Coyote Breeding Secrets: Inside the Fur Factory

If you’re interested in observing a den of coyotes you will have to search diligently as most don’t stand out. But it's beneficial to learn where they are and how they act.

Coyote Breeding Secrets: Inside the Fur Factory

Although most of America may be shut down for business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coyotes are in full production mode at the fur factory.

Coyotes mate for life, but typically they must look for new mates annually with hunting pressure and other factors cutting into the lifespan of the average coyote. Even so, coyote pairs are denned up and females are delivering litters every day from April through mid-May. After birth, coyote pups will open their eyes after 10 days to start their role of a problem child to coyote parents and eventually wild critters everywhere. If you’re interested in observing a den you will have to search diligently as most don’t stand out.

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, litter size varies as does the location of where you might find a den.

“Coyotes may pair for life. They mate in February, and a litter with an average of four to six pups is born in a den in April. Dens may be located in a bank, rock outcropping, cave, or an enlarged woodchuck or rabbit burrow. Males help raise the pups and provide the female with food when pups are very young. Pups begin playing at the entrance of their den at 3- to 4-weeks old, and by 10 weeks they may leave the den completely.”

How many more coyotes can you expect in your hunting area by fur season? That size varies depending on a host of factors, but from Eastern coyote information posted on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website, you can expect to see these numbers in the average den.  

“Typical litter sizes are approximately 4-6 pups. Coyote pups grow rapidly and are weaned at 5 to 7 weeks of age and abandon den sites around this time. As pups continue to grow in size they also become more independent of their parents, and are occasionally observed moving together in mid to late summer."

Putting average aside, other factors can affect the litter size of coyotes. First and foremost, you have an effect. When you trap or shoot a large number of coyotes from a specific environment, coyotes can increase litter size to repopulate the area.

Research from a 7-year study in the 1980s at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Logan, Utah, revealed as much. For two consecutive years the researchers removed approximately 50 percent or more of the coyote population from one study area while doing nothing in a second study area. At the same time the area experienced a surge in prey species, primarily rabbits. The two elements combined to create a coyote boom in the study area.

In the removal area the two elements, fewer coyotes and more prey, combined to double the size of the coyote litters documented prior to the removal implementation. Even so, with the higher prey densities, even in the controlled area with no removal, female coyotes increased the size of their litters.

As you social distance in the outdoors this spring, keep a watchful eye to detect coyote dens and do your own survey. Make notes on our smartphone hunting app to keep tabs. At the same time, note how many rabbits, mice and other prey species bound away while you’re hiking or you see smashed on the highway. These clues and your past success can give you an indicator of what’s ahead for the coming fur season.

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