With coyotes in midst of mating season, pet owners urged to be cautious

Pet owners are urged to stay vigilant as coyotes, such as this eastern coyote, are more active during their mating season, spanning January through March.

Pet owners are urged to stay vigilant as coyotes, such as this eastern coyote, are more active during their mating season, spanning January through March. FILE PHOTO

What appears to be a coyote with reddish fur stands at the edge of a cornfield in Gill on a cold day in December 2017. As coyotes become more active during their mating season, spanning January through March, pet owners are urged to stay vigilant.

What appears to be a coyote with reddish fur stands at the edge of a cornfield in Gill on a cold day in December 2017. As coyotes become more active during their mating season, spanning January through March, pet owners are urged to stay vigilant. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 01-17-2024 1:12 PM

As coyotes become more active during their mating season, spanning January through March, pet owners are urged to stay vigilant.

The eastern coyote — which resembles a medium-size dog, but has pointed ears and denser fur — can be found in almost every town and city across the state. The coyotes weigh between 30 and 50 pounds and typically have a gray fur coat and a long, bushy tail.

In Massachusetts, mating season, during which coyotes are most active, peaks in mid-February, according to a fact sheet from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife). Coyotes give birth in the spring, around April or May.

As “opportunistic feeders,” according to MassWildlife, coyotes feed on whatever food is easiest to find — that includes naturally available rabbits, deer, birds, insects and fruits, along with artificial sources like garbage, birdseed and compost.

Coyotes also view small dogs and cats as prey, and pet owners are thus advised to keep pets safe while outdoors.

“Although free roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than by wild animals, coyotes do view cats and small dogs as potential food, and larger dogs as competition,” reads the MassWildlife fact sheet. “For the safety of your pets, keep them leashed at all times.”

In an announcement sent to Holyoke residents with coyote mating season safety tips, officials urged pet owners to supervise pets when outside; avoid tethering pets outside, especially overnight when coyotes are most active; use a leash and carry a hazing tool; and use non-slip collars and harnesses, which also helps protect pets from vehicle accidents.

People are also asked not to feed coyotes, whether directly or indirectly through unsecured garbage, compost or birdseed. Coyotes will also use areas under porches and sheds for raising young, so homeowners are advised to close off such spaces.

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Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com.