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by Jack MacRae, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
June 22, 2013

Coyotes (Canis latrans) have adapted to living with humans over the past decades as suburbia has developed. The coyotes of the Chicagoland area are the most studied in the world.

Coyotes have natural skills which enable them to survive in a variety of habitats. They can remain in small areas which provide food, water and shelter for their entire lives. They typically travel along trails, ridges and waterways when seeking a new territory. Coyotes are primarily nocturnal but can also be active during the day. Coyotes usually hunt alone or as a male-female pair.

Sometimes coyotes can be mistaken for wolves, but they are much smaller. Their fur is yellowish gray and they run with their bushy black-tipped tails hanging down. They grow to about 23 to 26 inches in height, 3 to 5 feet in length and can weigh from 20 to 40 pounds.

The basic coyote diet consists of small mammals, birds, snakes, insects, fish, fruit and vegetables. They also hunt squirrels, voles, mice, rabbits and injured or sick deer.

Coyotes prefer privacy and avoid contact with humans if possible.

Coyotes can live about three to four years in the wild but up to 17 or more years in captivity. Coyotes mate around the middle of February. Their howls increase during the mating season. Pups are born in April or May. Dens are used during the breeding season by the family, Dens can be found under hollow trees, logs or brush piles or in abandoned buildings. Litters range from 5 to 7 pups. Both parents help to raise the pups. Pups become mature when they reach about six to nine months of age. At about this time, young males leave the family and strike out on their own in search of new territory.

Coyotes can run up to 45 MPH. They are excellent diggers and can easily climb high fences.

Do not feed coyotes or encourage human contact.
Keep grills and barbecue areas clean. Small scraps can attract coyotes, Keep property cleared of brush and cover
Use frightening devices such as sirens, sensor lights or sprinkler systems to discourage coyotes from approaching your house at night.

As coyotes become familiar with residential areas, they lose their fear of humans. Residential areas, parks, schools, streets. industrial areas and backyards become new territory. It is important to maintain a good distance between coyotes and small pets. Always keep pets on leashes. Attacks on humans are rare. More people are bitten by domestic dogs than have been bitten by coyotes.

Encountering a Coyote

Be confident. Make loud noises and raise your arms to look larger
Do not turn your back and run
Do not be submissive
Leave the area, facing the coyote as you leave
Carry an air horn, whistle, walking stick or cane when walking on trails frequented by coyotes
Throw clods of earth or sticks at the coyote's body but never at its head

Coyotes and Pets

Always walk your dog on a leash and keep it near to you
Never leave dogs unattended and always keep them inside at night
Keep your yard well-illuminated
Keep cats indoors
Coyotes are creatures of habit and return to familiar places

No trapping or removing coyotes. Removing an animal is illegal without proper permits
It is illegal to keep wild animals
Never remove young from their den
Do not use poisons. They are inhumane and illegal.

To gain a deeper understanding of the role coyotes play in the natural world and how we can better co-exist with them in our daily lives, contact the Willowbrook Wildlife Center, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, 525 S. Park Blvd, GlenEllyn at 630-942-6200 or

Photo by Valerie Spale

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