Coyotes Use Dens Only For Pupping

It may come as a surprise that coyotes do not use dens year round. They use the dens to give birth to their pups and as a place to nurse their young — whelping. The pups move out soon after these beginnings, however, they retain use of the well hidden areas around the dens — these become their secret resting places. Most coyote families retain several of these areas for their use. The pups are moved regularly to escape flea buildup and as a safety measure. I think of  a coyote den as being similar in usage to a bird’s nest: it is a temporary “nursery”. However, the nest, if it is still somewhat intact, may be fixed up the next year to be used again. This is how the coyote dens I’ve seen work. People are constantly asking me where the dens are, and I have to respond that, unless they are having pups, there are no dens: coyotes sleep out in the open and can sometimes be seen doing so. See my posting of July 15, 2010: Sleeping and Resting Right In The Open.

The den is dug by both parents-to-be on sandy hillsides and steep creek banks, under logs or rocks, within underbrush and in open areas where the digging is easy. These are always areas chosen for protective concealment, but also, they are places that can be watched by a coyote parent from some distance, again for protective purposes. Not all coyote dens are made by coyotes themselves: coyotes sometimes dig out and enlarge holes dug by smaller burrowing animals, such as badger or fox dens. In suburban and urban areas coyotes may dig dens in golf courses or in other vacant lots, under sheds and under culverts and storm drains.

Dens are usually three to six feet below the surface and can run from only a few feet to 50 feet into a hillside.  The dug out tunnel leads to a large chamber, which often has a second or even more entrances that are better hidden than the digging entrance.  Active dens are hard to find because of the various entrances — and because coyotes are very careful not to lead anyone there. Coyotes have not one, but several dens which they move between, not only to protect the pups from predators, but also to protect the pups from the fleas and other parasites which build up.

A coyote will fiercely defend its den if it believes the pups are in danger, even charging full-grown grizzlies who came too close. This is why dog owners are warned to keep their dogs far away from coyotes during pupping season. Pups are born from March thru mid-May, and then are nursed for 4-6 weeks. But the end of nursing is not the end of “pupping”. I’ve seen mothers fiercely defend pups who are approaching two years of age when dogs go after them. It is best to respect coyotes and allow them the space they need to feel safe.

Here is a wonderful link to a video of pups emerging from their den for the first time, produced by BBC Worldwide. It is called Coyote Cub Singing, and shows a very young coyote pup producing his first high-pitched howl!! Also, see more, slighlty older coyote pups emerging from their den.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Angela Smith
    Dec 03, 2014 @ 05:20:45

    I was just wondering if I should take my leftover food up to the local park up the street, where I have seen coyotes going. I just want to make sure they have enough to eat during the winter, and I worry that they go hungry in the cold.
    Side note – I love these snow flakes falling down the screen – they change direction as I move the mouse. neat.

    Reply

    • yipps
      Dec 03, 2014 @ 13:51:12

      Hi Angela —

      Glad you like the snowflakes!

      I know your intention is to help the coyotes in your local park. However, “a fed coyote is a dead coyote.” Please do not feed them! Feeding leads to food-conditioning which could eventually result in their approaching people aggressively for food. If you love your coyotes, you will be helping them survive and coexist with humans by not feeding them. Janet

  2. Mikey Coronel
    Apr 15, 2016 @ 20:40:22

    I have coyotes all around my property at night and I have tried to look for them during the day but I never find any dens or any of them. How far away are they usually ?

    Reply

    • yipps
      Apr 15, 2016 @ 20:47:22

      Hi Mikey — Are you seeing them or hearing them? How big is your property? Do you live in an urban or rural setting? Please describe how you know that they are all around your property at night. Janet

  3. Bug
    May 07, 2016 @ 14:54:22

    Hi there, We’ve been clearing out some hazardous dead trees in our wood lot and noticed a coyote nearby in the late afternoon. It took off promptly when we spotted it. I believe we found a possible den somewhat nearby, (an area not being cleared) I need to continue to work in the area now, with chainsaw and other equipment, but don’t want to be in danger. Do you think this coyote was curious or likely to attack? Thanks for your input

    Reply

    • yipps
      May 07, 2016 @ 16:26:26

      Hi Christine — The coyote may have been curious; but the coyote may also be very worried that you are encroaching on its den site. Coyotes normally avoid approaching humans, but if you are getting too close to her den site, she may be trying to message you to stay away. You know, this is nesting season for birds and coyotes. It is not a good time to cut down trees. Why don’t you wait until September or so? Janet

  4. pateicua shannon
    Jul 13, 2016 @ 01:55:03

    I walked with my friend in woods over a dam to get there so people rarely go there because you have to cross a dam to get there. I believe it was in Milford. I came upon a den that looked just like the one in the picture. I stuck a stick in it out of curiosity. It appeared to be abandoned. Im pretty sure it was a coyote den but could it have been a bear den?

    Reply

    • yipps
      Jul 13, 2016 @ 05:19:52

      Hi Shannon — You could Google “bear dens” and “coyote dens” to help you see the difference and maybe help you decide which it was. Janet

  5. Ross Brown
    Jul 09, 2017 @ 19:53:04

    I have watermelon they come at night and eat them take them out of the patch is there a way too stop them

    Reply

    • yipps
      Jul 10, 2017 @ 00:57:23

      Hi Ross — Indeed I have been told about coyotes eating watermelons and even seen photos of them doing so. They are “opportunistic” which means they will eat all sorts of things, including many types of fruit and melons.

      What can you do? The expensive solution is a fence, or even a guard-dog or donkey, which is what some farmers/ranchers use. I don’t know how big your watermelon patch is. There is a behaviorist who has suggested putting large objects in backyards and moving those around every couple of days: coyotes are wary of change — so this might work for a little while. A bunch of balloons set out throughout the patch, which move in the wind, might dissuade them for a little while. BUT, many coyotes have eventually become habituated to techniques humans have used for keeping them away. Two devices which you could try, and might work for at least a little while, are intense flashing lights or a spray of water — both of which can be triggered by a motion detector. Or, more time consuming, you could keep an eye on the field for several nights (are they there at night?) in a row and go after the coyotes the minute they appear, banging pots and pans, making a horrendous racket. Please let me know if any of these suggestions might be useful to you. These are the techniques I know about, but I haven’t used any of them myself. I will research more for you if you want. Janet

  6. Louis Stamler
    Oct 15, 2017 @ 23:43:09

    When is the best time to look for a den and destroy it to prevent coyotes from breeding on my property. I’ve already had one male dog killed by a coyote in my enclosed yard because of territorial issues. I don’t want to kill the adults or pups. I just don’t want them inhabiting a den on my property.

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Oct 16, 2017 @ 02:49:38

      Hi Louis — Thank you for not wanting to destroy the coyotes. Discouraging the building of a den is a good plan. The family, by the way, is not using their dens now. However, probably the best time to insure that no dens are dug is in February and March, when they are preparing for their litters. By creating a disturbance, you will be encouraging them to go elsewhere. Walk around the place regularly, especially where you think they might be setting up a den, create a disturbance by looking around and pushing through bushes, and leave your scent by leaving your dirty smelly socks around. This will discourage a family from setting up house there. Janet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s