| The coyote is a member of the Canidae (dog) family and a close relative of the Gray Wolf. There are 19 recognized subspecies of coyotes. Coyotes are native to North America and are found from Alaska to Panama. They may occasionally assemble in small packs, but generally hunt alone.|
Coyotes live an average of 6 to 10 years.
The coyote stands less than 2 ft. tall and varies in color from white-gray to tan with sometimes a reddish tint to its coat. A coyote's ears and nose appear long and pointed, especially in relation to the size of its head. It weighs between 20–50 lb, averaging 31 lb. The coyote can be identified by its thick, bushy tail, which it often holds low to the ground. The coyote is an extremely lean animal and may appear underfed even if healthy.
The northeast coyote and the Cape Cod coyote are thought to be a hybrid with the Red Wolf. Coyotes can also hybridize and produce fertile offspring with Gray Wolves and domestic dogs. Hybrids between coyotes and domestic dogs are known as "coydogs".
Coyotes breed in late January or early February, depending on altitude. Gestation lasts on average 63 days, and litters of four to six pups are born in late April or early May.
At three weeks old the pups leave the den under close watch of their parents. Once the pups are eight to twelve weeks old they are taught to hunt. Families stay together through the summer but the young disperse to find their own territories by fall.
Coyote behavior can vary widely depending on where they live, but in general they live in packs yet hunt singly in search of small mammals including rabbits, mice, shrews, voles, squirrels, grouse, carrion, insects and sometimes sheep, and fish. In areas where coyotes and deer co-exist, an adult coyote will typically prey on one fawn per year.
The coyote is an omnivore and adapts its diet to the available food sources including fruits, grasses, and vegetables along with small mammals and even trash.
Hearing a coyote is much more common than seeing one. The calls a coyote makes are high-pitched and variously described as howls, yips, yelps and barks. These calls may be a long rising and falling note (a howl) or a series of short notes (yips). These calls are most often heard at dusk or night, less often during the day. Although these calls are made throughout the year, they are most common during the spring mating season and in the fall when the pups leave their families to establish new territories.
In rural areas, coyotes will respond to human calls. This is most often after the coyotes have started a howling session. They will also respond to recorded howls. Playing a recorded wolf howl will make them stop for up to an hour before they start in again, probably because wolves prey upon coyotes.
Coyotes also thrive in suburban settings and even some urban ones. A study by wildlife ecologists at Ohio State University yielded some surprising findings in this regard. Researchers studied coyote populations in Chicago over a six-year period (2000–2006), proposing that coyotes have adapted well to living in densely populated urban environments while avoiding contact with humans.
They found, among other things, that urban coyotes tend to live longer than their rural counterparts, kill rodents and small pets, and live anywhere from parks to industrial areas. The researchers estimate that there are up to 2,000 coyotes living in Chicago.
Coyote predation on pets (especially cats and small dogs) in suburban areas has become common in recent decades and attacks on children and adults, once rare, appear to be on the increase.
When coyotes become habituated to people, they view children as potential prey and a running child is likely to elicit orientation and attack behaviors.
In 1981 in Glendale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, a 3 year old girl was killed by a coyote. This remains the only known fatality of a human as a result of a coyote attack.
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