Coyotes are smaller than wolves and known as a very clever, savvy animal. Their intelligence has been most evident in how they are readily able to adapt to changing environments. At one time, coyotes primarily lived in deserts and open prairies, but now are found anywhere from forested mountains to urban areas. They communicate by distinctive calls, which often develop into a loud chorus at night and can be heard 3-5 miles away. Coyotes are crepuscular, being more active during dawn and dusk hours, than during the day. Their fur color is mostly light gray and red, interspersed with white and black, but varies somewhat with geography. Coyotes are excellent hunters, with keen vision, excellent hearing and a strong sense of smell. They can run from 35 – 43 miles an hour in pursuit of prey.
Height: 1.9 – 2.2 feet (at shoulder)
Length: 32-40 inches (head and body). Tail is 12-15 inches.
Mass: Males weigh 18-46 lbs. Females average 15-40 lbs. (size varies by geography)
Life Span: 10 years
Coyotes are very adaptable animals and will eat almost anything. Their main diet consists of rodents, rabbits, frogs, fish, and deer; but will also dine on snakes, fruit, grass, insects, and carrion.
Coyotes are solitary animals and will defend their territory. However, they will often work together in packs during the fall and winter, for more effective hunting. Males will travel up to 100 miles in search of food when their current home is overpopulated.
Range and Population:
Coyotes are found throughout North America, Mexico, and Central America. They are found in deserts, grasslands, forests, mountains, and urban areas, as well as some tropical climates.
Gestation: 63 days
Litter size: 3-12 pups
Coyotes form strong family groups, and both parents work together to feed their young and defend their territory. In the springtime, females may give birth to litters of 3-12 pups. The average litter size is 6 pups, but it depends on population density and abundance of food. Pups depend on their mother’s milk in the first 10 days, but by the following fall, they are able to start hunting on their own.
Threats to Coyotes:
Wolves and mountain lions are natural predators of coyotes, but humans remain their greatest threat, by far. Humans routinely kill them with poison, traps, guns, aerial gunning, bounty hunting, and killing contests. In fact, the State of Utah currently offers a $50 bounty of taxpayer money for any coyote killed and brought to UDWR. A budget of $500,000 is appropriated each year to pay for these bounties. In the U.S., an estimated half a million coyotes are slaughtered every year – one per minute. Because coyotes have been known to kill livestock such as calves, lambs or domestic pets, many ranchers view them as destructive pests. Research has shown that these killing programs do not work, and when populations are aggressively controlled, coyotes respond by quickly increasing their reproductive rate. They will breed at an earlier age and have larger litters, with an increased survival rate among the young. Therefore, coyote populations are able to rebound, even when as many as 70% of their numbers are removed. The killing contests and bounty programs are inhumane, ineffective, and there are better solutions that exist.