Coyotes are common creatures seen all across North America, recognized by their howling and canine appearance. While some may mix them up with their furry cousins, the wolf, make no mistake- coyotes are very different in most aspects.
Coyotes are naturally diurnal animals, meaning they are asleep during the night and awake during the day. As a general rule, coyotes only sleep in dens during pup season in the spring, and sleep in hollowed-out trees and stumps, dug out holes, outcrops, and already made burrows.
So, do coyotes sleep just anywhere then? How often do they sleep during the day vs. at night? The truth is, the answers may vary depending on location and situation. However, we do have some great information about coyotes that will give you a better insight into how they live and what they do.
The real question, however, is:
Do Coyotes Sleep At Night?
Coyotes are diurnal creatures, yes. This means that they are primarily active during the day and sleep during the nighttime (although this varies based on urban vs. rural coyotes.) A coyotes circadian rhythm will adapt mostly to avoid humans, which is why we tend to hear the, at night.
There is no question that coyotes are, by nature, diurnal creatures. In the same vein, they are very adaptable ones. This means that, while they prefer to sleep during the night, it is also not unusual to hear them up in the darkest hours.
If resources are more readily available during the day, that is when you will see them. If they are more easily sought after at night, expect to hear some howling as you drift off.
Specifically, though, you may be reading this because you are concerned that coyotes are living and sleeping near or on your property.
Well, here is another good question to ask.
What Time Of Night Are Coyotes Most Active?
Since coyotes are diurnal creatures, you are most likely to see them out and about near sunrise and sunset.
It is when humans are around that they tend to choose the night over the light of day (at least, the coyotes that still have a healthy fear of humans.)
This is why you might hear coyotes howling at night, more often than not, and riling up your dogs at all hours. That does not go for every coyote, however, as some may stick to the daytime if it is working for them, but the majority will asleep.
Do Coyotes Come Back To The Same Spot?
While coyotes are known to make specific dens for the birth of their pups, they typically stay long enough to nurse them and then move on. Coyotes are pretty mobile creatures, covering miles of territory.
The purpose of this mobility is a combination of their constant search for food and their desire to protect their young. While moving around for food is a common and understandable trait that coyotes have, so is the latter.
Coyotes may have multiple dens to go between; this allows them to travel with ease while they are hunting, without the dilemma of creating a whole new space to sleep. It also ensures that they can move from place to place without allowing their pups to be detected.
The main reason that a coyote will not return to a den is out of fear that their young are in danger or that their food supply is compromised.
While coyotes commonly return to the same den year after year, some are known to create new dens in the same area to avoid the accumulation of droppings, insects, and other inconveniences.
Now that that’s covered, on to the next big question of the piece…
Why Do Coyotes Scream At Night?
Coyotes are famous for howling. Maybe in your case, they will rile up your dogs while you’re trying to sleep, or maybe their howls will simply fade into the cacophony of background noise on summer evenings.
Is it because of lunar cycles? Is their howling at the moon some sort of animal ritual? Maybe, who knows for sure. What we do know is that howling is a basic communicatory behavior between coyotes and is not only heard at night (though this is the most disruptive, therefore noticeable, time.)
Not only is this communication used between packs, but also to alert other packs of their presence. Flexible yet territorial creatures as they are, coyotes want to make sure to announce their presence and warn others outside of their own pack to avoid the area that they have already claimed.
If you’re finding coyotes near your home at night, you may be interested in reading our article on deterring coyotes with motion sensor lights.
Now, the important part… where do coyotes sleep at night? In their dens, of course. Well, that begs the question of:
Where Coyotes Sleep at Night
A coyote den might sound like it should be one specific location, with a standard build and design, made of the same materials. Right? Wrong.
Coyotes, being the adaptable and semi-nomadic creatures that they are, tend to have many different sorts of dens. What their den looks like, and is made of, varies depending on some of the following factors:
- What type of climate they are living in
- What the landscape of a given area is, regardless of specific climate
- Whether or not they have young pups to care for
- What food resources are nearby
- How many coyotes are to share the den impacts the size of the den
Family groups may have 4-5 members, made up of either a male, female, and their pups, or perhaps their grown offspring have not yet ventured into a territory of their own.
It’s like how some college kids never come home in the summer, while some may not have ever moved out of their parents’ house and commute to a local college. Some coyotes stay with their family unit for a little while longer than others.
Where do these animals make their dens, and what do they make them out of? We will discuss these important factors so that you can be the most educated you can learn about coyotes’ habits, habitats, and more!
If you are looking for a quick, easy, and cheap solution to keep coyotes off of your property with minimal effort, we recommend that you try this Coyote Roller Kit from Ultimation. Simple to install, and a very humane method of keeping coyotes out (and other pets with a knack for jumping in), this is a fantastic option.
Additionally, you can view our guide to keeping coyotes out by using scents they hate.
Coyotes Sleep in Hollowed-Out Trees and Stumps
Hollowed-out tree stumps are a popular resting spot for coyotes. While we may think of these housing smaller, rodent-like animals, these canines (and even wolves, too) are known to make a den out of tree stumps or logs. These just provide a cozier, more compact version of a den.
As we have mentioned before, coyotes’ flexibility makes them able to sleep in a smaller space than usual for a while, if it benefits their young or their ability to access food.
While living in a tree stump may not sound great to you (weird, I know), coyotes make the most of their environment. This is likely one of many dens, which offers them the flexibility to be able to stay in this smaller space once in a while.
Coyotes Den in Already Existing Burrows
Coyotes are intelligent creatures, so it makes sense that they would make use of the hard work of other animals that previously inhabited a space.
These burrows can be originally built for smaller animals such as skunks, badgers, or foxes, though coyotes do typically need to widen the entrances to about one foot in diameter.
Why find trees or rocks when there is already a perfectly good burrow sitting there, just waiting to be adapted to fit a family of coyotes? Given, these three den types may be found in very different areas, which would account for the fact that coyotes roam about 50-60 miles between dens in their claimed territory. Hence the ‘semi-nomadic title we have attached to their habits.
Coyotes Dig Holes to Sleep in Them
An age-old tactic that is not too good for our modern coyotes, digging holes is sometimes utilized to create enough space for shelter in a pinch.
While this may not be the most elaborate of procedures, rest assured that it is still a solid and well-thought-out plan. Remember, coyotes are very intelligent creatures.
If a coyote digs a hole on your property somewhere, you are already in too deep because this means that they do not fear you in the way that they naturally should—using predator urine, which comes from wolves, to deter them from your property line before they get too comfortable sharing a space that you would rather not have shared.
If you’re interested in learning more about predator urine and its effect on coyotes, you can learn more about its use by reading our predator urine guide here.
Coyotes Sleep in Natural Covered Areas
Coyotes are intelligent creatures, this we know, and they prefer to have some sort of covering over their shelter.
Whether this looks like adding some bushes and trees to create a barrier between their sleeping quarters and the outside world or building the den on a slope to avoid any flooding that rain might cause, coyotes know how to create a shelter.
This is another reason that caves, tree stumps, logs, and rocks appeal to them. In contrast, pre-existing burrows and new holes are great, a hole in something that is concave and certainly not elevated to avoid the rain. This may be a non-issue in some environments at certain times of year but, even in the desert, monsoon season is bound to come.
Rain is a part of life anywhere that a coyote is going to live and is, therefore, something that they must consider when finding and creating a shelter of their own.
Outcrops Provide Ready Made Coyote Dens
In some of the more barren, desert-based locations of the Southwest that coyotes are known to roam, trees are lesser (and those that do exist are smaller.)
For this reason, they will make their den inside clusters of rocks or boulders that are around. This provides the same security and enclosure but potentially much more space and stronger barriers between coyotes and their predators.
As an aside, when you are bouldering or hiking on these sorts of outcrops, be aware (but not necessarily afraid) of your surroundings. Remember that animals often feel threatened by humans, and coyotes are certainly not an exception. If anything, they are more afraid of people than many of their related species.
If you come across a coyote that seems to have a particularly boosted level of confidence when approaching you, do not be afraid to make noise and scare it away. What is worse, looking a little silly (if at all) or getting into an (unlikely but still possible) altercation with an unfazed coyote? We would pick the former any day but to each their own.
Another potential deterrent that is helpful for more than just self-defense is this GearLight LED Tactical Flashlight, as it can help spot a boisterous coyote and stop you from tripping on some rocks in a lower-light situation. These flashlights come in a 2-pack, perfect for splitting with a friend or for sticking in your pack as a backup!
That’s All For Now!
Now that we’ve learned a little more about coyotes, where they sleep, how they create their shelters, and why they don’t sleep at night most of the time, hopefully, you have a better sense of what to expect from these mischief-makers.
They tend to sleep wherever is close to a source of food, in sloped areas to avoid rain getting in, and in places that they can cover with brush to separate themselves from their surroundings.
When one food source is eliminated, coyote will adjust their habits to optimize their ability to find new resources. They might even shift out of their nocturnal patterns and venture outside in the day in search of a meal that does not require them to dive through a human’s dumpster (they will do that, however.)
It’s not likely that a coyote will end up making its den on your property unless you have ample space and have done absolutely nothing whatsoever to deter it, that is.
If you want to keep coyotes out of your space, you can do so little as making some noise and waving your arms, and so much as calling a trained professional near you to come to handle the situation.
Coyotes are very well-adjusted creatures. They know how to adapt and when it is time to do so. They will make their dens in any number of areas so long as they best suit the needs of the pack.
Remember, coyotes tend to make their dens in these five types of areas:
- Hollowed-Out Trees and Stumps
- Already Made Burrows
- Digging Their Own Holes
- Natural Outcrops
- Covered Areas
But don’t expect to see a coyote creating a den on your property unless they have become comfortable beyond the point of no return with you (this is not likely!)
We hope that this gives you some helpful insight into the patterns of a coyote and helps you understand why they act the way that they do.
Bender, D. J., Bayne, E. M., & Brigham, R. M. (1996). Lunar condition influences coyote (Canis latrans) howling. American Midland Naturalist, 413-417.
Sacks, B. N., M. M. Jaeger, J. C. C. Neale, D. R. Mc- Cullough. 1999. Territoriality and breeding status of coyotes relative to sheep predation. The Journal of Wild- life Management 63:593-605.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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