Information About Coyote Sightings: Who to Call and When
What do coyotes look like?
Coyotes are a breed of canines and resemble small shepherd type dogs in markings and build. The average length of an adult is 44 to 54 inches, including its 15” to 17” tail. The average weight of an adult coyote measured during fall and winter (their more sedentary season) from 22 to 42 pounds. Coyotes carry their tails lower than dogs, generally below the level of the back, rather than curved upward like dogs. Coyotes’ upper bodies are typically light gray to dull yellow, but can be mostly black, nearly all gray or white. Their underbodies are whitish, cream colored or pinkish yellow. The muzzle of a coyote is long and narrow; ears are pointed upright.
Where do coyotes live?
Coyotes are very adaptable animals that can live in a variety of environments, from rural to urban areas. Coyotes are most abundant in areas with a mixture of farmland, woodland and grasslands, but also frequent residential areas as well.
What are natural coyote behaviors?
Coyotes are territorial animals and may live in large areas, often 20 to 30 miles in diameter. Several coyotes may share such an area, living as a pack. Since they are territorial animals, coyotes rarely intrude the area of another pack. However, some coyotes do not belong to packs and may have a larger range that encompasses multiple packs’ ranges. If a member of a pack dies or leaves, the solitary coyote may join the pack.
Like other canines, coyotes communicate by barking, yipping and howling. These noises are only forms of communication—not a sign of predatory or aggressive behavior. Coyotes make these noises in response to other noises they hear, including human-made noises such as sirens.
Coyotes are generally nocturnal and prefer to be active from dusk until dawn, but coyotes are frequently seen during daylight hours, which is considered normal. Since coyotes live in such large areas, it is not abnormal to see a coyote walking or running through open or wooded areas, along paths (including streets or sidewalks for suburban and urban dwellers) in search of food or water.
Generally, coyotes live for three or four years.
What do coyotes eat?
The majority of a coyote’s diet consists of animal matter, largely rabbits, mice, other rodents, and birds. Coyotes are natural predators that help control the populations of rabbits and mice in their natural environment. Coyotes also eat insects, birds, fruits, eggs, berries or other food sources that are available. They are opportunists that will also eat food or garbage left outdoors overnight and/or other food sources left for other animals/birds.
When do coyotes reproduce?
Most females reproduce in their second year of age, though some reproduce in their first year. Breeding peaks in late February/early March, typically for a period of two to five days during this time. The gestation (pregnancy) period for coyotes is 58 to 63 days, and pups are often born during April and May in a den under a hollow tree, log, brush pile or even an abandoned building (any place where the mother can shelter her pups). Coyotes often re-use dens created by other animals.
How do pups behave?
Litters are typically four to nine pups. Like many animals in their infancy, pups are blind and helpless at birth, therefore reliant on their mothers for food and protection. Pups open their eyes between eight and 14 days of age and first emerge from the den around the age of 21 days. At the age of five or six weeks, pups leave the den for extended periods of time. Until the age of eight to 12 weeks, pups rely on their parents to hunt for them and return food. At this age, pups begin learning to hunt for themselves and the family moves away from the den at this time. During the summer and fall months, the young break from their parents and may move up to 120 miles away in search of their own territory or area.
What are the alpha male and alpha female?
The alpha male and alpha female are the dominant male and female coyotes in a pack. If an alpha male leaves the pack or dies, another male becomes the alpha male or another alpha male will move into the pack.
What is abnormal or aggressive coyote behavior?
Walking, running, barking, howling and hunting rabbits or rodents are NOT considered aggressive behaviors. Aggressive behavior may be exhibited when alpha males feel their territory is being threatened by another animal. Females may behave aggressively when rearing their pups in the spring—pups are helpless for the first few weeks of their lives, so their mothers are very protective.
How do humans and coyotes coexist?
According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, coyotes do more good than harm where humans are concerned. Coyotes help control rodent populations, but may occasionally kill other animals, such as livestock, poultry or small domestic animals. There have been no reports of coyote attacks on humans in Libertyville, or anywhere in northeastern Illinois for that matter. Although rare in Libertyville, there have been a few incidents reported over the years, where a coyote has attacked a feral cat or small dog.
Some people are under the impression that trapping or euthanizing coyotes will eliminate them from an area. However, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, trapping or euthanizing coyotes will not eliminate coyotes from an area. Coyotes are transitory animals that search out areas of their own—if one coyote is removed, another will soon take its place.
Tips for living with coyotes:
• Do not leave food or water sources out at night, including pet food and water, unsecured garbage cans, etc.
• Keep dogs and cats on leashes and attended, especially at night.
• Never feed coyotes.
• If you do not want coyotes to be attracted to your yard, do not make it attractive. Feeding wildlife such as birds, squirrels, etc., will only attract a high concentration of such animals to your yard, making it an easy hunting ground for coyotes.
• If a coyote acts aggressively or approaches a domestic animal or a human, do not engage the coyote. Shout, wave your arms, clap your hands, make loud noises, etc. If you or your pet does not threaten or engage the coyote, the coyote will be the first to run away. This response also reinforces the coyote’s natural fear of people and teaches the coyote your yard is not available territory.
The Libertyville Police Department by calling 911
A coyote is in the act of attacking a person or domestic pet in Libertyville’s boundaries.
The Libertyville Police Department by calling (847) 362-8310.
A coyote is seriously ill or injured, is in a confined area (building, fenced yard, etc.) and unable to leave.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Department by calling (847) 549-5200
A coyote is in the act of attacking a person or domestic pet in unincorporated Lake County
The Lake County Forest Preserve District by calling (847) 968-3411 (M-F, 6:30 am – 6 pm) or call the Lake County Sheriff’s Department by calling (847) 549-5200
A coyote is acting aggressively toward a human or domestic pet within a Forest Preserve.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources by calling (847) 608-3100
For general information about coyotes.
Private Nuisance Wildlife Professional by checking phone numbers in local listings
If you want a coyote removed from your property – State and local permits and regulations apply.
Note: The agencies listed above generally will not respond to a coyote walking through a neighborhood or in an open area exhibiting normal behavior.
Additional Suggested Resources:
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources
- Lake County Forest Preserve District