BASIC FACTS ABOUT COYOTES
The coyote is a medium-sized member of the dog family that includes wolves and foxes. With pointed ears, a slender muzzle, and a drooping bushy tail, the coyote often resembles a German shepherd or collie. Coyotes are usually a grayish brown with reddish tinges behind the ears and around the face but coloration can vary from a silver-gray to black. The tail usually has a black tip. Eyes are yellow, rather than brown like many domestic dogs. Most adults weigh between 25-35 pounds, with a few larger individuals weighing up to 42 pounds.
One of the most adaptable animals in the world, the Coyote can change its breeding habits, diet and social dynamics to survive in a wide variety of habitats.
Alone, in pairs or in packs, Coyotes maintain their territories by marking them with urine. They also use calls to defend this territory, as well as for strengthening social bonds and general communication.
Although coyotes can use any habitat, they typically prefer open areas, such as the prairie and desert. Current research is dedicated to understanding coyote habitat selection within urban areas, in order to understand if coyotes benefit from human-associated developments (i.e. are synanthropic species) or if they are merely occurring in human-populated areas due to increased sprawl and fragmentation.
In urban areas, coyotes prefer wooded patches and shrubbery, which provides shelter to hide from people. Our research has found that within the urban matrix, coyotes will avoid residential, commercial, and industrial areas but will use any remaining habitat fragments, such as those found in parks and golf courses.
Although coyotes are predators, they are also opportunistic feeders and shift their diets to take advantage of the most available prey. Coyotes are generally scavengers and predators of small prey but can shift to large prey occasionally. In one study,the most common food items were small rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%). (Scats often have more than one diet item; therefore, frequencies do not necessarily add up to 100%).
Coyotes typically mate in February, however, only the alpha pair in a pack will mate and subordinates will usually help raise the young. Coyotes appear to be strongly monogamous and so far, bonds between alpha pairs have only been broken upon the death of one of the pair.
In April, after a 62 to 65-day gestation period, the female will begin looking for existing dens or dig one herself. Pup season is the only time coyotes will voluntarily use a den; otherwise, coyotes usually sleep above ground in the open or in cover. Dens may consist of a hollowed-out tree stump, rock outcrop, or existing burrow made by raccoons, skunks or other medium-sized carnivores. Coyotes will also build dens from scratch by digging a hole. They usually prefer some protective cover at the den, such as bushes or trees, and some type of slope for drainage. It is not uncommon for mothers to move their young from den to den to keep them protected or to re-use the same den for multiple years.
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15-20 inches at the shoulder
3-5 inches from
nose to tail-tip
10-14 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity
There are 19 subspecies of coyote.
Coyotes are excellent runners. They can run up to 40 miles an hour and can jump a distance of over 13 feet.
Coyotes are also very good swimmers. They are able to escape predators through the water and have even been able to colonize islands thanks to their ability to swim.