Coyotes’ breeding period occurs in Michigan from mid January into March. As fall approaches, pups begin dispersing from the den site to establish home ranges of their own. These young dispersing animals sometimes wander into urban areas. Coyotes are active day and night; however, peaks in activity occur at sunrise and sunset.
Coyotes can be difficult to distinguish from a medium sized German shepherd dog from a distance. Generally they have a slighter body build than most dogs with ears that are pointed and stand erect. Their upper body is yellowish gray, and the fur covering the throat and belly is white to cream color. When observed running, coyotes carry their bushy, black tipped tail below the level of their back.
Coyotes can often live six to eight years in the wild, however approximately 50-70% of juvenile coyotes do not reach adulthood. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat almost anything available. Small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, rabbits, hares, and squirrels are preferred foods. However, insects, fruits, berries, birds, frogs, snakes, plants, and seeds round out their diet.
The size of a coyote's home range depends on the food and cover resources available and on the number of other coyotes in an area, but it generally averages between 8 and 12 square miles. Mated pairs and 4 to 7 pups occupy the home range during the spring and summer seasons in Michigan.
Coyotes rarely attack humans. Bites from snakes, rodents, and domestic dogs are a far greater possibility than coyote bites, according to public health authorities. However, coyotes that are fed become accustomed to people and present a human safety risk. People should never intentionally feed or attempt to tame coyotes. It is in the best interest of both coyotes and humans if coyotes retain their instinctive fear of people.
The following important points can help minimize potential conflicts with coyotes:
- Never approach or touch a coyote
- Never intentionally feed a coyote
- Eliminate all outside food sources, especially pet foods
- Put garbage out the morning of pickup day
- Clear out wood and brush piles; they are good habitat for rats and mice and may attract coyotes
- Do not allow pets to roam free when coyotes are present - consider keeping pets indoors or accompany them outside, especially at night