Coyote (Canis latrans)

Adult-coyote

  • Name: Coyote
  • Latin: Canis latrans
  • Classification: Mammal
  • Origin: North America
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • AKA: American jackal, prairie wolf

Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrates)
Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
Order: Carnivora (Carnivores)
Family: Canidae (Dogs)
Genus: Canis (Wolves, dogs and jackals)
Species: Canis Latrans (Coyote)

Apperance

Length: 30-34inches Tail: 12-16inches
Height: 23-26inches
Weight: 15-45lbs

The Coyote is grey-brown to yellow-grey in colour and have white throats and underbellies. They have reddish-brown feet, fore legs, heads and muzzles and their drooping, bush tails are tipped with black.

Their ears are large and pointed and their muzzles are long and slender. While running they carry their tails below the horizontal line of their backs, a trait that distinguishes them from dogs and wolves.

Relatives

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  • Grey wolf (Canis lupus) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) -NEAR THREATENED-
  • Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) -LEAST CONCERN-

Habitat & Distribution

The coyote’s habitat can be anywhere. They can be found in forests, plains and even in deserts. As humans move into their homes they are forced to leave and set up residence elsewhere. However, they are extremely adaptable and can easily live anywhere.

The coyote can be found living in the middle of Alaska down towards Mexico. They also live in Canada and part of the United States of America.

Map of distribution of the coyote
Map of distribution of the coyote

Diet

Coyotes are opportunistic and can and will eat almost anything they come across. Their broad diet can include small mammals such as chipmunks, rabbits and squirrels, as well as birds, snakes, lizards, frogs and toads. They will also hunt and eat small dogs and cats and even larger domestic animals such as sheep and goats.

Coyotes will hunt day or night, alone or in packs. When hunting in packs they can take down large prey such as adult deer and elk. They have also been known to wander in to urban towns and rummage through rubbish bins for scraps.

Probably their most intriguing feeding behaviour is that where it teams up with American badgers to hunt for food. The coyote will use its excellent sense of smell to sniff out small rodents hiding underground; the badger will then use its powerful claws to dig them out. The two will then share their winnings.

Behaviour

Coyotes have been observed travelling in large groups but primarily hunt in pairs. A typical pack will consist of about 6 closely related adults and their young. Their social behaviour seems to be closer to dingo’s than of wolves, this is because they have an early expression to aggression and they reach full growth in one year, where wolves take two years to be fully grown.

They car capable of digging their own burrows but will sometimes take the abandoned home of groundhogs or American badgers. Their territorial range is about 19 kilometres in diameter around their den and travel occurs along fixed trails. They also seem to be better than dogs at observational learning.

Reproduction

Reproduction happens between late January and late March, when the female is in heat. She will stay in heat for 2-5 days. Once a female chooses a partner, the couple may remain monogamous for a number of years.

The gestation period lasts 60-63 days and the litter size ranges from 1-19 pups (the average is 6). The pups however, have a high mortality rate, with 50-70% not reaching adulthood.

The pups are approximately 250g at birth and are initially blind and limp eared. Their eyes open and their ears become erect after about 10 days. They emerge from their den 21-28 days after birth and are fully weaned after 35 days. Both parents will feed weaned pups with regurgitated food. Male pups will leave the den at 6-9 months, but females will stay with the pack for life.

Coyotes are full grown at 9-12 months and sexual maturity is reached at 12 months. Unlike wolves, mothering coyotes will tolerate other lactating females in the pack.

Young coyote cubs vocalising
Young coyote cubs vocalising

Adaptations

  1. The coyote can adjust its hunting style to suit the prey. If it is hunting small animals it will stalk and pounce, and if it is after something bigger, such as a deer, it will hunt in a pack.
  2. The scent of coyote urine is extremely strong and can scare away predators from its territory.
  3. The coyote has very thick coat over the most vulnerable parts of its body, such as the stomach and throat. This protects them from injury.
  4. The coyote has a very good sense of smell and uses this to track down its prey.

Threats

Coyotes have few predators, but the few they have include the mountain lion and the wolf. The pups are also preyed upon by large birds of prey (vulture) and also wolves. They are also shot by humans, mainly because they prove themselves to be a nuisance by going through rubbish bins and killing livestock. They are also shot for sport.

Another threat to coyote populations is their high mortality rate. 50-70% of pups will not reach adulthood.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Least Concern

There is no real need for conservation efforts for the coyote as their numbers are already high, and are kept high due to their amazing ability to adapt.

Humans also make sure their populations don’t dwindle because of their love for hunting and coyotes are a common target.

Fun Facts

Male: Yote
Female: Bitch
Young: Pup
Group: Pack, Band, Rout

Coyotes will follow circling birds, knowing they will lead them to dead meat.
In North American stories, Coyotes are clever and tricky.
They are North American fasted mammal, and can run at speeds of 65kpm.

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