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Coyote Predators: What Do Coyotes Eat?

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key point:

  • Coyotes are omnivores — they tend to eat both plants and animals.
  • In the spring, female coyotes give birth to anywhere from 3 to 19 pups — increasing their numbers and improving the strength of their hunting packs.
  • Coyotes kill rattlesnakes for food and to protect their young from vicious attacks.
  • Over centuries, coyotes have been able to adapt and expand their habitats in a variety of environments, including areas inhabited by humans.
  • Wolves kill more coyotes than any other predator.

Coyotes are far from extinct because they are abundant in the southern regions that straddle Mexico and rush into Central America. They are smart because they have been able to adopt life-saving adaptation techniques for themselves. Coyotes are versatile and can quench their thirst by taking a piece or more from a variety of food available. They eat lizards, mice, insects and trash because they think they are nutritious.

Coyotes may be ferocious predators with high running abilities, but that doesn't keep them from being on the menu of other predators. What do coyotes eat?

coyote background

Classified primarily as carnivores, coyotes are omnivores — they tend to eat both plants and animals. With approximately 90 percent of their diet consisting primarily of meat, coyotes prey on defenseless and weaker animals such as deer, moose, pigeons, moray eels, snakes, fish, young waterfowl, and crustaceans. For centuries, coyotes have been able to adapt and expand their habitats in a variety of environments and, more daringly, in areas populated by humans. Interestingly, they prey on amphibians other than toads, as they have a foul-smelling skin secretion that wards off predators. A very interesting fact is that coyotes kill rattlesnakes for food and to protect their young from malicious attacks. They tricked the snake first, and the snake stretched out, giving the coyote a good angle to smack the snake's head with its chin, and finally take it out.

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What do coyotes eat?

coyote predator - what to eat - coyote-1
Coyotes are eaten by gray wolves, mountain lions and golden eagles.

© Derek R. Audette/Shutterstock.com

Gray wolves, mountain lions, American black and grizzly bears, American alligators, large Canadian bobcats and golden eagles feed on coyotes. No matter how ferocious its hunting skills, the coyote certainly knows its boundaries when it comes to the food chain. Although they appear determined when handling their prey, they are also vulnerable when they come into contact with predators such as wolves and mountain lions, as mentioned above.

Coyote Predator: Wolf

As one of the coyotes' top predators, wolves hold the record for being the only contributors to the 39 percent decline in Lamar Valley coyote populations during wolf reintroduction in the 1990s. One study reported a 33 percent decline in coyote populations in Grand Teton National Park compared to other parks without wolves. Later developments corresponded to wolf predation of coyotes. Wolves have an innate rage against the canids, and they tend to kill and eat coyotes whenever they tailgate.

Coyote Predator: Cougar

Cougar lying on rock
Cougars are carnivores that eat coyotes.

© iStock.com/gatito33

Cougars are wild big cats belonging to the subfamily Felidae. Known to ambush predators, they feed on a variety of prey, and our guest coyote is one of its favourites. Cougars have zero tolerance for coyotes, but can kill a stressed pack of coyotes — depriving them of their title of top predator. They are very good at stalking prey, which makes them prefer habitats with dense scrub or hilly areas. Other times, cougars are prone to ambush and eat coyotes.

Coyote Predators: American Black and Grizzly Bears

Grizzlies are mainly found in North America; they belong to the order Carnivora, which gives them a digestive system like other carnivores. Grizzlies, like coyotes, are omnivores and they also eat coyotes. Other mammals that fall prey to grizzlies include moose, elk, and bison, to name a few.

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Coyote Predator: Canadian Lynx

Close-up of a Canadian Bobcat
Close-up of a Canadian Bobcat

© Lens via Christie/Shutterstock.com

Canadian bobcats are often referred to as professional predators, whose presence in a particular settlement or range depends on the availability of prey. It is very stealthy in ambushes, as it can easily take down an unsuspecting coyote. Canadian bobcats eat coyotes and are also fond of hares. They are sparsely distributed in Alaska, Canada, and some areas of the northern United States.

The Canadian Bobcat can be classified by its long, triangular ears and black tufts that hang like a flag. This predator is mainly nocturnal and kills its prey by biting the head or neck.

other coyote predators

  • American alligators are top predators—very voracious and deadly. They eat coyotes and other mammals, fish, amphibians and birds. The American alligator, scientifically known as the Mississippi alligator, is the largest species of the alligator family. Adult male American alligators weigh more than 1230 pounds (560 kilograms) and measure 11.2 to 15.7 feet (3.4-4.8 meters) in length. When the teeth snap together, it can instantly kill an invasive coyote.
  • golden eagles
  • Humanity

Coyotes are at higher risk when traveling alone; they move individually outside of their packs. In kill places, when they're not cooperating as a group to steal, they can easily be dominated by wolves, grizzlies, cougars, or other deadly predators. Otherwise, they'd have to wait for top predators to fill their stomachs before using what's left.

Other Facts About Coyotes

First of all, coyotes are a group of intelligent mammals. They have good eyesight and a highly detective sense of smell. Coyotes can run 40 miles per hour. They have been shown to be more efficient when they hunt in packs, reducing coyote casualties and increasing productivity.

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In the spring, female coyotes give birth to anywhere from 3 to 19 pups — increasing their numbers and improving the strength of their hunting packs. Coyotes are very picky about their pups. They will kill rattlesnakes for food and the safety of their young. If they survive, the cubs will be ready to hunt the following fall.

Coyotes, sometimes called coyotes, make distinctive calls to communicate.

coyote howling on rocks
Coyotes are no longer confined to the desert — they're now found in every U.S. state except Hawaii.

© Jay Pierstorff/Shutterstock.com

Coyotes Now Spotted in 49 U.S. States

Once restricted to the prairie and desert regions of Mexico and central North America, coyotes can now be found in every U.S. state except Hawaii. Since the 1700s, these intelligent, adaptable creatures have expanded their range across the continent to Canada—dwelling in both rural and urban areas. Since the 1950s, coyote habitat has expanded by 40 percent—twice as much as any other carnivore in North America, according to National Geographic .

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