Once common only in the northwest corner of the United
States, the Coyote now roams through most of North
America. Coyotes prefer to live in the brushy area
between woods and open fields, but they are
opportunists and will make their home wherever food is
available. Ryerson Woods offers them a perfect habitat
with woods, prairie and plentiful food.
Coyotes are members of the dog family. They resemble
small German Shepherds. Most are light grey or tan
with a straight bushy tail tipped with black. They are
about 18 to 24 inches tall, 44 to 50 inches long and
weigh from 18 to 45 pounds.
Most of the year coyotes wander over many miles, alone
or in groups, but they have a core territory of two to
three square miles where they make a den for their
young in the spring. They can dig their own den, but
often the female will enlarge an old fox, skunk or
woodchuck burrow that is used year after year.
Coyotes are thought to mate for life. Mating season is
in January, February and March. Pups are born in the
spring and depend on their parents to feed them.
Carefully watched, they leave the den at three weeks.
At eight to ten weeks they are taught to hunt. Within
a year, most pups find their own territories, usually
relocating within ten miles of their parents’ den.
Some will stay with their parents for one or two
seasons to help raise the next year’s litter.
Coyotes mainly eat meat and fish, fresh or spoiled,
and occasionally insects and vegetation. Rabbits are a
favorite, followed by mice, rats, voles and other
small mammals. They have keen senses of hearing and
smell and can run up to 45 miles per hour for short
distances, chasing and exhausting their prey. Deer are
rarely killed by coyotes, but they will feed upon the
remains. As they become bolder, and move closer to
homes, they are a threat to cats and small dogs too.
Although not their natural food source, keep an eye on
your pets if coyotes are in your neighborhood!
Although coyotes sometimes hunt during the day as well
as at night, you will probably hear them more often
than you will see them. Early in the year coyotes howl
to announce their territory and call for a mate;
females howl and huff to call their young. As members
of the dog family, you will recognize their yelps,
whines, growls and barks.
You may think that you are seeing more coyotes in Lake
County in recent years, but actually, the coyote
population has remained about the same since a
dramatic increase in the 1970’s. They may be getting
bolder as their territory is developed and they become
more used to people. Avoid attracting them to your
home. Keep garbage cans covered and don’t leave pet
food outside. Coyotes are valuable members of our
community, keeping the rodent population down and
scavenging dead animals. Encourage them to stay in
their natural habitat, such as Ryerson Woods, and not
in your own backyard.