Native American folklore is filled with tales of the coyote (Canis latrans). This animal is either revered for its intelligence and ability to resolve a conflict or threat to its life or is frowned upon for being a cunning and deceiving manipulator, much as it is thought of in real life. The coyote is not native to Ohio, but it is present throughout the state today. Love or hate it, the coyote has the ability to make the best of a bad situation to survive or even prosper. Usually, we associate the coyote with the open, deserted lands of the west. As its presence in Ohio shows, this versatile animal can make a home most anywhere.
The coyote is generally a slender animal, very similar in appearance to a medium-sized dog. Since the coyote and domesticated dog are from the same family, Canidae, the resemblance is more than a coincidence. Coyotes have a bushy tail which is usually tipped in black and is carried down at a 45 degree angle as the animal moves, unlike that of its other cousin the wolf. The majority of coyotes are gray, though some show a rusty, brown or off-white coloration. The coyote stands about one and one half to two feet tall and is between 41 to 53 inches in length. Males of this species are larger than the females and weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds.
Coyotes are monogamous breeders and breeding occurs January through March. Gestation lasts approximately 63 days. Litters are born in April and May and can contain 1-12 pups.
The female selects, prepares, and maintains the den. Occasionally, two or three females will share a large den area. Related females will sometimes act as helpers in the care of offspring of other coyotes in the den. Both parents hunt for food and feed the young. However, the male takes the lead role when the pups are newborns, obtaining enough food for both his mate and offspring. The parents will regurgitate their stomach contents for their offspring's meals. At about three weeks of age, the young leave the den under the watch of their parents. At 8 to 12 weeks of age, the pups are taught hunting skills. The coyotes stay together in a family unit throughout the summer into mid-fall when the young will break from the family unit and develop territories of their own anywhere from 10 to 100 miles away. It is not unusual for young female coyotes to remain in the family unit into the following year; young males that have either never left the unit or that attempt to rejoin it the following year are run off by the male.
Habitat & Behavior
The coyote is a nocturnal animal, active during the nighttime hours. However, when it is less threatened by man, it will hunt and move from place to place during the day. The coyote will hunt in unrelated (non-family) pairs or large groups. Coyotes are omnivorous and typical foods include small mammals (voles, shrews, rabbits, mice), vegetables, nuts, and carrion. Unchecked, they will eat livestock, particularly sheep and chickens.
The coyote's strength is that it can adapt and exploit most any habitat to its advantage. While most wildlife species have avoided developed areas and often declined as a result of man's expansion, the coyote seems to have thrived.
Research & Surveys
This furbearer occurs throughout the state in farmland and mixed pasture/woodland habitats, with the majority being found in western Ohio. The statewide population trend appears to be leveling off after increases were observed during the 1990s. Increases in the value and demand for this furbearer should continue to result in increased harvest of coyotes during 2012-13. Research and development of Best Management Practices has identified traps and trapping systems that have been developed by trappers to allow for the safe, selective, and efficient capture of coyotes, while maintaining high animal welfare standards.