Fenceline: June 14, 2012
by Jody G. Holthaus
Meadowlark Extension Agent
Livestock & Natural Resources
My neck of the woods has bountiful wildlife. So bountiful that at 5 p.m. or thereafter we have a lovely chorus of coyotes. Sometimes the howling comes from all around our house, like a symphony! They are really getting brave.
Our neighbor shot seven during calving season. My husband has been observing a mangey one that follows the swather in hopes of getting an easy meal. I had Charlie Lee, KSU wildlife specialist, come out to investigate. I guess the coyotes weren’t hungry this time of year. He wasn’t able to call any of them in.
With the number of coyotes so plentiful, it has to be hurting the quail and pheasant populations. Charlie told us that when coyotes are hunted heavily they will have larger litters. If they are not hunted or lightly hunted they will only have a few pups. I’ve not seen any litters though they will be out running around by now. Our coyotes should have smaller litters because there is no hunting pressure on them.
Coyotes are usually shy and elusive but are frequently seen individually, in pairs, or in small groups where food is commonly found. A family group, more commonly known as a pack, consists of the parents, their pups and, occasionally, the previous year’s pups. Thus, the size of the family can vary widely.
Male and female coyotes pair up, establish a territory, and breed in February or March. Four to eight pups are born in April or May. Activity is variable. They can be active night or day and sightings at dawn or dusk are common. They remain active all year-round and do not hibernate. Once a coyote has established itself into an area it will actively maintain a territory that may vary in size from 2 to 30 square miles.
One family of coyotes often encompasses one or more residential suburban areas or towns. Coyotes are highly territorial and actively keep non-family members outside their territory, both individual coyotes and other family groups. It defends its territory through howling, scent marking, body displays, and confrontation with the trespassing coyote. Howling is the main way for coyotes to communicate with others.
While some people find it unnerving, this howl serves many purposes, none of which are malicious: Coyotes are telling non-family members to stay out of their territory. Family members howl as a means to locate each other within their territory. Pups practice howling and can be very vocal in late summer as they attempt to mimic their parents. When there is a potential threat toward the pups, the older coyotes will scatter throughout the area and howl in order to distract the threat away from the den site.
Our coyotes didn’t howl last night until 11:30 p.m., probably communicating that Charlie was back in Manhattan and had done no harm!
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