Yip, Yip, Yip, Yip and a few yodels are the sounds that you will be hearing more often around the trails and neighborhoods here in your neighborhood as young coyotes start emerging from their dens to start hunting with their families.
The Coyote (Canis latrans) is actually a member of the dog family and is found throughout North America from the deserts to the mountains. They typically weigh around 40lbs, are about 4-5 ft long and stand 15-20″ at the shoulder.
The mating season for coyotes is Jan through March and with a gestation period of about 60 days, the pups are born April through June. Although coyotes do not hibernate, they do dig out dens or enlarge existing abandoned dens for raising their pups and for sleeping. A female coyote will have only one litter of 3-9 puppies per year and spend most of the early period of the pups’ lives in and around the den. The pups are born blind but start opening their eyes after 2 weeks and emerge from the dens to explore soon afterwards. The pups will nurse for 5-7 weeks but actually start eating small amounts of regurgitated food that the father brings home after a hunt. The female starts teaching the pups how to hunt for themselves by the time they are 10-12 weeks old and by late fall they are out on their own!
Coyotes hunt for small rodents, sometimes stalking them for 20 minutes before pouncing on them. They will also eat fish, insects, vegetables, and fruits, especially berries and scavenge for leftovers from other hunters or our trash cans if we’re not careful to keep them covered well. With coyotes all around us here in San Diego, you have probably seen several small piles of coyote scat in the middle of a trail or side walk. (You may have been wondering why one of your neighbors “forgot” to pick up their dog’s poop!) Interestingly, coyotes typically poop right in the middle of a trail – this helps mark their territory – whereas our dogs usually move off to the side of the trail or walkway. If you look closely (I know, yuck!) Coyote scat is filled with bits of fur and bones and berries.
Coyotes are crafty, elusive and opportunistic; have been known to jump right over 8 ft fences and can reach top speeds of 40 mph. I am always reminding my clients to please be aware of coyotes when you are walking your small dog around the trails, especially at dawn or dusk or leaving them unattended in your backyard because little white fluffy dogs look like bunny rabbits to hungry coyotes.
If you are lucky enough to see a coyote around town or on the trails, it will most likely be a very brief encounter as coyotes are generally shy animals and keep to themselves. They spook easily so you can usually shoo them away with a yell or by waving your arms and hands at them. Younger coyotes may be a bit more curious about you and with pupping season upon us, you may actually see more of them on the trails or even down at the baseball fields!