Natural & Urban Habitat
Signs of Coyote Presence
Natives of the plains and deserts, coyotes have
expanded their range eastward to include all of the
eastern United States.
to view their current Distribution.
HABITAT: Where do coyotes live?
Although coyotes can use any habitat, they typically
prefer open habitats, such as prairie and desert. In
addition to occurring in natural areas, coyotes are
also found in a range of human-populated areas,
including rural farms, suburbs and cities.
Current research, including the Cook County Urban
Coyote Project, is dedicated to understanding coyote
habitat selection within natural and urban areas, in
order to understand if coyotes benefit from
human-associated developments (i.e. are synanthropic
species) or if they are merely occurring in
human-populated areas due to increased sprawl and
In urban areas, coyotes prefer wooded patches and
shrubbery, which provides shelter to hide from
Our research has found that within the urban matrix,
coyotes will avoid residential, commercial, and
industrial areas, but will use any remaining habitat
fragments, such as those found in parks and golf
Coyotes in Chicago:
Coyotes were initially present at the
founding of the Chicago site in the 18th century,
but disappeared during most of the 19th and 20th
centuries. They originally came from open grasslands
and deserts, but have adjusted quickly to other
Many predators, including coyotes, were
initially excluded as cities were developed across
This pattern is true of the Chicago region, where
coyotes were originally native to the area but
largely disappeared by the late 19th and early 20th
centuries as the area developed into a major
metropolitan area. However, during the 20th century,
coyotes expanded their range eastward to include all
of the eastern United States and began appearing in
large metropolitan areas across their historic and
Territories & Home Ranges to learn more
about coyote use of urban and natural habitat.
COYOTE SIGNS: How Do I Know If Coyotes Are Around My
Most coyotes are never directly seen by the public,
but other clues can be used to determine if coyotes
are in the area.
advertise the occupancy of a territory to other
coyotes by group howling.
A graduate student from The Ohio State University tested some of our packs
by playing tapes of howling from captive coyotes in
the middle of their territories, and recording our
coyotes’ responses. She found evidence that coyotes
were capable of identifying individuals from their
calls, and are aware of the number of coyotes
calling during group howling bouts. Howling may also
serve as a social bonding mechanism within the pack.
However, it is impossible to know all the reasons
why coyotes do things, and who knows, some coyotes
may howl because it feels good!!!
Coyotes emit a range of sounds including howls,
barks, and whines.
Their howling has resulted in more myth and
mystery than perhaps any aspect of their behavior.
Many people consider the howling of coyotes to be
the symbol of the West, or at least a vestige of
But, do coyotes in urban areas howl?
In Cook County we have observed that some
groups howl frequently, whereas other groups rarely
howl. For example, we observed a coyote group that
had a territory which included a fire station, and
those coyotes regularly howled in response to the
sirens of emergency vehicles. Other groups were
rarely, if ever, heard howling.
Scats are the feces deposited by coyotes and other
Coyote scats are ropelike and typically
filled with hair and bones, whereas dog scat is soft
with dog food.
Coyotes use scats for communication and so they
usually deposit scats in the middle of trails or
near the borders of their territories where they are
The presence of tracks and scat (feces) are often
indicators of coyote presence in parks or
neighborhoods, but at times these signs can be
difficult to distinguish from those of dogs.