Coyotes are fascinating creatures that have captivated our imaginations for centuries. Known for their intelligence, adaptability, and cunning nature, coyotes play an important role in many ecosystems across North America. In this article, we will explore 14 interesting facts about these wild canines.
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a medium-sized member of the dog family found throughout much of North and Central America. Ranging in color from gray to tan to reddish brown, coyotes have bushy tails, pointed ears, and narrow muzzles that give them a fox-like appearance.
Though often perceived as pests, coyotes are highly intelligent and play a vital role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Their ability to thrive in a variety of habitats, from forests to deserts to urban areas, demonstrates their incredible adaptability.
Coyotes have also occupied a prominent place in Native American folklore and culture, where they are portrayed as clever tricksters. Continue reading to learn more intriguing facts about these resourceful wild dogs!
1. Coyotes Are Opportunistic Omnivores
Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat almost anything depending on availability. Their diverse diet includes small mammals like rabbits, rodents, and insects. They also prey on larger animals such as deer, especially fawns. Coyotes will even eat snakes, birds, fruit, grass, and carrion.
Being omnivorous gives coyotes more flexibility in the foods they can exploit. This dietary adaptability allows them to thrive in a wide range of habitats.
2. They Have Expanded Their Range Due to Humans
Originally limited to the prairies and deserts of central and western North America, coyotes have dramatically expanded their range over the last two centuries.
As humans converted forests into farmland and exterminated wolves, coyotes were able to colonize new territories. They now inhabit all of the United States and Canada except for the tundra regions of the far north.
3. Eastern Coyotes Are Part Wolf
As coyotes expanded eastward, they bred with remnant wolf populations. As a result, northeastern coyotes, also known as ‘coywolves,’ have some wolf ancestry.
These hybrids are larger than western coyotes, weighing up to 55 pounds compared to a maximum of 40 pounds. The addition of wolf genes likely helped eastern coyotes adapt to forested environments.
4. Coyotes Form Monogamous Pair Bonds
Coyotes have a complex social life centered around the nuclear family. Once they choose a mate, coyote pairs can remain together for many years, possibly for life.
Both parents raise their pups together. They may also get help from older siblings from previous litters who remain with the pack.
5. Females Give Birth to Lively Litters
Breeding takes place between January and March. After a 60-63 day gestation period, females give birth to litters of 3-12 pups.
The helpless pups are born blind and deaf in a den the parents dig or modify. But they develop quickly, opening their eyes after 10 days and emerging from the den at 3-4 weeks old.
6. Packs Help Hunt Larger Prey
Though coyotes primarily hunt alone or in pairs, they may come together to form packs when pursuing larger prey like deer. By working cooperatively, coyotes can exhaust and overwhelm an animal that one or two coyotes alone could not take down.
When hunting small mammals, coyotes use a specialized leaping pounce to dispatch their prey swiftly.
7. They Communicate With Howls and Yips
The large repertoire of coyote vocalizations includes barks, howls, yips, and whines. Different sounds convey specific messages between pack members.
For example, distinctive howls establish territory and reunite the group after time apart. Yipping and barking sounds serve as alarm calls indicating danger.
8. Coyotes Mark Their Territories
Coyote packs claim territories averaging 10-40 square miles, depending on the abundance of prey. They use howling, scat, and urine markings to proclaim their occupancy.
Resident coyotes will defend the core of their territories against transient coyotes intruding from outside areas.
9. They Have Impressive Running Speed
Built for stamina, coyotes can sustain speeds up to 40 miles per hour over long distances. This allows them to run down prey during an extended chase.
To evade predators, coyotes can maintain speeds of 30-40 mph for over a mile and make quick changes in direction using their long, bushy tails for balance.
10. Coyotes Help Control Pest Populations
A coyote’s diet includes rodents like mice, rats, and gophers that humans consider pests. By naturally regulating populations of these small mammals, coyotes provide an important form of natural pest control.
11. Their Fur Was Once Highly Prized
Before the 1950s, coyote fur was in high demand. During the 1920s and 30s, several hundred thousand coyotes were harvested annually for their thick, luxurious fur 1.
Excessive hunting coupled with bounties placed on coyotes caused their near extinction in some areas. Protective laws helped coyote populations recover.
12. They Are Highly Intelligent
Coyotes have demonstrated exceptional problem-solving skills and memory in scientific studies. Their ability to innovatively adapt has allowed them to thrive in the face of human encroachment.
Research shows that coyotes purposefully vary their routines to avoid creating predictable patterns. Their intelligence assists their survival.
13. Coyotes Play a Role in Folklore
In Native American tales, the coyote often appears as a trickster character. According to legend, the coyote uses deception and humor to rebel against social conventions.
But the coyote also learns important lessons about the consequences of its mischief in these stories.
14. They Are Here to Stay
Despite extensive eradication efforts, coyotes have proved incredibly resilient. They now inhabit nearly every major city in North America.
We must learn to coexist with coyotes by taking preventative measures like removing food attractants around homes. Their adaptability ensures coyotes are here to stay.
Coyotes have captivated our imagination for centuries with their intelligence, adaptability, and mischievous nature. As top predators, they play an important regulatory role in ecosystems across North America.
Hopefully this article provided some insight into the fascinating lives of coyotes. Their ability to thrive alongside humans demonstrates the coyote’s amazing resilience. With proper management, we can peacefully coexist with these wild dogs.
- https://www2.gov.bc.ca Coyote.pdf