AppearanceThe color of the coyote's pelt varies from grayish-brown to yellowish-gray on the upper parts, while the throat and belly tend to have a buff or white color. The forelegs, sides of the head, muzzle and paws are reddish-brown. The back has tawny-colored underfur and long, black-tipped guard hairs that form a black dorsal stripe and a dark cross on the shoulder area. The black-tipped tail has a scent gland located on its dorsal base. Coyotes shed once a year, beginning in May with light hair loss, ending in July after heavy shedding. The ears are proportionately large in relation to the head, while the feet are relatively small in relation to the rest of the body. Certain experts have noted the shape of a domestic dog's brain case is closer to the coyote's in shape than that of a wolf's. Mountain-dwelling coyotes tend to be dark-furred, while desert coyotes tend to be more light brown in color.
Coyotes typically grow to 30–34 in in length, not counting a tail of 12–16 in, stand about 23–26 in at the shoulder and, on average, weigh from 15–46 lb . Northern coyotes are typically larger than southern subspecies, with the largest coyotes on record weighing 74.75 pounds and measuring 1.75 m in total length.
The coyote's dental formula is I 3/3, C 1/1, Pm 4/4, M usually 2/2, occasionally 3/3, 3/2, or 2/3 × 2 = 40, 44, or 42 Normal spacing between the upper canine teeth is 29–35 millimetres and 25–32 millimetres between the lower canine teeth.
The upper frequency limit of hearing for coyotes is 80 kHz, compared to the 60 kHz of domestic dogs. Compared to wolves, and similar to domestic dogs, coyotes have a higher density of sweat glands on their paw pads. This trait, however, is absent in the large New England coyotes, which are thought to have some wolf ancestry.
During pursuit, a coyote may reach speeds up to 43 mph, and can jump a distance of over 13 ft.
NamingThe name "coyote" is borrowed from Mexican Spanish ''coyote'', ultimately derived from the Nahuatl word ''cóyotl''. Its scientific name, ''Canis latrans'', means "barking dog" in Latin. Preliminary genetic evidence, however, has shown that "coyotes" in some areas are, genetically speaking, 85–90% ''Canis latrans,'' and from 10 to 15% ''Canis lupus'', along with some domestic dog DNA; this prompted one researcher to suggest, jokingly, that they be called "''Canis soupus,''" as they are a "soup" of canid species.There are 19 recognized subspecies of coyote:
⤷ ''C. l. cagottis'' : Mexican coyote – states of Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Puebla, and Veracruz in Mexico
⤷ ''C. l. clepticus'' : San Pedro Martir coyote – northern Baja California and southwestern California
⤷ ''C. l. dickeyi'': Salvador coyote
⤷ ''C. l. frustor'' : Southeastern coyote – southeastern and extreme eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas
⤷ ''C. l. goldmani'': Belize coyote
⤷ ''C. l. hondurensis'': Honduras coyote
⤷ ''C. l. impavidus'' : Durango coyote – southern Sonora, extreme southwestern Chihuahua, western Durango, western Zacatecas, and Sinaloa
⤷ ''C. l. incolatus'' : Northern Coyote – Yukon, Northwest Territories, northern British Columbia, and northern Alberta, and Alaska
⤷ ''C. l. jamesi'' : Tiburón Island coyote – Tiburón Island
⤷ ''C. l. latrans'': Plains coyote – Great Plains from Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan south to New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle
⤷ ''C. l. lestes'' : Mountain coyote – British Columbia and southeastern Alberta south to Utah and Nevada
⤷ ''C. l. mearnsi'' : Mearns coyote – southwestern Colorado and southern Utah south to northern Sonora and Chihuahua
⤷ ''C. l. microdon'' : Lower Rio Grande coyote – southern Texas and northern Tamaulipas
⤷ ''C. l. ochropus'' : California Valley coyote – California west of the Sierra Nevada
⤷ ''C. l. peninsulae'' : Peninsula coyote – Baja California
⤷ ''C. l. texensis'' : Texas Plains coyote – most of Texas, eastern New Mexico, and northeastern Mexico
⤷ ''C. l. thamnos'' : Northeastern coyote – range extends from north-central Saskatchewan east to southern Ontario, south to northern Indiana and west to Missouri
⤷ ''C. l. umpquensis'' : Northwest Coast coyote – coast of Washington and Oregon
⤷ ''C. l. vigilis'' : Colima coyote – Pacific coast of Mexico from Jalisco south to Guerrero
BehaviorThough coyotes have been observed to travel in large groups, they primarily hunt in pairs. Typical packs consist of six, closely related adults, yearlings and young. Coyote packs are generally smaller than wolf packs, and associations between individuals are less stable, thus making their social behavior more in line with that of the dingo. In theory, this is due to an earlier expression of aggression, and the fact that coyotes reach their full growth in their first year, unlike wolves, which reach it in their second. Common names of coyote groups are a band, a pack, or a rout.
Coyotes are primarily nocturnal, but can often be seen during daylight hours. They were once essentially diurnal, but have adapted to more nocturnal behavior with pressure from humans.
Coyotes are capable of digging their own burrows, though they often prefer the burrows of groundhogs or American badgers. Coyote territorial ranges can be as much as 19 kilometers in diameter around the den, and travel occurs along fixed trails.
In areas where wolves have been exterminated, coyotes usually flourish. For example, as New England became increasingly settled and the resident wolves were eliminated, the coyote population increased, filling the empty ecological niche. Coyotes appear better able than wolves to live among people.
Coyotes have been known to live a maximum of 10 years in the wild and 18 years in captivity. They seem to be better than dogs at observational learning.The calls a coyote makes are high-pitched and variously described as howls, yips, yelps, and barks. These calls may be a long rising and falling note or a series of short notes . These calls are most often heard at dusk or night, but may sometimes be heard in the day, even in the middle of the day. Although these calls are made throughout the year, they are most common during the spring mating season and in the fall when the pups leave their families to establish new territories. When a coyote calls its pack together, it howls at one high note. When the pack is together, it howls higher and higher, and then they yip and yelp and also do a yi-yi sound, very shrill, with the howl.
HabitatDespite being extensively hunted, the coyote is one of the few medium-to-large-sized animals that has enlarged its range since human encroachment began. It originally ranged primarily in the western half of North America, but it has adapted readily to the changes caused by human presence and, since the early 19th century, has been steadily and dramatically extending its range. Sightings now commonly occur in a majority of the United States and Canada. Coyotes inhabit nearly every contiguous U.S. state and Alaska. Coyotes have moved into most of the areas of North America formerly occupied by wolves, and are often observed foraging in suburban garbage bins.
Coyotes thrive in suburban settings and even some urban ones. A study by wildlife ecologists at Ohio State University yielded some surprising findings in this regard. Researchers studied coyote populations in Chicago over a seven-year period , proposing that coyotes have adapted well to living in densely populated urban environments while avoiding contact with humans. They found, among other things, that urban coyotes tend to live longer than their rural counterparts, kill rodents and small pets, and live anywhere from parks to industrial areas. The researchers estimate that there are up to 2,000 coyotes living in "the greater Chicago area" and that this circumstance may well apply to many other urban landscapes in North America. URL accessed on January 9, 2006. In Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park, coyotes den and raise their young, scavenge roadkill, and hunt rodents. "I don't see it as a bad thing for a park," the assigned National Park Service biologist told a reporter for ''Smithsonian Magazine'' . "I see it as good for keeping animal populations in control, like the squirrels and the mice."
In another testament to the coyote's habitat adaptability, a coyote nicknamed "Hal" made his way to New York City's Central Park in March 2006, wandering about the park for at least two days before being captured by officials. New York's parks commissioner Adrian Benepe noted this coyote had to be very "adventurous" and "curious" to get so far into the city. An incident also occurred in April 2007 in the Chicago Loop district, where a coyote, later nicknamed "Adrian", quietly entered a Quizno's restaurant during the lunch hours; it was later captured and released at a wildlife rehab center near Barrington, Illinois.
In February 2010, up to three coyotes were spotted on the Columbia University campus, and another coyote sighting occurred in Central Park.
Coyotes are difficult to tame, except when raised from a very young pup, and even then, much of their wild temperament shows when they reach puberty. Coyotes have never been domesticated with the possible exception of the Hare Indian Dogs, which may have been domesticated coyotes or dog-coyote hybrids, used by the Hare Native American tribe of northern Canada for hunting. Naturalist John Richardson, who studied the breed in the 1820s, before it was diluted by crossings with other breeds, could detect no decided difference in form between the breed and coyotes, and surmised that it was a domesticated version of the wild animal.
ReproductionFemale coyotes are monoestrous, and remain in estrus for two to five days between late January and late March, during which mating occurs. Once the female chooses a partner, the mated pair may remain temporarily monogamous for a number of years. Depending on geographic location, spermatogenesis in males takes around 54 days, and occurs between January and February. The gestation period lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from one to 19 pups; the average is six. These large litters act as compensatory measures against the high juvenile mortality rate – about 50–70% of pups do not survive to adulthood. The pups weigh approximately 250 grams at birth, and are initially blind and limp-eared. Coyote growth rate is faster than that of wolves, being similar in length to that of the dhole. The eyes open and ears become erect after 10 days. Around 21–28 days after birth, the young begin to emerge from the den, and by 35 days, they are fully weaned. Both parents feed the weaned pups with regurgitated food. Male pups will disperse from their dens between months six and 9, while females usually remain with the parents and form the basis of the pack. The pups attain full growth between 9 and 12 months old. Sexual maturity is reached by 12 months. Unlike wolves, mother coyotes will tolerate other lactating females in their pack.
FoodCoyotes are opportunistic, versatile carnivores with a 90% mammalian diet, depending on the season. They primarily eat small mammals, such as voles, prairie dogs, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels, and mice, though they will eat birds, snakes, lizards, deer, javelina, and livestock, as well as large insects and other large invertebrates. The coyote will also target any species of bird that nests on the ground. Though they will consume large amounts of carrion, they tend to prefer fresh meat. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the coyote's diet in the autumn and winter months. Part of the coyote's success as a species is its dietary adaptability. As such, coyotes have been known to eat human rubbish and domestic pets. They catch cats and dogs when they come too close to the pack. Urban populations of coyotes have been known to actively hunt cats, and to leap shorter fences to take small dogs. In particularly bold urban packs, coyotes have also been reported to shadow human joggers or larger dogs, and even to take small dogs while the dog is still on a leash. However, this behavior is often reported when normal urban prey, such as brown rats, black rats and rabbits, have become scarce. Yet, confirmed reports of coyotes killing a human have been documented. A recent trail cam uncovered two or three coyotes killing a large deer.
Though the coyote is the basis for the character of Wile E. Coyote in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated cartoons, especially about the Road Runner, coyotes have not been known as yet to attack greater roadrunners for prey.
Coyotes shift their hunting techniques in accordance with their prey. When hunting small animals such as mice, they slowly stalk through the grass, and use their acute sense of smell to track down the prey. When the prey is located, the coyotes stiffen and pounce on the prey in a cat-like manner. Coyotes will commonly work in teams when hunting large ungulates such as deer, which is more common in winter and in larger-bodied northern coyotes. Coyotes may take turns in baiting and pursuing the deer to exhaustion, or they may drive it towards a hidden member of the pack. When attacking large prey, coyotes attack from the rear and the flanks of their prey. Occasionally, they also grab the neck and head, pulling the animal down to the ground. Coyotes are persistent hunters, with successful attacks sometimes lasting as long as 21 hours; even unsuccessful ones can continue more than eight hours before the coyotes give up. Depth of snow can affect the likelihood of a successful kill. Packs of coyotes can bring down prey as large as adult elk, which often weigh over 250 kg or more than 15 times the weight of a fairly large coyote.
The average distance covered in a night's hunting is 2.5 miles .
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