If you have ever hunted coyotes or had a coyote sighting in late winter and early spring, then you know this is one of the best times to catch them moving during daylight hours. Coyotes are more active during this period since this is the one time of year for the coyote breeding season.
Late winter and early fall, specifically the end of December through mid March, is the coyote breeding season. Typically, the prime time for the breeding season runs from the latter part of January until the beginning of March. The actual month for coyote breeding can depend on a few factors including weather. In the southern and western states where it is usually warmer or milder in winters, February is the month that most breeding will occur. In the more Northern states and some parts of the West, most breeding will occur in March. For a couple of months leading up to coyote breeding season, coyotes will engage in a pre-mating behavior up until the female is ready to mate. During this time coyotes will often be heard howling to attract their mate or challenge another coyote for mating rights. This is why you can often see coyotes out and about during daylight hours this time of year. The males are out inspecting their territory to make sure that no other males are intruding in their home range looking for a female to breed.
Mates for Life
Coyotes are for the most part monogamous animals. Once an alpha male and an alpha female coyote form a bond, they can stay together as a mating pair for several years, usually until one of them dies or is killed. Pairs are comprised of a fully matured female and fully matured male. The male coyote will generally be faithful to his female partner and will usually remain with her not only through breeding season but even after she has her pups and will help watch after and raise them. Male and even female coyotes, while usually faithful to their partners, may stray every now and then. Usually this happens when the male coyote is ready to mate but the female is now yet in full estrous. Once the coyote female mate is ready to breed, he will come back to her.
After the alpha male and female mate, the female will search out and find a den to have her pups. Coyotes are adept at making a den out of almost anything. The female will search out an abandoned animal den or find almost any underground crevice where she can have her pups and keep them sheltered. The gestation period is approximately 63 days. During this time the female will stay in her den with her pups while the male coyote watches after the den and brings the female food. Even though the male coyote stays near the den and will bring food to feed the female, she will not let the male inside the den at any time. While coyotes are not known for being aggressive, especially towards humans, during this time it is best to avoid coming close to a known coyote den as the coyote pair will be more aggressive than usually in defending their den and pups.
Typical litter sizes range from 4-7 pups, depending on a few factors including available diet and density of other coyotes in the area. This timing works in the coyotes favor since spring is the best time to find food in most parts of their habitat. Once the pups are born, they will stay in the den for a few weeks. When the female is ready to take them out, she will introduce them to solid food. For the next few months, the coyote parents will take their pups into their home range and teach them how and what to hunt. Until they are grown, the alpha pair will watch over their pups carefully and may even have help from other pack members, that can include previous off spring or non breeding female members. The pups will become almost fully grown within nine months. Within a year from birth, most of the male coyote pups from the spring will be on their own in search of new territory. The female pups will stay close to their mother and remain members of the pack. Once their mother dies, one of the female off spring will become the new alpha female of the pack.