Coyote: who is the coyote and how does it live


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Canis latrans

Common name

: coyote


  • Body length: 75-100cm with the tail 30-40cm long
  • Height at the withers(1): 35-50 cm
  • Weight: 7-20 kg
  • Lifespan: up to 10 years in the wild and up to 18 years in captivity
  • Sexual maturity: 1-2 years


The coyote, whose scientific name is Canis latrans of the dei family Canidae it is a very widespread mammal that we find in most of North and Central America in a large territory bordered to the north by Alaska and to the south by Panama.

It is difficult to describe the typical habitat for the coyote as its peculiarity is that it is one of the most adaptable animals as it is able to change its diet, habits and all its lifestyle, if necessary. for survival. This therefore means that its habitat is extremely varied: grasslands, mountain forests, deserts and even the suburbs of cities such as agricultural areas, have become places where it can be found. One exception is the areas where there are wolves from which the coyote tends to keep away.


Coyotes belong not only to the same family but also to the same genus as wolves (Canis lupus) to which they resemble, are only smaller in size.

It is a very agile animal (it can jump up to 4 m), fast (it can reach 65 km / h) and intelligent (it adapts its life according to the availability of food). It is characterized by a coat whose color varies from gray, to yellow, to brown, to brown with a whitish throat and belly.

They have straight ears and a drooping tail which is used as a sign of threat, in fact when the coyote wants to be aggressive it positions the tail horizontally with respect to the ground and straightens the hair.

Another peculiarity are his senses, particularly developed: he has a very sensitive hearing and the ears, as well as for hearing, also serve to signal one's rank and mood; the sense of smell is highly developed and is used to locate prey and carrion; the eyesight is very acute.

It has strong legs and is a digitigrade, which means that it walks with only its fingers on the ground. It has five toes in the front legs and four in the hind legs.


Its extreme adaptability to different situations leads to an extremely variable lifestyle. In fact, for example, if in the area where the food is made up only of small animals, the coyote lives alone or with its partner; where, on the other hand, the preys are larger (and therefore cannot be hunted by a single individual or by a few) it lives in flocks. Herds are therefore created according to circumstances and are not permanent.

A herd, if formed, is made up of 3 to 8 individuals where there is a dominant couple in reproductive age, their young and the offspring born the previous year.

Coyotes are mainly nocturnal animals even if it is not uncommon to see them hunting even during the day. During the day they usually stay in the burrow which can be a hole in the ground often obtained by enlarging pre-existing burrows of other animals. These burrows are typically used for a year and then changed and are characterized by having different entrances.

The characteristic howl is formed by a series of high-pitched yelps followed by a long moan and the coyote emits them by raising the head, keeping the mouth wide open and showing the canines. It would seem that it is issued to indicate its position or, when issued by the herd, to delimit its territory.

Whether it lives in a pack or alone in coyotes it always marks its territory with urine.


Coyotes are very communicative animals and communicate mainly through vocal signals (they are among the mammals that use this feature the most) which can be of different types to indicate different situations: to ask for help from the other members of the group; to signal the presence of other coyotes; to report dangerous situations, etc.

They have the custom of marking the territory with urine.


Coyotes are basically carnivores and their typical diet is based on small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, mice. They can also eat snakes, small birds, fish, and invertebrates. Generally they prefer fresh meat but do not disdain carrion, pets, urban waste. A peculiarity compared to many other carnivores is that they also feed on fruits and vegetables especially in autumn and winter when other food sources are scarce.

The way to hunt is particular: he makes the stalking crouching in the grass after having approached very cautiously; suddenly, when he thinks that the right moment has come, he jumps on the prey holding all four legs rigid and falls on it with his front legs blocking it and then kills it with a bite.

In the case of large animals such as a deer, a rigorous teamwork is in force: they can chase it in turn until it is exhausted or some chase it directing it towards others in the group who are waiting in hiding.

Coyotes never hunt too far from their lair but keep within a 4km radius.


The reproductive period goes from January to March with the birth of the young in spring, a period of greatest abundance of food for the puppies. Females have a very short period to mate as the estrus lasts from 2 to 5 days and in this period she is courted by several males and the male she chooses will be her mate for long years, although not necessarily for life.

The puppies are born after about 60-63 days in a variable number from 1 to 19 (the average is usually 6 puppies) and they weigh about 250 gr. At birth they are blind and are suckled by their mother and only after 10-14 days do they open their eyes and begin to consume semi-solid food that is regurgitated by both parents and the ears begin to take on the adult conformation.

After about 28 days from birth, the young begin to come out of the den and after 35 days they are completely weaned. Male coyotes generally leave their parents' lair forever after 6-9 months while females tend to stay and form the basis of the pack.

The young only after 9-12 months are to be considered adults.


The main predator of the coyote is certainly man as it often approaches the outskirts of urban centers in search of food. The young (but also the adults) can be hunted by wolves and mountain lions.


Coyotes are in no danger of extinction thanks to their extreme adaptability, so much so that in North America they are the dominant terrestrial carnivores.


The coyote is an essential animal within the ecosystem as it keeps the populations of rabbits, mice and other small animals under control: without its presence, their proliferation would be extremely dangerous for the environment.


The howl of the coyotes has become the symbol of American western films.


  1. withers: region of the body of the quadrupeds between the upper edge of the neck and the back and above the shoulders, in practice the highest part of the body (excluding the head);
  2. iImage not subject to copyright.

Video: How to Survive When You See a Coyote

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