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Coyote Information Center

"The City of Decatur borders the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and also has rural areas within City limits. Residents must learn to live with coyotes as they will always be a constant factor here."

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Click one of the following links to learn more or scroll down to learn about coyote habits and behavior:

Decatur Animal Services Q&A

Who is responsible for wildlife?

Coyote Proof your Yard & Neighborhood

tips to keep coyotes away

Learn how to keep your family pets safe from coyotes

What to do if you spot a coyote in your neighborhood


Coyote Q and As

Size - Coyotes typically grow 30-34 inches long, not including a tail of 12-16 in.; stand about 23-26 in. high at the shoulder and weigh from 15-46 lb. Northern coyotes are typically larger than Southern subspecies, with the largest coyotes on record weighing 74.75 pounds and measuring 5.7 ft. in total length. They generally reach full size in their first year.

Color - Color varies from grayish-brown to yellowish-gray on the upper parts, while the throat and belly tend to have a buff or white color. The forelegs, sides of the head, muzzle and paws are reddish-brown. The back has tawny-colored underfur and long, black-tipped guard hairs. Coyotes shed yearly, starting in May with light hair loss, ending in July after heavy shedding. The ears are large in relation to the head, while the feet are relatively small compared to the rest of the body

Speed - They are FAST and may reach speeds up to 43 mph and can jump a distance of over 13 ft.

Dens - Coyotes are capable of digging their own burrows, though they often prefer the burrows of groundhogs or American badgers. Coyote territorial ranges can be as much as 12 miles in diameter around the den, and travel occurs along fixed trails.

Lifespan - Coyotes have been known to live 10 years in the wild and 18 years in captivity

Reproduction - Females come in heat once a year between late January and late March, when mating occurs. The gestation period lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from one to 19 pups; the average is six. These large litters make up for the high juvenile mortality rate; about 50-70% of pups do not survive to adulthood. The pups are very much like puppies in their development and they will typically nurse 5-7 weeks.

Interspecies hybridization or coydogs - Coyotes will sometimes mate with domestic dogs, usually in areas such as Texas and Oklahoma, where the coyotes are plentiful and the breeding season is extended because of the warm weather. The resulting hybrids are called coydogs, maintain the coyote's predatory nature, along with the dog's lack of timidity toward humans, making them a more serious threat to livestock and people than pure-blooded animals.

Communication - Coyote calls are high-pitched and described as howls, yips, yelps, and barks. These calls may be a long rising and falling note (a howl) or a series of short notes (yips), and are most often heard at dusk or night. Although these calls are made all the year, they are most common during the mating season and in the fall when the pups leave their families to establish new territories. When a coyote calls its pack together, it howls at one high note. When the pack is together, it howls higher and higher, and then they yip and yelp and also do a yi-yi sound, very shrill, with the howl.

Diet and Hunting - Hunting - While they may live and travel in packs, they tend to hunt in pairs. They are opportunistic, versatile carnivores with a diet that's 90% mammals, depending on the season. They primarily eat small mammals such as voles, prairie dogs, rabbits, squirrels, and mice, though they will eat birds, snakes, lizards, deer, javelina, and livestock as well as large insects. They will eat large amounts of carrion, but prefer fresh meat. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the coyote's diet in the autumn and winter months. Part of the coyote's success is its dietary adaptability, including eating human rubbish and domestic pets. They catch cats and dogs when they come too close to the pack or the coyote gets too used to humans. Urban populations of coyotes have been known to actively hunt cats, and to leap shorter fences to take small dogs. In particularly bold urban packs, coyotes have also been reported to shadow human joggers or larger dogs, and even to take small dogs while the dog is still on a leash. However, this behavior is often reported when normal urban prey have become scarce. The average distance covered in a night's hunting is 2 1/2 miles.

Where they live - Coyotes thrive in rural, suburban and urban environments. Urban coyotes tend to live longer than their rural counterparts, kill rodents and small pets, and live anywhere from parks to industrial areas.

Human attacks - Attacks on humans are uncommon and rarely cause serious injuries, due to the relatively small size of the coyote. Children are more likely to be injured in an attack by a coyote, although there are some 3 million dog bites of children each year, meaning that a child is millions of times more likely to be bitten by someone's pet than a coyote. In the absence of the elimination of coyotes practiced by rural people, urban coyotes are losing their fear of humans, which is made worse by people intentionally feeding coyotes. In such situations, some coyotes have begun to act aggressively toward humans, chasing joggers and bicyclists, confronting people walking their dogs, and stalking small children. There are two recorded fatalities in North America from coyote attacks. In 1981 in Glendale, California, a coyote attacked a toddler who was rescued by her father, but died in surgery due to blood loss and a broken neck. In October 2009, Taylor Mitchell, a 19-year-old folk singer, died from injuries sustained in an attack by a pair of coyotes while hiking in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Livestock and pet predation - Coyotes are presently the most abundant livestock predators in western North America, causing the majority of sheep, goat and cattle losses. The U.S. government routinely shoots, poisons, traps and kills 90 to100,000 coyotes each year to protect livestock. Coyotes are not protected wildlife, are considered nuisance animals and can be taken at any time. There are no relocation programs for these coyotes.