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All About Coyotes
Coyotes are a common sight along the American River Parkway and are often a source of concern. Experts note that coyotes are seldom a threat to humans. However, it is important to understand their habits and avoid interaction with them, because contact with humans may be harmful to the coyote and encourage the animal to favor human habitats over the wild.
Coyote life
Coyotes can be active day or night, at dusk or dawn and they do not hibernate. They are highly territorial and actively keep non-family members outside their territory. They have exceptional senses of smell, vision and hearing and they hunt both alone and in pairs.
Humans are the coyote’s chief enemy. It has been estimated that 30 to 50 percent of all adult coyotes die each year from human-related causes. Unfortunately, when well meaning people feed coyotes, they can become unnaturally bold.
According to Guy Galante, an outdoor educator who wrote about coyotes for the American River Natural History Association, coyotes play an important role in helping to shape the natural communities in which they live. As predators, they help keep populations of mice, rabbits and other small animals in check. They also prey upon other predators, such as raccoons and skunks, and this works to the benefit of birds, mice and other small animals.
There is strong evidence that coyotes mate for life unless their partner is removed or displaced. Their mating season stretches from January to March and courting usually begins in December. So, coyotes are often seen in pairs during winter months.
Pups come in the spring
The gestation period for a female coyote averages 63 days. She usually bears from three to six pups in an underground den. Litter size depends on how much food is available. It is believed that there is a small family grouping in each of the main access points to the American River Parkway.
Parkway users generally begin to see the pups out and about in June and July. In recent years, warmer spring temperatures have brought them out as early as May.
Coyotes are known to use the same den year after year, but in the Parkway, they may have multiple sites to avoid human disturbance, especially during the busy spring and summer months when human activity increases and encroaches on the wild spaces.
If a coyote pair is forced to move, they will relocate the pups one at a time, requiring them to leave the remaining pups unattended for short periods. So, if you see pups alone on the Parkway, do not assume they are abandoned and do not approach them.
The female nurses her pups in the den for the first three or four weeks of their lives before they begin to explore outside the den. After that, she continues to nurse them, but they also eat partially digested food regurgitated by their parents.
In the early weeks, the male coyote attends to the female and pups, bringing food to the den. Some family groups stay together over the winter, in which case the yearlings may help raise the next round of pups the following spring and summer.
Research shows that only one in five coyote pups survives the first year. In the wild, some coyotes live to the age of 11 years or more, about the same as large dogs.
Human impact on coyotes
Parkway coyotes face greater risks living close to urban and suburban environments. They are much more likely to get hit by a car than preyed upon by a mountain lion.
One of the greatest dangers to coyotes is an off-leash domestic dog, which also places itself in danger when sniffing its way into coyote hangouts. This activity can force a coyote to abandon its food or move from what would otherwise be safe habitat. Domestic dogs that wander unleashed may be met by aggressive coyotes that are simply trying to protect their dens.
Coyotes may even “gruff ” at walkers with leashed dogs who inadvertently get too close to the den. It is important to respect the coyote territory and spaces, mind your dogs and stay on designated trails.
Coyotes will feed on whatever is most readily available and easy to obtain. Their primary foods are fruits, berries, rodents and insects. They will scavenge on animal remains as well as garbage and pet foods left outdoors. In suburban areas they have been known to prey on unprotected pets. Everything a coyote does is related to a potential meal.
Coyote Safety Guidelines
  • NEVER FEED or attempt to tame coyotes. The result may be deadly conflicts with pets or serious injuries to small children.
  • Do not approach or try to pet a coyote. This may provoke the animal.
  • Feed your pets indoors. Outdoor feeding attracts many wild animals.
  • Bring pets in at night.
  • Avoid using bird feeders, as they attract rodents and other coyote prey.
  • Secure your garbage. Coyotes, like dogs and raccoons, will knock over trashcans or tear open trash bags.
  • Close off crawl spaces under porches and sheds. Coyotes may use such areas for resting and raising young.
  • Secure your pets. Coyotes may view some small pets as potential food.
  • Pick fruit off trees as soon as it ripens and keep rotted fruit off the ground.
  • Trim and clear near ground level any shrubbery that provides cover for coyotes or their prey. This also protects your property from rats and other problem animals.
  • Be aware that coyotes are more active in the spring, when they are feeding and protecting their young.
  • If you are approached by a coyote, you should “haze” him to scare him away. Face him, raise your arms to look bigger, wave a jacket or other large item around if you have one and make loud noises. If this fails, throw rocks in the animal’s general direction.
Coyote Information Sources
California Department of Fish & Wildlife
Rancho Cordova office (916) 358-2900
State HQ  (916) 322-8911
Wildlife coyote flyer CLICK HERE
Project Coyote
This is a national non-profit organization based in Northern California whose mission is to promote compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy. Its website offers a robust array of information about coyotes and how to coexist with them.
Roots of Connection
This is the website of Guy Galante, local coyote expert. On the site you can find a calendar of workshops and classes and a selection of coyote and wildlife photos. CLICK HERE
Downloadable Information
“Keep Me Wild” flyer from CA Dept. Fish & Game CLICK HERE
 “Be Coyote Aware” flyer CLICK HERE
“Dogs & Coyotes” flyer CLICK HERE
“Coexisting With Coyotes” brochure CLICK HERE
“Coyote Hazing Field Guide” CLICK HERE