Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin


Canis latrans


Coyotes have a wolf-like appearance but are much smaller than wolves and much larger than foxes with gray-brown to yellow-gray fur. This species has whitish fur on the throat and belly while the feet, forelegs, sides of head and muzzle are reddish brown. They have a thick layer of light-colored under fur combined with long, black-tipped hairs to produce a black stripe down the back and shoulders. The tail is 50% as long as the body has a bottle shape and a black tip. This species molts once a year from May until July, shedding their thick winter fur to a thinner coat for summer. The eye of this animal has a yellow iris and round pupil. The muzzle is long and slender with a black nose, the ears of a coyote are large and the feet are small.


Coyotes are found throughout North and Central America. This species is very adaptable to a wide variety of habitats such as forests, grasslands, deserts, suburban, agricultural lands and swamps. Coyotes avoid areas where wolf populations are present. Coyotes live in dens usually made by enlarging the burrow of a woodchuck or badger, but they are capable of digging their own den. Dens are used year after year and have several entrances

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Coyotes are carnivores, hunting mostly mammals such as eastern cottontail rabbits, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, and white-footed mice. They occasionally will consume squirrels, birds, snakes, large insects and other invertebrates they also eat a lot of carrion (dead carcasses of other animals). When hunting for mice or “mousing”, this species stalks through grass and sniffs out the prey, then with all four legs held stiffly together, the coyote pounces on the prey. Coyotes are not as likely to form packs as wolves because coyotes usually hunt individually near the den, in pairs, or in family units depending on the prey availability. Hunting deer requires teamwork, taking turns pursuing deer until it tires or driving it toward a hidden pack member.  They even form hunting partnerships with badgers, the coyote will out run prey while the badger is capable of digging animals out of their burrows. Although coyotes are carnivorous, they will consume balsam fir leaves, sarsaparilla, strawberries and apples during the fall and winter months.


Female coyotes are able to breed for 2-5 days between January and late March. Once the female chooses a mate the pair stay together for multiple years, but not necessarily for life. 60-63 days after mating, a female gives birth to a litter of 1-19 pups, with the typical litter size of 4-6 pups. Pups do not emerge from their den until they are 21-28 days old and are fully weaned after 35 days. Both male and female coyotes care for young, regurgitating meat for the pups to eat. Male pups leave their dens and parents when they are 6-9 months old while the female pups remain with their parents to form a base pack. Coyotes reach adult size after 9-12 months and sexual maturity is reached at 12 months of age. Coyotes are capable of hybridizing (breeding with other species) with domestic dogs and occasionally gray wolves.

Months and Times of Activity

Coyotes are nocturnal but are occasionally seen during the day. They are secretive and are most active in the morning and late evening.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    Coyotes have a scent gland at the tip of their tail.

•    Some species of dog look like coyotes, but coyotes have a drooping tail with pointed and erect ears.

•    Coyotes can run 65km/hr and jump 4m.

•    Coyotes are the most vocal of all North American wild mammals.

•    To read Native American legends of this animal go to:

•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Coyote in Love with a Star by Marty Kreipe de Montano


Tokar, E. 2001. "Canis latrans" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at