Coyotes are common in Madison. If you walk on our lakes in winter, after fresh snow has fallen, you will see a myriad of coyote tracks, along with those of other mammals like fox, beaver, mink, deer, raccoon, rabbit, and squirrel.
Coyote tracks look like those of a medium-sized dog, except that they typically trend straight as an arrow. In contrast, dog tracks are nearly always found looping out and back to human tracks, or zig-zagging.
Fox tracks also head in a beeline, but are a good deal smaller than coyote tracks. In winter, I have seen more coyote tracks near the lakes, while fox tracks seem more common on golf courses.
Two winters ago, late in the afternoon, I heard one or more coyotes howling somewhere along the west end of Lake Wingra. Last winter, I tracked them numerous times on the lake, finding a place where one had slept among the cattails.
West end of L. Wingra--where the coyote nest was found.
Wile E. Coyote slept here. Evidence: tracks and gray hairs.Although there are doubtless many coyotes living in Madison, it's rare to hear them howl. That's because they are extremely wary of humans. Your best chance to see one is to get up before dawn, and watch the frozen shore of one of the lakes, near a wooded area, as the light begins to grow.
Our coyotes travel long distances. I tracked two coyotes heading straight across Lake Mendota.
- If you live near woods, don't leave small children or small pets outdoors alone.
Don't leave pet food outdoors; keep garbage cans covered.
Cats are especially vulnerable--some coyotes appear to specialize in eating cats.
Coyotes--Never out of sight, or mind (excellent essay)
Eastern coyote/coywolf web page by Jonathan Way
The Coyote Wars on Cape Cod (essay)