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.

8 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.


    • 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 ?


    • 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


    • 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?


    • 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


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