If you're sitting around the campfire at night and you hear a lonesome wail, it's probably one of three things: 1) the distinctive, plaintive call of a coyote; 2) someone in your camp sitting on a wayward fork; or 3) you're not in Montana at all—you're lost in the woods surrounding Burkittsville, Maryland without a map. (Our only gratuitous Blair Witch reference on this entire site; we promise.)
If you're lucky, it's a coyote. Known for their high-pitched yodeling and yips, coyotes are the most easily recognized symbol of the west. But even though you may hear them often, they're not so easy to see; they typically avoid human contact in the wild. Coyotes are incredibly adaptable, which explains why you can find them all across Montana in varying habitats—everything from high mountain timber to flat plains.
Coyotes may hunt on their own, or in family packs. Ordinarily, they rely on small mammals for food in the summer months and feed on larger animals in the winter. They are opportunistic hunters, dining on everything from grasshoppers to deer. Unfortunately, some develop a taste for sheep or cattle, which has created many conflicts with ranchers throughout the state.
Coyote litters, born in the spring, average about six pups (but may be as many as ten). Females use the same den year after year, in rocky out-croppings, brush piles or holes in riverbanks. Coyotes are monogamous and family focused; they mate for several years and sometimes life. The fathers actively help raise the pups by bringing food to the nursing mother and pups. Later, they help teach the pups to hunt. Young coyotes will stay with their littermates and parents for about nine months before setting off on their own.