Be Careful With Pets When They Are Outdoors

By Arizona Game And Fish Department

Coyotes are Arizona’s most common predator and found throughout the entire state. Though not always seen, their vocalizations consisting of howls, yelps, and barks are regularly heard during almost any night spent in the field. The animal’s pointed ears, narrow nose, reddish brown to blond coat, and black or white tipped tail, help differentiate coyotes from dogs and wolves. The head and body length of coyotes is about 2 ½ to 3 feet with the tail adding another foot or so. Adult males are larger than females, the two sexes averaging about 21 and 17 ½ pounds, respectively. A very large male may attain a weight of 35 pounds. Contrary to popular belief, coyotes do not readily interbreed with either dogs or wolves.

Natural History

Coyotes are opportunists, feeding mainly on small mammals, but also on carrion, bird eggs, and vegetable matter such as acorns, mesquite and palo verde beans, and juniper and manzanita berries. They also prey on pronghorn and deer fawns, and insects when such items are available. In urban areas, garbage, domestic cats, and small dogs are sometimes taken.

Coyotes form strong pair bonds, usually breeding between mid-January and March 15. After a two-month gestation period, from one to several young are born in a den or burrow; the average litter size being about five pups. They leave the den when about 8 to 10 weeks old.

Hunting and Trapping History

The take of coyotes by hunters has been relatively stable during the past 10 years, about 13,000 hunters taking an average of between 30,000 and 40,000 coyotes a year. Most of these animals are taken while “varmint calling,” while hunting other game, or simply as opportunities arise.

Formerly, trappers rivaled sport hunters in the number of coyotes taken, but the reported take of trapped coyotes during the past 10 years has averaged approximately 700 a year. The principal reason for this reduced take is undoubtedly is the decline in market value of a coyote pelt as well as the prohibition of the use of foothold traps on public land.