The Nature of Coyotes

Coyote in the snowOntario is home to over 30,000 different species of animals and plants. This biodiversity provides us with many benefits, including healthier communities.


The Ministry of Natural Resources helps manage wildlife in Ontario and reduce conflict between people and species. We help people find ways to conserve nature and protect their family and property.

 

What is a Coyote?


The eastern coyote, found throughout much of southern Ontario and agricultural areas in the north, is a hybrid between the smaller western coyote and the eastern wolf.


Adult females weigh an average of 13 to 16 kilograms, while males' average weight varies between 16 and 18 kilograms. Coyotes are territorial animals, with their territory ranging from a few square kilometres where food is abundant to more than 100 square kilometres where food is very scarce.

 

Diet


Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and will consume a variety of foods, including meat, carrion (dead animals), fruit and vegetables. 

 

In winter, their diet consists mainly of rabbits, hares and deer when the snow is so deep that the deer's mobility is restricted. In spring, summer and fall, coyotes prey mainly on small mammals (fox, rodents, rabbits, mice and voles) and eat wild berries, birds, amphibians, grasshoppers and deer fawns.

 

Life Cycle


Coyotes often mate for life. Mated pairs usually breed in February, with pups born in April or May. Litters average five or six pups, but can range from two to 10. Both parents share pup-rearing duties, and begin to teach the pups hunting skills when the pups are eight to 10 weeks old.


Juveniles usually leave their parents' territory during their first autumn or winter to establish their own territory. What are sometimes referred to as "packs" of coyotes are generally an adult breeding pair and their pups from the most recent litter.


In some areas, coyotes can live eight to 12 years. In areas where they are hunted, or in populated areas like southern Ontario where vehicle collisions are common, the average life expectancy is less than five years.

 

Habitat


Coyotes are most commonly associated with open, agricultural landscapes interspersed with woodlots and other brushy terrain. They are also found in green spaces and industrial areas within cities.

 

Behaviour


Since migrating to Ontario more than 100 years ago, coyotes have adapted well to both rural and urban environments. The eastern coyote is now an integral and permanent part of our diverse landscape.


Many people hear coyotes without ever seeing them because of their night time howls, barks and yips. Coyotes howl to broadcast occupancy of their territory and keep members of the family group aware of each other’s locations while hunting or travelling alone. Howling may also help co-ordinate some feeding activities.


Coyotes are usually wary of humans and avoid people whenever possible. They have adapted well to living near humans and development. In urban areas, they tend to be nocturnal, typically roaming at night looking for food and spending the daylight hours bedded in bushy or wooded areas.


It is unusual for coyotes to show no fear of humans. Coyotes displaying no fear of humans or exhibiting aggressive behaviours have likely been habituated to people through direct or indirect feeding. 

 

Size of Populations  


Coyote populations normally fluctuate in response to the abundance or scarcity of food. When food supplies are limited, they experience a higher mortality rate and lower reproduction rates.


Humans account for the majority of coyote deaths through hunting, trapping and motor-vehicle accidents.
 

Diseases


Coyote diseases or parasites are rarely a risk to humans. 


Rabies is rare in coyotes in Ontario. Coyotes may actually help to reduce the incidence of rabies in Ontario since they often prey on foxes, a species more likely to carry the disease.


Mange is common in coyote populations in Ontario. Mange is caused by a parasitic mite that burrows into the outer layer of the skin, resulting in loss of fur, extreme irritation and can cause death.

 

Conflicts


In a small number of cases coyotes lose their fear of people and start preying on livestock. These problem coyotes require more serious measures. There are tools for farmers and rural landowners that will help them deal with coyote conflicts and predation.
 

 

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