Family Canidae - Canids

Canis latrans - Coyotes

With the recent reintroduction of gray wolves to the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem, an interesting scenario is developing between the existing coyote population and these new bad boys.  A good presentation of this competition can be viewed at LAMAR VALLEY COYOTES.

During FY 2000, 337 sheep, 33 calves, and 178 goats were reported and verified killed by coyotes in Virginia. The EXECUTIVE SUMMARY of the Virginia Cooperative Coyote Damage Control Program for fiscal year 2000 provides information on control techiques, numbers of coyotes removed, numbers of total coyotes harvested annually in Virginia and other information related to this program.

Here is the number of coyotes killed in the state of Virginia, taken from this report.


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PENNSYLVANIA WILDLIFE (VOL. XVIII, NO.6) An estimated 20,000 coyotes reside in Pennsylvania, found in every County, but with highest densities in the north. After extirpation in the state by the turn of the century, the first confirmed harvest of an Eastern coyote was in 1942 in Tioga County. The population was well-established in the northcentral and northeastern regions by the 1960s, and became common throughout the state by the 1980s. Forest regeneration and reversion of agricultural to successional forests, which has allowed a boom in coyote prey and habitat, accounts for this coyote boom. It appears that the coyote migrated here from the north, likely breeding with red wolves along the way. This hybrid breeding accounts for the social habits of these eastern coyotes, which are much more gregarious than their western counterparts. They are often found in family groups consisting of as many as a dozen or so coyotes, including an alpha male and female, several other adults and numerous pups. Only the alpha male and female will mate and breed. Western coyotes weigh 20 to 25 pounds, while eastern coyotes average 35 to 40 pounds, much more like wolves. Coyotes are monogamous, mating for life. They will maintain several dens, moving young between dens for protection. There is an open season on coyotes in PA, with between 6,000 and 7,000 killed each year.

AUDUBON NATURALIST NEWS (10/95) - Since the 1800's, with the decrease of woodlands and increase of open habitats, the Coyote has spread throughout Canada eastward into New England (by 1930's and 40's) and south into Virginia (by the 1950's to 70's). Concurrently, coyotes spread through Texas to the east and north to Virginia. Coyotes are very intelligent animals that learn quickly (you never fool a coyote twice) and are extremely adaptable (they can hunt in packs when only large prey is available). They can also be nocturnal or diurnal. Maryland pops are increasing, with the first hunting season in November of 1995. Coyotes damage truck farms (watermelon) on the Eastern Shore. Coyotes are common in West Virginia. In Virginia, year-round hunting and trapping, along with the use of guard dogs (special breeds of Great Pyrenees and Maremmas) are part of their integrated management plan.


NATIONAL WILDLIFE (?) - Coyotes are now the Western Hemisphere's most widely distributed carnivore. They seem to be replacing the smaller red foxes throughout the east (no known impact on gray fox pops - perhaps since they tend to climb trees in defense instead of running as red foxes do). The mosaic of farms and woodlots provide ideal habitat for rodents, thus coyotes. Additionally, farmers lose ten percent of their cattle which they dump on-site, much to the benefit of the coyotes. Wolves, which hunt in packs on large prey, like elk and moose have lost their eastern habitat, but the solitary hunting coyotes have lots of rodents, thereby showing a marked increase in habitat. Eastern coyotes are larger than western counterparts (40 lbs in Vermont versus 24 lbs in New Mexico.) One theory on the large size is the hybridizing with wolves that occurred on their eastern migration through Canada. Another theory is hybridization with dogs. A third is just the superior habitat. Trapping of coyotes reveals that they submit readily to handlers, NOT like bobcats. Coyotes eat meat, berries, insects, and apples and corn in the fall, whatever is available. Coyotes are monogamous, mating for life and staying together year-round. They breed in Jan/Feb, giving birth to six to eight in spring. They maintain several dens for defense. By June, pups are eating meat and beginning to wander, with dispersal by August. One pup will remain with the parents to help in rearing the next spring's brood. Core territory is usually 2 - 3 square miles, which they stick to most of the time. Territories do not overlap. Some will travel many months before finding either unoccupied territory or a missing partner's range to fill. Maine's pop is about 12,000 with 5,00 in Vermont.