Four-Month-Old Pups May Look Like Full-Grown Adults And Vice-Versa

2013-08-10 (6)

I seldom see coyote pups because the coyote parents I follow are pretty good about sequestering them and keeping their hideouts totally secret.  Although I know generally where pups are hidden due to the trekking patterns of the parents, I stay away from these areas out of respect for them. So when I did see one the other day, out in the open, it was a real treat for me!

At first, when I came upon this pup in the distance, I had to look hard. My initial impression was that it might be an adult newcomer to the area — it was a new face to me and its behavior was also new: coyotes are as unique as humans in how they look and behave, and this is how I tell them apart. But interlopers don’t just wander into an established territory and act “at home”, especially during the pupping season. It was only slowly, as I focused carefully on the face, that I became aware of the similarity between this one and a pup I had seen over a month ago  — so a full month younger — within a half a mile of this location. Might this be that pup?

A four-month-old coyote pup could easily be mistaken for a full-grown adult at first glance, especially when seen at a distance — see the above photo. It turns out that this was the case. Young pups have fairly full coats and bushy tails — not having been through a seasonal shed yet — so at a distance they can look larger and even adult-like! However, up close, and, of course when next to an adult, you can see that they still are youngsters, smaller than the parents, and they definitely still act like “children”, clumsy and inept, who lack the knowledge or skills to survive effectively without the help of their parents.

And, just as often as a pup might be mistaken by most folks as an adult, I have discovered that the opposite is also true. Many people have asked me if one or another of the adults I’ve been observing is a pup. It’s true that adult coyotes at this time of year, appear smaller and with slightly different body contours due to fur changes, making them look puppyish in many ways. At this time of year, all adults have shed their long winter coats, so they, in fact, do look much smaller and lankier, and lighter in color, which makes them look quite a bit more like one might think a puppy would look.

Please keep your dogs away from coyotes, both to protect your dogs and to protect the coyotes. Adult coyotes are more protective of their territories when there are pups around. Because of this, it’s good idea to review a little about coyote behavior, especially towards pets.  Visit the one-stop informational video which I’ve posted before:

This four-year old looks like he did before he turned one -- he has fooled me a couple of times into thinking he was pups

This four-year old looks like he did before he turned one — and is mistaken for being a pup frequently

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cynthia Nanette Musgrove
    Oct 22, 2018 @ 16:26:40

    I’ll try to make this short. I walk in a certain area and know of two coyote pups (about 4 – 5 months old) that are on their own (I know mom was sick and died when pups were only a couple of months old). I’ve been taking some dog food and hot dogs for them, but want to know if they can survive on their own. Would they know how to hunt on their own? I do not get close to them, I just leave the food.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Oct 22, 2018 @ 20:08:38

      Hi Cynthia — Thank you for watching out for the coyotes, and thanks for reaching-out to me. Probably the sooner you stop feeding them, the better for them. I’ve contacted a wildlife-rehabilitator, Linda Potter, who regularly took-in coyote pups to her rehabilitation center, raised them (always keeping her distance, never interacting and limiting being seen), and released them when they were ready.

      This is what she sent me:

      Coyote pups are born in the spring. Through the summer, the parents are feeding them and teaching them to get food.   Some of them disperse in the fall to find their own territory, while others stay with the family to help raise the next litter the following spring.  

      Because they live in family units, while the mom is important, the rest of the family (dad and the older siblings) also care for the pups.   Because it doesn’t sound like the whole family was wiped out, they will be ok without any feeding.  Generally the parents stop feeding the pups by the end of the summer.  So, even if they were totally orphaned, they are probably old enough now to be on their own.      

      At the center we followed this general timeframe (born in the spring, fed and learned to hunt in the summer, disperse in the fall), but also had the advantage of being able to test them to be sure that they knew how to hunt.  It is amazing how quickly they learn when they are hungry.  

      I’d say stop feeding them right away as you don’t want them to be dependent on this food source. You want them to be motivated to perfect their hunting skills before the winter sets in and there are fewer prey available.  


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: