The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 17, 2012

Coyote numbers on the rise in Iowa

Elusive creatures no threat to humans

OTTUMWA — That distant howling sound that you’ve heard early in the morning and late in the evening might be a coyote after all.

While the sorrowful sound brings thoughts of the great southwest, deserts and cactus, coyotes are native to Iowa and are one of the most wide-spread fur-bearing mammals in North America. Their habitats range all the way from Mexico to Canada.

It is very difficult to count the number of coyotes living in Iowa due to their secretive nature. They are shy and elusive animals, not often seen out and about. So the Iowa Department of Natural Resources uses the annual Iowa Bowhunters Observation Survey to study what population is available to the naked eye. In 2010, the survey reported higher numbers of coyotes in nearly all regions of Iowa.

In addition, a harvest report can be used to inversely represent the coyote population in the state. Approximately 25 percent of the harvest numbers come from trapping, while the other 75 percent are from hunting summaries for the year.

The reported harvest for coyotes in 2010 was 8,089, up from 2,501 in 2009. Vince Evelsizer, fur-bearer and wetland biologist at the IDNR, says this can be attributed to weather, food sources and the number of predators in the area.

“The numbers for other species have been on the decline, but coyotes are doing really well,” Evelsizer told the Courier. “Here, they don’t have the predators like wolves and mountain lions. They’re the king of the country around here.”

In this area, Evelsizer says the only real predators coyotes face are humans. Their populations can really only be affected by hunting, trapping and disease.

It’s not unusual for coyotes to be seen during the day, but the nocturnal creatures are more often out at dawn and dusk. During the breeding season, from January to mid-March, it’s not unusual for them to be out during the day prowling around.

They’re often attracted to areas that offer the most cover, the most security and the chance to find plenty of food. Their main sources of food are mice and rabbits, but they will take on a deer if they have to.

“We have lots of places to hide and get away here,” said Kurt Baker, director of the Wapello County Conservation Board. “You look at the difference between southern Iowa and northern Iowa and you’ll really see why they like it here. In northern Iowa you can see for eternity, but here there are all of these nooks and crannies, places to be out of sight and out of mind.”

When you hear coyotes howling in winter, they are staying in their family groups, made up of both adults and pups from the previous spring. They will stay together, Evelsizer said, until February or March, when mating season is in full swing. Until then they’ll hunt together and live together for the added warmth and protection.

The mild winter has been somewhat of a blessing for the area coyote population.

“Times are good for coyotes. There are abundant rabbits and squirrels,” Baker said. “It’s not been nearly as stressful with the absence of snow and mid temperatures. It gives them some easy hunting.”

During the next couple of weeks, the females will move away from the group and find den sites. The family that was so tight during the cold winter months will now break up and spread out. There will now be only a single coyote or pair of coyotes here and there, with their home range dependent upon the food availability.

“When there is more food available, they will be more dense,” Evelsizer said. “There might be three to five per square mile in the wooded rural areas, while there might only be one or two in a square mile where there is agricultural land. It all depends on habitat quality.”

The females are now moving to their dens sites to have their pups. After the birthing season in late March and early April, the babies will spend about six weeks in den growing and gaining weight. By mid-May they will be venturing out of the den and will expand their range as they age.

“Then you’ll really hear the pups howling,” Baker said.

There is little to fear from coyotes, no matter how lonesome or troubling their howling might sound. They typically live in remote areas with woods and grass rather than around agricultural areas and homes.

“Coyotes aren’t likely to bother people, but they’re not shy at night,” Evelsizer said. “They’re more bold then.”

Of slightly more concern are pets — outdoor and smaller pets that are allowed to roam are more likely to be caught by a coyote away from the house. Evelsizer says these are really the only circumstances where pet owners need to be a little watchful.

“But we need to emphasize that humans and coyotes have co-existed in Iowa for a long time. There is very little threat for human safety,” Evelsizer said. “For pets, it’s not a big problem if you just use common sense.”

Text Only
Local News
  • City Council approves sale of properties OTTUMWA — On Tuesday the Ottumwa City Council met for the last regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included in the agenda for the evening were several dispositions of city owned property. Structures and land located at 519 W. Fourth St., 723 E. Mar

    April 15, 2014

  • Where to play OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District wants to discuss moving to another athletic conference. Superintendent Davis Eidahl revealed that the district has been contacted by a smaller sports league, which has extended an invitation to join the

    April 15, 2014

  • 0416 OTT Ron Oswalt mug -T School board member resigns OTTUMWA — As this week's school board meeting came to a close, the president read a letter from one of the members. Board President Carol Mitchell read that fellow board member Ron Oswalt was announcing his resignation from the Ottumwa Board of Educa

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Chronic wasting disease found in wild deer OTTUMWA — Since 2002, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has collected more than 50,000 samples of captive and wild deer in Iowa in an effort to look for cases of chronic wasting disease. On April 9, they confirmed an infected wild deer had bee

    April 15, 2014

  • Good Shepherd Food Pantry making a difference BLAKESBURG — Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Blakesburg began its third full year of operation this month. Start-up funds included the South Central United Methodist Conference grant of $1,200 and a large cash donation from Hope Well Church in response

    April 15, 2014

  • Council approves sale to Historical Preservation Society BLAKESBURG — Blakesburg City Council on Monday approved sale of the museum property to Blakesburg Historical Preservation Society. The $4,000 bid submitted by BHPS was the only bid received. Terms of the bid include a clause that if at sometime the p

    April 15, 2014

  • County signs law enforcement agreement with Eddyville OTTUMWA — A law enforcement service contract between Wapello County and the city of Eddyville received supervisors' approval on Tuesday. Beginning July 1, Eddyville will pay the Wapello County Sheriff’s office $3,833 per month or $45,996 for law enfo

    April 15, 2014

  • 0415 OTT bbq photo, run small -T -M Where the smoke came wafting off the grill OTTUMWA — When the hobby they loved became a full-time job, Bubba-Q's owners had to put something they loved — barbecue competitions — on hold. "We haven't competed since 2011," said Sabrina Knapp, co-owner of Bubba-Q's restaurant in the Quincy Place

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Armstrong sentenced in toddler beating OTTUMWA — Dustin Armstrong will spend 50 years in prison for the beating of an Ottumwa toddler last year. The assault took place almost exactly a year ago, when Ottumwa police went to 117 E. Woodland Ave. on April 22 and found Brayden Young, then 2,

    April 14, 2014

  • 0415 OTT Burger King fire photo color -T -M -L Fire closes Burger King indefinitely OTTUMWA — Workers at the Burger King in Ottumwa weren’t treated to an easy beginning to their Monday morning. They had to contact the Ottumwa Fire Department because a fire broke loose in the kitchen, effectively closing down the restaurant for the r

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

Photo reprints