CoyotePosted on September 18, 2019 - Last modified: September 18, 2019
Table of Contents
- 1 Species
- 2 Features
- 3 Habitat
- 4 Food
- 5 Predators
- 6 Reproduction
- 7 State of conservation
- 8 Relationship with humans
- 9 Popular culture
- 10 List of other interesting animals
The coyote is a widespread member of the canids, a family that includes foxes, wolves, and domestic dogs. It is found from northern Canada to Central America. Due to this wide dispersal, there are 19 subspecies of coyotes, classified by genetic differences and area of distribution:
Of the 19 subspecies of coyotes, six are in western North America. The northern coyote ranges from central Canada to Alaska. The mountain coyote ranges from northwestern states like Washington to Canada and southern Alaska. The darkest, the Northwest Coast Coyote is found on the coasts of Washington and Oregon. Three subspecies that are nearly identical range from California to the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.
Coyotes of central USA
Four subspecies are found in the most central states. The plains coyote lives from central Canada to Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. This subspecies, one of the smallest, has a pale coat. The Texas plains coyote is found in western Texas and eastern New Mexico. The Mearn coyote lives in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico and in northern Mexico. The lower Rio Grande coyote has a small range, from the southern tip of Texas to northern Mexico.
The two subspecies of the easternmost United States have some notable differences from other subspecies. The northeastern coyote ranges from the Great Lakes region to western New York. Members of this subspecies tend to have larger teeth than other coyotes. Southeastern coyotes are the largest, and they have red highlights on their fur. The size and coloring of this subspecies could indicate that it is crossing with red wolves. It inhabits most of the southeastern United States.
Central American Coyotes
Central America and Mexico are home to the largest number of subspecies, with seven types. The Tiburon coyote lives only on the island of Tiburon on the west coast of Mexico; it is a strong swimmer compared to other subspecies. The other six subspecies in this area are almost indistinguishable from each other, and their populations overlap throughout the region.
The coyote has pointed ears, a thin snout and a bushy, drooping tail, the coyote often resembling a German shepherd or a German collie. Coyotes are typically grayish-brown in color with reddish undertones behind the ears and around the face, but the coloration can range from silver gray to black. The tail usually has a black tip. The eyes are yellow, rather than brown like many of the domestic dogs. Most adults weigh between 11 and 15 kilograms, with a few larger individuals weighing up to 20 kilograms.
Coyotes tend to have a highly organized social system, even in urban areas. It consists of herds, or groups, of coyotes that defend territories from other coyotes. Coyotes living in packs and traveling alone (solitary coyotes) have been identified. Groups are usually made up of a pair of alpha male and female, and a few other coyotes. Genetic analysis of coyotes has revealed that almost all packmates are close relatives, except for the alpha pair.
Observations have revealed that coyotes maintain their territories as groups. Group size in protected habitats is typically five to six adults, in addition to cubs born that year. The territories have very little overlap, so the coyotes defend these areas from other groups. In rural areas, especially where hunting and trapping are common, the group can only consist of the alpha pair and the cubs.
Although coyotes live in family groups, they generally travel and hunt alone or in loose pairs. In this way they differ from Wolves, which sometimes gives the impression that coyotes do not form herds, since they are usually seen alone.
In addition to the herds of residents, the urban population also consists of lone coyotes who have left the herds and are seeking to join groups or create their own territories. Between a third and a half of the coyotes studied each year are solitary animals. They can be male or female and are usually young coyotes (six months to two years old), but they can also be older individuals who have left the group. Solitary coyotes travel over large areas, up to 150 square kilometers covering many different municipalities; some coyotes can even disperse to different states. These animals must travel between and through the territories of the resident coyotes.
If a coyote is seen running through a field, it is impossible to tell if it is a lone coyote or a member of a pack from that sighting.
Communication and Perception
Coyotes use auditory, visual, olfactory, and tactile cues to communicate. They are the most vocal of all the wild mammals in North America, using 3 distinct calls (screech, distress call, and howl) consisting of a rapid series of howls, followed by a falsetto howl. The howl can act to announce where the territories are to other groups. Coyotes also howl when two or more members of a pack meet and announce their location to each other.
His sight is less developed and is used primarily to notice movement. They have keen hearing and a sense of smell. They use stumps, posts, bushes or rocks as "stumps" on which they urinate and defecate, possibly to mark territory. Coyotes are very good swimmers but poor climbers.
Although coyotes can adapt to any habitat, they typically prefer open areas, such as prairie and desert. Current research is dedicated to understanding coyote habitat selection within urban areas, in order to understand whether coyotes benefit from human-associated developments (i.e., whether they are species synanthropic) or if they are simply living in human-populated areas due to increased dispersal and fragmentation.
In urban areas, coyotes prefer wooded areas and shrubs, which provide 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 the remaining fragments of habitat, such as those found in parks and golf courses.
Coyotes live in North America and roam the plains, forests, mountains, and deserts of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America. Some even live in tropical climates.
As humans take over the countryside, coyotes are adapting to living in cities to find food. In fact, it is becoming more and more common to see coyotes in big cities like New York and Los Angeles.
Although coyotes are predators, they are also opportunistic feeders, changing their diets to take advantage of the more available prey. Coyotes are generally scavengers and predators of small prey, but can change to large prey occasionally.
Another way to determine the diet of coyotes is by performing necropsies (such as autopsies on people) of deceased coyotes. These are study animals that died or animals killed on the way that are found; Although dead, these coyotes still provide a wealth of knowledge about their lives. For diet analysis, the stomach and intestinal tract are investigated to classify and quantify the content. The diet results found are often mimicked by what is found through necropsy. Rodents are almost always present in the diet, with a mix of other items depending on the season of the year. The contents of the stomach can provide the most accurate picture of what a coyote eats because it has not yet been digested and is identifiable. Although this only shows the most recent meal of any animal, when compared to many other mortalities, the results are consistent.
In the wild, coyotes also face disease, competition for food, parasites, and social stress that lead to population control. Humans are another threat to coyotes, especially along busy roads where coyotes are beaten and killed by passing vehicles (One of the most common deaths among coyotes).
Coyotes breed in late winter, so the young are usually born between early April and late May after a gestation period of 63 days. While the cubs are young and still in the den, adult coyotes may become more aggressive to protect the area.
Mating and gestation
The coyote typically mates in February, however only the alpha pair of a pack will mate and the subordinates will generally help raise the young. Coyotes appear to be strongly monogamous, and so far, ties between alpha pairs have only been severed after the death of one of them. Therefore, several couples have maintained ties for several years. In April, after a gestation period of 62 to 65 days, the female will begin searching for existing burrows or digging one herself.
Puppy season is the only time coyotes will voluntarily use a den; otherwise, coyotes usually sleep on the ground outdoors or indoors. The dens may consist of a hollowed-out tree stump, a rock outcrop, or an existing burrow made by raccoons, foxes or other medium-sized carnivores. Coyotes also build burrows from scratch by digging a hole. They generally prefer some protective cover in the burrow, such as shrubs or trees, and some kind of slope for drainage. It is not uncommon for mothers to move their young from one den to another to keep them protected or to reuse the same den over several years. Some coyotes select isolated areas for their burrows, while others in more urbanized areas have less selection and may use burrows near buildings or roads or even in parking lots.
Litter size typically ranges from four to seven puppies, although some litters may be larger and others smaller. Coyotes have the ability to adjust the size of their litters based on abundance of food and population density. Although it is difficult to obtain reliable estimates of litter size in urban areas, the best estimates suggest that litter size is above average, indicating an abundant food supply. The cubs remain in the burrow for about six weeks and then begin to travel short distances with the adults. At the end of the summer, the cubs spend some time away from their parents and try to hunt alone or with their siblings.
In captivity, coyotes can live for 13 to 15 years, but in the wild, most die before they are three years old. The oldest confirmed wild coyote to date was an eleven-year-old alpha female. In one study it was found that coyotes in urban areas generally have a 60% chance of surviving a year.
Many puppies die from a variety of causes during their first adventures outside of their homes. Survival is fairly consistent between seasons, even during winter. Large metropolitan areas, on the other hand, provide more protection throughout the year, as there is no seasonal loss of habitat through harvesting of crops and there is no intensive hunting pressure.
State of conservation
Coyotes are common and widespread due to their extraordinary adaptability, which is why the IUCN red list lists them as Least Concern (LC).
Relationship with humans
There are some people who take a love of wildlife to a personal level, making their homes as welcoming as possible to the feathered and furry animals that inhabit their neighborhood. While the provision of habitat is desirable, the deliberate attraction of wildlife can have devastating consequences for the animals themselves. A community approach is required to keep the 'wild' in the wild.
For many reasons, the popular media focuses on conflicts between coyotes and people within cities. Still, most incidents are difficult for the public to interpret and put in proper perspective. Many people have little idea what the appropriate response to coyote news is, and inappropriate responses can exacerbate the situation. Conflicts with coyotes can range from the occasional relatively benign animal sightings without additional incidents, to pet killings, to the more extreme cases of coyotes attacking people. The word "attack" is often associated with a wide variety of situations, most of which involve an incident much less dramatic than the word "attack" implies.
Coyotes differ from most other species of wildlife in cities in that they can be considered a nuisance without any evidence of harm, simply by being seen. Perhaps due to its role as a great predator, people are sensitive to the real or perceived threat to pets or children. In fact, most of the complaints regarding coyotes are that they live near people, regardless of whether any harm has occurred.
Problems with pets
Although the coyote can attack small dogs at any time of the year, but attacks on larger dogs are usually associated with the mating or breeding season, when coyotes are more territorial. In some cases, small dogs have been taken while on leashes, or coyotes have jumped over fences to attack a dog in the yard.
Most metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Eastern United States have reported an apparent increase in the number of attacks on pets. Cats roaming outside are at obvious risk, although the coyote is only one potential source of danger among many.
Attacks on human beings
The most extreme cases, and relatively rare, are the cases in which coyotes attack people. Most of the cases involve young children. Most of the attacks have occurred in the Southwest, especially Southern California, where coyotes have lived in the suburbs for decades. Before 2009, the only fatal case of a coyote attack in recent history occurred in 1981 in a Los Angeles suburb. However, in October 2009, a 19-year-old woman was fatally attacked by eastern coyotes while walking alone in Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Highlands National Park. In metropolitan areas of the Midwest, where coyotes are still considered a relatively recent phenomenon, coyote attacks on people remain isolated and rare.
Are all coyotes a threat to people?
It is still surprising to find so many coyotes living close to people, and yet relatively few conflicts have been reported. With an average of 350 coyotes removed each year from the area as nuisance animals, it was assumed that most urban coyotes would create problems. In contrast, only 14 of the 446 coyotes have been reported as nuisances (as defined by the local community). Few coyotes have apparently become nuisances in Cook County, and this is likely to be true in other metropolitan areas. It remains to be seen whether conflicts will remain relatively rare or become more common as coyotes get used to living with humans in this area.
In perspective, it is worth considering that no documented case of a coyote biting a human has been reported in some fairly crowded sites. Contrast that result with domestic dogs, in which Cook County often records 2000 to 3000 dog bites each year (including some fatalities). In 2013, for example, no coyote bites were recorded, but 3822 domestic pet bites were reported (data collected from Cook County Animal and Rabies Control).
What makes a coyote annoying?
Very few coyotes that have been studied have become "nuisance" animals. Those coyotes who became a nuisance during the study typically became habituated through feeding people. In other words, people were feeding the wildlife and, whether intentionally or not, they fed the coyotes.
Once coyotes associate human buildings or yards with food, they can increase daytime activities and are therefore more easily seen by people. In those areas where attacks have been common, researchers have reported a higher frequency of human-related foods in the diet of nuisance coyotes. This was indicative of people feeding them, or coyotes looking for food in the garbage. In any case, coyote feeding should be strongly discouraged. A common pattern for many human attacks has been feeding before the incident, in many cases intentionally.
Wile E. Coyote, without a doubt the most famous coyote of all time, is a character from Looney Tunes created by Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese.
He debuted with his frequent adversary, Road Runner, in 1949 with «Fast and Furry-ous«. To date, there have been 48 animated series featuring these characters (including the CGI shorts), most of which were directed by Chuck Jones. In each cartoon, Wile E. Coyote uses absurdly complex contraptions (often the brand ACME, a mail order company, and recurring tricks on Looney Tunes) and devises plans to try and catch his prey, rather than his natural cunning. , but it always fails.