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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

A Coyote Discovery

"A group of University of Illinois Master Naturalists, and employees and volunteers of Parkland Foundation, found a den of coyote pups while clearing out invasive brush in the Letcher Basin," states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. The employees used a large brush cutter to remove an invasive autumn olive tree and buried below the brush was a half dozen furry animals that appeared to be very young. As soon as the discovery was made, and after a few snapshots, the crew stopped their work and vacated the area. Their intention was to leave the area in hopes the mother would come back and relocate her den.

The crew's goal with clearing out invasive trees and shrubs was to then go back and plant native oaks and hickories in alignment with the mission of Parklands Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to preserve, protect and ecologically restore historic natural lands in the middle and upper Mackinaw Valley watershed. "We had seen coyotes in the area before, but this was a highlight of my Master Naturalist experience," claims University of Illinois Extension volunteer, Douglas Kaufman-Dickson.

Although similar to dogs in appearance, a coyote holds its tail down between the hind legs when running. A coyote's eyes are a striking yellow with large dark pupils and their eye shine is greenish gold. The yaps and howls of coyotes can be heard at night. Coyotes prefer semi-open country with a mix of grasslands and woodlands in Illinois.

Coyote breeding peaks in late February or early March with pups born during late April or May. Litters are on average six to seven pups. Den sites may be underground, under hollow trees, logs, or brush piles like the one found here at the Letcher Basin. Most dens are in vacant fox, badger, or woodchuck burrows that coyotes have taken over.

Pups begin playing near the den entrance at three to four weeks of age. Pups are weaned by the time they are two months old and begin to learn how to hunt. By late summer or early fall these furry little finds will be on their own eating mice, voles, rabbits and deer fawn.