Belonging to the Canidae family, coyotes share lots of traits with some of their closest relatives, which include jackals, wolves, foxes, and dogs. Moreover, they have slender bodies, bushy tails, yellow eyes, narrow and lengthened snouts as well as thick fur.
Famous for howling at the moon, coyotes carry out their hunting during the night with the howling done to convey their location to another of their kind. Furthermore, coyotes are famed for being “wily,” meaning that they have a sharp sense of smell, hearing, and sight as well as being brilliant animals.
The size of a coyote is around the same as that of a medium-sized dog, but still smaller than wolves. According to the National Geographic, the length of a coyote from head to rump is 32 to 37 inches, with their tails adding an extra 16 inches to their length. Also, the weight of a coyote is usually around 20 to 50 pounds.
The color of a coyote’s fur may either be white, gray or tan and this ordinarily depending on the habitat the coyote lives. Coyotes living in the desert have coats which are lighter, whereas those found in the mountain regions have darker coats.
Coyotes are found in North America wandering the plains, mountains, forests, and deserts of the United States, Canada, Central America, and Mexico, with others living in tropical climates too.
Continued human invasion of the countryside has resulted to the coyotes needing to adapt in cities to find food. It is evidenced by coyotes increasingly becoming more and more a common sighting in large cities like Los Angeles and New York.
Being solitary animals, coyotes mark their territory with urine, but when hunting deer, they form packs and use teamwork to catch their prey. According to the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web (ADW), coyotes take turns chasing the deer till they tire or directing them toward pack members that have hidden.
Being nocturnal hunters means that these animals carry out their hunting at night and sleep during the day, thus the reason individuals only hear the howling of coyotes at night. Additionally, they communicate using other noises, with three unique calls – a distress call, a squeak and a howl as stated by the ADW.
They are not picky eaters eating small game, including rodents, rabbits, frogs, fish and a bigger game like deer. Also, 90 percent of their diet is mammalian.
Despite the common thought that coyotes are only meat eaters, they are omnivores, therefore, meaning they eat vegetation and meat. They also feed on insects, snakes, grass, and fruits when they are not snacking on larger prey. Furthermore, coyotes are known even to kill pets and livestock, but at the same time still assisting in controlling agricultural pests for instance rodents. While in cities, coyotes will consume garbage and pet food.
Typically, February and March are the breeding season, and female coyotes build dens over the spring in preparing for their young. Having a gestation period of 63 days, female coyotes give birth between 3 to 12 young ones at once, and a baby coyote is known as a pup whereas a group of pups is called litters. Generally, the size of the litter varies depending on the region, and places with lots of coyotes having smaller litters whereas regions with fewer coyotes giving birth to more pups.
Male and female coyotes partake in raising their pups, with the males bringing the pups and females food. Also, the males assist in protecting both of them from predators.
Female coyotes stay in the den with her pups till their eyes open, with this usually taking around 11 or 12 days according to the National Trappers Association. Often, by fall, these pups are old enough to carry out hunting by themselves, and after a period of 20 to 22 months, coyotes are ready to mate. While in the wild, ADW states that coyotes live approximately ten years.
Dogs and coyotes can also mate, and the offspring is known as a “coydogs.” However, the population of coydogs is not very big because they tend to mate and give birth to their young ones during the winter thereby making the survival chances of the pups difficult. Moreover, males do not help out the females in taking care of the pups hence leading to poor survival chances of these pups.
Coyotes are not a threatened species, and on the contrary, the population of coyotes is ever increasing and has never been higher. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ranchers and farmers using guns, poisons, and traps have put in great efforts to reduce the coyote population; nevertheless, their population still increases.
The United States government in an aim of reducing the population growth of coyotes has killed over 500,000 coyotes. Furthermore, according to the Educational Broadcasting Corp, the cost of doing so costs the taxpayer approximately $30 million.
Coyotes can reach speeds of about 40 mph, thereby speedy creatures.
The Journal of Mammalogy in a bid to distinguish wolves and coyotes, the scientists looked at the DNA of both these species.
In case the coyote’s homes are overpopulated, the males may travel up to 100 miles in search for food.