Coyote Den In A Backyard

Den

Hello Janet,

I found your wonderful blog and fabulous photos as i was researching coyotes on the google machine. I really like your respectful approach to wildlife. Thank you for sharing your photos and observations.

I started learning about coyotes this spring, when i found a coyote den on my property. I live in Portland Oregon, on the outskirts of the city. I found a large hole in my yard about a month ago, and as i was sitting near the hole trying to decipher the tracks in the mud around it to figure who might live in there, i heard some high whimpering coming from the hole (pups!). After an entire day of watching the hole from a window i finally saw that a coyote mother crawled in there after cautious observation to make sure nobody was watching.

I have not told anyone about this den for fear that someone in my neighborhood would call animal control and ‘remove’ the animals. People have so much fear and disdain towards coyotes.

I have mixed feelings about this den. On the one hand, i am honored that they would find my yard safe to inhabit. On the other hand, i have cats who go outdoors during the day (but i keep them indoors at night). If it weren’t for the cats, i would have absolutely no problem with this den here.

I am not sure how to proceed. These cats harass me all day long to go outside. I find it unfair to trap cats indoors who are habituated to going outside (what good is prison life?). What is the likelihood of coyotes hunting cats during daytime? There are conflicting opinions on the internet.

I get the sense the coyote mom may have moved her pups this week- I haven’t seen her at all in the yard. She knew i knew where the den was. I spend a lot of time in my garden and that probably made her nervous. Do you know if coyotes return to their dens after a period?

I want to coexist peacefully with this family of coyotes. I found your blog to be a great resource for understanding coyote behavior. I have so much more to learn. I want to understand them so that i can avoid conflicts and allow these beautiful creatures to live peacefully. If you have any advice or resources you could point me to, I would be so grateful.

Thanks again for everything you have shared in your blog.

Susan

Den (with coffee mug for size reference)

Hi Susan —

I’m so glad that you like the blog and that you like my approach to wildlife! Thank you!

Cats could be a problem for coyotes (and vice versa) for a number of reasons. Yes, ultimately, some coyotes do see cats as prey. But also, cats and coyotes are competitors for the same resources (rodents), which, if resources are low, could cause conflict between the cats and the coyotes.

A half-way solution which would allow the den to remain undisturbed and your cats to have *some* freedom would be a catio. Of course, a catio isn’t really the out-of-doors, so it may not be a solution that would work for you.

Coyotes do move their pups between several dens during the pupping season. Creating a slight disturbance everyday — as apparently you have — will cause the coyotes to move to another location. If your coyote mom moved the pups for this reason, she may not return. If she moved them simply because it was time to rotate them to another den site, then she could come back. If you don’t want them back, continue to create a disturbance around the den — or put some soiled human socks close by and walk around the den opening a few times for several days in a row to leave your scent. If you want them back, you might stop the gardening for a while (no guarantee they’ll return).

As you say, people have a lot of fear and disdain towards coyotes, so we need to keep in mind that the coyote could move her pups to a place where they are absolutely not welcome. This is the biggest problem to be aware of.

In addition to my coyoteyipps blog, there is a website I contribute to a website called Coyotecoexistence.com. These two sites will answer a lot of your questions. THEN, if you are lucky enough to have the family return, spend time watching them! This is how you are really going to learn about them.

I would be really happy to post any of your observations and photos. Your story is very interesting! Let me know, and also please let me know if you have further questions! 

Janet

Den secondary hole

Janet,

Thanks so much for your quick reply and helpful suggestions!  The Coyotecoexistence website had some really helpful videos (i had found that before, and didn’t realize it was related).  The ethics of hosting domesticated pets is challenging, and continues to be a source of daily conversation and questioning in our household, with no clear answers on many of the nuances (i.e. pet food, cats hunting critters, prisoners of the house, and on and on…)  An unintended positive effect of the coyote den has been that it put one cat on high alert and very cautious behavior outside, so she did not have a chance to hunt anything.  The yard became the hunting grounds of the coyote mom from the cat’s perspective.  One of the clues that the mom is gone is that the cat acts more brazen now in the ‘enemy territory’ part of the yard.  The other cat is ‘sweet and dumb’, and i doubt she knew anything about the coyote’s threat. I watched her stick her head in the den out of curiosity at a time when i knew there were pups in there.  Not the brightest crayon in the box. I like the catio idea, and will see if it’s feasible in some part of the yard (although it doesn’t solve my prisoner issue).

I attached some photos.  The den is dug under an old abandoned ‘root cellar’ type concrete outbuilding that is built into the hillside.  You’ll see it’s visible from my bedroom window, so it’s really close to the house.  They must have decided we pose no threat to their offspring.  The den has two holes that i know of – a main entrance (which i deemed too small for a coyote before I actually saw one squeeze herself in there) and a smaller hole that is definitely too small for an adult coyote.  I included the mug in the pictures for size reference.

Thanks,

Susan

View of den from bedroom window

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindie
    May 13, 2017 @ 00:22:43

    Oh my gosh, SUSAN!!! Can I just say that I am deeply touched by every word and sentiment of your letter. It almost cried for your compassion (thank you so much for honoring the coyotes and your cat’s wildness) AND I almost cried for your validation of my feelings. I have only known people on either side of the fence. I LOVE coyotes and have been studying them for 17 years now as best I can (love Coyote Yipps!…so grateful). AND I LOVE cats. Well I love all animals, but I do have two cats (I had 4 and lost two last year, which I won’t go into how right now) AND I have coyotes on my property. I too struggle with the idea of cat prison. I want the cats to be wild, just as I want the coyotes to be wild – and I love them both. Oh it’s so rewarding and also not for the feint of heart to love these animals so – and work on the issue of BALANCE. Anyway, thank you for sharing and thank you for being you.

    Reply

    • S.F.
      May 14, 2017 @ 21:46:45

      Cindie – It’s so nice to find a kindred spirit! I love all animals too, with a special soft spot for the misunderstood creatures that *most* people seem to dislike, like snakes, coyotes, etc. I’m so glad you could relate to my dilemma and the underlying sentiments. I love to observe the natural world, and you are so right that it’s both rewarding and not for the feint of heart…

  2. S.T.
    Jun 07, 2017 @ 02:45:59

    I am glad I came across this site. I live on a farm in British Columbia (Canada) and have a 2 year old German Shepherd. He is the absolute sweetest but isn’t really attentive to threats. He loves to roam freely on our 45 acres of land and it has never been an issue until a few weeks ago, when he was attacked by coyotes. If we hadn’t went outside to see what he was barking about, he would have bled to death as the coyote bit into an artery and my poor pup was gushing blood. Thankfully, we got the bleeding to stop by applying pressure on his wound and there was no major muscle damage. He just got his stitches removed this week but I am so terrified for his safety because he hates sleeping inside but we hear the coyotes attempting to lure him out? and they have been coming right up to our front yard now. We just discovered their den at the corner of our property and are not sure of what our next steps should be as we do not want to use lethal methods but we also do not want to lose our sweet angel either. Our neighbours own a beef farm and have their pile of deadstock not too far from our property, so I am assuming that is why the coyotes find this area so appealing. I am just so terrified for what could possibly happen to both my dog and the pack of coyotes.

    Reply

    • yipps
      Jun 07, 2017 @ 21:18:14

      Hi S.T. —

      Thanks for writing. During pupping season, which is now, coyotes become very protective of their den areas, and the areas adjacent to them. You have two options I think. One is to keep your dog totally away from that area. If your dog needs to sleep out-of-doors, might it be possible to build a small, fenced-in dog run for him? The other option is for you (do not take your dog) to walk around the den area, lingering there a few minutes, and leaving a smelly piece of clothing close to the entrance — say an unwashed, used sock (per a behavior ecologist). Do this three days or so in a row and then check the area after a few more days. By making it obvious to the coyote parents that you have discovered, and are keeping an eye on, the site, they may simply move house. The problem with this is that the coyotes most likely will be moving into a less hospitable setting than where they are now. Please let me know if this helps! Janet

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