Photo by Melissa McGaw
Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Abundance: Common throughout state
Species Profile (PDF)
Co-existing with Coyotes (PDF)
Coyote (Photo by Alan Cameron)
The coyote is native only in North America and, of all wild canine species, the coyote has the widest range in this country. This predator is arguably the hardiest and most adaptable species on this continent. Coyotes in North Carolina look similar to red wolves, but coyotes are smaller, have pointed and erect ears, and long slender snouts. The tail is long, bushy and black-tipped and is usually carried pointing down. Their color is typically dark gray but can range from blonde, red, and even black. Size is also variable, but averages about 2 feet tall at the shoulder and 4 feet in length.
Adults are about the size of a medium-sized dog and weigh between 20 and 45 pounds. The coyote is classified as a carnivore, but it is an opportunistic feeder, meaning it will feed on a variety of food sources, depending on what is most readily available and easy to obtain. Primary foods include fruit, berries, rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They will scavenge on animal remains, including road-kill, as well as garbage and pet food left outdoors. Like many wild animals, the coyote’s diet varies with seasonal changes.
Coyotes are monogamous, meaning they mate for life. Female coyotes can adjust their litter size depending on the availability of resources in their territory. If there is an abundance of food and/or little competition from other coyotes in the area, they will have a larger litter of pups, and more pups will survive to independence. Occasionally, one pup from the previous year’s litter will stay behind as a “helper” to help raise next year’s litter.
Coyotes survive anywhere there are abundant food sources. Their habitat can range from agricultural fields to forested regions and suburban neighborhoods.
Coyotes, like other wildlife, are adapting to the urban-suburban environment and are opportunistic in finding food and resources available in these places.
Learn more by reading the Coyote species profile.
Final Coyote Management Plan March 1, 2018 (PDF)
5-County Coyote Hunting & Depredation Permits
If you live in North Carolina, you’ve probably seen a coyote or know someone who has. Coyotes are an adaptive animal that first appeared in NC in 1980s.
The animals’ ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats, including suburban environments, along with human population growth across the state, has led to an increase in sightings.
While in most cases coyotes are harmless, people can take steps to prevent conflicts with these animals.
Coyotes mate around February-March and give birth between April-May. While raising young, coyotes are more active and will protect their den from potential predators. Coyotes that usually avoid confrontation with humans or dogs may display more territorial behaviors by vocalizing or even “escorting” people or pets away from the den and out of their territory. An example of escorting would be if a coyote is walking along a wood line and watching from a distance until you leave the area.
Coyotes are rarely interested in humans, but pets can draw their attention. Large dogs can be viewed as a threat or competition, while smaller dogs and cats may be viewed as a potential food source.
Eradicating coyotes from an area is not a practical or effective long-term solution. However, there are options to remove individual animals that are causing problems. While relocating coyotes is ineffective and also illegal in North Carolina, trapping and hunting can be effective tools to remove a coyote that has become habituated to humans or when non-lethal techniques have failed to work. If you are unable to trap or hunt yourself, here are some options/resources.
Coyotes cannot be rehabilitated. If you have seen a coyote that you perceive to be orphaned or injured, it should be left alone. Click here to find information related to wildlife diseases.
2017-2021 Coyote Hunting and Harvest Estimate Maps (PDF)
2005-2021 Coyote Hunting Harvest and Hunter Trends (PDF)
Animal Control Officers and Wild Animals (PDF)
Know the Difference between Red Wolves and Coyotes (PDF)
Coyote Biology and Natural History Presentation (PDF)
Canid Cooperator Program (PDF)