Coyotes will eat almost anything and adapt quickly to new environments. Because of this, their range is spreading throughout much of North America.
Coyotes eat almost everything: mice, insects, fish, frogs, lizards, grasses, nuts, and all sorts of dead animals. They even eat watermelon.
Facts about Coyotes:
Coyotes in Los Angeles and Dallas? It's hard to imagine, but it's true. While populations of many other animals are shrinking, coyote populations are actually increasing. Coyotes once lived only in prairies and deserts of the western United States and in Mexico. Today they thrive almost anywhere in North America.
Adaptability—that's the main reason for the success of the coyote. It can easily change its behavior to survive in a new place. A coyote is naturally adaptable because it eats such a wide range of food. If it can't find mice or voles to eat, lizards, insects, or even garbage will do.
In Native American stories coyotes are clever and tricky. This reputation is based on fact. Coyotes may scan the sky for ravens flying in circles. Coyotes know that the birds often hover over a dead animal, so finding the birds frequently leads to finding a free meal.
Coyotes are clever enough to trick other animals. A coyote might leap about crazily near a group of birds to distract them, then its partner might sneak up on the birds and seize a few of them for dinner.
People have helped coyotes to spread across North America. How? By killing off the coyote's number one natural competitor: the wolf. Wolves eat many of the same small animals that coyotes do. And like many other predators, wolves know how to kill competitors—in this case, coyotes.
With the wolf practically gone in many areas, the coyote has quickly moved in. Some coyotes kill calves and lambs on people's ranches and farms. For a century people have tried to kill coyotes by using poison, traps, and guns. Still coyotes continue to thrive.
This trickster of Native American tales often gets fooled—but it always bounces back.
Based on "Gaining Ground," by Christina Wilsdon, in the February 1997 issue of National Geographic World
FAST FACTS Adult coyotes measure from 23 to 25 inches (58 to 64 centimeters) high at the shoulder and are 3.4 to 4.3 feet (1 to 1.3 meters) long.
Coyotes eat almost everything: mice, voles, rabbits, insects, fish, frogs, snakes, lizards, grasses, nuts, and all sorts of dead animals. They even eat watermelon.
Coyotes can woof softly, growl, bark, howl, and sing in a chorus. They communicate with 11 different sounds, as well as with body language and scent.
Adult coyotes weigh between 20 and 50 pounds (9 and 23 kilograms). That's about the weight of a medium-size dog. When coyotes are about two years old, they select a mate and stay with that mate for life.
The name coyote comes from the Aztec word coyotl. The Aztecs were people who began living in central America some 700 years ago.
The scientific name for coyote is Canis latrans, which means barking dog in Latin.
Coyote parents may supply live mice to their pups for hunting practice.
The coyote's keen intelligence and senses help it adapt to many different habitats: forests, deserts, prairies, mountains, suburbs, cities, and even golf courses.
Coyotes are native only to North America.
Female coyotes select den sites and give birth from 1 to 12 pups in spring.
Both parents care for the pups. Parents chew food and swallow it. Then they bring it up again to feed the pups.