latrans. The word "coyote" is from
the Nahuatl word cˇyotl. Its scientific
name means "barking dog."
The coyote is grayish-brown to
yellowish-brown on top, with whitish fur on the
underparts, and reddish brown fur on the
foreloegs, sides of the head, muzzle, and paws.
Its triangular ears are almost too big in
relation to the size of its head, it has a long,
narrow muzzle, black nose, and yellow eyes.
Coyotes are 30-34 inches long, stand 23-26 inches
at the shoulder, and weigh 15-46 pounds. The
characteristic bushy tail is 12-16 inches long,
and when the coyote runs it is carried down,
while dogs generally run with the tail up and
wolves with tail straight out. Coyotes can run at
speeds up to 43 miles per hour, and can leap 13
feet or more.
Coyotes are found throughout
the United States, Mexico, Central America and
all but the most northern areas of Canada. They
inhabit a variety of habitats, including
woodlands, desert-like areas, and even densely
populated urban areas. Although capable of
digging their own dens, coyotes prefer to take
advantage of rocky crevices, logs, caves, and/or
abandoned badger and fox dens.
Habits and Behaviors
Coyotes live in packs that
typically consist of up to six closely related
adults, yearlings, and pups. Despite common
depictions to the contrary, coyotes do not howl
at the moon, but since they are primarily
nocturnal it is more common for them to howl at
night than during the day; those howls serve to
let each member of the pack know where other
members are. Other vocalizations include short
warning barks, yips of greeting, dominance
growls, and even whining and whimpering as signs
of submission to other pack members.
Breeding season typically runs
from February through April, and breeding pairs
will often form monogamous relationships that
last several years. The gestation period is about
two months, with 1-19 pups being born per litter
(average is six). Newborn pups weigh about 250
grams and are blind and limp-eared. The eyes open
and ears become erect at about 10 days of age,
they are able to make forays outside the den by 4
weeks, and are weaned at about the same time.
Both parents feed and protect the pups, which are
fully grown and independent by their 12th month.
Males typically leave their birth pack, while
females tend to stay with their mother's pack.
Coyotes can live up to 10 years in the wild.
Rabbits, rodents, and other
small mammals make up most of their diet, with
birds, some reptiles, and even carrion also being
taken. It is also not uncommon for a coyote to
take domestic cats and dogs, and on rare
occasions to go after livestock. Small prey is
usually taken by individuals and pairs, but an
entire pack will, if given an opportunity, take
turns chasing down large prey -- usually deer.
During such chases groups of two to three coyotes
will chase the prey for a distance and then turn
the chase over to another small group, thus
reserving their strength while wearing down the
prey to the point where it becomes too exhausted
to keep running and can be overwhelmed by the
entire pack. Such kills are shared by the entire
pack, regardless of which members ended up making
the final kill.
genus & species Canis latrans
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