Most people do not think of coyotes living in Harford County, but they now can be found statewide. Populations are highest in the western part of the state and are lower on the Eastern Shore. While hard to spot, they are starting to appear throughout Harford County on a regular basis and, in some rare circumstances, in packs. Camera traps on the HLT “Gulch” property in Pylesville have proved that coyotes have been on the property for at least two years.
Fossil records indicate their presence in Maryland in prehistoric eras. Because they vanished at least 1,000 years ago, the arrival of the coyote in Maryland does not represent a return of a species once present during historic times. Rather, it is considered a new species in the east.
Coyotes generally resemble a small German shepherd dog. They have large erect ears, an elongated sharp muzzle, and a long bushy tail. Overall pelt coloration tends to be brown or buff interspersed with mottled gray or black. The chin, throat, chest, and stomach are usually a lighter shade of brown or cream. The tail has a black tip. Average adult weights ranges from approximately 30 to 40 lbs., with some individuals nearing 60lbs.
Coyotes reach sexual maturity by one year of age, and normally remain fertile throughout their life. Breeding season is late January through March, with peak activities occurring during February. Gestation periods extend approximately 60-63 days and litters average 5-6 pups.
The coyotes' rapid range expansion thr
oughout North America substantiates their adaptability and ability to thrive in a variety of habitat types. In Maryland, coyotes occupy most of the state's habitat types. Highest densities currently occur in intermixed woodland/farmland areas.
Coyotes also have extremely diverse food habits. Dietary items range from plant material and insects to deer and small mammals (mice, rabbits, etc.) and birds.
Maryland and Delaware have the distinction of being the last two states in the contiguous United States to be colonized by coyotes. Maryland is quite fortunate to have the unique perspective of witnessing the ecological and social impacts of established coyote populations in other states. It is a biological certainty that Maryland will share many of the same experiences. Regardless of geographic location, eastern coyotes all possess the same basic genetic material and exhibit essentially the same behavioral traits and population characteristics.
Impacts on natural communities are also fairly predictable and can negatively impact various sympatric native species. Establishment in unoccupied regions of the eastern U.S., coyotes have assumed the role of top-order predator. Consequently, they tend to fundamentally alter existing ecosystem structure and function. Various species experience population declines as a result of their status as coyote prey, or from direct competition for existing resources.