Eastern Coyote Facts

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I've heard that the coyotes found here are as big as wolves, or a German shepherd?
The average Eastern coyote in Nova Scotia is about 15 kg (34 lbs) with some males reaching 23 kg (50 lbs.). This is about twice the size of coyotes found in southwestern USA. This larger size has been attributed to past interbreeding with wolves, as coyotes spread northward and eastward across the continent. Today, the coyotes found here are considerably smaller than wolves. In terms of dogs, they're about the size of a border collie or approximately 61 cm (24 in.) at the shoulder. See visually the size of coyotes.

Weren't coyotes brought into Nova Scotia by people?
No. Their arrival here was part of a natural range expansion that began in the southwestern United States in the late 1800's due to pressures on their traditional habitat caused by land clearing and development. The first coyotes in Maritimes travelled here from Ontario, Quebec, New England. They eventually reached Cape Breton by crossing the ice-covered Canso Strait.

Are there wolf/coyote crossbreeds in Nova Scotia?
It is highly unlikely. It appears that interbreeding with wolves was in the past and that the Eastern coyote is now genetically distinct.

What about coyote/dog crosses, or coydogs?
There were reports of coyote/dog crosses during the initial stages of range expansion across the continent. Today the likelihood of successful coyote/dog crosses is remote. As young would be born mid-winter, their likelihood of survival would be low, and unlike wild dogs, male domestic dogs do not help provide food for the young.

How can I tell if what I'm seeing is a coyote or a fox?
Coyotes typically have a tawny, grey or black coat with long black guard hairs. The hair on the muzzle, throat, legs and belly usually ranges from yellowish to white.

Foxes are smaller and typically about 46 cm (18 in.) at the shoulder. A fox is often recognized by its red coat, although they can be grey or tawny as well. Foxes have a white chest patch. The foot and leg hair is dark giving a sooty look. See visually the size of coyotes.

Is it more common to see coyotes during the winter?
Yes, late winter is the breeding season and their activity increases. If natural food sources are unavailable, coyotes may become more active in search of food. Snow and the lack of leaf cover also make coyotes more visible, while heavy snow may encourage travel on or near roads.

Don't coyotes hunt in large packs?
Coyotes may hunt alone, in pairs, or family units. Family units often occur in the fall or early winter as an adult pair teaches their young to hunt.

Is it true that female coyotes can have super-sized litters to compensate for population losses due to hunting and trapping?
In Nova Scotia the average litter is five to seven pups. Our records show a low of two, and a high of ten, pups per litter. If the coyote population goes down there will be less competition for food and as a result females will be in better condition and the litter survival rate may increase, but there is no evidence that a female can somehow control the size of her litters.

Why is the population of coyotes in Nova Scotia increasing?
The population of coyotes in the province is actually fairly stable. There are slight variations often dependent on the amount of trapping activity as well as availability of traditional food sources.

Why are coyotes also found in urban areas? Have we invaded their home?
As coyotes are a relatively new species to Nova Scotia, we have not invaded their traditional home. Coyotes are very adaptable opportunists and will live in and near human settlements, and take advantage of any food sources found there. Does the provincial government trap nuisance coyotes when people lose pets? No, but your local Department of Lands and Forestry office can provide a list of nuisance wildlife operators who are available for hire to capture animals that come into conflict with humans. Why do we have a pelt-incentive program instead of a bounty? The pelt-incentive program was put in place to increase trapper participation and thus have more coyotes harvested. Increased trapping can also affect coyote behaviour causing animals to fear and avoid humans. This is different from a bounty, which is a broad-scale price put on the target species to promote killing by anyone at anytime.

Isn't there some way to get rid of coyotes once and for all?
No. The Eastern coyote is a permanent year-round resident in Nova Scotia. Even a full scale bounty would have only a temporary effect on reducing coyote numbers. The best measure we can take is to Keep Coyotes Wild by not willingly or inadvertently providing food sources for them. This will help preserve their normal behaviour of avoiding people and places of human settlement.

Eastern Coyote Profile