Coyote

Canis latrans

At-a-Glance

• Mating: Monogamous (male and female pair for life)

• Peak Breeding Activity: January through March

• Gestation Period: Approximately 63 days

• Litter Size: 1-12 pups

• Young are Born: April and May and are helpless; begin leaving the den with parents at 3 weeks of age

• Number of Litters per Year: 1

• Migration Patterns: Year-round resident; juveniles will break from the family unit and establish their own territory anywhere from 10 to 100 miles away.

• Feeding Periods: Has shown a preference for nocturnal activity, but in a secure environment, will hunt during the daylight hours.

• Typical Foods: Omnivorous (will eat what’s available); small mammals (voles, shrews, rabbits, mice), vegetables, nuts, and carrion. Unchecked, they will eat livestock, particularly sheep and chickens.

Description

The coyote is generally a slender animal, very similar in appearance to a medium-sized dog. Since the coyote and domesticated dog are from the same family, Canidae, the resemblance is more than a coincidence. Coyotes have a bushy tail which is usually tipped in black and is carried down at a 45 degree angle as the animal moves, unlike that of its other cousin the wolf. The majority of coyotes are gray, though some show a rusty, brown or off-white coloration. The coyote stands about one and one half to two feet tall and is between 41 to 53 inches in length. Males of this species are larger than the females and weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds.

Habitat and Habits

The coyote is a nocturnal animal, active during the nighttime hours. However, when it is less threatened by man, it will hunt and move from place to place during the day. The coyote will hunt in unrelated (non-family) pairs or large groups. The coyote’s strength is that it can adapt and exploit most any habitat to its advantage. While most wildlife species have avoided developed areas and often declined as a result of man’s expansion, the coyote seems to have thrived.

Reproduction and Care of the Young

The female selects, prepares, and maintains the den. Occasionally, two or three females will share a large den area. Related females will sometimes act as helpers in the care of offspring of other coyotes in the den. Both parents hunt for food and feed the young. However, the male takes the lead role when the pups are newborns, obtaining enough food for both his mate and offspring. The parents will regurgitate their stomach contents for their offspring’s meals. At about three weeks of age, the young leave the den under the watch of their parents. At 8 to 12 weeks of age, the pups are taught hunting skills. The coyotes stay together in a family unit throughout the summer into mid-fall when the young will break from the family unit and develop territories of their own. It is not unusual for young female coyotes to remain in the family unit into the following year; young males that have either never left the unit or that attempt to rejoin it the following year are run off by the male.

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