Coyote signs

HOW TO KNOW IF COYOTES ARE AROUND YOUR HOUSE

Many coyotes are never directly seen by the public but other clues can be used to determine if coyotes are in the area.

Coyotes may howl for a variety of reasons

Coyotes may howl for a variety of reasons

Howling

Coyotes may advertise the occupancy of a territory to other coyotes by group howling. A graduate student from The Ohio State University tested some packs in our study by playing tapes of howling from captive coyotes in the middle of their territories and recording our study animal responses. She found evidence that coyotes were capable of identifying individuals from their calls and are aware of the number of coyotes calling during group howling bouts. Howling may also serve as a social bonding mechanism within the pack. However, it is impossible to know all the reasons why coyotes do things, and who knows, some coyotes may howl because it feels good!

Coyotes emit a range of sounds including howls, barks, and whines. Their howling has resulted in more myth and mystery than perhaps any aspect of their behavior. Many people consider the howling of coyotes to be the symbol of the West, or at least a vestige of wilderness. But, do coyotes in urban areas howl?  In Cook County we have observed that some groups howl frequently, whereas other groups rarely howl. Often times, coyote groups will regularly howl in response to the sirens of emergency vehicles, particularly those coyotes who reside near fire stations. 

Feces of a coyote often contain hair and bones

Feces of a coyote often contain hair and bones

Scat

Scats are the feces deposited by coyotes and other wildlife. Coyote scats are rope-like and typically filled with hair and bones, unlike dog scat which is soft from dog food. Coyotes use scat to communicate and so they usually deposit scats in the middle of trails or near the borders of their territories where they are easily seen. Scat can provide information on genetics, health, and diet but can be difficult to sample and usually non-specific to individual animals if found randomly in the field.

You can learn more about the importance of feces in studying coyote diets by referencing that section of the page About Coyotes.

Tracks:  comparing coyotes to domestic dogs

Tracks: comparing coyotes to domestic dogs

Tracks

The presence of tracks is often an indicator of coyotes in parks or neighborhoods but at times these signs can be difficult to distinguish from those of domestic dogs. Sometimes the best way to differentiate between domestic dogs and coyotes is the line of travel more than the actual individual track itself. Domestic dogs usually serpentine while exploring whereas coyotes travel in a straight line.

And sometimes there are actual signs

And sometimes there are actual signs

Coyote 115 at capture

We were not able to capture the first mate of Coyote 1 prior to his death (likely from a vehicle), but we captured her second mate, Coyote 115, on February 18, 2004, at the peak of the mating season. Coyote 115 was in excellent condition at 18 kg (40 lbs). He remained with Coyote 1 constantly until her death in 2010. Their relationship was interesting to observe, where at times they were inseparable, and other times they would take short breaks from each other. Still, they defended the same territory together continuously after 115’s collaring date.