The coyote is a member of the canid family with a body shape similar to other dogs. They are often confused for the grey wolf. Coyotes by comparison have tall and pointed ears instead of the round ears of the wolf. Their snout is narrow compared to the broad snout of the grey wolf.
Coyotes have a coat of grizzled red and grey fur across the back with white or grey fur on the underside. Across the shoulders, back and tail they may have a tinge of black.
The tail adds between 30 and 38cm (12-15in) to their length.
Their body can measure between 70 and 97cm (27.5-38in) long. An average weight is between 9 and 16kg (20-35lbs).
Coyotes are omnivores that will eat almost anything that they find. This may include fruits, insect, small mammals, fish, carrion. Where they live near humans they may eat rubbish or take domestic poultry.
To catch prey alone they will approach slowly before leaping almost vertically. All four feet leave the ground and the front feet come down on the animal pinning it down before it is killed with a bite.
Packs of coyotes are capable of taking larger animals such as pronghorn, deer and mountain sheep.
Wild 14 years
Captive 21 years
North and Central America is the native home of the coyote. Here they range across Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the United States.
With the arrival of European settlers who have altered the landscape and provided additional food sources the coyote has been able to expand its range. This has also been assisted by the reduction in numbers of the grey wolf and jaguar.
These animals are highly adaptable and will make use of almost any habitat including prarie, forests, deserts, mountains and tropical areas. They may also live in some man-made habitats.
The main limiter on their population growth is the availability of water.
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Females will give birth to their pups in the spring. Her litter may include between three and twelve pups. These are born after the 63 day gestation period. Both parents work together to feed and protect their young.
The birth takes place in a den. This den is located underground and may be dug by the coyote but more often is made from the den of another species such as a badger or ground squirrel.
At birth the young are blind and helpless. They will spend two to three weeks in the den before they start to emerge to play. After five to seven weeks they are weaned and begin to find their own food.
It may be between six and nine months before they become independent and leave their birth pack.
They may hybridize with domestic dogs to make a hybrid known as coydog.
A coyote may run at up to 64.4km/h (40mph).
Coyotes are incredibly vocal with a wide range of vocalizations being produced. These include a howl, bark, yelp and squeal. At dawn the pack will howl to communicate with each other. Where they live near towns they often howl in response to sirens.
They will mark out a home territory using urine or feces to mark bushes. Their calls are used to alert others to this territory.
Most of their activity occurs at night or in the early morning.
Coyotes are good swimmers.
Predators and Threats
They have few natural predators with the main ones being the cougar, bear and wolf.
One of their main threats from natural means is food competition with the lynx, bobcat and red fox. Ranchers and farmers may target the coyote as they will take domestic livestock such as lambs and poultry. They may also suffer from vehicle strikes.
Despite these threats their numbers are currently at an all time high due to humans altering the landscape.
Diseases are another threat to the survival of a coyote.
In North American mythology the coyote is seen as a hero.
Coyotes which live in cities tend to have a longer lifespan than those which live in the wilderness.
Their name comes from the Aztec word, coyotl.
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By Manfred Werner (Tsui [de.wikipedia]) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41179
Photo Gallery Right
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