The coyote, or "little wolf" as the Native Americans call it, is a member of the dog family. It is the topic of many Native American folklore tales. Its name comes from the Aztec word "coyotl." Its scientific name is "canis latrans" which means "barking dog." The coyote, usually associated with the open lands of the west, is now found throughout the United States. Not native to Ohio, its presence here shows the animal's ability to adapt to new environments. Coyotes' good sense of smell, hearing and vision, along with being sly, enable them to even live in some urban areas. For example, a pair was found in New York City in the Spring of 1995. Presently coyotes can be found in all of the 88 counties of Ohio. The coyote has the appearance of a medium-sized dog or a small German Shepherd. Coyotes are about one and a half to two feet tall and between forty-one and fifty-three inches long. Weight ranges from twenty to fifty pounds. They have a bushy tail that is tipped with black. Most are grey, but some show rust or brown coloration. Coyote tracks are more elongated than dog tracks. This nocturnal animal is most active at night, but if not threatened by man they will hunt during the day. The coyote is omnivorous. They will eat fruits, grasses, and vegetables along with small mammals. The coyote has a bad reputation for killing sheep and other livestock, but studies show that livestock accounts for only 14 percent of the coyotes' diet. Coyotes mate for life. Between January and March is the breeding period. Most do not breed until they are two years old. The female selects and maintains the den. They usually dig their own dens but sometimes they use an old badger hole or fix up a natural hole. Dens are usually hidden from view. Females carry their young for over two months. One to twelve pups are born in either April or May. Pups are born blind and helpless. Both parents hunt and feed the young. 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 break apart to find their own territories by fall. They usually relocate within ten miles. Between 50 and 70 percent of the young coyotes die before adulthood. Of the young that die, 80 percent is the result of human trapping, shooting, poisons, or other control methods. The coyote is capable of producing fertile offspring with many other animals from the dog family. It occasionally breeds with the domestic dog, wild dogs, and wolves. This mixed offspring has created great confusion about whether a real coyote has been seen. The only way to tell the difference is by examination of the skull. The coyotes' skull is narrower and more elongated than the domestic dog. In Ohio 98 percent of the animals sighted, captured, or killed are real coyotes. More often you will hear a coyote rather than see one. Its howl can be very deceiving. Due to the way the sound carries, it seems as though it is in one place, where the coyote is really some place else. Coyotes have two howling seasons. The first is in January and February. During this time they are trying to find a mate by howling. The second season is in September and October. During this period the female is calling to her offspring. The young then call back in unison. After the move westward by settlers, coyotes thrived on ranchers' cattle and sheep. In response, the ranchers aggressively tried to eliminate the coyote, and almost succeeded. However, due to its intelligence and ability to adapt to changes in its environment, it has not only survives but flourished.
Other Coyote Pages
Ohio Division of Wildlife; Life History Note; Coyote
Dog Owner's Guide; Electronic Edition; The Coyote
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