Coyotes are a native species, and are crucial in keeping our desert ecosystems healthy. Like snakes, coyotes help greatly in keeping rodent populations under control. They also eat invertebrates, fruit, seeds and nuts. DNA research is ongoing, but coyotes have existed-having diverged from a common ancestor with the wolf, some 6,000–117,000 years ago.
When choosing to make a home in the desert southwest, we make the choice to live within the coyote’s native habitat. If you make that choice, respect that fact that they’re an extremely valuable and beneficial part of our desert.
Coyotes are tough, intelligent animals. When choosing to live in coyote country, there are precautions which need to be taken to prevent problems, most of which are caused by humans.
Coyotes may be seen alone, or in packs. Contrary to popular belief, seeing a coyote during the day is not unusual. They are diurnal (active during daylight hours) but are also active during the night when nocturnal prey, such as rabbits, are abundant. Coyotes are territorial, and follow a pack hierarchy. An alpha male and female have reproduction rights. When pack hierarchy is disturbed by indiscriminate removal coyotes have evolved to develop ways of making sure their species survives, and populations can increase to, or beyond the original, stable population in areas of human habitation. Stable populations of coyotes often don’t cause trouble in rural residential areas, unless people make life easy for them.
Problems with coyotes in our region most often start when humans are careless about keeping food, garbage, potential prey (pets and small livestock, high populations of wild rodents), fruit trees, livestock feed, and water sources secure from not only coyotes, but all native wildlife. Having any type of “food” source that appeals to rodents (such a squirrels and rabbits) will eventually draw coyotes (and other predators) closer to homes.
Small to medium sized pets, small livestock and birds are all seen as prey sources when left outdoors unattended, or not properly protected by secure fencing, such as a dig-proof, secure chicken coop or a secure outdoor kennel for small pets. Coyotes do not understand the difference between a small dog, a cat, or a rabbit. Prey is prey.
On occasion, coyotes can become too accustomed to people. Coyotes learn quickly. If humans create desirable habitat, either directly or indirectly, they learn that houses and humans mean one thing-food.
Coyotes are excellent scavengers, and can smell food sources for long distances, sometimes for miles.
Since coyotes are so intelligent, hazing (causing them to fear coming into a certain area) is often very effective.
If hazing is ineffective, or a property is overpopulated with coyotes, more serious measures may need to be taken. We evaluate coyote issues on a case-by case basis. We will not remove a coyote simply because it took an unsupervised pet as prey, because it makes noise or causes dogs to bark in your neighborhood. Healthy coyotes that show little to no fear of humans, and those who have attempted to attack some types of livestock, or exhibit threatening behavior to a human (all of which must occur on private property (extremely rare) are issues we will address.
Relocating or poisoning coyotes is illegal in California, except under specific circumstances.
Rodent poisoning also causes huge problems for not only coyotes, but to all other wildlife. Rodenticides work their way up the food chain, and all wildlife truly suffer due the use of these products.
Coyotes become ill and look thin, lethargic, may be moving slowly during daylight hours, and may be missing fur, which is usually caused by mange. One type of mange (Demodex) is not transmissible to humans or other healthy animals, but Sarcoptic mange is. Most canids carry microscopic Demodex mites on their skin. It is only when they become ill (from eating poisoned rodents) and their immune systems start to shut down that the effects can be seen. Demodectic mange (and sometimes, Sarcoptic mange) takes over. The symptoms are painful and constant. First, the coyote starts to lose weight, and then starts to lose its fur. Coyotes suffering from secondary rodent poison ingestion related illnesses (such as mange) suffer greatly, become unable to hunt, and they eventually die a very painful death-at which time other scavenger animals come along, and the sad cycle of poisoning continues. Rodenticides also kill thousands of dogs and cats every year.
For a downloadable version of this poster, click here: Coyote Poster
For a more detailed flyer, click here: Coyote Brochure
Interesting Coyote Research