Coyote sightings increase with winter mating season
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FRANKFORT – Coyotes become more active during the winter mating season, which typically peaks in February and March. As coyotes roam more to search for mates and establish territories, reported sightings increase in rural and urban areas across Kentucky.
“Coyote sightings typically increase this time of year when they are mating, and through July when they are raising pups,” said Laura Palmer, wildlife biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Human conflicts can be avoided by having a basic understanding of these wild animals.”
A member of the canine family, coyotes are generally monogamous and form lasting pair bonds to raise their pups in established territories. Although coyotes are generally timid and wary of people, encounters with people and pets can arise as they go about foraging, protecting their dens and feeding their pups.
Coyotes have been common in Kentucky for at least the past 50 years after they spread out across North America from the interior plains. Found in every state except Hawaii, and in all 120 Kentucky counties, most coyotes do not bother people, livestock or pets, and most people do not even know coyotes are living near their homes.
“Coyotes typically shy away from people but they may take advantage of food around homes if an easy meal is available, a coyote is injured or sick and thus not able to forage on wild foods as efficiently, or young have not learned to hunt effectively,” Palmer said. “Do not feed coyotes – intentionally or unintentionally. Don’t leave your pet’s food outside and don’t feed feral cats, raccoons, deer or other wildlife. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.”
As with any wild animal, coyotes can lose their fear of people if conditioned to depend on us for food, which can lead to conflict. Biologists recommend people remove all potential food sources, clean grills and remove grease traps, secure garbage, and be extra vigilant with pets that may be seen as prey or competition.
Plug holes under fences, block access to crawl spaces, and fence around yards and gardens. Pet owners should turn on outside lights and check the yard for unwanted animals before letting pets outside. Pets should be kenneled or supervised when outside, if possible.
When walking a dog, use a short, non-retractable leash that is highly visible and vary your walking routine. Do not let a dog chase or “play” with a coyote.
“Don’t panic if you see a coyote,” Palmer said. “Coyotes are curious by nature and sometimes follow people or dogs to see what they are doing in their territories or to see that they do not get too close to their dens and pups.”
Coyotes are protective of their pups, which stay in the den with the mother for about 3 weeks and learn to hunt when they are 8 to 12 weeks old. Family groups typically break up and disperse in late summer and early fall.
For more information about coyotes and simple tips to avoid conflict, visit the department’s website (fw.ky.gov) or call 1-800-858-1549, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Eastern) weekdays, excluding holidays.