Thursday, August 28, 2014

PA Wildlife: Eastern Coyote

As I grew up, I never heard about any coyotes in our woods. As I read about the creature and its history in Pennsylvania, I now understand why.

The Eastern coyote can be one of four colors: red, blond, dark brown, or tri-color. Females are 35 to 40 pounds while the larger male generally is 45 to 55 pounds. Many have black lines on the front legs from top to bottom.  Their bushy tails look like a fox’s.  On their heads are ears that stand up and come to a rounded point. Like their wolf relative, coyotes howl and yip. Coyote are most active at night but they  also hunt in the mornings.

Coyotes prey on deer, small mammals, and birds. They also eat plants and fruit. Even pets and livestock are part of their diet but to a much lesser degree.

Coyotes stay with their mate for several years and sometimes live with more than one litter for up to two years. Other adults may stay nearby and help with the feeding of the litter which averages five to seven pups.

A member of the dog family, the Eastern Coyote is a result of a wolf and western coyote cross breeding. This makes them larger than the western cousin.

Little is known about the early history of coyotes in Pennsylvania. Hunters and trappers of the 1700s and 1800s may have turned them in and called them wolves. The oldest proof of them living in Pennsylvania is a photo taken in the 1930s. Men saw very few of them until the 1980s when their population seemed to explode. Experts believe that they migrated from the New York Catskill Mountains. The largest population at that time lived in the Pocono Mountains. By 1990 coyotes lived all over the state although most stayed in the northern half. In 2003, the estimated Pennsylvania state coyote population was 25,000 to 30,000.

Coyotes can now be hunted and trapped year round and in unlimited numbers.

Life Lesson: The story of the migration of coyotes into Pennsylvania and their explosion of population is reminiscent of how sin can move into one’s life. Telling oneself, “Oh, it won’t hurt to do it this once,” can be a pathway down from the mountains that allows sin to spread, hurting oneself and loved ones. Romans 1:21-32 shows the progression sin can take from few to many.

Dear God, help us to stop sin at the mountain pass and keep it from detonating our lives.


Hayden, Arnold. “Eastern Coyote,” Wildlife Note—175-39. Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

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