Do Coyotes Hunt In Packs? Curious Hunting Facts Explained For Kids! | Kidadl


Do Coyotes Hunt In Packs? Curious Hunting Facts Explained For Kids!

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Coyotes are a species of small, wolf-like animals that can be found in both urban and rural areas.

Though they are carnivorous in nature, they are not really seen as predators, rather as opportunistic feeders. As they're small in size and do not need to eat much to sustain themselves, they are able to survive on small prey like rodents and mammals, so they hunt alone.

Similar to their relatives, wolves, that can be spotted living and hunting in wolf packs, coyotes do form packs. However, the structure of these packs is slightly different, and usually only consists of a single mated pair and their pups. Besides the pups, the pack members may also include offspring from previous years or lone coyotes which have been adopted into the family. The head of the pack is called an alpha male and female.

Why don't coyotes hunt in packs?

Coyotes are from the canine family and are quite similar to their larger cousins, wolves. As this species shares many characteristics with wolves, you might be wondering if they live and hunt in packs as well.

The answer is yes and no. Coyotes do form packs and live together, however they rarely hunt in groups. Instead of forming groups of unrelated canines like wolves do, a coyote pack usually consists of an alpha male and female, their young from previous seasons, and their pups who leave the pack once they grow up. The pack may accept individuals who are unrelated to them, however, this depends on the availability of food and willingness of the alpha pair to accept them.

They rarely hunt in packs and are more commonly found either in pairs or alone. They are scavengers and generally hunt smaller prey like rodents, hares, birds, and pets like cats and dogs. Some coyotes may also eat fish or leftover food they find in dumpsters, operating alone. However, they might occasionally come across larger prey like deer or cattle, in which case they will take it down by hunting in a pack.

As coyotes are very prevalent in urban areas due to their scavenging habits, they have evolved to be nocturnal in nature so that they can enter backyards and other human settlements once people are asleep. They're very good climbers, and can jump over most walls with a single leap, making them quite difficult to keep away! They are a big threat to pets like cats and dogs, which they see as easy prey. Though they are most active at night, they can also be seen slinking around gardens at dusk and dawn.

However, as these wild animals are seen as a threat in urban areas, a major cause of death for urban coyotes is being caught in preventive traps. They are also hit by cars very frequently while out on their solitary nocturnal hunts. In rural areas, they are much more likely to be hunted.

Why do we hear so many calls if coyotes do not hunt in packs?

Coyotes are quite vocal and also very frequent visitors to urban areas. This is why you may be hearing their howls and yelps at night. They're very commonly found all over the United States, so don't be surprised if you receive a backyard visit from one or more of these animals.

Though they are lone hunters, you may begin to hear increased activity from them in the colder months, around February and March. February and March are the most important months for coyotes because this is their breeding season! During this time, young coyotes find a mate with who they will share the rest of their lives, and adult mated pairs expand their pack by mating. Pups are born later in the year, around spring. Coyote pairs share a very strong bond and stay together until the death of one of them.

During the breeding season, coyotes become extra aggressive and take more effort to establish their territories. Each coyote pack (or family) has its own area of the woods, which they prefer to keep to themselves. They often howl to keep other packs or pairs away from their dens and are met with a cascade of howls in return, from other packs that are responding. These howls are not really a threat, but just a warning given by coyotes as they try to defend their territory.

Coyotes also have a large range of sounds they make, and their howls can reverb off trees and buildings quite easily. This makes it seem like there are a lot more coyotes present in the area when in reality it is probably just one pair that is communicating with one another. They may 'talk' to each other using a combination of howls, yips, barks, and yelps, informing each other of potential food sources and danger.

Coyote running in dry field.

How often do coyotes hunt in packs?

Though these wild animals are most often seen alone, especially in urban areas, you might catch them in packs in their natural habitat from time to time. Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, and their main prey will depend on what is most naturally available in the area.

For example, if they live near human settlements, they will most likely depend on food found in garbage cans or dumpsters in which case they do not need to hunt in packs. If their habitat is abundant in smaller prey like rodents and rabbits, then those will become their main source of food until any changes occur.

The only cases in which you may see coyotes actually hunting in packs is when they are after larger prey. Coyotes usually do not go after prey bigger than them, as they have other smaller options around and it is not very feasible for them to take prey down due to their small size and tendency of hunting alone. However, if they do need to hunt larger prey like deer, calves, and other livestock, they will hunt with other members of their pack and divide the prey amongst themselves after they are done. They often follow a strategy, in which they chase their prey until it is tired out, or they drive it to an out-of-sight member of the group.

What do coyotes hunt more frequently?

A coyote's diet consists mostly of smaller mammals like rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, as well as any birds and fish that it can find.

Due to a coyote's smaller size, it is easier for this animal to hunt these animals, which also fulfills its appetite as it does not need to eat much. These animals are not inherently predators but rather opportunistic in nature, and usually kill the first thing that they can find whenever they are hungry.

It is usually not necessary for urban coyotes to go after larger prey, as they do not need much food to sustain themselves. They only need 2-3 lb (0.9-1.3 kg) of food per day, and they stop eating after they are full and abandon the rest of their kill, meaning they can easily survive on a diet of rodents and birds. This makes it very feasible for them to hunt alone or in pairs. A mated pair will usually hunt together to bring prey back to their dens for their pups, otherwise, coyotes prefer to hunt by themselves.

Written By
Tanya Parkhi

Tanya always had a knack for writing which encouraged her to be a part of several editorials and publications across print and digital media. During her school life, she was a prominent member of the editorial team at the school newspaper. While studying economics at Fergusson College, Pune, India, she got more opportunities to learn details of content creation. She wrote various blogs, articles, and essays that garnered appreciation from readers. Continuing her passion for writing, she accepted the role of a content creator, where she wrote articles on an array of topics. Tanya’s write-ups reflect her love for traveling, learning about new cultures, and experiencing local traditions.

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