coyotedep

 

A few weeks ago on one of our chillier Sunday mornings, a movement caught my husband’s eye in the woods behind our house.  The animal was a fair distance away, near the base of a cliff, so we got out the binoculars to have a better look.  We were excited to see that it was a coyote and it was clearly pawing and dragging something, which we guessed might be an animal it was eating.  Our curiosity aroused, we hiked out through the snow in the afternoon to have a look around.  It turned out there was a deer carcass up there, a common source of food for coyotes.  Many tracks could be seen forming a well-travelled path toward a possible den at the base of a dead hollow tree not too far from the deer.  Not everyone would share our enthusiasm for having coyotes as near neighbors but they are well established in Connecticut and have adapted well to living in close proximity to people.

 

Coyotes have not always been in Connecticut.  They have extended their range from the western plains and Midwest since the 1950s to now include areas from Alaska to the Canadian Atlantic provinces and south into Central America and the southeastern United States. 

 

The typical coyote resembles a small German shepherd.  It is more slender and has yellow eyes.  Coat color may be gray, reddish, or charcoal, with a white or cream colored underside.  Most are darker on the back with a black-tipped tail.  Eastern coyotes are usually 48-60 inches from nose to tail and weigh 30-50 lbs.  Males are typically larger than females.

 

The coyote’s diet includes mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, deer, some fruits, carrion and sometimes garbage.  Occasionally they will prey on small livestock and pets.

 

In Connecticut, the coyote breeding season is January to March.  The male & female are monogamous and stay together for several years, rearing the young together.  A litter may have anywhere from 1-12 pups.  The average is 7 in Connecticut.  Pups are born after about 63 days and are weaned after 6-8 weeks.  The young pups disperse and look for new territories in the fall or early winter. 

 

People may be concerned about the safety of having coyotes nearby.  Attacks on people are very rare but cats and small dogs (under 25 lbs) should be kept inside, especially at night, or on a leash or in a coyote-proof fenced yard.  NEVER feed coyotes and clean up food sources that may be attractive to them such as pet foods, fallen bird seed, and fallen fruit.  Secure garbage and compost in animal-proof containers. 

 

For more information on coyotes in Connecticut, check out this fact sheet from the CT Department of Environmental Protection.

 

J.A.