Yip, yips and howls from coyotes are fascinating and errie sounds. Once rarely heard in much of the Midwest, now the somewhat mournful sounds are common in every U. S. state. They frequently are heard at the edge of towns.
Many people believe that as deer populations have rebounded over the past half century, the coyote numbers have followed them.
Distinctive in appearance, coyotes have pointed noses, pointed ears that always stand erect, and fluffy tails, typically held low. Males can weigh up to 50 pounds, but most coyotes are smaller. In the eastern US, coyotes are typically darker in color, with tan, brown and black fur.
Coyotes spread their range eastward from the Plains and Mountain West, filling the ecological niche of the gray wolf and red wolf, native species that no longer exist here. Researchers believe the migration of coyotes into the southeastern US began in the 1950s.
Indiana DNR furbearer biologist recently prepared a report of coyotes for the 2015 Hunting & Trapping regulations. An abridged version follows:
“Coyotes adjust to landscape, including urban areas...Personal experiences shape our attitudes toward most wildlife. This is especially true for coyotes.
Thoughts range from worthless varmint that should be removed completely to a beautiful creature deserving of protection.
One thing for sure – Indiana is coyote country. Coyotes are a native species once limited to the prairie regions of western Indiana. Reports of coyotes in Indiana began to increase in the 1970s.
They have adjusted to the landscape changes and now are common in all Indiana counties, including many urban areas. For some Hoosiers, this is old news. For others, the sight of a coyote is new and little is known about how to live with this species.
Certainly, I have spent considerable time listening to them at Yellow Bank Wildlife Management Area across from Derby and up river from Derby. I’ve heard them a lot and seen them rarely.
The DNR has a full list of tips to minimize conflicts with coyotes.
If coyotes can find water and shelter, they will find something to eat. Their natural diet includes berries, birds, vegetation, rabbits, deer fawns, and animal remains, but they mostly eat small mammals such as mice, moles, and voles. Reducing the local rodent populations is a benefit to landowners that is often forgotten when talking about coyotes.
Studies have found that coyotes in urban areas have the same general needs as coyotes in rural areas. Human-supplied food items such as household garbage and garden vegetables, as well as domestic animals and pet food, have become part of their diet.
When there is plenty of food, coyote populations expand quickly. Coyotes breed in January and February, and pups are born in a den during March or April. A litter can be as few as one pup or exceed 10, with the average around five.
Small, undisturbed green spaces are all that coyotes need for a den site. A typical den is made underground with a pie-pan-sized entrance that opens into a larger area.
Coyotes usually form breeding pairs and raise their pups together. Lone coyotes do occur, especially in the fall when younger animals leave to establish their own territory. Breeding pairs will establish a territory and defend this area from other coyotes. Occasionally, yearling coyotes will remain with the breeding pair and new pups. When this occurs, it’s called a “group” rather than a “pack.”
Coyote discussions often revolve around conflicts. In rural areas conflicts include loss of livestock and pets or reaction to a trail camera capturing a coyote hauling off a deer fawn. Urban conflicts are focused on attacks on pets, concerns for safety, and fear of the unknown.
The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife manages trapping and hunting seasons for coyotes (Oct. 15 through March 15, 2015). The seasons are not meant to remove every animal, but they do provide a good, low-cost way to manage coyotes while giving hunters and trappers opportunities to pursue coyotes.
Coyotes also can be taken outside of these seasons on private land.