Coyote — this is a meadow wolf, this predator does not have stamina and perseverance, it easily adapts to a variety of conditions, because it is very unpretentious. The Aztec Indians called him coyotl (“divine dog”), in their myths he acts as a deity with cunning, slyness, mischief and deceit. But, is the coyote really as cunning and hardy as they say? Let's look into this in more detail, considering its main features, habits and character.
View origin and description
The coyote is a predator that is directly related to the canine family. Translated from Latin, the name of this animal means “barking dog”. A coyote is called not only a dog, but also a wolf, only a meadow one, although in size the coyote is much smaller than an ordinary wolf. The length of his body reaches one meter, not counting the tail, the length of which is approximately 30 cm. The height of the coyote at the withers is half a meter, and its weight varies from 7 to 21 kg. The wolf is more massive and larger than the coyote, its weight is from 32 to 60 kg.
There are a lot of coyote subspecies, now there are nineteen of them. The varieties differ slightly in size and color of the fur. It depends on the permanent place of residence of one or another subspecies of coyotes. Outwardly, the coyote resembles not only a wolf, it looks like both a jackal and an ordinary dog. Coyotes emerged as a separate species as early as the Late Pliocene (more than two million years ago).
An interesting fact: coyotes can mate with both dogs and wolves (red and gray), thus forming hybrids. The coyote-dog hybrid is known to have a very predatory disposition, attacking livestock much more frequently than the normal coyote.
The area of permanent habitat of the coyote is gradually expanding, this process began in the nineteenth century, when the number of red and gray wolves was significantly reduced due to their destruction by man. The coyote replaced the wolves in their territory, spreading widely throughout the North American continent.
Appearance and features
The coyote looks slender and lean, the predator has rather long but strong limbs. The tail of the animal is fluffy and long, always pointing down. The muzzle of the coyote is slightly elongated and pointed, which makes it look a bit like a fox.
The ears are quite large, triangular and widely spaced, they always stand erect, so that they are visible from afar. The predator's eyes are small and inquisitive, brown or amber, and the nose is black, with sparse whiskers around it.
Predators have thick and long hair, the color of which varies depending on the place of their permanent deployment, it can be:
- Dark brown.
Interesting fact: coyotes inhabiting mountain areas are darker in color furs, and the animals that have chosen the desert areas are distinguished by light brown colors.
The belly of coyotes and the inside of the neck are always light, and the tip of the tail is black. The pointed ears on top have a touch of some redness, this shade can also be traced on the elongated muzzle of the predator. It should be noted that the color of the animal is not monochromatic, and there are always brighter blotches of dark gray and black on the coat.
Do not be surprised that the coyote looks like both a wolf and an ordinary dog, because he belongs to the canine family and the genus of wolves. As is common with many other predators, female coyotes are slightly smaller in size than males.
Where does the coyote live?
As already mentioned, the habitat of coyotes is now very extensive, although this predator was not so widespread before. Now coyotes are settled throughout North and Central America, their habitat extends from Alaska to Costa Rica. Less than a hundred years ago, the coyote had a permanent residence on the prairies, inhabiting territories from the Mississippi to the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, and from the Canadian province of Alberta to the Mexican state. In the south and east of the United States, this animal was not known.
Now the situation has changed significantly, this happened for several reasons:
- As a result of massive deforestation;
- Destruction by people of red and gray wolves, which were the main competitors of coyotes.
All this allowed coyotes to spread to those territories where this beast had not been seen before. It is known that during the “gold rush” predators followed the seekers of the precious metal and thus came to the territory of Alaska and Canada, where they live safely to this day. In such American states as Florida and Georgia, people themselves brought these animals as game. Currently, coyotes live in all US states, except for one, these predators are not in Hawaii.
The beast prefers open flat places, living in prairies, meadows, deserts and semi-deserts, it was not for nothing that he was called the “meadow wolf”. Occasionally, coyotes can also enter forests, but not for long; coyotes also live in the tundra. These amazing animals can be called generalists, because they easily get used to and perfectly adapt to any environment. Coyotes can live both in remote wild places and on the outskirts of huge metropolitan areas (for example, Los Angeles).
An interesting fact: coyotes have the ability to quickly adapt to any anthropogenic landscape, and in mountainous areas arrays they can be found at a height of 2-3 km.
What does a coyote eat?
Coyotes can be called omnivores, their menu consists of both animal and plant foods. Of course, the percentage of food of animal origin in the diet is many times greater. In food, these predators are unpretentious. Coyotes eat all kinds of small rodents, rabbits, marmots, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, they can attack a skunk, opossum, beaver, ferret, raccoon. The meadow wolf and various insects do not disdain, feast on birds (pheasants).
Hunting for domestic cattle, wild deer and coyote antelopes is rare, but domestic sheep often become victims of this predator. In the United States, statistics are kept, according to the calculations of which it is revealed that about sixty percent of all destroyed sheep are coyote victims. In addition to domestic, wild mountain sheep are also on the coyote's menu. The predator will not refuse snakes, turtles.
An interesting fact: the coyote is an excellent swimmer, which, being in the water, can catch such inhabitants as newts, various fish and frogs.
Mostly in the summer and autumn seasons, the coyote also plant foods:
- Various fruits;
- Sunflower seeds.
Coyotes inhabiting the northern territories often eat carrion during severe winter periods. They often pursue a herd of ungulates, looking for sick and weakened individuals in it, and also eat the fallen. Cases of coyote attacks on people are extremely rare, although they have taken place, even two attacks have been recorded in which a person died. Coyotes are not afraid of big cities and in famine years often visit their dumps, rummage through human food waste.
If an attack on a person is most likely an exception to the rule, then the coyote eats such domestic animals as cats and small dogs with great pleasure. In general, as you can see, the menu of the meadow wolf is very rich and varied, it has a large number of dishes for every taste. It is worth noting that the red fox cheat is the main competitor of the predator in terms of food.
Character and lifestyle features
Until recently, coyotes were considered loners, but recent research by scientists has shown that this is not at all the case. By their nature, these animals are monogamous, coyotes form a strong married couple. In places where food is plentiful, animals often live in whole flocks, which mainly include their parents and their young growth from the last brood. Flocks of coyotes also form in the event that there are few small animals in their habitat, and it is impossible to hunt large animals alone, so the predators unite to get big game.
The coyote usually goes hunting at twilight time. The animal hunts for small rodents and other small living creatures all alone. First, the coyote looks out for its future victim, and when it sees it, it approaches it very carefully, then it rushes with one lightning-fast jump, presses its prey to the ground and gnaws its throat with its sharp fangs.
It should be noted that the sight, smell and hearing of coyotes are simply excellent, which helps them a lot in hunting. These predators are also excellent runners, capable of reaching speeds of up to 64 kilometers per hour. To hunt large animals, coyotes form groups to surround and drive prey.
An interesting fact: for more productive joint hunting, coyotes have entered into cooperation with badgers, clearly distributing their hunting duties among themselves. Having found a hole, the badger begins to dig it out, driving its inhabitants out, and the coyote is closely watching this so as not to miss anyone. The benefit of such an unusual union lies in the fact that while digging holes, the badger remains under the protection of the meadow wolf, he gets the prey that he managed to grab right in the hole, and the coyote deftly catches those who tried to sneak away.
Communication between coyotes occurs with the help of a variety of sounds, each with its own meaning. Animals emit a long howl when they announce their location. A sound like a dog barking heralds some kind of threat. A slight whine is pronounced as a sign of greeting. Sometimes coyotes howl when they find large prey in order to call the whole flock to that place. From little puppies during fervent games, you can hear a loud squeal and squeak.
Coyotes usually live in burrows, which they most often dig on their own, although sometimes they can occupy empty fox and badger shelters. Such a lair is located in the center of their isolated property, which is inhabited by a married couple or a small flock of coyotes, usually the area of u200bu200bsuch a territory is about 20 square kilometers. Often, coyotes also acquire temporary shelters, which are arranged in dense undergrowth of shrubs, rock crevices and low hollows. They use them for short-term rest or shelter from any threat.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Coyotes become sexually mature at the age of one, this applies to both females and males. But animals form a couple closer to two years of life, it is their main social unit, although animals often live in small flocks. The mating season for these dogs is most active in January and February. The gestation period is about two months.
A coyote brood can have 4 to 12 cubs, although it can be more. The number of puppies depends on the prevalence of coyotes in a particular area. Where there are many of these predators, there are fewer babies born and, conversely, where the number of coyotes is small, there are many puppies in the litter.
Babies are born blind. The mother treats them with milk for up to a month and a half. Both parents take an active part in the upbringing and show incredible care for the offspring. The male protects the den from ill-wishers and brings food to the female, and feeds the cubs with regurgitated food. By the middle of the second week, the puppies begin to see clearly, and by the age of six months they become more independent, and their parents begin to teach them how to hunt.
Among the grown young males, the males quickly leave their parents, acquiring their own family and their own territory, and the grown up young females prefer to stay and live in the parent flock. The birth of offspring in the coyote family occurs once in a one-year period. It is worth noting that the highest percentage of mortality among these predators was recorded just in the first year of life. And the life expectancy of coyotes living in the wild is about five years, although in captivity this animal can live up to 18.
Natural enemies of coyotes
Oh, and the life of a coyote in the wild, natural conditions is not easy. The animal is constantly under stress, fighting for food, hiding from larger and more formidable predators, looking for suitable places for permanent residence, suffering from all kinds of parasites and diseases. It is good that this predator is unpretentious, very hardy and knows how to perfectly adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Among the enemies of the coyote are:
- Big dogs;
More than half of young coyotes die before reaching the age of one. The reason for this is not only large predators, but also all kinds of diseases, the most dangerous of which is rabies. Do not forget that coyotes do not disdain carrion, so the risk of contracting diseases in this species is very high.
Still, the most fierce enemy of the coyote is man. Among American farmers, the coyote was known as a robber who destroys entire herds of domestic sheep, so the authorities in the United States have legalized the shooting of these predators. People put collars soaked in poison on sheep, conduct sport hunting for coyotes, set all kinds of traps and traps, burn out entire areas of their permanent habitat, but all these measures do not affect the number of animals, which is gradually increasing every year.
Population and species status
Luckily, meadow wolf populations are not in danger; the animals feel great, populating new territories. While for many predatory animals their habitat is shrinking, the situation is quite the opposite for coyotes, with each year the geographical habitats of these amazing predators are becoming more extensive.
As already mentioned, deforestation and the destruction of red and gray wolves provoked coyotes to move to places where these animals did not exist before. They not only managed to settle well there, but also quickly multiplied, they feel at ease. Vitality, endurance and adaptability coyotes do not hold. They are one of the few animals that have been able to perfectly adapt and survive in areas that have undergone urbanization.
People do not favor coyotes at all, because they often raid sheep herds. As a result, animals are subjected to mass shooting. For example, in Colorado, people kill more than 80 percent of these animals, and in Texas – about 57. Coyotes were previously exterminated using pesticides, but then this method was banned, because. greatly harmed the environment.
All human methods of exterminating these predators were ineffective, and the coyote population thrives to this day. But in Yellowstone National Park, they found an effective way to reduce the number of coyotes by breeding wolves, as a result of which the number of coyotes has halved in two years. Despite this, the population of these animals is quite extensive and widespread, there are no particular threats to its numbers.
In conclusion, it remains to add that the unpretentiousness and endurance of the coyote lies in its incredible strength and power, which allowed not only to survive in harsh natural conditions, but also to multiply beautifully, occupying the vast expanses of the North American continent. Despite the fact that the coyote attacks domestic sheep, it also brings benefits, massively destroying such rodents — pests like rats and mice.