If you asked a coyote, “where would you look to find a human’s house? Where do they keep their babies? Where do they sleep?” They would know. They might say, “oh, that’s easy. Just look for all the big brick and wood things that are next to each other in big clumps with a hard surface running between them. Most of them are all gone at the same time during the day, but they all come back around the same time, too.” We are predictable that way. But, what about coyotes? Do we know where they live, sleep, and keep their little ones? They are a little sneakier than us, but I bet we can find them.
Protect the Little Ones
Coyotes mostly use their dens for the purpose of housing and protecting their pups and not much else. For this reason, they need to be able to be built quickly as pups arrive only nine weeks after conception. They also need to be stable and inconspicuous. Deciding on a den location is something that a coyote mating pair does with great care and cleverness. Once the location is decided upon, the pair will likely return to this den year after year unless it is completely compromised. The conservation of these dens is only aided by the monogamy of coyotes. The pairs maintain their packs and territories that contain the dens year-round. When breeding season hits again, little maintenance will be needed to have the den ready for pups again. As a result, avid hunters can use any and all information they have on dens to their advantage year after year.
- Several entrances and exits
Coyotes love cover and privacy. But, like with their food preferences, they are not too picky about what their homes exactly consist of. Other animals like foxes and badgers make den-like holes that can easily be converted into coyote dens with some digging and careful limb placement. Rock clefts, mountainsides, and caves provide plenty of cover and are sturdy enough for long term use. Hollow trees can provide plenty of room for a coyote family if its volume is grand enough. Truly, even a simple hole that is dug by the coyote themselves can provide the necessary security for the young pups when covered with foliage and guarded by the parents. Any of these options, among others, can serve as the home for a coyote family if the parents choose it.
Scout it Out
So, where does a hunter begin in his or her search for a den? Begin with basic scouting. Look for scat, tracks, etc. Get a feel for where the coyotes are spending a majority of their time and narrow it to a concentrated area. If possible, look for signs of a kill that can provide a trail from the kill spot back to the den. Following this trail will likely take a long period of time, but will most likely lead to a den or at least a main meeting area. These clues will lead you to a general gathering area that is likely near the dens of several coyote families within a pack.
Spies in the Field
Once a concentrated area has been identified, begin to think like a spy. If you were to come under fire, where would you hide? What areas can you identify that would provide the most cover to you? Check those. Think like the coyote. If you had your children with you and needed to keep them safe and dry, where would you put them? Look there. If nothing else, kick around any and all leaves, sticks, and branches. You may find a hole that is an entrance to a den. If you find one, look for more. Most dens have several entrances and exits. In this way, coyotes are much like spies. They always have an exit strategy if their cover is blown.
Think Like a Coyote. Be a Coyote.
Check any sloping landscapes that a coyote could dig a den into the side of. Check uprooted or hollowed trees and rock formations. Any structure that provides cover and has a few small entrances will do. For these reasons, these dens will not be obvious to the human eye, but once in the frame of mind of a coyote, the hunt for the den can become more fun than frustrating. Imagine you only weigh thirty-five pounds and have six little ones you need to hide for about two months. Where will you go? Go there.
Overall, the best way to find a coyote den is to put yourself in the mindset of a coyote. Identify their main hub for pack activity, and scout for tracks and scat. Then, imagine the needs they have and the best places to put their young. Look there. Most of all, know that coyotes are not picky and are clever critters who think outside of the box. To find their home, you must do the same and be prepared for whatever you may find when you eventually find their home- where you may or may not be welcome.