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Coyote

Canis latrans

Coyote

Physical Characteristics

The 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 on its dorsal base. Coyotes shed once a year, beginning in May with light hair loss, ending in July after heavy shedding. The triangular 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 (76-86 cm) in length, not counting a tail of 12-16 in (30-41 cm), stand about 23-26 in (58-66 cm) at the shoulder and weigh from 15-46 lb (6.8-21 kg).

The upper frequency limit of hearing for coyotes is 80 kHz, compared to the 60 kHz of domestic dogs.

During pursuit, a coyote may reach speeds up to 43 mph (69 km/h), and can jump a distance of over 13 ft (4 m).

One way to tell the coyote apart from wolves and dogs is to watch its tail when it runs. The coyote runs with its tail down. Dogs run with their tails up, and wolves run with their tails straight out.

Habitat

Coyotes can be found in a variety of habitats including fields, plains and bushy areas.

Diet

The coyote does most of its hunting alone at night. It is primarily carnivorous. Most of its diet is made up of mammals, but it also eats birds and snakes. It prefers to eat fresh kill, but it will eat carrion. In the fall and winter, the coyote often eats fruits, vegetables, and berries.

When hunting small prey like mice, the coyote stands still with its legs stiff and then pounces on its prey. When hunting larger prey like deer, coyotes hunt in packs. One or more coyote chases the deer while the others wait; then the next group will pick up the chase. Working in teams like this the coyote can tire the deer out, making it easier to kill. Coyotes also often follow badgers and catch animals that pop out of the burrow the badger is digging.

The average distance covered in a night’s hunting is 2.5 mi (4.0 km).

Behavior

Though coyotes have been observed to travel in large groups, they primarily hunt in pairs. Typically packs consist of 6 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 make their dens in rocky crevices, logs, caves or the dens of other animals. They usually don’t dig their own den. They will find an abandoned den of a badger or a fox and enlarge it.

The coyote is a very vocal animal. It has a number of vocalizations including barks, growls, yips, whines and howls. It uses a long howl to let other members of the pack know where it is. It uses short barks to warn of danger. When a pack of coyotes is welcoming a member into the pack the coyotes yip. Other vocalizations include growls when establishing dominance, whining and whimpering when males and females are establishing bonds and high-pitched barks to summon puppies.

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.

coyote tracks

Coyote Tracks

Breeding

The coyote mates between February and April. The female may mate with more than one male. Two months after mating, the female gives birth to between 1 and 19 pups. The average litter size is usually around 6. 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 are born blind and with floppy ears. The eyes open and ears become erect in about 10 days. The pups begin to come out of their den when they are about 3 to 4 weeks old. They are weaned when they are about a month old. Once they are fully weaned, both parents feed the pups regurgitated food. Male pups will leave their mother when they are between 6 and 9 months old. Female pups will stay with their mother’s pack. The pups attain full growth between 9 and 12 months old. Sexual maturity is reached by 12 months. Male and female coyotes pair off and mate together for several years.

Predators

The most common enemy that coyotes face is disease. Bears and mountain lions will also prey upon coyotes. Humans pose problems for coyotes as they try to navigate across our busy roads. Many coyotes are struck and killed by cars every year.

Attacks on Humans

Coyotes attacks on humans are uncommon and rarely cause serious injuries, due to the relatively small size of the coyote, but have been increasingly frequent, especially in southern California. In the absence of the harassment of coyotes practiced by rural people, urban coyotes are losing fear of humans, which is further worsened by people intentionally or unintentionally feeding coyotes. In such situations, some coyotes have begun to act aggressively towards humans, chasing joggers and bicyclists, confronting people walking dogs, and stalking small children. Non-rabid coyotes in these areas will sometimes target small children, mostly under the age of 10, though some adults have been bitten.

References

www. nhptv.org/natureworks/coyote.htm

Coyote, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/coyote.php

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