Unlike domestic dogs, female coyotes only give birth once a year, in early summer. They can hybridize, though, creating offspring called ‘coydogs’.
Coyotes live throughout North America, from the humid forests of Panama to the treeless tundra regions of Canada and Alaska. They are most common in the unpopulated desert areas of the south-western United States and northern Mexico. As wolves have declined in numbers across North America, so the smaller and more adaptable coyote has become more numerous. Its range expanded markedly through the twentieth century and now coyotes can be encountered in suburban parts of New York and elsewhere, reaching the east coast only 30 years ago.
These dogs look a little like small grey wolves. They are typically found alone. Coyotes may dig their own den or enlarge the burrow of another animal. They are primarily nocturnal, being most active around dawn and dusk, but they do sometimes hunt during the day. They can reach speeds of up to 64 kmh (40 mph) when chasing swift jackrabbits and other prey.
These dogs are adaptable opportunistic feeders, and they are able to survive in farmland and suburban regions. They are increasingly coming into conflict with human communities expanding into the desert, which see them as pests. These wild dogs are unpopular with farmers as they attack sheep, although they also prey more commonly on jackrabbits, which can harm the grazing.
Coyote fur varies from grey to yellow. The head and legs may have reddish hair on them. A black line runs along the back. The bushy tail is about half as long as the rest of the body. Coyotes are much smaller than wolves, but significantly larger than foxes.
Coyote pairs mate in late winter, and a litter of 5 to 10 young is born after a gestation of 63 to 65 days. The male brings all the food for the female and young at first, but later both parents hunt for food.
Distribution: Occurs throughout North America, from Alaska southwards to Mexico. Present in all US mainland states. Only absent from north-central and western Canada.
Habitat: Prairies, desert, open woodland, forest and tundra.
Weight: 7 - 21 kg (15 - 46 lb); males are heavier, as are those of northern races.
Length: 105 - 140 cm (41 - 55 in); up to 87 cm (34 in) tall.
Maturity: 12 months.
Gestation Period: 60 - 63 days.
Breeding: 1-19, average 6; weaned by 35 days.
Food: Omnivorous, opportunistic hunters, mainly of small mammals, larger insects and birds, as well as scavengers and consumers of vegetable matter.
Lifespan: 11 - 12 years.
The ears are broad and, when held erect, help pinpoint sounds, allowing hunting under cover of darkness.
The snout is quite narrow, with black nostrils.
Watchful and alert, the eyes are green. Coyotes have excellent night vision.
Coyotes from desert areas have reddish coats, while those inhabiting woodland areas are more grey.
Coyotes live on their own or in pairs.
HOWLING AT THE MOON
Coyotes regularly howl and bark at night. This is also the time of day when they are most active.