Coyotes possess typical canine features. They have large erect ears, with an elongated muzzle, and a long bushy tail. Overall pelt coloration tends to be brown or buff interspersed with mottled gray or black. The chin, throat, chest and stomach are usually a lighter shade. The lower portion of the legs may display black stockings and the tail has a black tip. Average adult weighs approximately 30 to 40 lbs., some individuals might weigh as much as 60lbs. Total length can exceed 60 inches, and shoulder height varies between 11/2 to 2 feet. Males are generally 20% larger than females.

Distribution & Population Characteristics

Coyotes were historically a western species with core populations found west of the Mississippi River. Established populations now occur in every state and province in North America. 

Coyotes were first documented in Maryland during 1972. Initial sightings occurred in Cecil, Frederick and Washington counties. Coyotes now occur statewide. Highest densities are witnessed in western Maryland, and the lowest occur on the eastern shore. 

Natural History

Coyotes reach sexual maturity by 1 year of age, and normally remain fertile throughout their life. Breeding season extends from January through March, with peak activities occurring during February. Gestation period is approximately 60-63 days, and litters average from 5 to 6 pups. 

In Maryland, coyote occupy most of the state's habitat types. Highest densities currently occur in intermixed woodland/farmland areas. Coyotes also have extremely broad food habits. Items range from plant material and insects to deer and domestic animals. Although small mammals (mice, rabbits, etc) and birds are typically the most important food items during certain periods of the year. During certain periods, insects and plants may predominate, while at other times carrion or livestock may be preferred. 

Ecological Implications

Culturally and ecologically significant species including red fox decline dramatically in response to increasing coyote populations. The Eastern coyote and red fox share many common habitat requirements and occupy overlapping niches. Through time, the larger and more resilient coyote is able to out-compete and displace resident red fox populations. As a result, red fox are typically delegated to existence in small areas devoid of individual coyote home ranges. Diminishing red fox populations have currently been noted in portions of central and western Maryland. 

Social Implications

Public opinion concerning coyotes evolves in a very predictable fashion. Few, if any other wildlife species evoke as widespread and passionate disdain by the general public as coyotes. 

Coyotes typically become established in suburban areas and efficiently prey on local dogs and cats. In fact, a localized indicator of the presence of coyotes is a rapid decline in the free ranging cat population. Livestock and pet losses have been experienced in Maryland, with frequency of occurrence paralleling increasing coyote populations. 

Regulatory History

Prior to 1995 there was no mention of coyotes in Maryland statute or regulation and it was unclear what, if any, management options were permissible for this species. Realizing these inconsistencies, DNR supported legislation that provided for the legal classification of coyotes as a "Fur-Bearing Mammal", subject to several sunset clauses. This authorized the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to independently develop management strategies and harvest regulations for this species. Subsequent amendments prescribed certain management options to be instituted by DNR. 

Specifically these amendments allow for the incidental take of coyotes while a hunter is legally pursuing other game species, and a year round harvest season by predator calling. The amendments further authorized DNR to establish a trapping season for coyotes with harvest regulations determined by DNR. Trapping seasons are established annually by regulation and are concurrent with fox trapping seasons in individual counties. 

During the 2000 legislative session the General Assembly repealed the sunset clause provisions, thus affording the coyote permanent statutory classification as a "Fur-Bearing Mammal". 

Management / Research Activities

Annual hunting and trapping seasons for coyotes have been established. These harvest seasons allow DNR the flexibility necessary to pro-actively address some of the aforementioned ecological and social concerns. Additionally, they also supply the public with new and challenging recreational opportunities. Information about seasons, bag limits, and methods of take for coyote and other furbearers can be found on DNR's web page at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife

DNR conducted its first annual Bow Hunters Survey during the 2002-03 hunting season, and intends to repeat it in successive years for the foreseeable future. The survey was mailed to more than 10,000 successful bow hunters from the 2002-03 hunting season. The survey questionnaire was designed to capture observational data from bow Hunters about furbearers and numerous other wildlife species. Respondents recorded the length of individual hunts, and the species and number of animals observed during each hunt. The resulting data will document the number of animals viewed by species and per hour on a local and statewide basis. The repetitive design of this survey and its relatively large sampling base will provide another tool that enables DNR to accurately estimate population trends on a yearly basis. This type of information furnishes the foundation for development of responsive harvest regulations for coyotes and other furbearers. 

Coyote Problems

DNR has contracted with the USDA Wildlife Services to establish a public access nuisance animal hotline. Wildlife Service specialists are available to provide technical guidance or facilitate contacts with professional Nuisance Wildlife Cooperators. Individuals that are experiencing problems with coyotes or other wildlife species are encouraged to call (877) 463-6497. 

Additional Information

Several informative articles and references about coyotes can be found by searching the Internet.

Additionally, the following books contain excellent technical information: 

                       Wild Mammals of North America: Biology- Management-Economics. J.A. Chapman and G.A. Feldhamer editors. Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore Maryland. 

Wild Furbearer Management and Conservation in North America. M. Novak, J.A. Baker, M.E. Obbard, and B. Malloch editors. Published by the Ontario Trappers Association under the authority of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, North Bay Canada.

PAGE BY: FAY RYAN                                                        PAGE UPDATED:Monday, March 29, 2010 12:35 PM