Sycamore, Illinois


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What is a Coyote?

A coyote resembles a small German Shepard dog, but carries its tail below the level of its back rather than curved upward. Its upper body is typically light gray but can vary from almost pure black to almost pure white. It has coarse outer hairs that are usually black-tipped. His stomach hairs vary from whitish to cream-colored.

The coyote’s muzzle is long and narrow; its ears are erect and pointed. The average length of an adult in the Midwest is 44 to 54 inches, including a 15-17 inch tail. Weights measured during the fall and winter vary from 22 to 45 pounds.

Distribution & Abundance

Coyotes are common throughout Illinois and almost all of the other States in the United States. In Illinois, they are most abundant in the southern, southeastern, and west-central parts of the state. They’re least abundant in the northern two to three tiers of counties. During the late 1970s and the 1980s, coyote numbers increased dramatically.


Coyotes occupy all types of habitats, including urban and suburban areas. They are most abundant in areas with a mixture of farmland, woodland, and grasslands.


The average home range encompasses 2-10 square miles, home range is dramatically less in urban environments. Alpha pairs and their litters have smaller home ranges than “loner or transient” coyotes. Home range size is determined by several factors, including the quality of habitat presence of other nearby coyote packs, and seasons of the year, especially during breeding


Coyotes communicate with a variety of barks, yips, and howls. They mark their territory with urine, feces, and gland secretions, much like a domestic dog. Body language plays a very important communicative role in the family social structure and in meetings with other coyotes. Facial expressions and body gestures can signal a coyote’s aggressive, submissive or neutral intentions. Coyotes tend to be most active just before dusk until just before sunrise, but they can be active throughout the day if they have had a poor night of hunting. A coyote requires about two and a half pounds of food per day and they will eat about anything from grass and bugs to meat and vegetables.  


A few females breed their first year but most mature their second year. Breeding peaks In late February. The gestation period is 58 to 63 days. Pups are born in late April or May and litter sizes ranging from 2 to 19 pups have been documented, but 4 to 9 is the norm. The pup’s eyes open between 8 and 14 days of age. They will venture out of the den at about 21 days but will not remain outside long until about 5 or 6 weeks of age.


Coyotes are a valuable member of the wildlife community, however, they will kill livestock, poultry, and domestic pets, especially when there are large numbers of coyotes or they live in close association with people. When coyotes become “habituated” to people, problems arise where domestic pets and people are attacked. Removing individual animals with “bad behaviors” solves the problem even when other coyotes continue to live in the area. 

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