Coyotes are a type of wild dog found in North America. They are closely related to wolves and share many of the same characteristics, such as strength, speed, and intelligence. Coyotes are well known for their hunting skills and adaptability, allowing them to thrive in various habitats.
While they sometimes prey on livestock or pets, coyotes also play an important role in controlling the populations of other animal species. This blog post will take a closer look at coyotes and some of the unique things that make them so special.
Coyotes Natural History
Coyotes are medium-sized members of the dog family, Canidae. They are similar in appearance to a small German shepherd dog, with a pointed nose, large ears, and a long, bushy tail. Coyotes are common across North and Central America and adapt well to human activity and settlement.
Coyotes typically weigh between 20 and 50 pounds, though some males can grow larger. They are typically grey or brown, with a light-colored belly. Coyotes can live up to 15 years in the wild and have been known to travel up to 40 miles in a single day.
Coyotes are intelligent and adaptable predators. Their main diet is small mammals, but they will also eat reptiles, birds, fish, fruits, and vegetables.
In some areas, they have been known to prey on other livestock, such as sheep, goats, and calves. They typically hunt alone or in pairs but can form packs of up to 40 individuals.
Species of Coyotes
According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), Coyote has 19 subspecies which are:
- Canis latrans cagottis (Mexican coyote)
- Canis latrans clepticus (San Pedro Martir coyote)
- Canis latrans frustror (south-eastern coyote)
- Canis latrans dickeyi (Salvador coyote)
- Canis latrans impavidus (Durango coyote)
- Canis latrans goldmani (Belize coyote)
- Canis latrans incolatus (northern coyote)
- Canis latrans jamesi (Tiburón Island coyote)
- Canis latrans hondurensis (Honduras coyote)
- Canis latrans lestes (mountain coyote)
- Canis latrans microdon (Lower Rio Grande coyote)
- Canis latrans latrans (plains coyote)
- Canis latrans mearnsi (Mearns coyote)
- Canis latrans ochropus (California valley coyote)
- Canis latrans texensis (Texas plains coyote)
- Canis latrans peninsulae (peninsula coyote)
- Canis latrans umpquensis (northwest coast coyote)
- Canis latrans thamnos (north-eastern coyote)
- Canis latrans vigilis (Colima coyote)
Where Do Coyotes Live?
Coyotes are found throughout North and Central America. In the United States, they are most common in the West but can be found in every state except Hawaii. They have also been introduced to South America and Europe.
Coyotes typically live in dense areas, such as forests, mountains, and deserts. They also sometimes live in more urban areas, such as suburbs and cities.
What Do Coyotes Eat
Coyotes are mainly carnivores, meaning that they mostly eat meat. Though coyotes will eat just about anything, their favorite food is rabbits. Up to 80% of a coyote’s diet can be made up of rabbits.
Other prey items include rodents (mice, rats, ground squirrels), reptiles (lizards, snakes), birds (doves, ducks, chickens), insects (grasshoppers, beetles), and carrion (dead animals).
In addition to hunting for food, coyotes will also eat fruits and vegetables. This is especially true in urban areas, where they are more likely to find these items in trash cans or dumpsters. Coyotes have even been known to eat dog food and cat food that is left out.
Coyotes often target larger prey items, such as deer, when hunting in pairs or packs. Though they are not built to take down these large animals on their own, by working together, they can take down animals much larger than they could on their own.
Coyotes’ Life Span
The average lifespan of a coyote is around 10 years, but they have been known to live up to 14 years in captivity. In the wild, however, the average lifespan is much shorter due to factors such as disease, predation, and hunting.
Coyotes Reproduction and Life Cycle
Coyotes reproduce once a year, typically giving birth to four to six pups per litter. The breeding season for coyotes generally occurs between mid-January and early March. After a 63-day gestation period, the female will give birth to her pups in a den.
Coyote pups are born blind and deaf and are completely dependent on their mother for food and shelter. Coyotes can reproduce with both regular domestic dogs and wolves, producing a new mixed breed called a “coydog.”
Coyotes have been observed engaging in cooperative behavior, such as helping fellow pack members hunt or care for pups. Their social structure is similar to wolves, with dominant individuals leading the pack while lower-ranking members follow.
Coyotes typically live in family groups consisting of a mated pair and their offspring, although larger packs are not uncommon. These family groups often den together during the winter months.
Coyotes howl at night to terrify other wild animals and remind them to stay out of their territory. While coyotes typically prey on small mammals such as rodents, they will also hunt larger prey such as deer or elk when the opportunity arises.
They have even been known to kill livestock such as sheep or calves. Coyotes have become a nuisance to humans in some areas due to their scavenging habits.
Coyotes are highly adaptable animals and have been able to thrive in various habitats. One of the primary reasons for their success is their ability to exploit different food sources.
Coyotes are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. They will eat anything from small rodents and insects to deer and elk. They have also been known to scavenge off of dead animals.
Another key adaptation that allows coyotes to survive is their reproductive strategy. Coyotes can breed at any time of year, depending on food availability. This flexibility helps them to deal with changing environmental conditions and increases their chances of surviving bad years.
Lastly, coyotes are very social animals and typically live in packs of around six to eight individuals. This close-knit social structure helps them better compete for food and shelter and ward off predators.
Coyotes have several predators, including mountain lions, gray wolves, and golden eagles. These animals typically prey on weak or young coyotes, though they will also scavenge on the carcasses of dead coyotes. The main predators of coyotes are humans.
Conservation Status of Coyotes
The coyote is listed as the least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its widespread distribution and large population in North America.
This means that they are not currently in danger of becoming extinct. However, the coyote population could decline in the future if it continues to be hunted by humans.
Do Coyotes Attack Humans?
Coyotes are not a major threat to humans but can be dangerous if they feel threatened or cornered. Attacks on people are rare but have been increasing recently as coyote populations have grown and expanded into urban areas.
Coyote attacks on people are generally motivated by hunger or fear, with the latter being more common. For example, a mother coyote may attack a human if she feels that her pups are threatened, or a coyote may show aggressive behavior if it feels cornered or trapped.
An aggressive coyote raises its back and lowers its tail. In most cases, however, coyotes flee from humans rather than fight.
It is important to be aware of the risks associated with coyote encounters and to take steps to avoid conflict whenever possible.
How Can You Avoid Conflicts with Coyotes?
If you live in an area where coyotes are known to be present, it’s important to take precautions to avoid potential conflicts. Here are some tips to follow:
- Do not feed a coyote, as this could make them bolder and more likely to approach people.
- Keep your trash cans securely covered and empty regularly, including bird feeders.
- Feed your pets indoors, and do not leave pet food outdoors.
- Remove any water sources from your property, such as birdbaths or kiddie pools.
- Keep your yard clean and free of debris.
- Make sure that fences are in good repair and do not have any gaps that a coyote could squeeze through.
- You should keep your pets on a leash and supervise them when they are outside.
When encountering a coyote, it is important to remain calm and avoid eye contact. Try to make yourself as big and loud as possible and try to scare it off by yelling and waving your arms.
If the coyote does not back down, you may need to use pepper spray or other forms of self-defense. If that does not work, throw stones or other objects at it, but do not try to corner or capture it.
Coyotes are protected under state and federal law, so it is illegal to trap or kill them without a permit. If you have problems with coyotes on your property, contact your local animal control office for assistance.
Coyotes are generally shy around humans but may become bolder if they are not afraid of being caught or harmed. If you see a coyote, it is best to scare it away by making loud noises or throwing objects in its direction.
Never approach or capture a coyote, as they can be dangerous.