What Can You as Residents Do?
The following is a list of recommendations with respect to dealing with the coyote population:
Never leave small children unattended.
Never attempt to befriend any wildlife.
Supervise all pets closely, keep them under your control.
If your pet must be let alone outside, make sure it is in a secured area.
Never feed coyotes or any wild animals. Be sure you’re not feeding coyotes without realizing it! Check that:
- Garbage is secured.
- Compost is covered.
- Fallen fruit is picked up.
- No pet food is left outside.
- Bird feeders are not overflowing with seed.
- Do not feed deer or other wild animals.
A coyote’s typical territory is approximately one square mile, however, they will roam in an area up to thirty square miles. They are on the move constantly, hunting and exploring. If they are looking for a new home, they will look for abandoned burrows, piles of wood, drainage pipes or other small, enclosed structures where they and their family can be protected. If you have wood piles, mounds or other materials on your property that might provide protection for these animals, you may want to remove them to avoid some type of wildlife taking up residency there.
The following information was put together by one of our Community Service Officers, Lon Paulausky. We hope this will address your concerns about coyotes in the area. (By the way, the below pictures were not taken in Vernon Hills!)
The name "coyote" (Latin name Canis Iatrans) comes from the Aztec word coyotl, which is loosely translated as "trickster." Other names for the animal are brush wolf, swift wolf, prairie wolf and burrowing dog. The animal is in close relation to the wolf, fox and domesticated dog.
The animal has a gray or reddish gray upper coat, with a white or yellowish undercoat and legs. The course outer hairs of the animal can also be black on its tips. The animal can be from 40-60 inches in length, including the tail and can stand from 15-28 inches tall. The coyote will weigh between 15 and 50 pounds, depending on the season. The animal can run at 30 mph for short distances, and can lope for longer distances at 20 mph. The average lifespan of the coyote is 8-16 years.
The coyote has stout erect ears and a narrow snout. Its tail is very bushy and is kept lower than the plane of the back, and sometimes between its legs, unlike most domesticated dogs. It will become very bushy and will be held horizontal when it displays aggression. Its eyes are usually an arresting yellowish color.
The animal vocalizes in many ways. Most people are familiar with the characteristic cry that can be heard for miles. Coyotes are also known to yelp and bark like domesticated dogs in communicating with each other. The coyote also commonly "huffs" when communicating with its pups so as not to make a great deal of noise.
The coyote was first found mainly in the northwest comer of North America. It has now been found in the entire continental United States, and can be found from Atlantic to Pacific from Northern Alaska to Panama. When European settlers began their expanse across America, they began to change the landscape of the continent and thereby the territories of the coyote. Also, these settlers drove out and killed large populations of wolf, which had been keeping the coyote numbers in check. Without the presence of the wolf, the coyote numbers expanded.
The coyote is a very adaptable animal. It can change its breeding habits, diet and social dynamics to fit its current situation. The animal can adapt to any terrain and climate. Coyotes can survive in urban areas as long as there is food, water and shelter available.
In Illinois, coyotes are more abundant in the southern and west central parts of the state. Coyotes were rare in Illinois for a time after the first settlement of the state, but their count has increased dramatically over the past 3-4 decades. They are more abundant in areas with a mixture of farmland, woodland and grasslands.
The coyote lives in a large territory sometimes from 10-40 miles in diameter that is largely determined by the amount of food available on the site. The coyote marks its territory with urine signposts, as most canines do and by its patrol of the area. Sometimes territories overlap with other coyotes, but generally the coyote families do not mix. The territory always has a water source in its area. Water sources can be rivers, ponds, water hazards for golf courses or even swimming pools.
The den of the coyote can be based in a woodpile, rock or cave foundation or an abandoned building. Generally, however, the coyote burrows a hole near a tree, stump or large rock. Also, the animal has been known to drive out smaller animals, such as foxes or badgers, from their dens, enlarge the hole and utilize these grounds. The coyote uses the den primarily for the shelter of its young. Coyotes usually sleep outside with little to no shelter.
The coyote has been determined to be mostly monogamous. The coyote begins its mating season from January to March. Males and females both share responsibility in the raising of the pups. Males provide more of the security and food for the family, while the mother will bring in some food and nurture the young. Gestation time for the female is usually 63 days and the pups are born in April or May. Young females (about 1 year old) have smaller litters, around 3-6 pups. Mature coyotes can have litters of 4-9 pups.
The pups are born blind and open their eyes after about 8 days. The female nurses the pups for the first 2 months. After about 3 weeks, the young begin to eat food regurgitated by the mother and father, in an effort to wean the pup from the nursing to more solid foods. The young first come out of the den after around 3 weeks, but are not allowed to remain outside for long periods of time. At 5 or 6 weeks the pups are allowed outside more and are taught to hunt small animals at this time. The family moves out from the den after 3-4 months, in the late summer or early fall. Gradually the family begins to break up. After the pups leave their parents, the pups may move up to 120 miles in search of their own living space.
Crosses between coyotes and feral dogs can occur. Their offspring are called "coy-dogs." Coy-dog reproduction is very poor because the coyote dogs breed in November, which culminates in mid-winter births. Also, the male coy-dogs do not bring food for the females after the birthing and do not help the female to raise the young.
Coyotes, while classified as carnivorous, are really omnivorous. The main diet for the animal is small mammals, but they often feed on insects, birds, eggs, fish, fruits and berries. In Illinois, rabbits and mice comprise the bulk of the diet for the coyote.
The coyote is a cunning and opportunistic predator. It will utilize a variety of hunting techniques. While some coyotes have been known to hunt in packs to bring down large animals such as deer, in Illinois the coyote usually hunts alone or in pairs for the small animals that they feed upon. The coyote almost always hunts at night, but has been known to come out in the day to capture squirrels and other non-nocturnal animals. The animal will track its prey for 20-30 minutes, using its excellent sense of smell.
Farmers have legitimate concerns about the coyote. The animal has been known to infiltrate the farm and cause substantial damage to the livestock. Coyotes feeding on livestock are not as common. The causes for these attacks depend a great deal on the coyote population in the area, as well the availability of other foods. Fertile farmlands usually contain an abundance of small game, and the need to feed on populated farms is reduced.
Without question, there is no other wild animal in North America whom humans have tried so hard to eradicate. However, the animal has been remarkably resistant to these efforts. Most people live in areas populated by coyotes without ever knowing it. Coyotes are generally fearful of humans and will take great measures to avoid contact. However, people are alarmed when the coyote is spotted, especially during the day. As was previously stated, the coyote is generally out in the day only when it needs to feed on specific prey that is out in the daylight.
The larger concern is for persons who let their small dogs or cats run loose, especially at night. Coyotes almost certainly do humans more good than harm. They keep a natural balance between animals, such as squirrels and mice, and the landscapes and agricultural fields. All this good, however, immediately dissipates when a coyote eats the occasional cat or dog.
The coyote is also susceptible to a range of diseases, just like the domesticated dog. Rabies, distemper and mange are the most predominant diseases that can be transferred to the dog or cat. The animal can also carry fleas and ticks, which can transfer other diseases such as Lyme Disease to humans.
A wild coyote is almost always a timid animal with a natural fear of humans. They are curious animals and may watch a human from a distance and are likely to run away before they are seen. Coyotes in cities and urban areas however, may be accustomed to the scent of humans and may not be quick to run. These animals are often the feeders of improperly stored garbage or the food that has been left out for domesticated or wild animals. In some cases, neighbors have been known to feed the animal, and it will think that all humans will provide a food source for it.
What most people need to realize is that the presence of the coyote in America is inevitable and can be quite necessary. Without these natural predators, rabbits, squirrels, mice and other small rodents would quickly overrun our lands. In general, there is no need to control the population of the coyote.
When a specific problem with coyotes occurs, the situation needs to be dealt with directly. Many farmers used to kill all coyotes seen, but have begun to capture the specific animal when damage has been done. The idea of removing the offending animal and leaving the rest unmolested actually helps the farmer. The strategy recognizes that it is better to leave other coyotes alone so that they may warn other coyotes coming into the area that may be livestock killers. The farmers also realize the affect that the coyote has on the mouse and rabbit populations. The same can be said for suburbia. Removing the single animal that may have attacked a pet or human can send a message to the other coyotes in the area to fear the human.
What people can do to keep their area free of coyotes is to recognize what their actions can cause upon the environment. Garbage should be kept in tight containers and should not be put out until the morning of pickup. This is good not only for coyotes, but it helps to keep skunks and raccoons from becoming a problem. When especially attractive food wastes, like chicken or fish are bagged, a small amount of ammonia can be added to the bag to mask the scent and simulate the scent of another animal that may mark its territory. When it will be several days before pickup, freezing the wastes until the pickup is preferred.
Next, wild animals should not be fed. Feeding any wild animal creates a chain of events that can cause many problems. Bird feeders can cause birds to not naturally migrate, or to not look for food that may be medically necessary for their survival when they do migrate. Also, the feed spilled by the birds will attract smaller mammals such as squirrels, raccoons and skunks. Coyotes and other predators will recognize these hunting grounds and return frequently. Food that is left out for domesticated pets is also something that coyotes and other animals will search for.
Thirdly, people need to remember not to leave pets out at night. Coyotes can be serious predators to cats, dogs and other caged animals. Leaving the pet out at night also means that there is a food and water source for the animal and its predator. Poultry and pet livestock should be properly confined in well-built cages or pens.
Finally, the coyote should never be fed purposely. When a coyote is allowed to interact with humans, their natural fear of the humans diminishes. This means not only are the coyotes likely to come further into yards and near homes, but also it can send a signal to other coyotes that may not be as tame that the neighborhood is fine for hunting.
In conclusion, it is best for all of mankind to allow the natural presence of coyotes in the wild; humans must take steps to discourage the coyote’s migration into the neighborhoods. With the expansion of humans into their open lands, the coyote's hunting territories are diminishing. The coyote will naturally move to new territories that are ripe for hunting. If they are finding a food source in our neighborhoods, they will not leave the area and will instead become more socialized to human beings. Reducing the amount of land will drive small mammals and rodents into the neighborhoods, and thereby causing the coyote to move in as well.
The presence of the coyote in rural America is necessary to keep the mouse and other varmint population to a minimum. By not allowing the coyote to feed in neighborhoods, it will concentrate its feeding on pests in the grasslands and other open areas, thereby not allowing the pest population to overrun into the neighborhoods. Educating the public is the only way to keep a natural balance to the environment.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has provided the following recommendations:
Do not feed coyotes.
Limit availability of unintentional food sources (trash, bird food, pet food, ripe fruit, etc.).
Comply with ordinances that require oversight/restraint of pets.
Recognize that coyotes are a permanent fixture in urban/suburban landscapes. Seeing one cross your backyard doesn't necessarily constitute a problem.
Recognize that population reduction (removing all of the coyotes in an area) is usually unrealistic and always temporary.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Illinois Natural History Survey
Humane Society of the United States