The Curious Incident of the Coyotes in the Night-time *

[This post is unavoidably scatological:  if that’s not your thing, skip over the fifth photo and cut to the video…..]

Coyotes, Canis latrans, are nocturnal or crepuscular (one of my favorite words, meaning active at dawn and dusk) so I very rarely see them. Instead, I look for evidence.  It is easier in the winter; there are foot prints:

Coyote tracks

The prints make trails: these ones had a total of 10 trails converging on (or perhaps diverging from) a single cross-roads. I have no idea why; it wasn’t scent-marked, they didn’t seem to stop, but none of them missed that spot. It might have been one coyote going backwards and forwards on five different occasions, or 5 different coyotes each on their own mission. Use your imagination.

coyote crossroads. 10 sets of tracks. 1 coyote on 5 return trips?? etc

I’m pretty sure that at least two were around. This female had marked the trail with her urine, and you can also see that she was in season:

female coyote urine

Underneath the apple tree, it looked as though two had come together. One spot of urine was female, visible at the bottom of this picture, and another lacked blood, so I think it was a male. The two marks were on the edges of a patch of snow that was trampled down by many, many coyote imprints, as if they had been there for some time, and I like to imagine it was a tryst.

coyotes mating??

A couple of weeks later, under the same apple tree, they had been feeding extensively. There was scat everywhere, and if you can bring yourself to inspect it closely (not everyone’s cup of tea), you will see a sliver of bone, lots of hair, and chunks of undigested rotten apple from the tree above.

Coyote scat, with bone, hair and rotten apples

We think of coyotes as predators and carnivores, but actually they are omnivores, as this scat makes abundantly clear.

So although I still hadn’t seen the coyotes, they were certainly there. I put up a game camera for a couple of days to see what I got, and meanwhile I heard them yipping at 3am, from just that area. In the morning, I checked the camera videos. (Ignore the date and time on the camera, I forgot to re-set it!).

The social unit for coyotes is an adult pair, and these look like nice fat healthy ones! Eastern Coyotes are bigger than Western ones, and they can weigh up to 40lbs. If they have mated, she will give birth in about two months, and I will keep my eyes open and report back..

Incidentally, the coyote population in Maine is booming, They only moved into the state in the 1930’s, and  there are now thought to be about 12,000 of them.

*With apologies to Mark Haddon, from whose wonderful book I have stolen my title.


7 thoughts on “The Curious Incident of the Coyotes in the Night-time *”

  1. Maybe all those trails are from a family reunion. Where they converge, must have been where someone dropped some picnic food. Maybe 2 months ago, my neighbor, 3 houses away, took a picture of a well-fed coyote in her yard @ 7:45 am, just when her 8 year old daughter was getting on the bus. I like the word crepuscular as well, but for some reason it took me quite a while to remember it.


  2. The picnic food theory is unlikely in this case: the place is nowhere near trails, houses, or the road, in a wetland that is only accessible because it is frozen right now!


  3. Good point. The camera trap caught only this single shot showing two animals, all the others were wandering around solo. They all looked healthy, not scrawny, but fat may be an overstatement!


  4. Very exciting!! We hear them almost every night and lots of tracks.But, Every time we put the game camera in the area, they move away!! Pam

    “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” Bob Dylan

    Sent from my iPad



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: