The Coyote

     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

The Coyote


Dog Owner's Guide; Electronic Edition; The Coyote

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