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February 24, 2020

Coyote Ugly

By Lauren Hogarth

As spring approaches, it is not unlikely to hear the all-too-familiar howls and yips from our less than friendly neighbors, the coyote. People tend to report seeing more of these predators this time of year because they are breeding. Their breeding season typically begins in January and runs through March, depending on the weather; with this year’s mild winter, it’s safe to say the mating season is well underway.

People are most likely to spot coyotes during their mating season, which occurs in Michigan from mid-January to March. As the fall months approach, pups begin leaving their den sites to establish home ranges of their own. Unfortunately, these young dispersing animals can wander into urban areas. Coyotes are active both day and night; however, activity peaks at sunrise and sunset, and they generally feed in the night.

Diet & Habits

According to Michigan’s DNR, coyotes are opportunistic creatures and will eat almost whatever is available. Smaller mammals such as shrews, mice, voles, squirrels, and rabbits are their preferred food sources. However, as true omnivores, they also feed on berries, fruits, insects, frogs, birds, snakes, seeds, and plants.

In urban areas, coyotes eat garden vegetables, garbage, and pet food. They also tend to prey on unattended household pets if the opportunity arises. Some coyotes even learn to kill smaller livestock, such as calves, goats, sheep, and poultry.

Although coyotes have become a common sight throughout Michigan, including in urban areas, they are generally timid and do try to avoid or limit human contact. According to the Michigan DNR, their presence in subdivisions and urban or suburban areas, while surprising to many folks, as a result of increasing populations (both coyote and human) and encroachment of human environments into their natural habitat.

In most cases, you can avoid a coyote by posing a threat. The coyote will typically retain its fear of people and easily scare away. This may not work, however, if the coyote is being fed or if there are food sources like pet food or bird feeders in the area.

Coyote Mating

Coyotes are monogamous and can maintain couplings that last for several years. New mates are only accepted after the removal of one of the pair. Mated male coyotes attend to the females who give birth to the annual litter in an underground den; these dens are often used year after year unless the coyotes feel threatened. Because their breeding season runs from January through March, the pups are born in the early spring. Litter size depends on a variety of factors but typically ranges from four to seven.

Not only can they make a meal of your beloved pet, but they can try to mate with them as well. It is important to always spay or neuter your dogs. Coyotes are attracted to and can mate with unsprayed or unneutered domestic dogs. Unspayed female dogs in season can attract male coyotes. While there has been successful hybridization of “coydogs”, this is not a recommended practice.

When you see a coyote

  • Never approach or touch a coyote.
  • Never intentionally feed a coyote.
  • Eliminate all outside food sources, especially pet foods and bird feeders.
  • Put garbage out the morning of the pick-up day.
  • Regularly clear out wood and brush piles; they are suitable habitat for squirrels or mice and can attract coyotes.
  • Do not allow pets to roam free— consider keeping pets indoors or accompany them outside, especially at night.
  • If you spot a coyote, make a lot of noise to scare it away (yell, clap your hands)

Though the propensity of encountering a coyote is greater due to population increase, there are ways you can go about avoiding a potentially dangerous situation. If you are experiencing issues with a particularly pesky coyote, be sure to contact a professional. We do provide Urban Marksmanship services, and would be happy to assist you! Give us a call today.

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