43 to 53 inches. Weight: 30
to 40 pounds.
Utilizes almost any habitat, including urban areas,
where prey is readily available. Prefers
prairies, open woodlands, brushy or boulder-strewn
areas. Coyote abundance is tied to food
Consumes a variety of foods and carrion. Will
eat almost anything, plant or animal.
Emphasizes small mammals, fawns, plants, birds, and
invertebrates. During winter, often preys on
deer. Commonly preys on domestic sheep.
Mainly nocturnal, true scavenger, territorial.
Kills large animals by attacking the throat.
Mated pars usually produce pups each year, and both
adults assist in care of the young. Den used
for rearing pups. Breeds from January to
March; 60 to 63 day gestation; 4 to 7 pups in a
Wolves - larger, hold tail high when running.
Red fox - smaller, hold tail out straight when
running. Dog, wolf/coyote, coyote/dog, and
wolf/dog crosses are also possible.
Coyotes are widely
distributed throughout the United States. Efforts to
contain wild populations of coyotes have been only
"temporarily" successful in spite of bounties,
poisons and a total lack of protection in many
states. This species is very adaptable and they can
thrive in forests, farmlands, prairies, mountains,
deserts, and swamplands. Coyote populations are know
to exist in 46 states, and it is possible that
coyotes will soon be present in all states except
Hawaii. Coyotes can adapt to populated areas, and
thousands of coyotes living within the city limits
of Los Angeles have led to severe management
problems. Coyotes frequently howl at night when they
are not severely persecuted.
Coyotes are wild canines, with dog or wolf-like
features. Weights are slightly heavier for males, with
average weights in the western states of about 30 pounds
for males versus 25 pounds for females.
A coyote immigration has
impacted eastern states since the early 1950's and the
eastern coyote is now recognized as a true breeding
subspecies of coyote. The eastern coyotes do attain
larger body weights than western coyotes, and this may
reflect hereditary traits as a result of cross breeding
between northern coyotes and eastern timber wolves.
Weights of over 60 pounds have been recorded for some
eastern coyote males, although the majority weigh
between 30-35 pounds.
Coyotes have 42 teeth including
four long incisor teeth. Eyes are yellow or amber, with
round, black pupils which indicate that coyotes were
probably daytime hunters before man began persecuting
the species in earnest.
Guard hairs on a coyote pelt are
about 3 inches long on the back, and 5 inches long in a
patch between the shoulders known as the "mane" or
"hackles". Coloration varies with individuals and
sections, with most coyotes being mottled greys with
lighter colored bellies. Brownish and reddish colors
also occur commonly in areas, and melanism or black
colors occur more rarely.
There is evidence to suggest that coyotes mate for life,
and that new mates are accepted after the removal of one
of the pair. Mated male coyotes attend the females who
give birth to the annual litter in an underground den. A
regular den is often used year after year, unless the
coyotes feel threatened at the den site.
Breeding occurs in February in
southern states, and March in northern states. The
gestation period is 63 days, and the female coyote will
stay underground with her young until their eyes open 11
or 12 days later. During this time the male will bring
food for the female and then help bring food to the den
for the coyote pups.
Litter sizes average 5 to 7 pups
in many areas. Litter sizes seem to be dependent upon
coyote population densities. Litters may average 8 or 9
pups where coyote populations are sparse, but on the
other hand, this phenomenon may reflect healthier
coyotes due to an abundance of food.
Crosses between coyotes and dogs
do occur rarely, and these crosses are know as
"coy-dogs". Coy-dog reproduction is very poor because
the coyote dogs breed in November which culminates in
mid-winter births. Also, the male coy-dogs do not bring
food for the females after the birthing process, and
neither do the males help the female feed or raise the
Some juvenile female coyotes
accept mates at 9 or 10 months of age, but most coyotes
do not pair up with mates until they are 20-22 months
Coyotes are territorial during the bulk of the year.
Territory sizes vary a great deal, and territories are
far larger in areas where food is scarce. Males range
much farther than females. It appears that female
territories do not overlap, but a male coyote territory
may overlap the territories of several other male and
Female coyotes will usually stay
within 5 to 8 miles in their ranging habits. Mature
males may have territories as large as 30 to 40 square
miles which are patrolled on a somewhat regular basis.
Territories are often abandoned during shortages of
food. Several family units may concentrate in an area
with an abundant food supply for a short period of time.
Coyotes do have a social order,
with certain individuals having dominance over others.
At times, coyotes will hunt in packs, or teams, to relay
running an antelope or jack rabbit. Coyotes are even
known to follow badgers to catch the ground squirrels
that are chased from dens by the digging activity of the
Juvenile coyotes usually
disperse in November or December to seek their own
territories and mates. Dispersal distances vary a great
deal, and the young may be required to travel further
when coyote populations are dense. Male coyotes usually
have to travel further to find the larger territories
that they need, and a number of young males have been
known to relocate further than 100 miles away from their
Coyotes are skilled hunters.
Their vision, sense of smell, and hearing are all
extremely good, and enable the coyote to feed itself
easily during most of the year. In the extreme weather
of mid-winter coyotes frequently eat carrion.
Significant numbers of deer and antelope are killed by
coyotes. Deer are particularly vulnerable during deep
snow conditions when coyotes often pack up to hunt.
Although healthy adult deer or antelope are sometimes
killed by coyotes, the fawns of both species are
Sheep on the rangelands are a
particular temptation to coyotes, and its seems likely
that some coyotes develop a taste for lamb after natural
mortalities of sheep occur on the range. Nevertheless,
coyotes soon learn to kill sheep when they are
available, and it is virtually impossible to discourage
them after they develop a taste for sheep. Coyotes also
kill calves, and sometimes these calves are eaten as
they are being born. Bob-tailed calves are frequently
seen on western rangelands and usually the result of an
attack by one or more coyotes.
Coyote depredation upon
livestock depends a great deal on the coyote population
in the area as well as the availability of other foods.
Fertile farmlands usually contain an abundance of small
game, and livestock predation is less likely to occur
under these circumstances.
Important coyote foods vary with
the area, and include jackrabbits, cottontails, prairie
dogs, mice and rats. Game birds, muskrats, squirrels,
and domestic fowl are also taken when available. Fruits
such as watermelons, grapefruits, apples, and persimmons
are also eaten seasonally if available.
Coyotes contribute to the health of many prey species by
keeping populations in check. The carrion eating habits
of coyotes help to reduce the population of injurious
insects which afflict livestock. species. However, they
do cause of significant loss to livestock producers in
some areas. These losses amount to millions of dollars,
and cause hardships for many western and southern
In western states coyotes serve
as a host for fleas and ticks which carry bubonic
plague. This disease can be fatal to man. Western
coyotes should be placed in large garbage bags after
they are killed, and then sprayed with an insecticide.
This will kill the parasites before they abandon the
cooling body of the coyote.
Coyotes are also vulnerable to a
variety of diseases, including Parvo Enteritis
(Parvovirus), mange, distemper and rabies. Heartworms
afflict coyotes in areas, as do other internal
parasites. External parasites include lice, mites, fleas
Adult coyotes are very rarely
killed by other wild species. Juvenile animals are
sometimes killed by eagles, mountain lions and dogs.
Coyotes are considered to be old
at 10 to 12 years of age.
Best Management Practices