– Perry Orndorff, Wildlife Specialist, Fairfield SWCD
Ohio has ideal coyote habitat, with a mixture of woodlots and cropland. Contrary to what some would have you believe, the Ohio Division of Wildlife did not “stock” coyotes. They naturally migrated east from the Plains States. Coyotes are now found in most states and in all 88 Ohio counties. Coyotes usually weigh from 20 to 50 pounds and are usually easy to identify, even from a distance. When running, their gait looks more like a horse than a dog. They also rarely hold their bushy tail up in the air while on the run. If you are looking at a track, their paw bears most of their weight on their front two toes, the claws usually aren’t visible in the snow or mud.
Coyotes are monogamous and usually mate for life. Many farms first report livestock losses when coyotes are feeding their pups, or when they are training the pups to hunt. This typically happens in summer, as pups are born in April and May. You may also have a den of coyotes close enough to hear them howl, yet you haven’t had any losses. Their primary foods are small mammals such as mice, voles, rabbits and ground hogs. They also will actively pursue house cats and small dogs if these animals are not confined. Their home range is from 5-25 square miles, depending upon food resources available.
Here’s a few characteristics of coyote kills:
- Coyotes kill an animal by biting into the flank first, then gripping the throat until the animal suffocates. In young animals, they will often bite into the skull.
- Coyotes normally begin feeding on the kill in the flank, or just behind the ribs. The heart, lungs and liver are preferred items. They will also eat the milk-filled stomach in newborn animals.
- The carcass in often left in a spread-eagle position; dogs are not as neat, often tearing body parts from the carcass.
- When examining the carcass, always examine the throat; a coyote’s jaw spacing between the canine teeth usually measures about one and a quarter inches in diameter (dogs are wider).
- Coyotes are pretty efficient predators, they usually don’t chase their prey for any distance as a single dog or a pack of dogs might do.
The most important point to remember when you have a suspected coyote kill is to notify the county dog warden within three days. If the dog warden determines that it is a coyote kill, the county wildlife officer or wildlife specialist then verifies the claim. The Ohio Coyote Indemnity Fund administered by ODA can pay fair market value for the animal(s) lost. For more information on this fund, phone the ODA Division of Animal Industry at 1-800-282-1955.