Coyotes, found throughout Ohio and in each of the Metro Parks, resemble small, slender German shepherds with bushy, black-tipped tails. Most are gray, though some have brown, off-white or rust-colored coats. Males are larger than females and can weigh between 20 to 40 pounds.
Our top predators, coyotes are omnivorous. They will eat small mammals, vegetables, nuts and carrion. Though considered nocturnal, coyotes will sometimes travel and hunt during the day.
Breeding takes place from January to March. Males and females work together to prepare the den and care for the young. A litter, which can include one to 12 pups, will begin leaving the den with parents at three weeks old. Eventually, juveniles will establish their own territories.
Working with a coalition of regional partners, researchers from Metro Parks, Serving Summit County are tracking coyotes as part of a multi-year project aimed at learning about the wild canines’ range, diet and overall health.
Our research project is in its third year. Currently, eight animals are being monitored with GPS technology; four with VHF telemetry. The GPS collars, which were first deployed in fall 2010, use satellites to acquire data on each coyote’s location. A cell phone chip inside the wildlife collar sends a text message to our base station, where biologists can monitor whereabouts daily.
The health of each coyote was evaluated at the time of capture. Generally, we have a very healthy population in this region, though they do exhibit signs of exposure to a variety of common illnesses that can plague canines, including distemper, parvo virus and heartworm disease. Analysis indicates good genetic viability in the population. A number of the collared animals are related.
One interesting group of animals that we have collared is an alpha male and female pair. The male was fitted with a VHF radio collar in 2009 and has been tracked for a year and a half. The female, along with her son, was GPS-collared in fall 2010. At that time, we suspected that the mother and son were a mated pair, but genetic studies revealed their true relationship.
Further Metro Parks research indicates that our collared pair are raising five pups this year (2011), a typical litter size for coyotes in this region. Pups are usually born in early spring and spend all summer learning how to hunt and socialize. Some pups may disperse to find their own territory in the fall. Many others will spend a year or more with their siblings and parents.
The young male we have collard still maintains a territory that overlaps with his parents' range. He is likely participating in raising this year’s litter. He will not produce his own offspring until he leaves his family group.
The map above is an example of collected data from the alpha male (pink circles) and female (green circles). The map represents VHF and GPS data locations in time and space and is used to determine home range and habitat preferences.
Special thanks to The University of Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and nonprofit conservation foundation Wild4Ever, which are providing partial funding and/or field biologists for the project. Support is also being provided by The Ohio State University and Cleveland Metroparks. A special study permit was issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.