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.

28 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

    • Louis Stamler
      Jan 28, 2018 @ 06:03:46

      No. Do not feed the coyotes or any wildlife that is better off having a respectful fear of humans

  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

  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


    • 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.


    • 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. It might help to leave your scent by leaving your dirty smelly socks around — someone told me could help, though I have not seen this myself and I have actually seen coyotes play with dirty socks, but it might be worth a try. This will discourage a family from setting up house there. Janet

  7. Dorothy
    Apr 30, 2018 @ 18:43:40

    I watched a small dog like animal go under my shed do you think it is a coyote that has made a den under my shed? If so how long before it leaves permanently? I have strawberry beds about 30 feet away I need to plant some more should I go near the strawberry beds to plant or stay away?


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Apr 30, 2018 @ 19:49:37

      Hi Dorothy —

      It’s possible that it could be a coyote or a fox. However, if you have been active in your strawberry beds recently, that would be a deterrent. If you don’t want the coyotes there, just continue your activities as you normally would, and the coyote will move. I’m not sure if this will impact foxes. If you DO want to allow the coyote to stay, say because it is a safe spot for denning, then you might have to wait months before continuing your gardening. Then again, a mother coyote could move her den — this is done often — so you would simply need to keep an eye open (maybe set up an automatic field camera) for if she continues use of that area. Please let me know if this helps! Janet

  8. Coyotejoe
    Sep 17, 2018 @ 01:26:38

    We have a neighbor in our city whose overgrown yard has attracted coyotes and allowed them to create a den and give birth to pups in their yard. The natural area for these coyotes is approx 2 miles away. They are now living in our city and are losing all fear of humans, eating pets (dogs and cats) and being seen running around in broad daylight resisting hazing. They are following residents walking their dogs on leashes and attacking them. Are these coyotes (unknown quantity, maybe 5 or 6) able to be relocated back into the wild? Will they have to be euthanized due to their threat to the families here?


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Sep 17, 2018 @ 04:07:30

      Hello there —

      Thanks for contacting me. I’m sorry you are having a hard time with your new coyote neighbors.

      Coyotes may not be relocated by law in California. And euthanizing them is counterproductive because another family will simply come and take their place. Learning to coexist is the option that works best, and it is pretty easy — people are doing it throughout North America, including in some of our larger urban areas such as New York, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco. Your best option always is to walk away from a coyote whenever you see one, especially if you have a dog, and not to allow pets to roam free: this is how to protect your pets. “Hazing” can be ineffective because coyotes get used to it. If a coyote follows you and your dog, you should keep walking away from it. If you want to do more to dissuade the coyote from following, you could face the coyote, pick up a small stone and heave it angrily towards the coyote (not AT it which could injure it) as you walk away. Very small dogs should be picked up as you walk away.

      Coyotes have been moving into cities throughout the United States for the last 20 years. They are not nocturnal animals, they are diurnal, just as we are, and therefore may be seen at any time of day, even though most are active during the darker hours. In urban areas, coyotes indeed get used to seeing people and don’t flee as quickly from us. This is normal behavior in urban areas. Nevertheless, they retain their wariness of us and don’t approach humans unless they’ve been trained to do so through feeding. Getting used to people (habituation) does not lead to aggression.

      I would be interested in you describing what goes on during an “attack”: i.e., the sequence of events and reactions that occur leading up to and following such an event. This will help me figure out what is actually going on.

      In the meantime, for an introduction to coexistence, watch: Coyotes As Neighbors: What To Know and Do. For How To Handle Coyote Encounters: A Primer, press for the flyer by that name. To learn a little about coyote family life, read this short article which appeared in WildCare Magazine: Inside A Coyote Family


  9. Henry Scutoski
    Jan 16, 2019 @ 15:32:55

    How many weeks before giving birth will coyotes dig their dens?


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Jan 16, 2019 @ 18:41:04

      Hi Henry — I don’t know when the exact date is for this activity, but it would be sometime DURING the 62 day gestation period. Not all dens are dug. Sometimes coyotes give birth in simple but remote and hidden covered areas. A den could be a simple leaf/fronds covered area, or a cavern created by the roots of a tree which has fallen over. Also they take over dens of other animals such as foxes or badgers, expanding them a little. If I find out exactly WHEN the search for and fabrication of a den begins, I’ll add it to the comments here.

  10. Kim
    Aug 03, 2019 @ 01:15:13

    It’s August and a pup was in the rd (tiny) a mom coyote came and rescued it. Why is she birthing so late? Is this normal? Should I call the wildlife services? Make sure they are ok? We are in Massachusetts.


  11. Kim
    Aug 03, 2019 @ 01:20:16

    I live in Massachusetts, today when driving we saw a very young pup on the side of the rd. At first thought it was a dog and was going to turn around when we saw the coyote adult come and rescue it and carry it off. It’s August so late from usual birthing time. Should I call wildlife officers or they will be ok? The pup clearly wondered but mom or dad was on it.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Aug 03, 2019 @ 02:54:46

      Hi Kim — Thanks for writing. If the coyote pup is out and about, it is probably several months old. The ones I know here in the West are only about three-and-a half-months old, born in April. If that pup was born in May, which is possible, it would be quite small. No need to call wildlife officers: it’s always best to leave raising the young to the parents. Even if parents are incompetent, they are better than anything else. :))

  12. Susan
    Apr 19, 2021 @ 16:15:05

    Hello Janet,
    I would like your advice regarding the best way to clean and disinfect a coyote den which was made under my screened-in porch. Its been an interesting experience to watch a parent come and go and hear the pups. When I realized what was going on, I knew it was just best to let them complete the nursing and leave. Over the weekend, in the dark of night, they left.
    The den was made deep within the interior and in the back underside of my porch. It is unreachable. The only way to access it would be to actually remove the deck boards, which would be quite an undertaking. However, I suppose I could spray chemicals – insect killers, Lysol, etc, between the boards. I have also found it very successful to use ground domicilic lime on my lawn to kill fleas. I could pour some of that between the boards.
    By the way, my home is in an urban subdivision, gated community, a lake in the middle and woods behind my home. Which goes to show they are very much a part of urban life. I would like to close up the gap around my porch to prevent their return. Any chance of a dead pup or decaying animals down there?
    Thanks for any advice you many give me.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Apr 19, 2021 @ 16:59:23

      Hi Susan —

      Thank you for contacting me, and thank you for being thoughtful about allowing the coyote parents to raise their pups under your porch. I myself would have loved to observe them coming and going — lucky you!!. Obviously, this is my point of view. Could you please tell me what part of the country you are in? I ask, because the time-frame may be different from what it is here in the Bay Area of California.

      You should be aware that coyotes have several dens and they move between them. . . . so their “move out” from under your porch may be simply a rotation between this and another den, and they could be planning to return, and they could have left some pups there. I would give it a much longer time frame before you do anything that might disrupt their natural rearing process. Suckling continues in this area (San Francisco) through May. At that time, when you haven’t heard or seen any coyotes at all for weeks is when to think of excluding them. Everything “coyote” is natural and will be reabsorbed by nature: use of any chemicals — all of them are poisonous — will leech into the environment and cause harm to all sorts of creatures.

      When you are absolutely sure the coyotes have departed for good, the best thing would be to simply board up any openings. It might also be a good idea to make sure the closures extend 6″ to 8″ underground to prevent coyotes from digging under the boards.

      Please let me know if this helps. Would love to discuss further if you have any questions! Janet

  13. Susan
    Apr 20, 2021 @ 13:17:42

    Janet, thank you so much for your thoughtful and thorough reply. I live in the upper east Tennessee area. We have lots of coyotes in the area – seems like the population has really increased in recent years, no longer confined to the rural areas.
    I will give it some time before I close up the gap around my porch. Interestingly, I was out of town for about a week during early March, and the house was dark and quiet. I am sure they thought it was a perfect time to move in and set up housekeeping. Another interesting thing that I observed one day was a ball just outside the entrance to their den. It was obviously a child’s ball, spongy about the size of a softball. I was baffled where that came from! But then I read on your site that coyotes will pick up toys to play with, just like dogs.
    I tried to look under my porch yesterday but my flashlight would not go back 12 feet. However, I did see some small bones that appeared to be from a very small critter with lots of tiny teeth. The skeleton was very incomplete – just part of a jaw and maybe a leg/hip bone. It made me wonder what else might be way back under my porch! I have a ton of rabbits and squirrels close by, and I actually witnessed a coyote in lightening speed chasing a rabbit in my back yard. I think the rabbit escaped, but probably not for long. But rabbits and squirrels don’t have teeth like what I saw on these bones, so I have to wonder what kind of critter they caught.

    Its hard not to admire and respect the family dynamic and commitment of the parents, even though they are a serious threat to my local farmer friends.
    Thanks again for your help and advice.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Apr 20, 2021 @ 15:42:46

      Hi Susan — If you pursue your interest in coyotes, you’ll find out how fascinating they really are! Yes, they play with all sorts of things they find, and sometimes those things are dog or human toys! Yes, it is very likely that the coyotes moved under your porch while you were away: the house was quiet. March is usually when they have their pups. If there were lots of teeth on the skeleton you found, you might look up opossum. Squirrels also do have teeth: they have to break through pretty tough nut shells. Rabbits, in fact, depending on the subspecies, are very hard for coyotes to catch. They do indeed catch them, but sometimes I’ve seen them hang around and ignore each other: and this is because the effort often is not worth it for the coyote! Finally, although coyotes do take small farm animals, they are often blamed for much more damage than they actually do. For instance, they don’t take down healthy cows. Anyway, keep me posted on your coyote adventures — I love hearing about them!! Janet

  14. Susan
    Apr 20, 2021 @ 16:52:06

    Janet, you are right!! Its a possum skull. I matched it to a picture. I knew it couldn’t be a squirrel because of the long jaw. I have raised abandoned squirrel babies, and had one mistakenly take my finger for a peanut. Its like a sewing machine needle going through your finger.
    I’ll keep you posted on future coyote happenings.
    Thanks again,


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