Two nights this week we've heard coyotes calling behind our house, either from the wetland edge or the Mitchell hayfields. Even with the windows closed on a February night their calls seep into our bedroom. The first time was earlier in the week at about 1:00 am, a pack of coyotes howled and yipped. Last night at 3:30 am I heard one lone coyote howling. I wished I was out there nearby watching them silently. They are such beautiful animals--weighing 30 to 50 pounds with thick fur and a bushy, black-tipped tail. Their wolf DNA expressing itself in their large size, compared to their cousin, the western coyote.
Lying in bed I pictured the lone coyote howling, its head tilted back and long, narrow nose pointed skyward. It howled to locate the rest of its pack--its lifelong mate and their adult offspring. Or perhaps it was warning a non-family member to stay out of its territory, a territory of 2 to 25 square miles that the family pack defends vigorously by howling and scent marking. The other night it was several pack members yipping and howling, likely re-uniting after they each hunted on their own. I imagined the variety of foods that they found on their respective hunts: berries, woodland mice, road-kill, garbage, a cat, a chicken, a songbird.
Christine Schadler wrote an informative article on the eastern coyote in New Hampshire Fish and Game's Wildlife Journal, which can be read here. You'll see beautiful pictures there too, including a side-by-side comparison of a wolf and coyote.
The alpha pair is in the midst of their breeding season. The number of pups born in 63 days depends on the food supply. Typically the female will give birth to 4 to 6 pups, in good years maybe more. Hunting coyotes mostly increases the number of offspring, since fewer adult coyotes means more food for the pups, so more survive.
Coyotes adapt well to our human landscapes. I welcome them into my neighborhood, thrilled to hear them howling to each other or yipping as they re-unit after a night's hunt. Even Kodi seems to be adjusting to their presence, methodically sniffing the tips of small twigs that a coyote might have brushed during the night.