Here’s Where Coyotes Really Go During The Day


Coyote walking in the prairie grass

When you think of a coyote, you can probably paint a vivid picture in your mind: long nose, erect ears, and a snout pointed upward, howling at the moon. So, this means coyotes are active at night, right? What exactly do they do during the day?

Many people think that coyotes are nocturnal and sleep during the day in rock crevices, dens, or culverts. In truth, coyotes are naturally diurnal, meaning they’re active during the day. Crepuscular coyotes (active during the evening) have changed their circadian rhythm to avoid human conflict.

Pretty courteous, right? What coyotes really do and where they go will depend largely on if they live in the city or a rural environment. Let’s explore the elusive world of the coyote, and figure out just where the heck they go during the day.

Do Coyotes Come Out During The Day?

There’s tons of misinformation out there about seeing certain animals during the day, and how it can be a sign they are sick.

In truth, urban coyotes have become less active during the day, during which time they find covered areas to sleep the day away without being observed by humans or large predators (wolves and pumas).

Raccoons probably get the worst reputation. Many people think if they see a raccoon during the day it means it’s there’s something off with the animal. This is not always true for raccoons, nor is it always true for coyotes.

Coyotes do come out during the day. In fact, being alert and active during the day is a coyote’s natural rhythm. They only become nocturnal due to the presence of people. 

If you happen to see a coyote during the day, it’s not that unusual. Even if you live in the city where they lean toward a nocturnal life, it’s not a cause for alarm. The reason is pretty simple: they use their eyesight (along with other senses) to hunt prey, and it’s easier to see in the daytime.

According to a study done at the Washington State University, urban coyotes tend to move more during the night than coyotes who live in rural environments. The reason for this is due to avoiding observation by both humans and larger predators (if present). 

However, coyotes are opportunistic animals.

What this means is, if they are resting during the day and an easy meal presents itself, they will certainly get up and pursue the easy meal. Whether it’s an injured animal or someone threw out a half-eaten sandwich nearby.

So, coyotes come out during the day, and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. But still, if you see one, should you do something?

What Do You Do If You See a Coyote During The Day?

It’s never pleasant to look out your window and see a wild predator lurking about your property. It can be even more disturbing when you see them in broad daylight.

As disturbing as it may be, seeing a coyote during the day doesn’t warrant a call to the authorities or local wildlife control officer unless you notice abnormally aggressive or bold behavior.

A scientific report done in 2019 explored the bold coyote, and what constitutes ‘normal’ and ‘bold’ behaviors. In their study, it was unsurprisingly found that urban coyotes are bolder than rural coyotes.

What gives? Why are city slickers more prone to steal your lunch pail than coyotes living near brush and farmland?

Scientists speculate that it’s due to learning behaviors and natural selection. Coyotes that are born and bred in the city have learned that there are few repercussions for stealing someone’s lunch every once in a while.

Setting leg traps, baits, or other types of control that are suited for rural areas cannot be done in the middle of a city (can you imagine the legal ramifications and public outcry!). 

Because city environments are very restricted when it comes to controlling coyotes, they have learned to be bold. Bolder coyotes are more likely to get food and obtain resources, and therefore more likely to survive and pass on this behavior to their pups.

If you see a coyote during the day, there’s no need to panic. But, there are some precautions you should take to avoid conflict. After all, coyotes are wild animals and should NEVER be approached or fed.

Here are some tricks and tips to try if you encounter a coyote during the day, or any time:

  • Use scare tactics: Try to scare the coyote away by yelling in a deep, authoritative voice. You can wave your arms and if you’re wearing a coat, open it up to make yourself appear bigger. This will appeal to a coyote’s basic instinct to survive, and let it know you are not someone to be trifled with, and you are not prey.
  • Don’t feed coyotes: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Coyotes are super smart and can find food on their own without human intervention. Feeding coyotes can cascade into larger issues, and will end up hurting the coyote in the end.
  • Use projectiles: Hazing coyotes is a way to remind them to fear humans. This type of hazing is not meant to harm the coyote, but instead, scare it, and make it think twice about coming around again. You can use rocks, sticks, whatever you have in your hand. Throw it in the vicinity of the coyote, and make sure the coyote can see who is throwing it to really drill down the idea of being afraid of humans.
  • Keep an eye out for bold or aggressive behavior: There’s a somewhat muddled distinction between aggressive, bold, and exploratory behavior. An example of aggressive behavior would be a coyote attacking a dog, whereas bold behavior would be approaching a human or even attacking a human.

If you notice a coyote being bold, or not responding to shouting, yelling, or hazing, it indicates that the coyote has lost its fear of humans. 

Examples of bold behavior include approaching humans, not running away if being shouted at, stealing food from your hand or porch, and stalking humans. Kids and pets are especially vulnerable to bold coyotes because of their small size.

In these situations, it’s best to call local authorities or wildlife control. Feel free to use our nationwide services to get connected with a wildlife professional near you in seconds! Using our partner network helps support pestpointers.com. Thanks!

We’ve discussed what to do if you see a coyote during the day, and talked about how coyotes are actually supposed to be active during the day. But what about urban coyotes that are nocturnal? What do they do during the day?

Where Do Coyotes Sleep?

Urban coyotes spend most of the day catching Z’s and relaxing. But they do still move around during the day and prepare for the night’s activities.

A study performed in Washington State looked at the movements of coyotes during the day and night, studying the different habitats that coyotes chose to use during those times.

The results of the study showed that, for the most part, coyotes like to hang out in densely forested or shrub-covered areas during the day. The researcher speculated that the reasoning was that coyotes were attempting to avoid conflict with humans during the time we are most active: the daytime. 

Forested areas and shrub-covered habitats provide the most cover for coyotes while they are moving. They’re pretty lazy during the day, moving far less frequently than at night.

During the night, urban coyotes will move from forested areas into sparsely mixed vegetation areas (housing plants, yards, etc.). They always stay within 1 hour of dense forest and shrub areas, possibly to return to if they are being pursued by predators or if they are observed and scared by a human.

Coyotes do not sleep in dens unless it is during the pup-rearing season. Otherwise, they tend to just hang out on the forest floor or open grasslands.

When they do live in dens, they’re typically those that were already dug out by other animals such as skunks and badgers. Coyotes will take over the den and widen it to fit themselves inside. These dens are pretty obvious when you see them.

Once the coyote is done rearing its pups, it will move back to napping on a pile of leaves or in tall grass.

What Time Of Day Are Coyotes Most Active?

Coyote Standing During Summer Day

Although there are some differences in activity between urban and rural coyotes, the activity level in both will peak at specific times of the day.

Whether they’re urban or rural coyotes, they tend to be most active at dusk and dawn. This is a direct correlation to when their prey is most active.

White-tailed deer, voles, and rabbits are all most active at dawn and dusk. Although coyotes are omnivores, they still hunt other animals to balance out their diet.

Coyotes are not the most social creatures. They will sometimes hunt in pairs or even as a small family, but they will never hunt prey in large packs as wolves do. More often than not, you’ll see a single coyote lurking about.

Luckily for us humans, we tend to be settling down for sleep or groggily throwing our alarm clocks at dusk and dawn, so we don’t regularly see coyotes.

Coyotes are pretty elusive creatures. If you live in the city you might have ten coyotes living within just a few miles of your house and never see one. They don’t want to see you, and they don’t want you to see them.

That works just peachy for us, right?

What Else Do Coyotes Do?

In general, coyotes are not social creatures. A coyote’s home range can span as much as 12 square miles. With that being said, home ranges are only defended during mating and pup-rearing season when coyotes call a den their home. 

After pup-rearing and mating season are over, coyotes still have home ranges and territories, but they are more tolerant of other coyotes overlapping with that territory.

Coyotes use distinct communication noises to announce their presence to other coyotes. They may yip and howl to give other coyotes an idea of where they are, which way they’re going, or to draw another coyote toward them after a successful hunt.

All in all, coyotes have both a positive and negative impact on humans.

Coyotes Can Be Good For The Environment

Coyotes are great at keeping small pests under control. Similar to spiders, you may not want a coyote in your space, but they help keep bigger problems under control.

  • Pest Control: Where coyotes are abundant, you may notice fewer rats, mice, snakes, rabbits, and voles. Coyotes take care of all these creatures and make sure populations don’t get out of control.
  • Biodiversity: Coyotes fill a very specific niche and encourage biodiversity. Without them, studies have shown a lack of biodiversity and an explosion of smaller prey animals such as mice and rabbits.
    • This may not seem too bad, but an overabundance of herbivores promotes degradation of the environment due to overgrazing. Where wolves and mountain lions are not present, coyotes are the biggest predator. It’s their job to be at the top of the food chain, and keep prey animals in check.
  • Self-regulating: Coyotes can control how many pups they have. This is the main reason why killing coyotes doesn’t work for population control. If an alpha pair is killed, new coyotes will come in to reproduce. If they feel their populations are decreasing, they will increase the number of pups. If there’s not enough food to go around, they’ll have a smaller litter of pups.
  • Red Wolves: Only about 40 pure red wolves exist in the wild. However, hybridization between red wolves and coyotes has allowed the species to now spread into Louisiana and East Texas, where scat was collected and analyzed and found to contain red wolf genes, some up to 100% red wolf.

Coyotes Can Be Bad For The Environment

There’s a reason coyotes are one of the most actively hunted animals in North America. They can become pests themselves, especially when they live around farmland.

  • Poultry and livestock are at risk: Chickens, goat kids, calves, and pets are all possible prey to a coyote. If chicken coops are not properly secured, and calves and goats are not properly secured at night, coyotes may prey on them.
  • Crops are at risk: Coyotes are omnivores, eating both plants and animals. They occasionally feed on fruits such as berries and watermelons, which may disrupt harvests and gardens.
  • Urban coyotes can become problem animals: Urban coyotes that have lost their fear of humans can become a problem in heavily populated areas. Bold coyotes are more likely to prey on domestic pets, steal food from porches, and approach humans without fear.

That’s All For Now!

That’s all we have on where coyotes really go during the day. To recap:

  • What coyotes do during the day depends on if they are urban or rural coyotes:
    • Urban coyotes often change their schedule to avoid humans and will become nocturnal (active at night). During the day, they rest and move between dense vegetation.
    • Rural coyotes are active during the day and use the time to move within their territory, hunt, and find mates during the mating season.
  • Coyotes are most active at dusk and dawn because this is when their prey is most active.
  • Coyotes only live in dens while they are rearing their pups. Otherwise, they sleep on open ground or in tall grasses.
  • Coyotes are good for the environment because they promote biodiversity. They are bad for farmers due to predation on small livestock and poultry.
  • Coyotes have helped pass on red wolf genes and keep the species alive through hybridization.

These wily critters have expanded to touch every state in the continental U.S. and spread into both Canada and South America. Although they may not be your favorite neighbor, they’re here to stay. 

Their resilience and adaptability are truly amazing, and the best thing we can do is learn their behaviors and understand them so that we might live with as little conflict as possible.

References

Breck, S.W., Poessel, S., Mahoney, P. et al. The intrepid urban coyote: a comparison of bold and exploratory behavior in coyotes from urban and rural environments. Sci Rep 9, 2104 (2019).

Lehner, P. (1976). Coyote Behavior: Implications for Management. Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006), 4(3), 120-126.

Quinn “Coyote (Canis Latrans) habitat Selection in urban areas of Western Washington via analysis of routine movements.” Northwest Science. 1997; 71(4): 289-297

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