Coyote Breeding Season


Quick Tips for Co-existence

During breeding season it is very important for people to be aware of their surroundings when they’re out in parks or natural spaces, especially if they are walking a dog.

1. Avoid encounters altogether – consult the coyote sightings map for areas to avoid and adjust your route and respect trail closures.

2. Keep dogs on-leash to give you more control if you encounter a coyote.

3. Should you see a coyote, keep an eye on it as you walk steadily away from the area, picking up your dog, if able. Stay calm and observe its behaviour for cues.

4. If a coyote gets too close, haze it by raising your arms to be BIG and yell deeply to be LOUD.

5. Do not run away from a coyote; this may invite it to chase you.

6. Assess properties for food attractants and potential denning sites. Remove any food sources like open trash or compost. Cut down overgrown vegetation and close off any openings that can be used as dens.

Understanding Breeding Season

January – February: Mating

This is coyote mating season; coyotes are able to breed within their first year and typically mate for life with the same partner. This period may result in higher sighting reports and hearing vocalizations as adult coyotes secure their territory by frequently moving throughout their habitat. Vocalizing is a method of communication, a pair of coyotes can sound like many coyotes a phenomenon called the “beau geste” effect.

March – September: Pup Rearing                                                                                                                       

This is a time of higher coyote activity as pups are reared in and around their dens. To safeguard their territories, coyotes will be more visible and act assertive to ward off other coyotes and potential dangers. They will be wary of dogs, which are similar to non-familial coyotes and are considered threats. Behaviours you may observe are:

– Coyotes may be seen more in the daytime and will watch their surroundings intently.
– They may try to “escort” or herd people and dogs out of their territory by following them until they leave.
– Coyotes that normally scamper off when chased by a dog will more likely stand their ground and act defensively.

Between March and May, the mother will have dug a den and the rest of the family helps to bring her food and keep the area secure. Between April and May, on average, 4-7 pups are born blind and helpless and are in the den for about 4-5 weeks. Coyote families will move on from using their dens once the pups are mobile, around June or July, and aren’t as committed to a certain area.

October – December: Dispersal
After coyote pups become mobile and learn important skills for survival from their parents, they will begin to disperse into their own territory. There may be an increase in coyote sightings during this time as juveniles seek out their own territories and begin looking for mates for the next breeding season. As juveniles begin to explore, it may be more common to see larger groups of coyotes rather than just solitary or mating pairs of coyotes.

A coyote moves through the brush of Lost Lagoon. (Photo: Josephine Hrynkiw)


Why are coyotes in Vancouver?

  • They have benefitted from the landscape changes humans have brought, and all major cities across North America are home to them.
  • The city and suburbs provide habitat—lots of mice, rats, and squirrels to eat, and enough places to shelter in for rest and denning.
  • Many residents may not ever see a coyote. Part of their success is due to their avoidance, preferring to stay unseen and away from potential threats like people, dogs, and cars.
  • We help to maintain this healthy boundary by removing food or attractants from our spaces, and scaring them when we see them.
  • However, the breeding season requires some different approaches.

What happens in the coyote breeding season?

  • Coyotes breed once a year, and it’s a particular time window in which they go through all the stages of raising a family, and if successful, rear a litter of pups.
  • The whole family is involved in raising new young, and because it’s a vulnerable period for the mom and pups, we tend to see different behaviours that we don’t normally see the rest of the year.
  • They tend to go from aloof and avoidant to protective, wary, and assertive.
  • People and especially dogs that may present a threat to them will be on the receiving end of these behaviours.

What different behaviour do we see?

  • Coyotes are naturally timid animals and majority of the sightings we receive reflect this. Typically, they like to avoid people and confrontation, which has made them suitable for urban environments.
  • In the breeding season, their focus becomes securing their territory and safe-guarding their family.
  • They will be seen out in the daytime more, mostly to observe and patrol against threats.
  • They’re most concerned about keeping other coyotes away, but dogs are similar to coyotes and will be treated as competition or a threat.
  • This doesn’t mean they turn aggressive—they’re smart enough to know it’s unsafe to pick fights with everything!
  • Instead they act assertively. They declare their boundaries by standing their ground and trying to “escort” the danger out of the area, like club security.
  • Escorting involves following the “threat” (often a dog) until it leaves the territory – until it is no longer a threat. This is meant to push you out, but many people interpret it as predatory stalking.
  • Truly predatory coyotes will want to be unseen or are quick, but with escorting, they definitely want you to see them in order to make a point and be effective.

How is breeding behaviour different from aggressive behaviour?

  • Breeding behaviour stems from their defensive and protective instinct when raising a family. Coyotes avoid outright attacks because it puts them in danger.
  • Truly aggressive behaviour is rare and is the extreme end of what we call habituation—when a coyote gradually loses its avoidance of people, most often because it has been hand-fed or indirectly fed in human spaces.
  • When the boundary is blurred between people and coyotes, their natural aversion is lost and the likelihood of aggression increases significantly.

How do people and dogs present a threat?

  • People and big dogs are large enough to cause harm to coyotes… and often have!
  • Coyotes raise their pups in a den, usually tucked away someplace hidden and safe—under a thicket or an abandoned structure.
  • The mother and pups are bound to this den for weeks between March and May, so the father and older offspring need to help keep them safe until they can move about.
  • If anything gets too close, they will confront the danger, then try to escort it away.
  • If the danger persists in staying or coming close, this becomes a stressful red flag for the family!

How do we co-exist at this time?

  • Please review the co-existence tips at the top of this page.
  • During other times of the year, we encourage people to haze coyotes they see, unless they are doing natural things in their natural environment, like hunting for mice in a field.
  • In breeding season, in order to not stress the coyote families and to prevent conflicts, we can take our cues from their behaviour rather than hazing them. Avoid coyotes as much as possible and assert ourselves if they get too close.
  • Cat owners should keep their cats indoors as much as possible. Coyotes will be working extra hard to feed their families and need to be opportunistic. Cats aren’t their preferred prey but coyotes won’t be picky if cat’s are around.

Other Advice?

  • It all boils down to keeping healthy boundaries with wildlife around us.
  • We continue to follow the same intuitive principles in living around coyotes: Hazing or scaring coyotes if they linger in human spaces (except in breeding season, unless they get too close), not leaving out food or attractants, not feeding them, and keeping our pets safe.
  • Report all your coyote sightings to us! Just do a web search for “report coyote” and you will find the Stanley Park Ecology Society page to detail your sighting.
  • You can find our extensive Co-Existing with Coyotes info page here, or a simple web search of “coyotes in Vancouver” will lead you to this page. Share this information with friends and family!

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