What to expect during coyote pupping season
Coyotes mate in mid-February and are ready to give birth by mid-April. During this time, both when nearing birthing time and once the pups are born, coyote parents are more protective of their denning areas and more active in hunting food. Their level of activity and protectiveness rises even more as the pups begin to venture out of the den in early summer.
Because of this change in coyote behavior, urban residents, especially pet owners walking through coyote territory, tend to have more interactions. Coyotes that usually avoid any confrontation with humans or dogs will display more territorial behaviors, warning passers-by with vocalizations or even following them. And coyotes that would normally scamper off when chased by an off-leash dog will more likely stand its ground.
The reality of coyote attacks
This doesn’t mean that a dog is more likely to be attacked during pupping season. In fact, the Urban Coyote Research Program found that in their study area of Chicago, “Dogs were more commonly attacked during the winter months than during the spring and summer which corresponds to the breeding season of the coyote.” The confrontations may be more frequent but they aren’t necessarily more injurious.
Coyote attacks on humans are rare, and there have been only two fatal attacks in modern history, in 1981 and 2009. Urban Coyote Research reports, “In almost a third of the reported attack cases, it was known that coyotes were being fed (either intentionally or accidentally) near the attack site. One victim was bitten while feeding a coyote and another was bitten by a coyote that was being fed by her parents.” So it appears there is often a human cause to the bites in the first place.
For comparison, around 4.5 million people are bitten by domestic dogs every year. It is the fifth most common reason why parents take children to the emergency room. From 1979-1996, dogs killed 279 people. So, if it helps assuage fears of neighborhood coyotes, a child is far more likely to be bitten by a domestic dog than by a coyote when out playing in the neighborhood.
That said, it is only smart to know about coyotes and their behavior so that you can continue to coexist peacefully with these wild urban residents.