Common Name: Coyote
Species: Canis latrans
photo M. Noonan
The coyote belongs to the dog
family, Canidae, in the Mammalian Order of Carnivora.
Other members of Canidae include foxes, wolves, jackals,
and all breeds of domesticated dog. The coyote's
scientific name is Canis latrans, which means "barking
dog". The coyote is so closely related to the
domesticate dog that breeding is possible. These hybrids
are referred to as "coydogs".
Coyotes vary in coloration from
tan to gray. Those found at higher elevations have
darker, thicker, and longer fur, while those inhabiting
lower elevations. The coyote stands 15-20 inches at the
shoulder, and measures 40-60 inches in length.
The coyote's range is vast -
extending from Alaska to Central America, and California
to New England. The coyote has adapted well to human
occupation, primarily due to decreased competition from
wolves. Humans have reduced the territory inhabited by
wolves, allowing for such expansion.
The coyote's principal diet
consists of mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, other small
rodents, insects, reptiles, fruits, and berries.
Coyotes may live alone, in pairs,
or in packs. Parenting and sleeping takes place inside a
den, which is usually dug by the coyote. Coyote hunt
nocturnally, and mark their respective territories with
Female coyotes bear on litter of
1-12 puppies each year, caring for them in a natal den.
Male coyotes also have major parenting role, providing
regurgitated food for his pups and mate. Coyote
gestation is approximately 60-65 days.
The coyote's primary predator is
the wolf. As Europeans began to settle North America,
the native wolf populations began to decline. The areas
once inhabited by wolves were colonized by coyotes. Once
found primarily west of the Mississippi, the coyote has
been expanding its range eastward, as well as northward.
The absence of wolves has allowed the coyote to
presently expand its range as far north as Alaska and
Midwestern Canada, and as far east as Florida and New
Our Experiences with Coyote
We sighted our first coyote on a
snowy hillside while entering Wind Cave National Park.
The gray and tan fur of the coyote vibrantly contrasted
the glistening snow. A second coyote was spotted hunting
on a grassy plain. This time we could see the cryptic
coloration of the coyote's pelt, as it matched the
golden browns and yellows of the prairie grasses.
Shortly after his hunt, the coyote neared our van. He
laid down several feet away from the van, exposing
bright white teeth during a yawn, as the sun set over
the prairie horizon.
The coyote has adapted to human
prevalence and urbanization. As wolves were hunted to
near extinction by humans, coyotes expanded their range.
The urban environment has also proved suitable for
coyotes. In 1995, a pair of coyotes was found living in
New York City!
Carnivora - Mammalian Order, which
consists of families including cats, weasels, civets,
hyenas, raccoons, and bears.