Coyote Presence – Recognizing the Signs

Posted 2/2/22

Throughout the years, I have fielded a number of comments and questions about coyotes. Labeled “wily” by humans, coyotes are intelligent and versatile creatures often not well tolerated by a …

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Coyote Presence – Recognizing the Signs


Throughout the years, I have fielded a number of comments and questions about coyotes. Labeled “wily” by humans, coyotes are intelligent and versatile creatures often not well tolerated by a number of people.

Although a coyote's diet consists of approximately fifty per cent rodents, they are aggressive predators supplementing their diet with a number of small game animals such as rabbits, pheasants, and turkey poults. Throughout Wisconsin’s central farmland they are also regarded as aggressive predators to our deer fawn population. In and around urban and suburban areas, coyotes are also known to scavenge for pet food and raid dumpsters.

One question that surfaces often is, will coyotes attack humans? According to research published by the Journal of Human – Wildlife Interactions, there were 367 coyote attacks on humans between 1977 and 2015 in the United States and Canada. The greater share of attacks occurred in urban and suburban environments.

Currently as we begin the month of February, coyotes are entering the rut or breeding season which will continue until the middle of March. Coyotes will be more aggressive and territorial compared to other months of the year at this time. This poses a possible risk to some domestic animals such as cats and dogs which might be perceived as mating competition. It’s important to keep pets safe by not letting them run outside alone this time of year, especially at night.

Most people who live in the rural areas are usually aware of coyote presence; however coyotes have also been known to inhabit metro areas such as Chicago and New York City. Many people think they don’t have to worry about coyotes, because they don’t frequently see them. This don’t always hold true. During the mating season, coyotes will inhabit both suburban neighborhoods and small towns.

It's sometimes difficult for the untrained eye to differentiate between a coyote track and a domestic dog track. While dog tracks vary in size, depending on breed, adult coyote tracks tend to all be comparable in size. A coyote track is approximately 2.5 inches long by 2 inches wide while their back foot track averages approximately 2.5 inches long by 1.75 inches in width. Although coyote tracks look similar to a medium size dog track, an easy distinguishable difference is a coyote track will show two claws while a domestic dog track will show four claws.

It might sound weird, but coyotes use their poop as a communication tool to mark their territory. If a dog does their business on a coyote marked territory, it could promote an act of aggression. While both coyotes and dogs have similar appearing feces, coyote feces are more distinguishable this time of year with hair and bone fragments present.

The most tell-tale sign of coyote presence is hearing them howl. My experience residing on Brownville soil consists of numerous evenings listening and studying the sounds of coyotes howling from multiple packs. This time of year there are numerous howls, barks and whimpers that adult coyotes make. Following are a few I can share to familiarize you with.

Lone howls – This is the howl you likely think of about coyotes. It’s one long howl when one single coyote is trying to locate its pack.

Challenge howl – Often known as a threat bark, a challenge howl is made when a coyote is holding its ground. It’s a command to stay away or leave and consists of several sharp and quick barks followed by a howl.

Growls – These will sound similar to your dog growling. It is a signal that a coyote is about to attack, even if you can’t see them. This sound is also used when a coyote defends its den or a kill.

Another sign to look for evidence of coyote presence is a feed- ing site. Coyote feeding sites are fairly easy to figure out as re mains of small dead animals such as squirrels, rabbits, foxes and even cats may be present. Coyote tracks leading to and from the site may be evident.

It’s basically impossible to eliminate a coyote population. Scientists claim coyotes have a biological mechanism that controls population numbers. When hearing coyotes howl, you will often hear one, then another, and another and eventually you may hear more than a dozen different howls. According to some research, they are actually their own census takers. They will create more or fewer pups the following spring based on a given areas population.

Despite efforts to cull coyote population, we will never get rid of them. However, there are some measures you can take to keep them away from your property. Talk to local hunters and trappers. Being actively hunted will often deter coyotes from a property. Another measure is to install motion lights. Coyotes don’t like bright white lights. They associate them with danger. Another measure you could consider is to take up the sport of coyote hunting or trapping. Every year thousands of people are taking up the sport of predator hunting. Local sport shops and the internet can provide you with ideas and information on how to get started in the sport.

Coyotes have very few predators with the exception of wolves, cougars and bear. Coyotes are very intolerant of wolves. Another way to deter coyotes is the use of wolf pee. Wolf pee can be purchased from Pee Mart and ordered in liquid or granular form through Amazon. One hundred percent wolf urine territorial marking scent creates an illusion that wolves are nearby. This product can be purchased in 16 oz. or 64 oz. bottles. Ranchers and sheep producers frequently use wolf-based urine products to deter coyotes during the lambing season.

So in closing, let’s discuss the most important thing you need to take away from this article. How do you keep your pet safe this time of year from coyotes? This is where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s absolutely vital that you don’t let your smaller pets go out alone this time of year. While a larger dog like a German Shepard or Labrador would normally be large enough to scare a coyote away, during their breeding season coyotes become irrational and have been known to attack large dogs. Keep an eye on your dog when you let them out, and don’t allow them to take off running. As for outdoor cats, they have an advantage over coyotes in that they can climb trees to escape. It all boils down to keeping your pets in sight whenever possible and giving them an avenue to escape from an attacking coyote.