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Living with Wildlife in Manitoba


Coyotes

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.

Photo of coyote in profileCoyotes 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.

Identification

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.

Biology and Behaviour

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.

cluoseupCoyotes 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.

Status

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.

Disease Concerns

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.

Coyote Sign and Damage Identification

coyote tracks, scat and gait imagesThe 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.

Reducing Coyote Problems

  • Do not feed coyotes or any other wildlife, especially near human habitation.
  • Keep all garbage in plastic or metal containers with lids tightly secured.
  • Keep children under close supervision while they are outside.
  • Bring pet food inside a secure location every night or, better yet, feed your pet indoors.
  • Keep pets inside at night and under close supervision while they are outside during the day.
  • Avoid close contact with any wild animal or wild animal feces to prevent exposure to disease or parasites, and ensure your pet's vaccinations are up to date.
  • Coyotes may be trapped during an open season using approved humane traps and trapping techniques. See the annual Manitoba Trapping Guide for more information.
  • Coyotes can also be removed by a homeowner at anytime in defence of private property or to protect personal safety on land that they own (but not Crown land). Property owners may also use the services of another individual, such as a licenced trapper, to address a particular problem coyote on their property.

Encountering a Coyote

  • Never approach or crowd a coyote — give it an escape route.
  • Stop, remain calm and assess your situation.
  • If the coyote seems unaware of you, move away quietly when it is not looking in your direction.
  • If the coyote is aware of you, let it know you are human: shout at it, wave your arms above your head to make yourself appear more threatening, throw stones or other objects at it.
  • If the coyote continues to approach, back away slowly and move toward buildings or human activity.
  • Do not turn away or run — this may encourage the coyote to chase you.
  • If the coyote attacks you — Fight Back!