Coyotes are an intriguing animal, coyote behavior can vary, they are very adaptable and can thrive in small patches of woods just outside the city limits. With this being the case they often have many interactions with humans. Individually a coyote usually is scared of humans, but when there is more than an individual coyote they can be more brazen. A pack of coyotes, while usually not a threat to humans can often be a threat to household pets.
Lots of research has went into coyotes as municipalities struggle to keep them under control and having human and pet interactions. Coyote research has shown that with some basic precautions coyotes are able to be successfully managed.
In the following sections we will look at coyotes and how their behaviors may change depending on time of year, environment as well as what they may be doing at the time you encounter them.
Urban vs Rural Coyotes
Coyotes that are in urban areas or suburban can act very different than coyotes in a more rural or “natural” habitat.
Urban coyotes generally have less fear of humans, they are more likely to approach a human or at least not run away in fear, while rural coyotes often won’t be as brave around humans. Often a rural coyote if it does come near you it will usually be more curious than anything and will usually go on about its business.
Urban coyotes will often will be single coyotes (not running in a pack and may be active during the day more so that rural coyotes. An urban coyote will also more more attracted to pets as a food source because there is a greater concentration of pets and less of other common coyote food sources.
Coyotes and dogs can be risky combinations. People that have houses with dogs often are used to leaving them out into the backyard. This can be a risky decision when coyotes are present. There have been numerous stories where people have let dogs out in the backyard and coyotes have either came in and attacked a dog or a single coyote has come in to tempt the dog to chase it and lead the dog into an ambush where other coyotes are waiting to overwhelm the dog.
The key ingredients to keep your dog safe from coyotes is:
Don’t leave your dog alone outside, coyotes are overall fearful of humans so your presence will often keep them away.
Coyotes are often more active at night, they will utilize the darkness and cover to sneak up close to your property and try to get after an unsuspecting dog. To avoid this I recommend not leaving your dog unattended, keep a flood light on if possible and keep your dog in a fenced in area or on a leash/tie out so your dog doesn’t get the urge to chase a coyote off into the woods.
Another preventative measure is to not place pet food for your dog outside, this can attract wild animals and endanger your dogs. Feed your dogs inside so they can remain safe and the food does not attract coyotes, mice or other undesirable critters.
Coyotes will often stalk prey or even humans when they are curious as to what the human is doing. This isn’t always a sign of aggression.
What does coyote stalking look like? When a coyote is stalking you will often see the coyote looking intently focused on the subject of the stalking. It will walk really slow and often use cover to hide while it follows the subject.
An urban coyote may be stalking your pet, if this occurs secure your pet and do not leave it unattended.
The best measure to keep yourself safe is to remove yourself (and your pet) from the situation. If you can go indoors, or at a minimum go to an area with more people and the coyote will likely leave.
A lone coyote hunting for food will often be a creature of opportunity, they will look for small critters that pose little resistance. Usually these are smaller animals that cannot out run a coyote.
A pack of coyotes when hunting will utilize the pack, terrain and often speed to take down a larger animal, they will often share it the rewards of the hunt and share the larger amount of food.
When a coyote is hunting they will often hide and move in parallel with the prey, keeping a distance and trying to remain out of sight until an opportunity presents itself.
When a coyote is successful and captures its prey you will often hear yipping and howling that is showing excitement and many times telling other coyotes of the successful hunt.
Coyote Mating Behavior & Behavior With Pups
Coyotes will usually pair up 2-3 months before they make, coyotes are monogamous. Coyotes that fail to mate will often remain with out coyote family members to help raise any pups within the family. The male coyote will often hunt and gather food and bring it back to the female coyote while they are pregnant and unable to hunt.
Coyotes will abandon the coyote’s den in June or July as the pups are large enough to roam with the adult coyotes, often by August the coyote pups are large enough to leave the parents but many times will stay longer as part of the pack.
For the most you do not need to fear coyote attacks, they are very rare. While you should exercise caution around coyotes, most coyotes will show a certain level of fear and run away from humans. The rare exception may be in urban environments where coyotes are used to people, or when people are between coyotes and there pups.
Overall, you should follow general wild animal best practices, remain alert when you are outside, keep food and food waste in a secured area and keep pets is a safe location.
Coyotes will communicate by body language, for example if a coyote is becoming aggressive it may arch it’s back. Coyotes will also utilize there tail, similar to how dogs wag, lower or have hair stand up based on behavior.
Coyotes are also a very vocal animal, they will howl, growl, yip and bark depending on the mood they are in. These are all good queues to let you know how they are feeling and if they are excited, fearful or on the hunt.
Frequently Asked Related Questions About Coyote Behavior
1) What is the personality of a coyote
Coyotes personalities can vary, it is like dogs where you can have ones that are more even natured, while others are a little more active and unpredictable. For the most part coyotes are inquisitive and highly active.
Generally speaking, you will find coyotes are more active in the evening and at night, often howling at the moon to communicate location. They are incredibly intelligent creatures utilizing hearing, smell and sight to their advantage.
2) What do you do if you see a coyote?
Usually if you see a coyote it is not a real safety concern, most times you can just go about your business and the coyote will ignore you and go about their business. Overall if the coyote looks distressed or has other manners or characteristics that look out of character the best step you can take is to remove yourself for the vicinity and if you have any fear you can move to a car or structure until the coyote moves on.
Coyote attacks are very rare and shouldn’t be something that concerns you.
3) Where do coyotes sleep during the day?
Coyotes generally have a den that the raise pups in. The den could be in the base of a hollow tree, cave, or taking over a den from other animals such as foxes. Coyotes live in a variety of habitats, some coyotes for example ones found in the desert will live in the scrub brush and other dense vegetation.
4) How long are coyotes pregnant?
Coyotes are in breeding season between February and March. Females will build dens to prepare for the birth of the litter of pups. The gestation period of coyotes is on average 63 days.
5) What time of day are coyotes most active?
Coyotes are most active during the evening and nighttime. Sometimes they are active during the day when looking for food or if something disturbs them.
6) What are coyotes afraid of?
Coyotes are often afraid of humans. If you are in a remote part of the woods and see a coyote they will often avoid a human at all cost because they are not used to seeing them. Coyotes near towns and cities may be bold when it comes to humans, often not being as fearful and coming in closer.
From an animal perspective coyotes will avoid larger predator type animals such as bears, wolves, mountain lions etc. Coyotes utilize opportunity and intelligence versus pure strength and aggression when it comes to larger animals that pose a threat.
7) Can coyotes climb trees?
The short answer is no coyotes cannot climb trees, they often leap into low hanging branches and utilize the tree to gain a vantage point. Read our full article about if coyotes can climb trees here.