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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

COYOTES: Difference between revisions

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[[Category: Animals]]
[[Category: Animals]]
[[Category: Environmental]]

Latest revision as of 17:55, 25 June 2022

Photo courtesy: E. B. Lyons Interpretative Center

COYOTES. Dubuque opened up season on coyotes during its bow hunting season around 2006. Hunters bagged a total of five coyotes in 2016, which Mary Rose Corrigan, a public health specialist, believed was a record. Opening up the season on coyotes kept their numbers in check, and prevented them from being a problem in Dubuque. (1)

Coyotes could pose a serious problem. They could take a small child or in packs threaten adults. In 2016 Dubuque offered a coyote incentive to hunters. Hunters got a payment of a doe license tag valued at $12. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources allowed open season on coyotes all year round outside the city. Hunters were not restricted to how many they could take. (2)

The coyote, a member of the dog family in size and shape, resembled a medium-sized collie. (3)

Vital Statistics

Weight: 15-45 lbs. Length with tail: 40-60" Shoulder Height: 15-20"

Sexual Maturity: 1-2 years Mating Season: Jan-March Gestation Period: 58-65 days

No. of Young: 2-12, 6 avg. Birth Interval: 1 year

Lifespan: 15 years in the wild

Only 5-20% of coyote pups survive their first year.

The coyote is more likely afraid of humans than vice-versa.

Coyotes are found throughout North America from eastern Alaska to New England and south through Mexico to Panama. It originally ranged primarily in the northwest corner of the United States, but it has adapted readily to the changes caused by human occupation. In the past 200 years, the animal has been steadily extending its range.

The coyote is one of the few wild animals whose calls are commonly heard. At night, coyotes both howl (a high quavering cry) and make a series of short, high-pitched yips. Howls are used to keep in touch with other coyotes in the area.

   * Howling - communication with others in the area. Also, an announcement that “I am here and this is my area. Other males are invited to stay away but females are welcome to follow the sound of my voice. Please answer and let me know where you are so we don't have any unwanted conflicts.”
   * Yelping - a celebration or criticism within a small group of coyotes. Often heard during play among pups or young animals.
   * Bark - The scientific name for coyotes means "Barking dog," Canis latrans. The bark is thought to be a threat display when a coyote is protecting a den or a kill.
   * Huffing - is usually used for calling pups without making a great deal of noise.

The coyote's tail is used in threat displays. It becomes bushy and is held horizontally when the coyote displays aggression.

The coyote takes advantage of keen senses. The coyote's hearing is very acute and is used for detecting prey and avoiding danger. Movement and position of the ears are used to communicate mood and rank. The highly developed sense of smell is used to detect prey and carrion. It is also used to detect the scent left by other coyotes as territorial markers.


The coyote has 5 digits on the forefeet, including the dewclaw (remnants of a 5th digit) and 4 digits on the hindfeet. The coyote is digitigrade meaning it walks with only its toes touching the ground.

One of the most adaptable animals in the world, the coyote can change its breeding habits, diet and social dynamics to survive in a wide variety of habitats. Alone, in pairs or in packs, coyotes maintain their territories by marking them with urine. They also use calls to defend this territory, as well as for strengthening social bonds and general communication. Coyotes can easily leap an 8 foot fence or wall. They have been seen climbing over a 14 foot cyclone fence.

Although the coyote usually digs its own den, it will occasionally enlarge a badger hole or fix up a natural hole in a rocky ledge to meet its needs. Dens are usually hidden from view, but they are fairly easy to locate because of the trails that lead away from the den. The coyote uses the den to birth its young and to sleep. The coyote does not hibernate.

They are common in most rural areas, but because of their secretive nature, few are seen. Efforts to control or exterminate the coyote by predator control agents seem to have produced an animal that is extremely alert and wary and well able to maintain itself.

A coyote travels over its range and hunts both day and night, running swiftly and catching prey easily. It has a varied diet and seems able to exist on whatever the area offers in the way of food. Coyotes eat meat and fish, either fresh or spoiled, and at times eat fruit and vegetable matter and have even been known to raid melon patches.

Although coyotes have been observed killing sheep, poultry and other livestock, it does not subsist on domestic animals. Food habit studies reveal that its principle diet is composed of mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, other small rodents, insects, even reptiles, and fruits and berries of wild plants.

The coyote is an opportunistic predator that uses a variety of hunting techniques to catch small mammals likes rabbits and squirrels, which comprise the bulk of its diet. Although it hunts alone to catch small prey, it may join with others in hunting larger mammals like young deer or a pony.

Urban coyotes take advantage of swimming pools, dog water dishes, ponds and water hazards at golf courses and other water bearing human artifacts as a source of moisture. However, the majority of coyotes never see people.

Environmentalists firmly believe that the coyotes are necessary to preserve the balance of nature. Some sportsmen feel the coyote is responsible for the declines in game species. Biologists agree that individual animals preying on livestock and poultry should be destroyed but that the species as a whole is not necessarily harmful, because much of its diet is made up of destructive rodents. Biologists have agreed that coyote populations have no lasting effects on other wildlife populations.

On May 3, 2010 the Dubuque City Council agreed that bow hunters who participated in the city's urban DEER hunt had permission to target coyotes year-round on private property. (4)

In 2009 five coyotes were harvested which was more than in previous years. Because the animals were "creatures of the night" there was no estimate of the urban population's size. Wayne Klosterman, chairman of the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Commission, stated that many people were probably having their trash destroyed by coyotes and not by dogs as they believed.

Increased sightings of coyotes were reported in 2022. Conservation officials blamed a lack of predators, low fur prices, and the much higher than normal rabbit population as the causes. Officials reminded people not to feed wild animals. If encountered by coyotes, people were told to throw things at them and make noise. The presence of coyotes was blamed on decreases in ground-nesting birds such as turkeys and pheasants. (5)



1. Hanson, Brad. "Good Year for Bow Hunters in Dubuque Keeps Coyote Numbers in Check," KWWL.com. Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/31883768/2016/05/03/good-year-for-bow-hunters-in-dubuque-keeps-coyote-numbers-in-check

2. Ibid.

3. "Coyotes," Wikipedia. Online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyote

4. City of Dubuque Deer Management Program. Online: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/DocumentCenter/View/15332

5. Fisher, Benjamin, "Multiple Factors Lead to Increased Local Populations, Sightings of Coyotes," Telegraph Herald, June 23, 2022, p. 1A