|The coyote, canis latrans, was already here in Wisconsin when the first settlers arrived, and it is thought that they were highly abundant in the southern part of the state. A news report from 1866 says that a coyote had been caught within Milwaukee city limits. Coyotes were hunted extensively in the late 1800's and early 1900's, both for sport and because they were considered vermin and pests. Population in the southern part of the state significantly decreased, but at the same time coyote numbers in the north increased. Year-round hunting with no bag limits still exists today, but a restricted trapping season is now in place to help reduce the numbers of bobcat, fox and fisher caught in coyote traps set all year. Bounties were paid on coyotes in the past, but this method has never been an effective management tool for any species.
The coyote is midway in size between a fox and a wolf. An adult male averages about 44-52 inches long, including its 14 inch tail, and weighs between 25 and 42 pounds. The female is approximately 1/5 smaller than the male in both size and weight. Coyotes are members of the dog family, and they have long, thin legs, a tapered muzzle and fairly large, pointed ears. The tail, bushy and black-tipped, comprises about one third of the body length and is carried below the level of the back when the coyote is running, as opposed to wolves that hold their tail up when running. Basic body color ranges from a dull yellow to gray, and the fur on the upper part of the body, such as the back, neck, front of the legs, and top of the tail is normally buff-gray. Black-tipped hairs give these parts a darker, grizzled look than the cream-colored under parts. The face and backs of the ears are redder than the rest of the body, and the inside of the ears, the edges of the mouth and the throat are white. Coyotes have yellow-colored eyes, like foxes, but the pupils of coyote pups are round while the pupils of fox pups are elliptical.
Mating usually occurs, in Wisconsin, between February and March, and although pairs may breed for many years in a row, coyotes do not mate for life. They are fully mature and able to reproduce at age one. A litter of 5-7 pups is born usually in April, after a gestation period of 60-63 days. The pups are born in a hidden den consisting of at least two tunnels leading to a 3-4 foot deep hole in the ground, which often is the remodeled abandoned burrow of a badger, woodchuck, fox or skunk. They also use old coyote burrows and even occasionally dig new burrows. Rock crevices, rocky cliff bases, riverbanks and holes under stumps can also be suitable for dens. The entrance to the den is normally about 13 inches high and 10 inches wide, and is easily distinguished from a fox den by the degree of cleanliness inside and around the entrance. Adult coyotes, unlike foxes, remove bones and other debris and there will be no accumulation of these materials in or around the edges of the den. Females prepare more than one den before the pups are born, and pups will be moved if predators threaten or fleas aggravate. Pups are born with short, yellow-brown fur. They begin to crawl around the den after about ten days when their eyes first open, and after three weeks of age they will venture outside the den to play. The male brings all food to the female, while she tends to the pups for the first two months after they are born, and some of the food is regurgitated to feed the pups during and after weaning. The den is generally abandoned when the pups are 8-9 weeks old, and the pups are taught to hunt by following their parents. By the end of summer, the pups usually move out of their parent's territories, but young coyotes sometimes stay and form hunting packs with their parents. Coyotes have also been known to breed with domestic dogs and produce "coy-dogs".
The coyote is both a scavenger and a predator depending on the situation, and it is most definitely an opportunist. Carcasses of deer are the mainstays of the diet, but poultry and livestock carrion may also become a meal. Besides scavenging, coyotes hunt rodents, rabbits, hares, ruffed grouse and sometimes deer. Birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fruits, berries and corn are all eaten at certain times depending on season, habitat and environmental conditions. Coyotes quietly stalk small rodents using a stiff-legged stance and then pounce on their prey. Trotting or loping is the normal speed of locomotion, but they will gallop if pursued or pursuing, and can average 25 miles per hour. A single coyote can chase down rabbits and hares, but pack hunting is necessary for large prey like deer. Coyote predation on livestock in Wisconsin is minimal, and as long as there is wild prey available, livestock is generally avoided. The coyote is beneficial to the wildlife community, disposing of numerous carcasses and keeping rodent populations in check.
The coyote is highly adaptable and very intelligent, causing its range of distribution to be expanded while human population increased and other mammal-eating animal populations were declining. Unlike the wolf, coyotes have been able to adapt to humans, and some can be found living at the edge of or even within urban areas. Preferred habitats include forests, woodland edges, and, sometimes, dry marshes or prairie if the cover contains thickets of brush or tall vegetation. Although Wisconsin coyotes appear to prefer adequate cover, coyotes in the southeastern part of the state have been known to hunt, eat, sleep and even den in cultivated fields. Coyote home ranges depend on cover, food availability, season, social structure, age and sex, but are normally 5-10 square miles in size. They are very social animals; gathering together to play, hunt in small packs or to enjoy a nice carrion meal. Coyotes advertise their location with scent, such as urine, feces and glandular markings, and sounds such as howling or yapping. Territories are well marked, especially during the denning season. Coyotes contract lice, fleas, mites and ticks, and the mites cause sarcoptic mange, which results in loss of hair, weakness and ultimately death. Diseases like rabies and canine parvovirus also plague the coyote, as do parasites such as tapeworms and round worms.
Coyotes are present in every county in Wisconsin, but today the majority of the estimated population of 17,000-20,000 is found in the northern half of the state. It is thought that the population is expanding to the south, but livestock damage is minor, so no special management beyond hunting and trapping is needed. The coyote is a valuable Wisconsin furbearer and game species and provides many hours of recreation for the coyote hunter, trapper, and wildlife observer. As long as the population is kept in balance with the environment, the coyote plays an important and beneficial role as a scavenger and predator.
To keep coyote populations in balance, Wisconsin has a year-round firearm season and specified trapping season. On private property, landowners, occupants and family members can hunt or trap coyotes without a license to remove nuisance animals at any time except the 24 hours preceding the gun deer opener or in areas designated as "closed to coyote hunting during the gun deer season". Coyotes may be hunted without any hunting hours restrictions except: 1.during the bow bear or bow deer seasons when hunting hours apply to all bow hunting. 2.during the regular gun deer season when hunting hours apply to all bow and gun hunting. This restriction does not apply to the muzzleloader deer season or an extended gun deer season. It is legal to use any type of call or amplified sound for attracting coyotes. It is illegal to hunt any species using bait after small game hunting hours (½ hour before sunrise to 15 minutes after sunset), unless the hunting involves the release of trailing dogs. Coyotes are virtually everywhere in Wisconsin and may be hunted on farms, gravel pits, open fields and woods, to name a few places, but trespassing is illegal and may result in a $1000 fine, so always gain the landowners permission prior to hunting on his or her property. Try to set up so that you have the greatest field of vision, for the area you are hunting, so that you can see the quarry at a distance as it approaches. Choose a weapon that fits the terrain you are hunting and the distances you plan on shooting. Some hunters use center fire rifles, while others use shotguns, but a good range of choice might be from a Remington700 in .222 to a Winchester 22-250. A wide variety of calls are available for today's predator hunter, but the mouth-blown rabbit distress calls seem to be the most popular and are highly effective in most situations. There are also many excellent electronic calls on the market that aid the beginning hunter in producing a true and accurate sound. Coyote tend to feed at night, where there is hunting pressure, or under the cover of low light conditions during early morning and pre-dawn hours, but during winter months or particularly after storms, they may be more willing to move during the day. Coyotes have very keen senses, so it is very important to conceal yourself within your hunting environment. Camouflage will help you blend in, and pay particular attention to hands and face coverings. Try the "dinner party calling technique": Start with a medium volume rabbit distress sequence. Wait approximately 1/2 minute and give a loud, long, lone coyote howl. Then follow immediately with another rabbit distress call sequence and sit back and wait. If nothing answers or is seen within five minutes, try the whole sequence again. A slightly elevated rabbit skin placed about 20 yards from your shooting position will move in the breeze and be visible to help attract a wily coyote. Be sure to select a set up position where you can see the incoming animal and you can actually shoot from your position. It doesn't do any good to conceal yourself to such an extent that you can't see the coyote you just called in, and having to move your position on an incoming animal to get a shot off will often result in no shot at all. Finally, make sure that your vehicle is concealed, at a safe distance, so it will not to be seen by approaching coyotes.