Our Valentine’s Day pretty much marks the end of romancing and mating season for coyotes, which may last from January through most of February here in San Francisco. Coyotes — unusually, both the guys and the gals — become fertile only once a year. Females come into estrus during this one season only, and males produce sperm only at this same time of year. So, much of coyote time is spent raising their youngsters rather than simply producing more pups. Both parents raise the young, and family life is at the heart of their lives.
The pair above produced one pup last year. By all standards, that’s a small litter, which may be due to any number of reasons or combination of reasons: It was this mom’s first litter. She is very young. There has been a drought (a four-year drought) — limited resources impact reproduction. And territories in San Francisco may be at their saturation point, which also impacts reproduction. Remember that San Francisco is practically an island, with water on three sides. Coyotes can’t really expand out very far, so the population is limited from actually growing too much.
Wolves, according to Carl Safina (whose recent book, Beyond Words, I highly recommend), will kill each other to get rid of rivals and the competition in a claimed territory, even family members. I’ve seen some really “beat up” coyotes which clearly could have been the result of territorial and mate competition. I wonder if coyotes engage in the same type of elimination process as wolves do. I have not been able to find any literature about it. I heard one speaker suggest that coyotes (as wolves) will kill another’s pups for competitive reasons. I’ve not been able to verify if this statement is true.