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Wednesday's Wildlife: Calgary Coyotes

It’s dusk and a grey shadow flits across a green space in your neighbourhood.  Its tail is pointed down as it runs. Just before it disappears into the brush, its yellow eyes glance your way.

 

Coyotes are elusive as they are present in our city.  Weighing between 9 to 23 kilograms, (roughly a medium-sized dog), coyotes are one of the larger predators adapted to our urban habitats. What brings them into our city? Can we co-exist with them?



Adult coyote crossing a road with yellow eyes and its tail point down.
Figure 1: A coyote can be identified by its yellow eyes and tail pointed down.

 

Food is the primary reason coyotes settle in our city.  Their natural diet includes small mammals like mice, squirrels and hares, and larger ungulates like deer.  As omnivores, they also feed on berries and other vegetation. Their natural rodent-consuming habits are a coyote-positive aspect of their presence.

 

They are opportunistic feeders, and alternative food sources can include unsecured garbage, bird feeders, pet food, pet feces, and small, off-leash or free-roaming pets.  Coyotes do not always eat garbage or birdseed themselves, but the other prey species that this food attracts, like mice and other small mammals.  Keeping your yard clean of attractants will reduce the wildlife traffic in your area. 



Wildlife comic on coexisting with coyotes: shows two coyotes discussing getting their dinner from un-secure trash bins.
Figure 2: Calgary Comic "Yip the Dishes"

 

Coyotes are monogamous, staying with the same mate for several years. They live in small packs, though will hunt in smaller groups or even alone.   Their mating season is in February and March with pups being born in April and May.  Litter size depends on available food sources, but the average is three to seven pups. Coyotes are protective of their young and will feel threatened if off-leash pets are near their den with young pups.   Coyotes exhibit escorting behaviour during this time. This is where a coyote will follow people who have crossed into their territory, escorting them at a distance until they exit their territory as a protective measure of their young.



Three coyote pups, the first is howling and the other two are outside a rocky den.
Figure 3: Coyote Pups

 

While coyote-human conflicts are rare, coyotes are wild animals and can be dangerous. If you encounter a coyote and it seems to be focused on you, make yourself big, make loud noises, and throw sticks or rocks (not with the intention to hit, but scare) to deter the coyote. Do not run away from coyotes as this can trigger their instinct to chase. Coyotes can run over 60 km/hr, so running isn’t a great plan! Help coyotes stay shy by making them uncomfortable when near humans.  This helps us co-exist! Coyotes who are bold and desensitized tend to result in more conflicts.

 

Coyotes have over eleven types of vocalizations! Their yipping howls are easily recognizable at night, though exact meanings continue to be as elusive as the animal itself.  


If you observe a wild animal in need of help, please call our hotline at:

403-214-1312.





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