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In California, coyotes breed mainly during January, February, and March. The gestation period is about 60-63 days. Young are born March through May, with litter sizes averaging 5-6 pups. Coyotes produce one litter per year. The young are weaned at 5 to 6 weeks and leave the parents at 6 to 9 months. Most adults breed first in their second year. Nonbreeding, yearling, coyotes often stay with the adult parents and help care for the pups. Coyote dens are found in steep banks, rock crevices, sinkholes, and underbrush. Coyote dens are often holes that have been used by badger, skunks, foxes, or other animals with entrances enlarged to about one foot in diameter. Dens vary from 4 to 5 feet deep to 50 feet deep.
The diet of the coyote consists mainly of mice, rats, ground squirrels, gophers, rabbits, and carrion. They also eat insects, reptiles, amphibians, fruits, birds and their eggs, and deer fawns. In some rural areas of California they prey heavily on sheep, cattle, and poultry. In urban and suburban areas, garbage, domestic cats and dogs, other pets, hobby animals, and pet food can be important food items. Coyotes are most active at night and during the early morning and late evening hours. In areas where they are not disturbed by human activities, and during the cooler times of the year, they may be active throughout the day. Urban coyotes are becoming very tolerant of human activities. Young coyotes tend to be more active during daylight hours than adults. Home range size varies depending on food availability.
PREVENTING COYOTE PROBLEMS
Coyotes are attracted to urban/suburban areas by the easy accessibility of food, water, and shelter. Reducing or eliminating the availability of these elements will often encourage coyotes to leave. Garbage can lids should be secured at all times or garbage stored indoors. Pets should be fed during daylight hours and all pet food removed before darkness. Water bowls should be emptied and not left out after dark. Ripe fruits and vegetables should be covered at night or the garden/fruit trees enclosed by a coyote proof fence to prevent access by hungry coyotes. All windfall fruit/vegetables should be picked up daily. In areas where predation on pets has been documented, cats and small dogs should not be left out after dark unless enclosed in a coyote proof enclosure. Food should never intentionally be left out for wild mammals. In suburban areas where livestock such as lambs, piglets, calves, or poultry are raised and coyote predation has been documented, precautions should be taken to prevent further losses. Animals can be brought into barns, sheds, or coyote proof enclosures at night, or in certain instances the confinement areas can be lit at night.
To exclude coyotes, fences should be constructed which are at least 5 1/2 feet tall. Monte Sereno Municipal Code does not permit fences over 6 feet tall. These fences can be made of solid wood, cement blocks, brick, or wire. If net wire fencing is used, the bottom portion should be at least 3 1/2 feet tall with squares smaller than 6 inches. If high tensile fence is used, it should be electrified with a fence charger to prevent coyotes from going through. All fences should have some sort of galvanized wire apron buried at least 4 to 6 inches in the ground which extends out from the fence at least 15 to 20 inches. The apron should be securely attached to the bottom of the fence. Coyotes are very adept diggers and prefer to dig under fences rather than jump them.
Brush and vegetation should be cleared from backyards and adjacent areas to eliminate habitat for prey which could attract coyotes. Landscaping should be pruned on a regular basis. These actions also remove hiding cover used by coyotes to stalk domestic pets. If cats cannot be contained indoors, and predation is viewed as a problem, posts can be installed in open space areas which provide an escape for the cats. These posts should be at least 7 feet tall, made of material that the cat can climb, and have enough space on top for the cat to sit. During the time of the year when adult coyotes are caring for young (May-September), they can be very aggressive when their young are threatened. Domestic dogs are especially vulnerable to attack during this time. Dogs have been attacked when they got too close to a family of coyotes. In urban settings where a den site has been identified, caution should be taken to keep dogs out of the area. These areas should be posted with signs and people concerned about attacks on their dogs should avoid the area. Increased predation on domestic pets can be expected around den sites, and extra precautions should be taken by residents to protect valued domestic cats or small dogs. In some cases a family group of coyotes can be harassed enough to encourage them to move.
Whenever possible, coyotes should be harassed or scared to condition them to avoid humans.
For more information, please visit the Department of Fish and Game’s (www.wildlife.ca.gov), Santa Clara County Vector Control (www.sccgov.org/sites/vector/Pages/vcd.aspx), or Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA at www.svaca.com) or you can call SVACA at (408) 764-0344. Department of Fish and Game’s web site
LIVING WITH MOUNTAIN LIONS
DON'T FEED WILDLIFE: Wildlife in your yard may attract mountain lions that prey upon them.
KEEP PETS SECURE: Pets are easy prey for hungry mountain lions. Keep pets inside and don't feed them outside.
LANDSCAPE FOR SAFETY: Avoid using plants that deer like to eat. If you attract deer, mountain lions may be close by. Remove vegetation that provides good hiding places for lions, especially around children's play areas.
INSTALL OUTDOOR LIGHTING: Keep the perimeter of your house well lit at night…especially along walkways.
KEEP CHILDREN SAFE: Keep a close watch on children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about mountain lions and teach them what to do if they encounter one.
ENCOUNTERING A MOUNTAIN LION
DO NOT HIKE ALONE: Stay in groups, with adults supervising children.
KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE TO YOU: Mountain lions seem especially drawn to children. Keep children within your sight at all times.
DO NOT APPROACH A LION: Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation with humans. Give them a way to escape.
DO NOT RUN FROM A LION: Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the lion.
DO NOT CROUCH DOWN OR BEND OVER: A human standing up is just not the right shape for a big cat's prey, but when you squat or bend over you may look like a four-legged prey animal. Avoid squatting, crouching or bending over…even when picking up children.
DO ALL YOU CAN TO APPEAR LARGER: Raise your arms and wave them slowly while speaking firmly in a loud voice. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. The idea is to convince the lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
FIGHT BACK IF ATTACKED: Mountain lions usually try to bite the head or neck. Try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. People have successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and even their bare hands.
For more information, please visit the Department of Fish and Game (www.wildlife.ca.gov) or contact Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA at www.svaca.com) or by phone at (408) 764-0344.
City of Monte Sereno @ 408-354-7635 West Valley Clean Water Program @ 408-354-5385 911 (during non-business hours)