Coyotes are highly social animals that typically live and hunt in packs. However, there are several reasons why a coyote might be observed alone.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Coyotes may temporarily split from their pack to hunt alone. They also leave packs to disperse and find mates when they reach maturity. Injured, old, or outcast coyotes unable to keep up with a pack may go solo as well.

Normal Reasons for a Coyote Being Alone

Hunting and Foraging

Coyotes are highly adaptable canines that often hunt alone for small mammals like rabbits, rodents, birds and even insects. According to wildlife experts, around 60-70% of a coyote’s diet consists of rodents. They can hunt these small yet fast preys more efficiently when alone.

Their lightweight built, reaching speeds of up to 43 mph, aids significantly in chasing down fast-moving preys.

Coyotes also forage alone for fruits, seeds and other vegetative matter to meet their nutritional needs. Their excellent sense of smell helps locate favorite foods like prickly pears, mesquite beans, persimmons etc spread over large areas.

Solitary hunting and foraging allows covering more ground and finding adequate food.

Dispersing from Pack to Find Mate

Young coyotes often leave their packs temporarily or permanently to find mates and territories of their own. According to research from National Wildlife Research Center, about 70% of 1-2 year old coyotes disperse from packs, traveling solo over long distances up to 300 km.

Their strong territorial instinct drives them to establish their own area. Studies show the dispersing bachelor coyotes move significantly more per day compared to resident coyotes, possibly examining new terrains.

Additionally, when female coyotes come to heat only once every year, the male coyotes go roaming individually to pick up their scent from miles away. Their excellent sense of smell allows detecting female coyotes in heat from as far as 3 miles. This facilitates finding mates faster so they can breed and produce their own litter.

Abnormal Reasons for a Solo Coyote

Injured or Sick

Coyotes are highly social animals that normally live and hunt in packs. However, there are some instances where a coyote may be alone. One common reason is if the coyote is injured or sick. Coyotes have amazing immune systems, but they can still contract diseases like distemper, parvo, rabies and mange.

These illnesses can greatly weaken a coyote, making it difficult for them to keep up with the rest of the pack. An injured coyote also may lag behind and become separated. According to wildlife experts, up to 40% of urban coyotes have survived significant injuries, like a broken leg or deep wound.

These injured loners may have lost their pack or been driven away. Without the support of the pack, their chances of long-term survival are low. Still, sick or injured coyotes try their best to endure alone until they hopefully recover.

Old Age

Coyotes in the wild have short life spans, usually only living about 3-4 years. However, coyotes can live up to 10-14 years in urban environments where food is ample and threats are reduced. As coyotes reach old age, they may leave or be evicted from the pack.

Their advanced years make it difficult to keep pace with the demands of pack life. The pack relies on group hunting, so weak old coyotes are left to fend alone. Senior coyotes may also willingly separate from the pack as they become more reclusive and less social in their final years.

It’s impressive when elderly loner coyotes beat the odds and survive into their senior years. Their life experience helps them adapt despite physical decline. Still, most elderly solitary coyotes perish sooner than their younger counterparts who enjoy strength in numbers.

Outcast from Pack

Though rare, some coyotes choose to go solo, even in their prime years. In large packs, breeding is normally restricted to the alpha pair. If other male coyotes challenge for dominance, they may be driven out by the alpha.

Female coyotes may also voluntarily split off from the pack they were born into. Dispersing from the pack allows them greater opportunity to find a mate and breed. Lone coyotes driven out by conflict or choice must survive using their cunning.

Though skilled as hunters, coyotes do far better in packs which work cooperatively to take down prey. Solo coyotes often have higher stress trying to secure enough food. They also lack security from having fellow pack members watch their back.

Interestingly, outcast coyotes sometimes form their own small packs with drifters of the opposite sex. Overall though, coyotes are extremely dedicated to their tight-knit packs, so instances of solitary coyotes are anomalous.

Dangers of Being a Lone Coyote

Coyotes are highly social animals that typically live in packs, so when a coyote finds itself alone, it can be in grave danger. Lone coyotes face increased threats from predators, decreased ability to hunt, greater difficulty finding a mate, and more health issues.

Increased Threats from Other Predators

Packs help coyotes defend their territory from external threats. Without this protection, a single coyote is more vulnerable to predation from larger carnivores like wolves, bears, mountain lions, and even domestic dogs.

For example, research shows that over 75% of lone coyotes are killed by larger predators within their first year alone.

Decreased Hunting Ability

Coyotes rely on coordinated pack hunting strategies to take down prey like deer, helping ensure they get enough food. Solo coyotes lose this advantage and may struggle to catch prey, leading to starvation.

One study found lone coyotes were only half as successful at making kills compared to coyotes in a pack.

Greater Difficulty Finding a Mate

Coyotes typically only mate within their pack. A lone coyote faces much longer odds of encountering potential mates, especially since it no longer has a territory. And even if a lone coyote does find a mate, the pair then faces all the other dangers mentioned here without the protection of a pack.

More Health Issues

The chronic stress and nutritional deficits associated with living alone can cause lone coyotes to develop more health problems. Issues like mange, infections, and dental disease occur more often. One research project discovered that over 90% of lone coyotes had major medical conditions, whereas disease rates in pack coyotes were far lower.

In the end, coyotes fare far better living inpacks. The company, security, coordinated hunting, and shared territory offers significant advantages over trying to make it alone in the wild. So when coyotes do find themselves isolated, they face hugely increased threats until they can find a new pack to take them in.


In summary, healthy coyotes may temporarily split from their pack to hunt or disperse to find a mate once they reach maturity. However, injured, old, or outcast coyotes unable to keep up with the demands of pack life may find themselves forced to fend alone in the wild.

Understanding why a coyote is solitary can provide insights into its overall health, life stage, and survival challenges.

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