Coyote Courtship Mating Season Brings Coyotes Closer to Humans; Here's How You Can Protect Your Pets
It's time for the proverbial Paul Revere to race through town crying, "The coyotes are coming! The coyotes are coming!"
The citizenry of suburbia will soon be up in arms, public officials will be a-tizzy, and the media will have a heyday with news about vicious maulings by these purportedly ruthless varmints.
But I'm going head off Revere at the pass. Coyote's not just coming, he's here. And he has been here since the last public panic a year ago. The much-maligned coyotes are a reality in suburbia and knowing a bit about their behavior and ecology will help dispel unnecessary alarm.
First, let's look at when and why most concerns about coyotes are raised.
The coyotes that have been living at the perimeter of your subdivision, at the edge of the cornfield and behind the strip mall are more visible come February because it's courtship and mating season. These wild dogs are searching the canine equivalent of match.com. Coyotes take the dating game very seriously and will cover a lot of territory to find a match. That territory may well include your neighborhood.
As with human dating, coyote courtship is an expensive endeavor. Instead of cash, however, it's calories that coyotes need.
As they pair up, they need calories in order to find and fashion suitable dens. An abandoned badger borrow may be a fixer-upper for a den, or Mr. and Mrs. Coyote may redesign a brush pile out back, or they may remodel the woodchuck hole under your garage.
Newly pregnant females also require extra caloric input. Both males and females hunt, but the males take over most of the grocery shopping when mom is great with pup. She will take whatever form of prenatal vitamins, snacks and sustenance she can get.
It doesn't matter whether the calories come in the form of Pekingese or possum, Maltese or mouse, Bichon or bunny. Coyote is not a respecter of food. Is this malicious maleficence or the ecological reality of the complex food web?
The gestation period for coyotes is roughly 60 days. The female will give birth to four to nine blind and helpless pups in late April or May. As the pups are weaned, hunting is intensified for all the new mouths to feed. It will take five to six weeks for the pups to grow
and develop enough to venture outside the den. Here they enter coyote kindergarten, the beginning of a lifetime of survival education.
Adapting to suburbia
Coyotes are quick learners. From Suburban Survival 101 they work their way to earning doctorates in the field. These savvy canids have survived all attempts to wipe them out from bounty hunting to poisoning, shooting and trapping. Now they have proved an uncanny ability to adjust to the drastic changes in habitat brought about my humans.
From prairie to farm fields to housing developments, coyotes have altered their lifestyles accordingly. They've shifted their housing needs from tree hollows to porch decks and their menu from deer to dachshunds.
Perhaps you've recently seen a coyote in your neighborhood and are wondering if this one has friends around the corner. Probably. Dr. Stan Gehrt of Ohio State University has directed extensive research on coyotes over the past decade, focusing on the greater Chicago area.
In The Ohio State Research journal Gehrt stated, "We couldn't find an area in Chicago where there weren't coyotes. They've learned to exploit all parts of their landscape."
Coyotes may hunt individually, so you may just see one, but they also form packs for territorial defense. Gehrt's research found that "roughly half of all urban coyotes live in territorial packs that consist of five to six adults and their pups that were born that year. …