Why You May See More Coyotes in Winter

News Release

Why You May See More Coyotes in Winter

Young disperse to find their own territories, but numbers aren’t increasing

(Oct. 21, 2020) — DuPage County residents might see more coyotes between now and February as young coyotes leave their parents in search of mates and territories to call their own, according to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
“Young coyotes are looking for a place to call home, yet most areas are already occupied. This forces them to move around in search of unclaimed territories,” said Forest Preserve District ecologist Dan Thompson. “As a result, sightings tend to increase at this time of year.”

People may also see coyotes more frequently in winter because there’s less vegetation, giving them fewer places to hide, snow on the ground makes it easier to spot animals; and there’s less food resources so they have to spend more time foraging. A rise in sightings doesn’t necessarily mean a rise in the county’s coyote population, though.

But this seasonal increase in activity is reason for people with pets to be especially vigilant.

“Follow forest preserve regulations and keep your pet leashed when you’re in a preserve,” Thompson said. “It’s smart to stay with your dog and keep it on a leash in your backyard, too. It’s uncommon, but coyotes can target dogs, not necessarily for food but to eliminate animals they think they are competing for their territory.

“Dogs that bark at other dogs seem to elicit this kind of response the most. Owners of dogs that behave this way need to understand their dogs are challenging coyotes or other dogs to a fight. This will put their dogs at a higher risk of a confrontation, especially smaller breeds.”

“Even if you don’t see coyotes in your neighborhood, they are still present,” Thompson said. “Please do not let your dog out unattended; stay with your dog and keep it on a controlled leash. By following these tips and suggestions, we can peacefully coexist.”

A hungry coyote is going to be more interested in unsecured garbage cans, pet food, open compost piles, bird feeders, or fallen fruit under trees and shrubs, Thompson said. Keeping yards clean can limit these attractions. People should never feed coyotes, either, as it leads them to expect food from rather than fear humans.

“Coyotes learn and adapt quickly to changes in their environment,” said Stephanie Touzalin, education specialist at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. “They’ve found urban areas offer adequate shelter and more food than rural farmlands ever did. So they’re very common in our area.”

Coyotes are an important component of the ecological community and play a vital role in keeping populations of small animals and rodents in check in DuPage ecosystems. Visit dupageforest.org for more information on coyotes and living with coyotes and keeping pets safe from coyotes.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 4 million people visit its 60 forest preserves, 166 miles of trails, six education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit dupageforest.org, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, blogFacebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.


The Forest Preserve District offers a monthly e-newsletter that includes timely information about projects, programs and events in our DuPage forest preserves. Subscribe to our e-newsletter, and get the latest nature news straight to your inbox.