Ask anyone in North America if they have ever seen or at least heard of a coyote, and they will likely say yes. These small canines can be found as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico and cover most of the forests, deserts, and grasslands in between. With such a broad scope of locations, it is hard to pin down just where one could find one of these coyotes. However, upon observing their behavior, a few patterns can be found.
Leave me Alone
Coyotes tend to prefer their privacy and avoid humans at all costs. Because of this, they tend to reside in the mountain ridges, thickets, or other areas with thick coverage. They use deer and human trails as well as forest edges to travel as these areas provide low noise when they walk as well as a generous range of vision for the coyote. They maintain this low profile most of the time and especially when pups are present. During this time (March-June) coyotes mostly stay near their den with their pups unless they are hunting nearby. This aloofness allows them to see both prey and predators before being seen by them and to protect their young. It also maintains their reputation of being mysterious tricksters with most humans.
On the Move
However, when hunting large prey or mating, coyotes’ visibilities increase. Coyotes often travel alone as to not draw attention to themselves. This includes much of their hunting for small game. Small prey such as rabbits, rodents, snakes, fish, and birds do not require any team effort to hunt and allow the coyote to hunt and eat solo and to maintain their cover. Nevertheless, occasionally a team of two to three coyotes will work together to hunt larger game like livestock or deer. While hunting these larger animals, coyotes can be observed running over long distances in open spaces. They also give themselves away after such hunts with their locator howls which are used to reunite the pack after they are separated during the hunt. This howling alerts others of the coyote’s presence and the presence of others nearby. Most animals and humans will mistake one coyote for a couple or few coyotes because of the variance of sounds it will make, but this noisemaking still gives others an idea of where one or more coyotes may be.
Loves Makes Us all do Crazy Things
Likewise, mating season can lead a coyote to reveal his or her location to many species in its area quite openly. By calling potential mates and courting, they increase their visibility and vulnerability to hunters. Yips, growls, and barks travel more quickly than the coyotes themselves, but once one is following the sounds of coyotes in pursuit of one another, tracking sign should come quite easily.
But, what if you aren’t in just the right open space to witness this hunt or courting? What if you can’t hear the yips or howls? How will you find the coyotes in your area? Traditional tracking by observing tracks and scat are a good place to start. Look for these signs in and around the areas coyote’s prey live as well as the ones mentioned before. Start in thickets, near potential dens, and along clear paths. Or, try transition areas. These are areas where mountainous land begins to smooth out or flat land begins to roll into hills. These transitions make nice hiding pockets for coyotes. As a result, many coyotes will use them to travel between paths.
This tracking method establishes a presence of the coyotes in the area. Follow up with the placement of game cameras to monitor movement and the frequency at which locations are visited by the coyotes. From this data, one can determine the general patterns of the coyote packs in their area.
Nevertheless, coyotes are clever, aloof animals who travel frequently and at long distances. Males may even travel up one hundred miles to find food if their home area is overpopulated. While less extreme, most coyotes travel quite far for other reasons fairly often. They are territorial and frequently trace the perimeter of their perceived territory to remark it and protect their pack. They may even venture beyond those lines in an attempt to extend them.
Mating season brings about an entirely new travel pattern for the sneaky canines. Motivated by breeding, single coyotes travel long distances looking for potential mates to court with. While the usual travel practices such as using deer paths or the edges of forests apply, patterns can be easily broken when priorities are changed during the breeding months.
So, where can one find a coyote? Try a thicket. Try a ridge. Try a den. It truly is hard to say where exactly a coyote will be at any given moment. The best course of action is to put your scouting skills to the test first. Observe as much as possible. Then, use technology to monitor activity and look for patterns. Collect as much information as you can. Then, be flexible. Realize that coyotes are sneaky and like their privacy. Always refer back to your basic tracking skills when you get stuck and as best you can, think like a coyote.