Why you'll see more coyotes during mating season

 
By Deb Humiston
Forest Preserve District of DuPage
Posted10/29/2018 8:31 AM
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  • You're more likely to spot a coyote between now and February because it's mating season and the animals are looking to stake out new territory.

    You're more likely to spot a coyote between now and February because it's mating season and the animals are looking to stake out new territory. Courtesy Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

Young coyotes leave their parents in search of mates and territories to call their own between now and February, which means residents might see more of them, according to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

"Young coyotes are looking for a place to call home, yet most areas are already occupied. This forces them to move around quite a bit, looking for an unoccupied area," district ecologist Dan Thompson said. "As a result, sightings tend to increase at this time of year."

People also may see coyotes more frequently in winter because there's less vegetation, giving them fewer places to hide, and more snow, making animals easier to spot.

A rise in sightings doesn't necessarily mean a rise in the county's coyote population, though.

For people with pets, there are additional recommendations.

"Follow forest preserve regulations and keep your pets leashed when you're in a preserve," Thompson said. "It's smart to stay with your dog and keep it on a leash in your backyard, too.

"It's uncommon, but coyotes can target dogs, not necessarily for food but to eliminate animals they think are competing for their territory. Dogs that bark at other dogs seem to elicit this kind of response the most.

"Owners of dogs that behave this way need to be aware that their dogs are challenging coyotes or other dogs to a fight. This will put their dogs at a higher risk of a confrontation, especially smaller breeds."

A hungry coyote is going to be more interested in unsecured garbage cans, pet food, open compost piles, bird feeders, or fallen fruit under trees and shrubs, Thompson said. Keeping yards clean can limit these attractants.

People should never feed coyotes, either, as this leads them to expect food from humans and not fear them.

"Coyotes are able to learn and adapt quickly to changes in their environment," said Stephanie Touzalin, a naturalist at the district's Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. "They've found urban areas offer adequate shelter and more food than rural farmlands ever did. So they're very common in our area."

Of course, it also helps to remember that coyotes are an important component of the ecological community. They play a vital role in keeping populations of small animals and rodents in check in DuPage ecosystem.

For more information about coyotes, visit dupageforest.org.