The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project



  The Coyote Pack  






Mating:  In our study, coyotes are strongly monogamous, with only the alpha pair producing and raising pups.  However, subordinates may help raise the litter.

So far, we have only seen bonds between alpha pairs broken upon the death of one of the pair. A number of pairs have maintained bonds for multiple years (see Big Mama for example).

  Alpha male and mate from Arlington Heights pack.

Defending Territories: Our observations (during tracking, helicopter flights, and trapping) have revealed that the coyotes in our study also maintain territories as groups.  Group size in protected habitats is typically five to six adults in addition to pups born that year.

Territories have very little overlap, so the coyotes obviously defend these areas from other groups. In rural areas, especially where hunting and trapping are common, the group may only consist of the alpha pair and the pups.  Genetic analysis of our coyotes has revealed that nearly all pack mates are close relatives, except the alpha male and female are not closely related to each other.

Members of the Busse pack, across the road from O’Hare Airport.

Hunting & Travel: Although coyotes live in family groups, they usually travel and hunt alone or in loose pairs. In this way they are different from wolves, which leads to the impression that coyotes do not form packs since they are usually seen alone.

Solitary Coyotes:  In addition to resident groups, the urban population also consists of solitary coyotes that have left packs and are looking to join groups or create their own territories. (See Territories & Home Ranges to learn more).

Between one-third and one-half of the coyotes we capture each year were solitary animals. These solitary coyotes can be either males or females and are usually young coyotes (six months to two years old), but can also be older individuals who have left packs.

If a coyote is seen running across a field, it is impossible to know if it is a solitary coyote or a member of a pack from that sighting.  Solitary coyotes travel over large areas, up to 60 square miles covering many different municipalities.  These animals travel between, and through, resident coyote territories, either looking for packs to join, or for vacant areas to begin their own pack.







The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project

The Ohio State University