American jackal, Brush wolf, Prairie wolf
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a species of canine native to North America. It fills much of the same ecological niche as the Golden jackal does in Eurasia. The coyote is larger and more predatory and was once referred to as the American jackal by a behavioral ecologist. The coyote is a prominent character in Native American folklore, mainly in Aridoamerica, usually depicted as a trickster that alternately assumes the form of an actual coyote or a man. The animal was especially respected in Mesoamerican cosmology as a symbol of military might.
Coyotes are medium-sized dog-like animals with small feet, slender legs, a narrow pointed muzzle, and erect pointed ears. There are four toes on each foot, with claws, and a smaller fifth toe with a dewclaw, which does not come into contact with the ground. Its color is reddish, grayish, or yellowish-brown streaked with black, with paler underparts. There is a black patch at the tip and base of the tail, and on the front of the ankles. The upper parts of the feet, nape, muzzle, backs of the ears, and outer surfaces of the legs are reddish-brown or tan.
Coyotes reside in North America, roaming the plains, mountains, forests, and deserts of the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. They are adapting to life in suburban and urban areas as humans take over more of their habitat and can be commonly seen in big cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
Coyotes are gregarious animals; they live in packs and hunt individually, in pairs, or in a family group, depending on the availability of prey. They are often crepuscular, being more active around the evening and the beginning of the night than during the day. Their dens are made in rocky crevices, caves, logs, or another animal's abandoned den. Coyotes usually don't make their own den but will find a badger or a fox's den and enlarge it. They are very vocal animals and their sounds include barks, yips, growls, whines, and howls. A long howl is used to inform other members of the pack of its whereabouts, and short barks are used to warn of danger.
Coyotes are primarily carnivorous and most of their diet consists of mammals, mostly small mammals, including eastern cottontail rabbits, white-footed mice, and thirteen-lined ground squirrels. They sometimes eat snakes, birds, large insects, and other big invertebrates. They like fresh meat, but will also eat carrion. Coyotes also supplement their diet with plants, especially during autumn and winter; these include leaves of white cedar and balsam fir, apples, and strawberries.
Coyotes are monogamous and will stay with their mate for life. They breed from February to March. In spring, the female will make dens to prepare for her young. The gestation period is 63 days, after which a litter of 3 to 12 is produced. The pups are born altricial and are completely dependent on milk for their first 10 days. Within 21 to 28 days, they start to come out of the den, being fully weaned at 35 days. Both parents take care of the pups, with the male bringing food for the female and pups, and helping with protection from predators. Young coyotes become reproductively mature and start to breed when they are 20 to 22 months old.
There are no major or even minor threats to coyote populations throughout their range. Adult coyotes do not have predators, although sometimes wolves or cougars will prey upon young pups. Trapping and hunting, disease, and accidents, especially due to motor vehicles, are major causes of death.
According to IUCN Red List, coyotes are abundant throughout their range and are increasing in distribution. Their population and range now are likely at an all-time high. Currently, coyotes are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and their numbers today are increasing.
Coyotes help to control many small mammal populations, including mice and rabbits, which degrade the habitats where they live. They also assist in the control of some agricultural pests, like rodents.
Coyotes were likely semidomesticated by various pre-Columbian cultures. Some 19th-century writers wrote of coyotes being kept in native villages in the Great Plains. The coyote is easily tamed as a pup but can become destructive as an adult. Both full-blooded and hybrid coyotes can be playful and confiding with their owners, but are suspicious and shy of strangers, though coyotes being tractable enough to be used for practical purposes like retrieving and pointing have been recorded.