Coyotes are the most adaptable of all North American predators.
They share this trait with raccoons and deer, that’s why spotting coyotes in areas as heavily populated as Los Angeles and Seattle has become a common occurrence.
Coyotes prefer to sleep in dens from other animals or dig their own den, other areas coyotes sleep are rock outcroppings, and hollow trees. In cities, coyotes like to sleep under quiet highway overpasses.
- Hollow trees
- Rock outcroppings
- Borrowed dens
- Dig their own dens
Are Coyotes Creatures of Habit?
While they are intelligent, cunning, and adaptable, they remain creatures of habit.
A coyote has a preferred sleeping place, a place determined by climate, and terrain as equally as their inherited preferences.
Coyotes live-trapped and equipped with tracking devices have been tracked for thousands of miles in an area, but their radius rarely extends beyond 25 to 30 miles from a central location.
They establish a territory and often defend it against rivals that may try to move in.
In natural settings, a hollow tree is a popular location, but not just any hollowed-out tree. It has to be on the extreme when it comes to location.
A single tree, alone on the plains with a clear view of the surrounding terrain in all directions works well for the denizen of the arid west.
That same tree, in a more heavily forested area, must be surrounded by natural barriers if the line of sight is impeded.
Those natural barriers are often thickets of wild raspberries, patches of poison ivy, or rock slides that make noise when the lightest footprint causes them to slide.
Coyotes have incredible eyesight, superior hearing, and an even more impressive sense of smell. They use these heightened senses in harmony with their surrounding environment for protection.
After a hollow tree, a rock outcropping is the next best thing. Coyotes will swim, cross streams, and hunt in the snow, but they don’t like being wet for prolonged periods.
A rock outcropping, with a clear view of the approaching slope, or more of the same protective vegetation and natural features they look for in a hollow tree setting is preferred.
When wolves were common they would sometimes prey on coyotes, but aside from humans, they are a dominant species that are not hunted by any other animal.
Humans have led coyotes to seek out places like high rock outcroppings that have a clear line of sight in the event of an approaching two-legged trespasser.
A Borrowed Den
A third place that coyotes sleep in is the den or burrows of other animals. An intrepid coyote will find a den dug out of the dirt and brush by a raccoon and move right in.
Badger holes are popular as well, and often large enough for a family of coyotes to inhabit.
In the west, some prairie dog towns became vast areas dotted with huge holes. Prairie dogs build their towns with predators in mind, often in the middle of a flat area that has a clear view in all directions.
These large dens are perfect for coyotes as well, and they come with the added attraction of a nearby meal in an unwary prairie dog.
Dig Their Own Den
The final place you’ll find a coyote taking a snooze is in a den they’ve dug out of the ground themselves. Coyotes aren’t nature’s bulldozers like the badger, but they are capable of digging in soft ground.
If coyotes take the time to dig a den, rather than find one dug by another animal, or use natural features like stumps, hollow trees, and outcroppings they feel at home.
When Do Coyotes Sleep?
Coyotes are diurnal animals, meaning they sleep at night. That being said, they’ll move their sleep cycle if hunting is better late at night or early in the morning. If the hunting is better at night, they’ll take the opportunity, then return to sleep.
Where Do Coyotes Hunt?
Coyotes are easy to spot on the Great Plains and foothills of the Rockies. They blend in well with their surroundings, but often the best feeding area is in a cultivated field.
A coyote hunting rabbits or feeding on mice against the bright green backdrop of a farm field stands out starkly.
They hunt year-round, not hibernating in the winter, but feeding on rodents they hear through the snow before striking for a quick meal.
Are Coyotes Nomadic?
Some coyotes don’t stray far on their daily hunts, while others are classified as semi-nomadic. If they were true nomads they’d roam far and wide, traveling hundreds of miles, and rarely if ever returning to the same place again.
Coyotes don’t do that. Studies have shown coyotes can wander 50 or 60 miles across an expanse, but in that vast range, they’ll have three or more sleeping areas established to stay in as they roam.
Think of it as a motel for traveling predators. Coyotes make their home when and where they need it.
How Big Are Coyote Families?
Knowing their hunting habits makes it easier to locate a den. Coyotes live in small groups of four or five most of the time. Scientists have found that in some areas they mimic wolf behavior in building larger packs.
As an adaptable species, coyote’s native habits in natural areas are well known. Many a camper has awakened in the middle of the night as their dogs begin to bark voraciously at the sound of a coyote howling nearby.
The light of a full moon often brings images of sight and sound to us of resting coyotes who just can’t give it up and go to sleep.
There is an area on the west end of Lake Cameahwait in Fremont County, Wyoming where coyotes routinely make their home. The area of the small lake is surrounded by alfalfa, barley, and cornfields.
Coyotes use the heavy cattail concentration, and boggy areas surrounding the lake’s shoreline to build dens on raised, dry outcroppings of rock and dirt interspersed with the semi-aquatic vegetation.
The sound in the late afternoon, and early evening as the sun drops down behind the distant Wind River Mountains to the west is as primordial as it gets.
Rival packs of coyotes, sometimes with pups joining in, sing the sun down during the summer months.
What is the Best Place For a Coyote to Sleep?
These groups of coyotes have found the perfect place to sleep. They move out to hunt in the early pre-dawn hours on trails through the shallow water and mud that prevent humans from moving in on their location.
The occasional dog that enters the area is quickly called back by its owner covered in mud and muck. It’s a great use of natural features that these intelligent wild canines have discovered.
Do Coyotes Sleep in Cities?
These are the habits of coyotes in their native habitat, what about urban coyotes?
It might seem incredible, but coyotes have been spotted in New York City’s Central Park in recent years.
These urban coyotes have all the same traits as their cousins out in the country, but their food sources are different, and so are the places they sleep.
An urban coyote still hunts mice and rabbits, but they’re not above feeding from food left out in a dog dish overnight, and many a disappearing housecat has been feline table fare for aggressive urban coyotes.
You’ll find urban coyotes sleeping in the manmade artificial versions of hollow trees, rock outcroppings, and natural overhangs.
Where Do Coyotes Prefer to Sleep in Cities?
The area under little-used highway overpasses is especially attractive to the urban coyote.
It’s dark, dry, out of the wind and you have an open view of anything approaching up the slope of a highway underpass if you make your den high up where the road passes overhead in the crook of the structure where it meets the surrounding ground.
Dry culverts, as small as two feet in diameter make perfect sleeping locales for solitary coyotes. A family will find a larger spillway-type culvert and make their home inside.
Rarely will you spot coyotes in these styles of dens, but you’ll know they were there by the feathers of unwary pigeons, domesticated park geese, and ducks they leave behind after a meal.
How do Coyotes View Human Intruders?
As a parting image, I was hunting pronghorn antelope a few years ago in the Gas Hills of Central Wyoming. I spotted antelope the night before and hiked to the spot in the darkness.
As the sun rose, I had the feeling I was being watched. Sure enough in the pink pre-dawn twilight, I made out the silhouette of a coyote, looking down at me from a small hill.
A few hours later I walked up to where the coyote had been and found a den in a small rock overhang.
It was a classic home for the wary carnivore.