Frequently Asked Questions about Eastern Coyote in Nova Scotia

How big are they?
During the 1992/93 harvesting season, over 300 coyotes were weighed by DNR wildlife staff. The average weight of adult male coyotes was 33.9 lbs (15.4 kg). The average weight of adult females was 27.7 lbs(12.6 kg). The largest male collected weighed 47.8 lbs (21.7 kg). DNR occasionally receives reports of individual coyotes weighing in excess of 50 lbs (22.7 kg) but animals of that size are not common.

What should I do when I encounter a coyote?
-- do not feed, touch, or photograph the animal from close distances;
-- remove self from the area by slowly backing away while remaining calm- do not turn and run;
-- use personal alarm devices to frighten or threaten the animal;
-- encourage the animal to leave (provide space, an escape route);
-- if animal exhibits aggressive behaviour -- then be larger and noisier by throwing sticks and rocks; and
-- fight back aggressively if the animal attacks.

Are coyotes found in Nova Scotia larger than western coyotes?
Yes. Coyotes found in NS are known as Eastern Coyotes and, while closely related to coyotes found in western North America, they are genetically distinct. The significantly larger body size of Eastern Coyotes has been attributed to past interbreeding with wolves, as coyotes spread northward and eastward across North America. Some individuals encountered here may be as much as twice the average size of coyotes found in southwestern North America.

Why are they so big?
The eastern coyote is basically a western coyote which has picked up significant wolf characteristics through interbreeding. This genetic make up gives the eastern coyote the potential for a much larger body size - twice the size of their close relative, the south-western coyote

How many pups do they have?
Collections of harvested coyotes in Nova Scotia indicate that average litter sizes are in the range of 5.5 to 6.3 pups. Records show a low of 2 pups and a high of 10

Where did they come from?
These animals dispersed from west to east through Ontario, Quebec, New York and New Brunswick. Crossing the isthmus, they eventually moved from mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton crossing the ice-covered Canso Strait.

When did they show up in NS?
The first coyote was trapped in 1977.

Were they introduced?
No, they were not introduced. With habitat changes in North America, such as land clearing, railroad right-of-ways, etc., the prairie coyote in the late 1800's began a range expansion that reached Nova Scotia in 1976. There were probably a few coyotes in N.S. prior to 1976, but people may have assumed sightings to be of dogs running at large.

Is the population of coyotes in Nova Scotia increasing?
The population of coyotes in the province is stable. See graph for harvest and complaint data.

Why don't we put a bounty on them, or cull them to reduce the population?
The department is considering a pelt-incentive program, a targeted method to increase trapper participation and harvest levels. Increased trapping can also affect coyote behaviour, such that animals fear and avoid humans. This is different than a general, wildlife bounty, which is a broad-scale price put on the target animal to promote killing by anyone at anytime.

Do coyotes in Nova Scotia carry rabies or other diseases?
There have been no reported cases of rabies in coyotes in Nova Scotia. Coyotes can carry canine (dog family) heartworm, tapeworm, distemper and mange.

Are coyotes aggressive?
Coyotes are wild and generally avoid people. However, they should be treated as potentially dangerous. Do not approach a coyote.

What should people do to be prepared?
People out in the wilderness should be aware of their surroundings at all times. Other options include making noise, travelling in pairs or groups, and carrying hiking sticks.

How can people reduce coyote interactions?
Make sure garbage is not left laying around, remove pet food, compost, or garbage from outside your doorstep at night. Do not feed wild animals. Do not leave pets unattended or unprotected outdoors.

Do they hunt in packs?
Coyotes do travel and hunt in family units or packs, generally there is a dominate pair with young of the year.

What do coyotes eat?
Coyotes generally eat deer, mice, squirrels, snowshoe hare, and fruit such as apples, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and are excellent scavengers.

In the history of interactions between humans and coyotes, has there ever been a fatal attack?
The attack in Cape Breton is the first case of this nature in Nova Scotia. There was a fatal case reported in the United States (California) in 1981 (Timm, Baker, Bennett and Coolahan 2004).

How many people have been attacked by coyotes?
There are 3 records since 1995 of people bitten or attacked in Nova Scotia. Newspaper article records show that in Canada between 1998-2008, there were 24 coyote-human interactions resulting in injury (14.2% of all reported human-coyote incidents). There were no deaths or serious injuries. Incidents usually involved scratches or puncture wounds (Alexander & Quinn, University of Calgary).

Is jogging or running an issue?
If you encounter a coyote while jogging/running, stop and slowly leave the area in the direction from which you came. Never run from a coyote as it may trigger a predatory response and chase.

Are there wolf/coyote hybrids ?
Eastern Coyotes appear to be genetically distinct; they are not western coyotes nor eastern wolves. The eastern coyote's larger body size has been attributed to past interbreeding with wolves.

What should you do when you encounter a coyote in the wild?
Do not approach the animal(s). Leave the area immediately.

Why are coyotes also found in urban areas? Have we invaded their home?
Coyotes are a relatively new species to Nova Scotia. These animals are very adaptable, and will live in and near human settlements, including urban areas.

Does the provincial government trap nuisance coyotes when people lose pets?
Nuisance wildlife operators are available to capture animals that come into conflict with humans. However, people should keep their pets under control and supervision, preferably indoors or protected in kennels where they cannot be harmed and cannot chase or harm wildlife.

Is there a season for hunting coyote?
Coyotes are classed as other harvestable wildlife and can be shot year round with no bag limit. However coyotes may only be trapped by licensed furharvesters during the trapping season which starts October 15th and ends March 31st.

Should we expect to see more coyotes during the winter?
Yes, winter is the breeding season when movements/activities increase. If natural food sources are locally restricted for some reason, then we have seen that coyotes will become more active/visible in search of food. Snow and the lack of leaf cover also makes coyotes more visible. Heavy snow may encourage travel on/near roads. Recently publicity about coyotes has also heightened public awareness and the likelihood to report sightings.