Written by Kate O'Brien, Wildlife Biologist.
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Coyote FactsWildlife Profiles
(Canis latrans var.)
Eastern coyotes typically weigh 30-50 pounds and are 48-60 inches long,
approximately twice the size of their close relative, the western coyote.
Eastern coyotes have long legs, thick fur, a pointy snout, a drooping
bushy black-tipped tail and range in color from a silvery gray to a
grizzled, brownish red. The average life span of a wild coyote is four
years. Though coyotes are often mistaken for a domestic dog hybrid, recent
genetic research has attributed the eastern coyote's larger size and
unique behavioral characteristics to interbreeding with Canadian gray
wolves. Unlike the wolf or domestic dog, coyotes run with their tail
Range and Distribution
Although the historical evidence supporting occurrence of coyotes in New
England is inconclusive, no coyotes were present in the late 1800's. Since
the mid-1900's coyotes have moved from the Midwestern states, through Canada
and into the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. The first verified
account of a coyote in New Hampshire was in Grafton County in 1944. Between
1972 and 1980 coyotes spread across NH from Colebrook to Seabrook. Today,
coyotes are common in every county throughout the state.
Habits and Habitats
Coyotes are generalists, eating whatever food is seasonally abundant.
Coyotes are known to feed on mice, squirrels, woodchucks, snowshoe hare,
fawns, house cats, carrion, amphibians, garbage, insects and fruit. Coyotes
utilize forested habitats, shrubby open fields, marshy areas and river
The Eastern coyote is a social animal that generally selects a lifelong
mate. Coyotes are quite vocal during their January to March breeding season.
Both parents care for and d their young, occasionally with the assistance of
older offspring. Four to eight pups are born in early May.
Within a year some pups will disperse long distances to find their own
territories, while other offspring may remain with their parents and form a
Territories range in size from 5-25 square miles and are usually shared by a
mated pair and occasionally their offspring. Coyotes mark and defend their
territories against other unrelated coyotes and sometimes against other
canid species. Coyotes are capable of many distinct vocalizations - the
yipping of youngsters, barks to indicate a threat, long howls used to bring
pack members together, and group yip-howls issued when pack members reunite.
Coyotes are biologically able to reproduce with domestic dogs, but rarely
do. Successful crossbreeding usually occurs in the fall, well before the
coyote's winter breeding season. Domestic dog/ coyote hybrids, referred to
as coydogs, are usually born in the winter. Since domestic dogs that manage
to pair with a female coyote do not remain with her to assist in parental
care, the young rarely survive. DNA sampling of coyote tissue in the
Northeast shows no coyote/dog crosses. However, they do have a n-fixture of
Coyotes are elusive, adaptive, intelligent animals that manage to hold their
own when living in close contact with humans. Most coyote management
attempts have been designed to reduce their population numbers, however, due
to their fecundity, behavior and adaptability, those attempts have failed.
The great majority of coyotes don't prey upon livestock. However, once a
coyote learns that young livestock are easy prey, depredation can become a
problem. If this occurs, removal of the offending coyote is often
recommended. However, when farms are situated in a coyote territory with no
depredation, the resident coyote may actually be an asset to the farm by
removing rodents and preventing problem coyotes from moving into the area.
In New Hampshire there is no closed season on coyotes. They may be taken by
trapping or shooting, but it is illegal to use poison as a control method.
It is a good idea to check with the state wildlife agency before undertaking
any control methods. Preventive measures such as proper disposal of
livestock carcasses, use of guard animals, keeping expectant animals and
newborns in confinement or using electric fences can deter coyotes. In
suburban areas coyotes have been known to kill house cats. Keeping your pets
and pet food inside at night helps reduce the likelihood that a family pet
will become prey. Coyotes are often blamed for events for which domestic
dogs, automobiles or other wildlife are responsible. As for your safety,
coyotes pose little risk to people. In New Hampshire there has never been a
report of a coyote attacking a person.
For More Information
Orff, Eric P. 1994. New Hampshire's Wild Canids, in New Hampshire Wildlife
Journal. September/ October.
Parkhurst, J.A., Coyote, a Northern New England Animal Damage Control
Program Education Leaflet Series, L-680, Cooperative Extension, University
of Massachusetts. 2 pp.
Rezendes, Paul. 1992. Tracking and the Art Of Seeing. how to read animal
tracks and sign. Camden House Publishing, Vermont. 320 pp.