Coyotes are a common wildlife species throughout North America. They have adapted well to man’s artificial landscape and they seem equally comfortable living in city suburbs as they do out on the prairie.
Coyotes are most common in the agricultural areas of Manitoba, but now range into the boreal forest and as far North as Flin Flon and Thompson. The total number of coyotes is virtually impossible to estimate but they are considered abundant. Coyotes are now seen more frequently in urban and suburban centres of Manitoba.
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a member of the dog family. It resembles a medium-sized dog, with adults weighing 10 to 16 kilograms, having a body length up to 1.5 meters (including the tail), and standing about 60 cm high at the shoulder. Males are larger than females. Coyotes vary in colouration but their fur is usually reddish-brown to gray. Coyotes have a habit of keeping their tails down when walking or running.
Mated pairs can remain together for up to 12 years, and annual breeding occurs in February. On average, six pups are born in April or May but litter size depends on population density and available food sources during the breeding season. Adults teach the pups to hunt during the summer and, by early autumn, the pups voluntarily leave the den site and disperse to new areas. Coyotes reach maturity at about one year and they can live up to 14 years in the wild.
Coyotes have an annual home range of about 20 square kilometres. They can be seen anytime of the day but are most active at night as they search for food and defend their territory from other coyotes. Often considered a predator of larger animals such as deer or livestock, coyotes will also scavenge on dead animals and eat insects, rodents, rabbits and songbirds. They are also known to kill or injure pets, especially small dogs or cats. In urban areas, coyotes will take advantage of unsecured garbage or pet food if these attractants are left outside. Quite often, these qualities will lead coyotes into conflict with humans.
Coyotes are very sociable and a typical family consists of a dominant breeding pair along with many subordinate members who help defend their territory and feed the pups. Coyotes commonly howl or “yip” to communicate to each other and urinate frequently to mark their territory. Intelligent and wary, coyotes also have good eyesight and hearing along with a keen sense of smell.
Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship considers the coyote widespread, abundant, and secure throughout its range in Manitoba (NatureServe Conservation Status S5); coyotes are listed as a Fur Bearing Animal in Division 2, Schedule A of The Wildlife Act. From 3,000 to 8,000 coyotes are harvested each year by licenced trappers in Manitoba.
Coyotes can be legally trapped or removed by a landowner at anytime in defense of personal safety or property. However, any such removal must be reported within 10 days to a Natural Resource Officer.
Coyotes suffer from diseases such as canine distemper, rabies, canine hepatitis, and parvo virus. They are also susceptible to frequent outbreaks of sarcoptic mange, an infestation by microscopic mites that cause intense itching, scratching, and hair loss. This condition is particularly common when coyote numbers are high and interaction among coyotes serves to spread the mite more quickly throughout the population. Most coyotes that become infected with mange will lose their fur and die from exposure as temperatures become colder: overall, coyote populations will be reduced to varying degrees under those conditions. Sarcoptic mange can also be transferred to dogs and cats coming into contact with a site where an infected coyote sought shelter (straw bedding, hay bales, etc.). Other common parasites which can affect humans or pets include heartworm, hookworm, and tapeworms.
If you find a sick or dead coyote or its scat (droppings), never pick it up! Report any sick or dead wild animal to Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship district office.
The presence of coyotes in your yard can be confirmed by tracks and scat (droppings) left behind.
Coyote tracks and dog tracks are similar but distinguishable. Dog tracks are generally larger, rounded with the toes spread apart while coyote tracks are smaller (about 6-7 cm or 3 inches), more rectangular with the toes held closer together. Also, coyotes tend to walk in straight lines; dog tracks appear to zig-zag and wander aimlessly about.
Coyote scats vary in size and shape but are tubular in appearance, usually large, strongly tapering and contain a lot of hair, bone or seeds. Often, coyotes mark their territory by leaving scat on sidewalks, paths or roads.
Coyote damage to property usually occurs in the form of predation to domestic livestock. However, pet food that goes missing or garbage bags that have been carried away or strewn about the yard may be the result of coyotes. Pets that refuse to go outside or venture far from the door, or show visible injuries or bite marks after being let in should also alert the homeowner that coyotes may be in the area. On rare occasions, coyotes have been known to attack humans, especially after being purposely fed by people in the past.