morning it is to be collected.  They hunt and look for food at night.

Be careful with compost.  If it is freely available, it will attract coyotes because they like fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs.  So keep your compost in a closed compost container.

Do not put food out and intentionally feed them.  This will keep them coming back for more. Once they learn there is food in a certain area, they will never unlearn it.