- Breeding Season
Late December- Early March
- Monogamous Pairs
- Age of Adulthood
Changing Seasons: Changing Focus
The swift, clever coyotes usually spend their time travelling solo or occasionally in small packs. They hunt, swim, run, and scout out their surroundings most of the year, but once the cold weather hits, their focus shifts. In late December, the coyotes begin to set their sights on their mates and the next generation of coyotes.
From this point on into early March, coyotes are family-focused. They seek out and rekindle relationships with a mate, claim territory, create homes for future pups, and pour most of their energy into growing their pack. If they do not already have one, male and female coyotes alike start seeking out their forever mate. Courtship, calling, and timing are everything. Added into their daily routine of hunting, scouting, sleeping, and playing, breeding brings several new tasks to the coyote’s to do list, and keeps them busy.
Strike While the Iron is Hot
The American Hunter Organization notes that female coyotes are monoestrous meaning for a ten-day period, once a year, they are in estrus or available for mating. If she is not ready when a male approaches her, she will yip or make other warning sounds and bare her teeth to deter him. These sounds not only delay this coyote’s fun; they also alert others in the area that she is there and will soon be available and that another male is attempting to breed in the area. This alert may lead to scuffling within or between packs as coyotes are especially territorial during mating season. Females and land are hot commodities, and males are willing to fight to get and keep all they can.
Nevertheless, once a female is available, she will accept a mate. Then, it is likely that she will maintain that relationship for life since coyotes are monogamous. Rarely do females change packs or breed with another male. However, since the window of opportunity for breeding is short and rare, the American Hunter Organization sites observations of alpha males occasionally leaving their mates to breed with other, unattached females in the area who may or may not be in his pack. If she was not already, she will join this alpha male’s pack. He may return to his other mate, breed with her as well, and move into den making.
Once breeding has occurred, coyotes’ territorial behavior heightens as they select a location for and develop a den. These structures come together quickly as the pups are expected to be born nine weeks following. Coyote Smarts suggests that a coyote pair will select a rock crevice, thicket, cave, or previous home of another animal to be the home for its family. American Hunter notes the tireless work of the female during her nine weeks of gestation to make this space as comfortable as possible while working with her mate to ward off any predators that may try to invade their new home. They likely will abandon this den when their pups are old enough, but they may return to it the following year for the next litter.
It may seem strange to think about coyotes as having such nurturing qualities, but if you have ever watched your pet dog spin around making his bed at night, you know how much comfort can mean to canines. Despite their usual persona of aloofness and aggressiveness, these coyote mothers let their softer sides show for their young.
Once the nine weeks have gone by, the litter of pups may be as few as three or as many as twelve per National Geographic. In any case, they will hopefully be healthy and well looked after by their parents. They will stay in their den growing, eating, and fighting until they are weaned around one and a half to two months of age. Once weaned, the pups will still stay with their parents and possibly older siblings, but the family will again be travelling, hunting more aggressively, and going about their normal behaviors. This relationship will continue until the age of nine months when the pups have reached adult size. At this point, some may choose to stay with the pack, and others may choose to leave and create their own. Either way, it is likely that these pups will be taking their own mates the following breeding season and creating the next generation of coyotes to add to the population.
If that seems fast, it is. Everything about the coyote’s life is fast. They are fast runners (40 mph at top speed). Their window of opportunity to breed is only ten days out of the year. Once it happens, there are only nine weeks until pups arrive. Then, it only takes nine months for those pups to fully develop. Coyotes live their lives in the fast lane, but it seems to work for them.
This rapid development has allowed coyote populations to withstand many trials and hardships and to maintain large numbers even in the face of urban sprawl. This year’s pups will be next year’s parents, and hopefully, the coyotes will continue to be a thriving, integral piece of the ecosystems they inhabit.
Coyote Breeding Cycle
|Late December – Early March||Breeding season occurs. Mating pairs and formed, dens are created, and territories and protected.|
|March – Early May||Pups are born in litters of 3-12.|
|Mid-April – June||Pups are weaned and begin travelling with the pack.|
|December – February||Pups reach 9 months of age and adult size. They may choose to stay with their pack or leave.|
|December – March||These young adults enter the breeding pool and contribute to growing the overall population.|