Coyotes are clever creatures, ever adapting to changing landscapes and increasing their population despite humans expanding their reach. Farmers and ranchers in the south have long raged a war on these canids, but the cunning coyote is always three steps ahead.
How can they adapt so well to a constantly changing habitat, and why are some people pushing for their decline? Discover why coyotes in Texas are thriving more than ever and whether you should be concerned.
Coyotes in Texas
Prairie coyotes dominate Texas. They are similar in size to a German Shepard, weighing between 25 and 40 pounds. You can distinguish coyotes from other canids by their bushy tail, erect ears, and long, slender legs. They are highly intelligent and utilize their excellent vision and a strong sense of smell for hunting and evading predators. Their speed helps, too, clocking in at 35 to 40 Mph.
Coyotes form strong family packs. And while they do not typically breed for life, they are monogamous for long periods. Females give birth to litters of three to 12 in the spring, and both parents raise and care for their young. By the following fall, pups can hunt for themselves.
Coyotes use many vocalizations to communicate with each other, ranging from raspy growls and snarls to friendly howls, yips, and whines. They make a screaming sound when they are in distress; people compare this unsettling sound to a woman screaming. It doesn’t help that they typically make this noise at night.
These wild dogs are opportunistic and will eat almost anything. They are mainly nocturnal but will hunt during the day if the opportunity arises. Because of their adaptability, their diet can change rapidly depending on their surroundings. Ranchers and farmers consider them a pest due to their wide-ranging diet.
Here is a list of what coyotes in Texas may eat:
- Carrion (dead animals)
- Other livestock
- Even pets
The rumor in Texas is that hybrids are roaming the prairies, a cross between a coyote and a wolf. Many people claim to have witnessed these incredible creatures, but do they exist? Actually, yes.
Red wolves were once plentiful in Eastern Texas. But a predator control program wiped out their population by the 1970s, except for a handful of what officials declared “genetically pure” red wolves. Now, animals in the Texas wild resemble the red wolf but are actually a red wolf and coyote hybrid. The term used to describe this species is “coywolf.”
There is much debate over the red wolf and whether it is a separate species, but one thing is for sure, wild canines currently roam Southeast Texas. And while they resemble a red wolf, they have a distinct look, both wolf and coyote-like.
History of Coyotes in Texas & Where They Live
Before humans headed out West, coyotes roamed the Western prairies along with red and gray wolves. They prowled the grassland prairies hunting mice, insects, and rabbits. When the Europeans migrated to Texas, they took measures to decrease the wolf population significantly. Wolves are the main predators of coyotes, and without their presence, coyotes assumed dominance in the land. Coyotes encroached on wolf land, changed their diet, and began preying on caribou and deer.
This clever creature benefited from timber clearing and commercial poultry plants, extending its reach and feeding off remains in open dumps. Measures enacted to reduce their population were temporary at best; they simply fled up north, where they increased their numbers by breeding with wolves.
The coyote population is at an all-time high. Open prairies and deserts are their preferred habitats, but being highly adaptable, they now thrive in any environment. You can find coyotes all over North America roaming forests, mountains, and even large metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, Houston, and Denver. This canine does what it needs to survive, even living off human trash and roadkill. Coyotes are now in almost every county in Texas, living in rural, suburban, and city areas.
Are Coyotes a Nuisance?
It depends on who you ask. Some people purposefully attract these wild animals to their properties, while others report simply seeing a coyote as a nuisance. Both responses, however, may be a bit extreme.
Most people in large cities are uncomfortable with the presence of coyotes, and the media often highlights any encounter with one as unfavorable. But there are instances where coyotes will attack pets and people. Most metropolitan areas have mainly reported an increase in pet attacks. Small dogs and cats are vulnerable when outside alone, and large dogs are at a higher risk for an attack during mating season when male coyotes are more territorial. In more rural areas, there are occasional attacks on livestock.
Are coyotes a threat to humans? Incidences between coyotes and humans are extremely rare and often happen when humans encroach on coyote territory. Human attacks are often isolated and sporadic. Most coyotes are wary of humans and will run off in the presence of people. To put it in perspective, you are more likely to be bit by a dog in Texas than a coyote. But recent studies indicate that urban coyotes are bolder than those living in rural environments.
Many animal lovers often believe feeding wild animals is helpful and the right thing to do. But, in actuality, it’s harmful. When coyotes associate a building or area with easy food, they will return, increasing the chance of a dangerous incident. To a certain extent, wild animals need a certain level of fear around humans. When they lose this, they may see humans as possible prey.
How to Live Amongst Coyotes in Texas
Coyote sightings are becoming more frequent, with the coyote population exploding across Texas and the rest of the states. There is a possible chance that more sightings can lead to more negative interactions. While most coyotes will leave humans alone, it’s still important to take measures to keep your family protected.
How to minimize negative interactions with coyotes in Texas:
- Do not feed coyotes
- Don’t let pets run loose; keep children close when hiking in coyote territory.
- Don’t run away; instead, shout and throw something in its direction.
- Avoid areas with high coyote populations during the pupping season around May
- Put fencing up around your property and install activated lights.
- Don’t aggravate coyotes on purpose. If it is leaving you alone, leave it alone.
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