Be Coyote Smart

General Intrests

**** Info via Novascotia.ca

Coyotes are permanent residents in our province, so seeing or hearing them from time to time is not unusual. They have become part of the ecosystem as a top-line predator. Nocturnal by nature, coyotes tend to be most active and vocal at night.

Coyotes are normally shy and fearful of people. When this behaviour changes and they lose that fear, there is cause for concern. A coyote’s loss of fear of people, called habituation, is nearly always caused by direct or indirect feeding by people, or by the presence of nonthreatening humans in coyote habitat.

Behaviour
• Nocturnal; most active and vocal at night
• High-pitched yelps, barks, and howls
• Normally shy of people

Territory
• Almost anywhere in Nova Scotia; year-round
• Territory ranges from 24 to 48 km² (9 to 18 sq. mi.)

Appearance
• Average size of 15 kg (34 lbs)
• Males can reach more than 23 kg (50 lbs)
• Tawny, grey, or black fur with long black guard hairs; thick fur makes them look large
• Muzzle, throat, legs, and belly colour ranges from yellowish to white

Mating/Raising Young
• Mate from January to March
• Five to seven pups born between April and May

Diet
• Carnivores, but will eat anything available including:
-small mammals, rodents, and snowshoe hare
-carrion (decaying carcasses)
-berries and fallen tree fruit
-garbage and compost
-deer, fawns, sheep, and lambs
-feral and pet cats, dogs
• Usually hunt alone or in pairs, occasionally in small family groups

Coyote Facts Keep Coyotes Wild Coyote FAQs Keep Coyotes Away Support for Educators Coyote Reporting Form

Eastern Coyote Facts

I’ve heard that the coyotes found here are as big as wolves, or a German shepherd?
The average Eastern coyote in Nova Scotia is about 15 kg (34 lbs) with some males reaching 23 kg (50 lbs.). This is about twice the size of coyotes found in southwestern USA. This larger size has been attributed to past interbreeding with wolves, as coyotes spread northward and eastward across the continent. Today, the coyotes found here are considerably smaller than wolves. In terms of dogs, they’re about the size of a border collie or approximately 61 cm (24 in.) at the shoulder. See visually the size of coyotes.

Weren’t coyotes brought into Nova Scotia by people?
No. Their arrival here was part of a natural range expansion that began in the southwestern United States in the late 1800’s due to pressures on their traditional habitat caused by land clearing and development. The first coyotes in Maritimes travelled here from Ontario, Quebec, New England. They eventually reached Cape Breton by crossing the ice-covered Canso Strait.

Are there wolf/coyote crossbreeds in Nova Scotia?
It is highly unlikely. It appears that interbreeding with wolves was in the past and that the Eastern coyote is now genetically distinct.

What about coyote/dog crosses, or coydogs?
There were reports of coyote/dog crosses during the initial stages of range expansion across the continent. Today the likelihood of successful coyote/dog crosses is remote. As young would be born mid-winter, their likelihood of survival would be low, and unlike wild dogs, male domestic dogs do not help provide food for the young.

How can I tell if what I’m seeing is a coyote or a fox?
Coyotes typically have a tawny, grey or black coat with long black guard hairs. The hair on the muzzle, throat, legs and belly usually ranges from yellowish to white.

Foxes are smaller and typically about 46 cm (18 in.) at the shoulder. A fox is often recognized by its red coat, although they can be grey or tawny as well. Foxes have a white chest patch. The foot and leg hair is dark giving a sooty look. See visually the size of coyotes.

Is it more common to see coyotes during the winter?
Yes, late winter is the breeding season and their activity increases. If natural food sources are unavailable, coyotes may become more active in search of food. Snow and the lack of leaf cover also make coyotes more visible, while heavy snow may encourage travel on or near roads.

Don’t coyotes hunt in large packs?
Coyotes may hunt alone, in pairs, or family units. Family units often occur in the fall or early winter as an adult pair teaches their young to hunt.

Is it true that female coyotes can have super-sized litters to compensate for population losses due to hunting and trapping?
In Nova Scotia the average litter is five to seven pups. Our records show a low of two, and a high of ten, pups per litter. If the coyote population goes down there will be less competition for food and as a result females will be in better condition and the litter survival rate may increase, but there is no evidence that a female can somehow control the size of her litters.

Why is the population of coyotes in Nova Scotia increasing?
The population of coyotes in the province is actually fairly stable. There are slight variations often dependent on the amount of trapping activity as well as availability of traditional food sources.

Why are coyotes also found in urban areas? Have we invaded their home?
As coyotes are a relatively new species to Nova Scotia, we have not invaded their traditional home. Coyotes are very adaptable opportunists and will live in and near human settlements, and take advantage of any food sources found there. Does the provincial government trap nuisance coyotes when people lose pets? No, but your local Department of Lands and Forestry office can provide a list of nuisance wildlife operators who are available for hire to capture animals that come into conflict with humans. Why do we have a pelt-incentive program instead of a bounty? The pelt-incentive program was put in place to increase trapper participation and thus have more coyotes harvested. Increased trapping can also affect coyote behaviour causing animals to fear and avoid humans. This is different from a bounty, which is a broad-scale price put on the target species to promote killing by anyone at anytime.

Isn’t there some way to get rid of coyotes once and for all?
No. The Eastern coyote is a permanent year-round resident in Nova Scotia. Even a full scale bounty would have only a temporary effect on reducing coyote numbers. The best measure we can take is to Keep Coyotes Wild by not willingly or inadvertently providing food sources for them. This will help preserve their normal behaviour of avoiding people and places of human settlement.

How big are they?
During the 1992/93 harvesting season, over 300 coyotes were weighed by DNR wildlife staff. The average weight of adult male coyotes was 33.9 lbs (15.4 kg). The average weight of adult females was 27.7 lbs(12.6 kg). The largest male collected weighed 47.8 lbs (21.7 kg). DNR occasionally receives reports of individual coyotes weighing in excess of 50 lbs (22.7 kg) but animals of that size are not common. Learn more about coyote size.

What should I do when I encounter a coyote?
— do not feed, touch, or photograph the animal from close distances;
— remove self from the area by slowly backing away while remaining calm- do not turn and run;
— use personal alarm devices to frighten or threaten the animal;
— encourage the animal to leave (provide space, an escape route);
— if animal exhibits aggressive behaviour — then be larger and noisier by throwing sticks and rocks; and
— fight back aggressively if the animal attacks.

Are coyotes found in Nova Scotia larger than western coyotes?
Yes. Coyotes found in NS are known as Eastern Coyotes and, while closely related to coyotes found in western North America, they are genetically distinct. The significantly larger body size of Eastern Coyotes has been attributed to past interbreeding with wolves, as coyotes spread northward and eastward across North America. Some individuals encountered here may be as much as twice the average size of coyotes found in southwestern North America.

Why are they so big?
The eastern coyote is basically a western coyote which has picked up significant wolf characteristics through interbreeding. This genetic make up gives the eastern coyote the potential for a much larger body size – twice the size of their close relative, the south-western coyote

How many pups do they have?
Collections of harvested coyotes in Nova Scotia indicate that average litter sizes are in the range of 5.5 to 6.3 pups. Records show a low of 2 pups and a high of 10

Where did they come from?
These animals dispersed from west to east through Ontario, Quebec, New York and New Brunswick. Crossing the isthmus, they eventually moved from mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton crossing the ice-covered Canso Strait.

When did they show up in NS?
The first coyote was trapped in 1977.

Were they introduced?
No, they were not introduced. With habitat changes in North America, such as land clearing, railroad right-of-ways, etc., the prairie coyote in the late 1800’s began a range expansion that reached Nova Scotia in 1976. There were probably a few coyotes in N.S. prior to 1976, but people may have assumed sightings to be of dogs running at large.

Is the population of coyotes in Nova Scotia increasing?
The population of coyotes in the province is stable. See graph for harvest and complaint data.

Why don’t we put a bounty on them, or cull them to reduce the population?
The department is considering a pelt-incentive program, a targeted method to increase trapper participation and harvest levels. Increased trapping can also affect coyote behaviour, such that animals fear and avoid humans. This is different than a general, wildlife bounty, which is a broad-scale price put on the target animal to promote killing by anyone at anytime.

Do coyotes in Nova Scotia carry rabies or other diseases?
There have been no reported cases of rabies in coyotes in Nova Scotia. Coyotes can carry canine (dog family) heartworm, tapeworm, distemper and mange.

Are coyotes aggressive?
Coyotes are wild and generally avoid people. However, they should be treated as potentially dangerous. Do not approach a coyote.

What should people do to be prepared?
People out in the wilderness should be aware of their surroundings at all times. Other options include making noise, travelling in pairs or groups, and carrying hiking sticks.

How can people reduce coyote interactions?
Make sure garbage is not left laying around, remove pet food, compost, or garbage from outside your doorstep at night. Do not feed wild animals. Do not leave pets unattended or unprotected outdoors.

Do they hunt in packs?
Coyotes do travel and hunt in family units or packs, generally there is a dominate pair with young of the year.

What do coyotes eat?
Coyotes generally eat deer, mice, squirrels, snowshoe hare, and fruit such as apples, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and are excellent scavengers.

In the history of interactions between humans and coyotes, has there ever been a fatal attack?
The attack in Cape Breton is the first case of this nature in Nova Scotia. There was a fatal case reported in the United States (California) in 1981 (Timm, Baker, Bennett and Coolahan 2004).

How many people have been attacked by coyotes?
There are 3 records since 1995 of people bitten or attacked in Nova Scotia. Newspaper article records show that in Canada between 1998-2008, there were 24 coyote-human interactions resulting in injury (14.2% of all reported human-coyote incidents). There were no deaths or serious injuries. Incidents usually involved scratches or puncture wounds (Alexander & Quinn, University of Calgary).

Is jogging or running an issue?
If you encounter a coyote while jogging/running, stop and slowly leave the area in the direction from which you came. Never run from a coyote as it may trigger a predatory response and chase.

Are there wolf/coyote hybrids ?
Eastern Coyotes appear to be genetically distinct; they are not western coyotes nor eastern wolves. The eastern coyote’s larger body size has been attributed to past interbreeding with wolves.

What should you do when you encounter a coyote in the wild?
Do not approach the animal(s). Leave the area immediately.

Why are coyotes also found in urban areas? Have we invaded their home?
Coyotes are a relatively new species to Nova Scotia. These animals are very adaptable, and will live in and near human settlements, including urban areas.

Does the provincial government trap nuisance coyotes when people lose pets?
Nuisance wildlife operators are available to capture animals that come into conflict with humans. However, people should keep their pets under control and supervision, preferably indoors or protected in kennels where they cannot be harmed and cannot chase or harm wildlife.

Is there a season for hunting coyote?
Coyotes are classed as other harvestable wildlife and can be shot year round with no bag limit. However coyotes may only be trapped by licensed furharvesters during the trapping season which starts October 15th and ends March 31st.

Should we expect to see more coyotes during the winter?

Yes, winter is the breeding season when movements/activities increase. If natural food sources are locally restricted for some reason, then we have seen that coyotes will become more active/visible in search of food. Snow and the lack of leaf cover also makes coyotes more visible. Heavy snow may encourage travel on/near roads. Recently publicity about coyotes has also heightened public awareness and the likelihood to report sightings

More helpful information,  including an online sighting form, can be found here:

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