An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Coyote Breeding Season Beginning

Female Eastern Coyotes only experience estrus once per year for up to ten days and male coyotes only produce sperm during the time females are receptive.  This usually occurs sometime between late December through March.

One unusual aspect of the coyote breeding season is the coyote’s ability to change its breeding habits according to its population status. When their population is threatened and/or pressured, coyote litter sizes go up. They use their howls and yipping to assess coyote populations — if their howls are not answered by other packs, it triggers a response that produces large litters. (I have yet to understand the biological specifics of  this adaptation.)

The normal size of a coyote litter is five to six pups. When their populations are suppressed, their litters get up as high as 12 to 16 pups. Research shows that the number of coyotes in a given area can be reduced by 70 percent but the next summer their population will be back to the original number.

(Photo: blood droplets where a female coyote in estrus urinated. Photo taken 12/4/19)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.


7 responses

  1. Alice

    That’s very interesting about the male and female Coyotes. How very different than humans. in fact ‘the Coyote way’ would make a huge difference if humans were more like them……except for the big litters!

    December 6, 2019 at 8:33 am

  2. Janet Crystal

    The scientific basis for NOT having coyote killing contests to reduce the number of coyotes in an area. That’s not how it works.

    December 6, 2019 at 9:13 am

  3. Joan Allen

    Verifying the biological specifics of the trigger responses to unanswered howls would make a fascinating research project for some PhD student!

    December 6, 2019 at 10:44 am

  4. Phil & Ellie Daley

    Received the 2 calendars that we ordered; thank you1!!

    December 6, 2019 at 10:47 am

  5. Sandy Burd

    But how many pups in the increased litter size actually survive? The mother is not going to have enough teats to feed everyone and even with the male bringing food, will there be enough food to go around? I’ve read that litter sizes adapt to the abundance or decrease in prey numbers, like with the wolves and moose on Isle Royale, but I don’t really understand how all this is communicated to the female’s biological systems?! If anyone knows of a book or study that would be helpful to read, please advise.

    December 6, 2019 at 10:55 am

  6. Betsy Hawes

    Coyotes were howling away the other morning at about 4 AM here in Orange County, NY.

    December 6, 2019 at 11:12 am

  7. Pat Nelson

    I have read for years that coyote populations increase when people try to kill them off, but this is the best explanation I’ve read about why or how that happens. Thanks!

    December 6, 2019 at 1:54 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s