Have you ever had your sleep schedule changed? Have you travelled to a new time zone and had jetlag? Have you ever changed from day shift to night shift? To us humans, these changes in our activity from night to day seem cumbersome, tiring, and annoying. But, for coyotes these changes are a normal part of life.
Coyotes regularly adapt to many circumstances and change their routines, paths, and habits in order to sustain themselves. Their sleep cycles are no exception. As canines, coyotes typically would follow a sleeping pattern similar to that of your pet dog. However, as predators or threats such as humans become more abundant in their environment, they will adjust these patterns to best suit their relationship with another species. Or, as the moon phases or seasons change, weather fronts move in, or prey changes its patterns, the coyote will adjust accordingly as only this adaptable canine can.
Early Birds and Night Owls
It has long been assumed that coyotes are nocturnal due to the frequency at which their howls are heard at night. It is true that they often hunt at night, but these critters are truly diurnal meaning they are active at all times. Their activity schedule is based on their personal safety and prey availability. Coyotes may hunt for a few hours and nap for a few. They may sleep for most of one day and hunt that night. Then, they might only nap the next day and sleep the following night. This flexibility allows coyotes to make the best use of their time, evade their predators, and effectively hunt their prey.
In urban areas, coyotes are likely to take on a crepuscular routine and be most active at dawn and dusk. This allows them to avoid human contact while also utilizing some sunlight. Did you ever have a neighbor that you didn’t want in your business? Coyotes are sort of like that. They do not want to be seen by humans if they can avoid it. So, they are willing to go to quite some lengths including changing their sleep schedules to avoid their neighbors (us) and keep them from knowing their business. Coyotes in these areas are also major nocturnal hunters who vocalize their location to their packs with loud howls. These howls lead many of their human neighbors to believe that they are exclusively nocturnal. Little do they know, these furry critters are often only resting if not wandering, playing, or marking territory just beyond their city limits even in broad daylight.
Wide Open Spaces and Sleeping Schedules
If coyotes are living in non-urbanized areas, or if they have small pups, they will most likely hunt during the day. This pattern is more of similar to the coyote’s canine cousins, but as previously discussed, this can change at any time.
Howling at the Moon
Like many of the coyote’s prey, things such as the phases of the moon can even affect their sleep patterns and hunting schedules. Animals like deer will move more at night when the moon is fuller due to more visibility for them plus the added cover of nightfall. While deer use this to protect themselves, and it works as a wonderful defense against hunters, coyotes can see well at night with or without a full moon. As a result, coyotes may adjust their hunting schedule to take a deer who may have its guard down with the false sense of security of moonlight. So, maybe coyotes do howl at the moon sometimes. Maybe they are upset that they are awake, or maybe they are happy that the moon helped them get a good meal. Who knows?
Rain or Shine
No one likes to hunt in the rain, not even coyotes. All animals are keenly aware of changes in barometric pressure and of weather fronts that may be bringing in less than sunny weather into their area. Coyotes are no exception. They do not need the six-o’clock news forecaster to tell them that a storm will roll in tomorrow. They just know. So, they may hunt all day and night in the hours preceding a storm so that they can bed down during the storm. This strategy keeps them and their pups full, safe, and happy during inclement weather.
So are they nocturnal?
The question, “are coyotes nocturnal,” is one to which there is no clear answer. The only definitive answer is sometimes. Sometimes, it makes the most sense for coyotes to handle their business at night, and other times it does not. Sometimes, they choose to hunt and be active at night due to who they share their environment with like humans. Other times, their itineraries are dictated by moon phases, seasons, the presence of young pups, or weather. No matter the reason, it is important to note the adaptability of the coyote and how easily it can transition between patterns. These changes are essential to survival and the thriving population, and thankfully come easily to the coyote. Blessed are the flexible for they don’t get bent out of shape, and the coyote is surely flexible. We as humans could learn a thing or two from them.