Eastern coyotes (Canis latrans var.)
Size: 30–45 pounds; 4–5 ft. long (including tail)
Signs of their presence:
Coyotes run with their tails down, while wolves and dogs hold their tails straight out. The tails of domestic dogs often curl; coyotes have straight tails, with a black tip.
Sounds: May yip, yelp, howl, growl, bark, or woof. Family units (the adult pair and their pups of that year) often yip-howl when they reunite.
Tracks: More compact, linear, and forward-directed than the dogs’ often splayed, sloppy-looking track.
Scat: are twisted, often containing hair or berries. Often found on rocks, logs, or at trail intersections. Their scat has a mild, musky odor, unlike that of the domestic dog.
Large carcasses: Coyotes tend to eat the organs first. They’ll pick bones clean, unlike dogs. Dogs start at the rear of a larger carcass and eat their way towards the head.
Common nuisance situations:
Time of year: Peaks in late winter (Feb.–March) when the coyotes are establishing their territories, then again in early spring and summer, when they need more food to raise their pups. During the winter peak, coyotes aggressively defend the area around their den site. This is when they often come into conflict with dogs (March–April), who they view as a threat to their pups. This is especially true if the coyotes are trying to move into the dog’s turf (a yard).
In the early spring and summer, coyotes seek easy prey to keep up with the food demands of their pups. “Easy prey” may include cats and dogs in suburban areas, and young livestock (lambs, chicks) in rural areas. There may also be complaints during the fall, as young coyotes try to establish their own territories, because that can be a noisy process. But they’re fussing among themselves, and tend not to wrangle with dogs then.
Their yipping and howling may disturb some people.
Their mere presence may frighten some people. Many people aren’t used to seeing coyotes and may fear them.
They can kill housecats or small dogs. Large and medium-sized dogs (over 35 pounds) are rarely physically threatened, because the coyote recognizes that it’s outmatched. They’ll usually work out the territorial dispute (loudly) without either being hurt. Small dogs are at risk. The coyote expects to be dominant and will discipline the dog until it offers the correct submissive behavior. If the dog doesn’t submit easily, it could be badly injured or killed. Very small dogs and cats are seen as easy prey. Free-roaming pets should be brought inside to keep them safe from cars, pesticides, as well as predators.
Some coyotes kill livestock (in New York, mostly free-ranging chickens and ducks, and sheep).
They’ll eat some vegetables and fruits, especially melons.
Coyotes (and foxes) will chew holes in irrigation pipes in fields and orchards.
Nationwide, a few people have been attacked. Most coyotes don’t bother people. Some coyotes become bold and aggressive. If you see individuals showing these behaviors, take action. The potential does exist for coyote attacks in New York. People and coyotes can usually coexist if the coyotes maintain their natural fear of people (more on this later).
They may travel along an airport’s runways, causing delays and hazards to aviation.
Disease risks: Distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus, rabies, mange, and tularemia.
For more information: