What is A Coyote?

The Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans) is the most widely distributed carnivore found in the Western Hemisphere including all 88 Ohio counties. Coyotes originated from the western United States inhabitating desert and prairie habitat; however,  due to deforestation and the extirpation of the Eastern Timber Wolf, their range expanded exponentially over the course of the last century. Coyotes are known for their high level of intellingence and uncanny ability to adapt to their environment and thrive, especially in urban areas including Chicago, New York City, Los Angelos, and even Cleveland. Coyotes have been documented in Ohio since 1919.

How Can I Correctly Identify A Coyote?

Coyotes are slender animals similar in appearance to medium-sized dogs, most closely resembling a German sheperd. Because coyotes and domesticated dogs are from the same family, Canidae, they share similar appearance characteristics. Coyotes can reach lengths of 28-29 inches with a tail length of 12-15 inches weighing approximately 20-50 lbs with males being larger than females. Coyotes have bushy tails tipped in black that hang at a 45 degree angle when on the move. This trait is distinct to coyotes, unlike the wolf. Other field markings include a long, pointed snout, and pointed, erect ears. The long hairs on the back are tipped with black and run the length of the back through the tip of the tail creating a dark band. Color variations exist ranging from tan, to reddish, to brown/black.

Where Do Coyotes Live?

Coyotes can be found in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from urban to rural, including grasslands, brush and forests. Adult coyotes normally excavate one or more dens in the soil, sometimes by expanding the burrows of other animals. They usually choose sites where human activity is minimal. However, their presence in urban and suburban environments is increasing, and substantial populations exist in many large cities and suburbs in Ohio including Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinatti. They are considered to be one of the most highly intelligent, adaptable carnivores. In urban environments, coyotes can make-shift dens out of creative areas such as storm drains, culverts, under storage sheds, in holes dug in vacant lots and parks, or just about any dark, dry place.

When Are Coyotes Active?

The coyote is a nocturnal animal most active at night; however, they can be observed during the day when not threatened by human activity. Coyotes are often encountered while alone, but will often hunt in (non-family) pairs or large groups, which may range over several square miles. Coyotes are omnivours, like many other animals, they are opportunistic feeding on a variety of items including small mammals such as voles, shrews, moles, rabbits, etc. as well as vegetables, nuts, and even carrion. Coyotes are not pack animals like wolves. Family groups do exist and typically consist of two breeding adults, juveniles, and newborn pups.

What is The Role of Coyotes in the Richland County Park District?

Coyotes are part of our park system’s natural resources. Over the past two decades, they have become a normal part of the wildlife populations of the Park District, as well as suburbs, surrounding rural areas, and other natural areas throughout northcentral Ohio. 

Although non-native, Coyotes have become a staple top level predator in Ohio's ecosystem. Coyotes are a natural control that keeps small mammal populations in check. They also prey on growing populations of feral cats, feral dogs and Canada geese that can cause damage to natural resources. Today, the coyote is the largest mammal to function as a predator in this region. Although coyotes are predators, they are also opportunistic feeders and shift their diets to take advantage of the most available prey. Coyote diets are made up of small mammals, mostly mice and other rodents, rabbits, raccoons, ground nesting waterfowl/songbirds and their eggs, carrion, reptiles, amphibians, and berries and fruits.

What Should I Do If I Encounter A Coyote?

Simply seeing a coyote is normally not a cause for concern. Coyotes may frequent residential areas out of curiosity or as part of their normal travel routines. Many people have never seen a coyote so unless there is cause for concern enjoy the rare opportunity and watch what they are doing.

If you witness what appears to be an injured coyote or have had a concerning encounter please contact the Richland County Wildlife Officer (419) 429-8392

Coyote Concerns

More often than not coyotes are wary of human activity and keep their distance. It is important that this relationship be maintained. Do not give coyotes a reason to get comfortable near people or pets. “Keep Wildlife Wild” by eliminating food sources (pet food, garbage, etc.) and stopping intentional wildlife feeding. Pet food and water should be kept indoors to avoid attracting coyotes to your yard. Small pets that are roaming freely can resemble prey to coyotes. Experts recommend not to leave small pets unattended. Best practices recommended to keep pets safe is to keep cats indoors, and pets on leashes and within your sight.

The coyote mating period is from February through early March.  Pups will be born from mid-April through May. During this period, coyotes, like most other animals, can act aggressive toward perceived threats to the pregnant female and or newborn pups.  Coyotes are protective parents, and defend their young just as humans do. Domestic dogs may trigger coyote defense behavior even if they are with their owner and showing no signs of aggression towards an encountered coyote.

Humans encountering coyotes rarely trigger an aggressive response that results in physical contact. On the very rare chance that a coyote does approach you directly, appears to be intentionally entering your line of travel, or begins to follow you, as with most predatory animal encounters, it is imperative you DO NOT turn and run because it may trigger a predatory/aggressive response from the coyote.

Understand that the coyote likely views you, or your pet, as a threat or it may be a sick animal.  If you have a pet on a leash, make sure it is under control. Do not release it or command it to attack the coyote(s). Walk slowly backward so that you do not turn your back on the coyote. Back-tracking on route you took, will often lead you out of a den area or away from protected pups. If you are on horseback, slowly leave the area by retracing your route.

If you feel threatened try to frighten the coyote away by shouting in a deep voice, waving your arms, throwing objects at the animal, and looking it directly in the eyes to make yourself seem large and menacing. Stand up if you are seated. If you are wearing a coat or vest, spread it open like a cape so that you appear larger. Carrying a whistle with you can aid in frightening a coyote and summoning others to assist you.

Report any incidents of aggressive coyotes to local authorities including your local animal control agency. 

Although most coyotes are healthy, they can carry raccoon strain and canine strain rabies. Infected animals in the latter stages of the disease will act aggressively towards humans perceived as threats.  If someone is bitten or scratched by a coyote, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention. Because rabies infections in humans are nearly always fatal, medical authorities recommend post-exposure immunization whenever a person comes into direct contact with a wild coyote during a conflict. If a dog is bitten, the owner will need to ensure a rabies booster is administered immediately.  In either of these cases, report the incident to local authorities (Richland County Sheriffs Office).

If coyotes approach without fear, become aggressive, or are taking pets from yards, then further action may be needed.  Within the Richland County Park District call staff at 419-884-3764.  On private property or elsewhere, contact the local police department or animal control warden. 

Here are six steps to avoiding conflict with coyotes.

  1. Do not feed coyotes
  2. Do not let pets run loose
  3. Never run from a coyote
  4. Repellents or fencing may help
  5. Do not create conflict where it does not exist
  6. Report aggressive, fearless coyotes immediately

You can also find urban coyote information from the Ohio Division of Wildlife.


About Our Parks

Our parks and staff are dedicated to education, enjoyment and preservation of Richland County's natural areas and inhabitants. Our goal is pursued by preserving natural areas for people to experience, and by providing opportunities for people of all ages to learn about the rich diversity of life and habitats in our county.

Our Location

Gorman Nature Center
2295 Lexington Avenue
Mansfield, Ohio 44907

Hours of Operation
Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(Closed Sunday-Monday and Federal Holidays. Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.)

419-884-FROG (3764)

© 2015 Richland County Park District. All Rights Reserved.