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coyote facts

“Coyote is one of the most common mammals in North America”

Coyotes are animals that have traditionally played many different roles in human culture, both as pests and as mythical creatures with various magical properties. Their melancholy nocturnal howls have captured the human imagination for millennia. Although still plentiful with prey, this nocturnal animal has adapted to modern human society and thrived like never before.

Unbelievable Coyote Facts!

  • Alternative names for this species include coyote and coyote.
  • The coyote is an important figure in North American folklore. It is often seen as a symbol of cunning and deceit, and sometimes wears various guises to deceive people. In Mesoamerica, it is a cosmological symbol of military power.
  • Coyotes are very mobile animals that roam for miles around their natural territory each day. If they face intense competition for food and resources, it may travel more than a hundred miles to find a new home.
  • Coyotes are agile animals on both land and water, but they are relatively poor at climbing.
  • coyote scientific name

The coyote’s scientific name is Canis latrans. The rough Latin translation of the word is barking or barking dog. The actual name of the coyote was adapted by the Spanish from the Nahuatl language (language of the Aztecs) of the Mesoamerican animal.


A lone coyote isolated on white background
Coyotes belong to a wide-ranging subspecies© Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

There are 19 subspecies of coyotes. They include the following:

  • Belizean coyote ( Canis latrans goldmani ): But in terms of size and slightly shorter muzzle, it is almost similar to the plains coyote. The largest coyote in Mexico, found near the border with Guatemala.
  • El Salvadoran coyotes ( Canis latrans dickeyi ): These canines have become accustomed to urban living and are considered a nuisance and, in some cases, even a danger.
  • Mexican coyote ( Canis latrans cagottis ): As the name suggests, this subspecies is native to Mexico. It is found in Puebla, Oaxaca and Veracruz.
  • Plains coyote ( Canis latrans latrans ): This subspecies is the largest of them all and is noted for those exceptionally large fangs. It can be found on the Great Plains, covering Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan all the way to New Mexico.
  • San Pedro Martir Coyote ( Canis latrans clepticus ): This subspecies occupies a territory between Southern California and Baja California.
  • Southeastern coyote ( Canis latrans frustor ): This subspecies is thought to have reached its sizeable size as a result of interbreeding with the red wolf. It is the largest of all coyotes.

Other species include:

  • California Valley Coyote ( Canis latrans ochropus )
  • Colima coyote ( Canis latrans vigilis )
  • Durango Coyote ( Canis latrans impavidus )
  • Eastern coyote ( Canis latrans “var” )
  • Honduran coyote ( Canis latrans hondurensis )
  • Lower Rio Grande Coyote ( Canis latrans microdon )
  • Mearns coyote ( Canis latrans mearnsi )
  • Mountain wolf ( Canis latrans lestes )
  • Peninsula coyote ( Canis latrans peninsulae )
  • Northeast coyote ( Canis latrans thamnos )
  • Northwest Coast Coyote ( Canis latrans umpquensis )
  • Northern coyote ( Canis latrans incolatus )
  • Tiburón Island Coyote ( Canis latrans jamesi )

appearance and behavior

Coyote standing in the field
Coyotes can grow as big as a medium-sized dog and are one of the most talking mammals in North America©iStock.com/SteveByland

Coyotes have a lean wolf-like appearance, yellow eyes, floppy tails, and very large ears for their size. The luxurious coat is composed of soft fur with a longer, tougher outer coat. This coat has an unusual mix of colors: grey, brown, almost yellow on the upper part of the body, white around the belly and throat, and reddish-brown around the muzzle and feet. The exact color of the fur may vary depending on the geographic range of the associated subspecies. The animals shed their hair about once a summer and replace it with a new coat.

A typical coyote measures 37 inches long from head to tail, with 16 inches left on its tail. The whole body weighs up to 50 pounds, although females are on average slightly smaller than males. A coyote is about the size of a medium-sized dog like a bearded collie.

An interesting fact about their behavior is the highly mobile social arrangement. While large groups are not usually the norm, this species does seek the comfort and cooperation of pairs or family units with an established hierarchy of dominance. This highly plastic and variable social behavior means coyotes can easily hunt alone or in packs. If it hunts in groups, they may be targeting larger animals that require teamwork to take down.

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To communicate, coyotes have a truly vast repertoire of vocal, body language, and scent signals. It is considered one of the most vocal mammals in all of North America. These vocalizations are a way of sounding an alarm, conveying a greeting, or announcing the animal’s presence to other pack members. These animals bark much like a dog or wolf, emitting a range of different barks, howls and growls.

Coyotes display aggression with a stooped back and a menacing growl. This display of strength is especially important when competing with other members for dominance in the group. On the other hand, lower body postures and growls can also signal submission to the more dominant member.

Smell is another important aspect of their communication. This species has a specialized gland located around the tail that acts as a signaling device to other members. A coyote will also mark its territory on rocks, bushes, or other objects.

Coyotes are very intelligent and resourceful animals. Unlike dogs, they may lack the ability to follow human commands. But their ingenuity has been in the spotlight for centuries, and modern research shows that coyotes are able to plan hunting strategies in advance.

Because of their long claws, they are very good diggers, but they prefer to find abandoned nests, usually made by badgers, groundhogs, or other animals, and expand them. These burrows provided a home and natural base for their hunting range for many years at a time. Coyotes are nocturnal hunters, sleeping during the day and coming out at night. They are most active in the evening and early morning.

coyotes vs wolves

Do coyotes hunt in packs?
Smaller than wolves, coyotes are just as smart©iStock.com/GatorDawg

The main difference between these species is their size. Coyotes are much smaller than wolves, which can easily measure 4 to 6 feet, depending on sex, and weigh well over 100 pounds. Coyotes are also less likely to form large packs. However, they usually display the same level of intelligence. Sometimes you can tell the difference just by the vocalizations. Coyotes will often emit their well-known squeal.


How and Where Coyotes Sleep - Coyote Rest
Evolution of these canids began long before humans evolved©sumikophoto/Shutterstock.com

Based on fossil evidence, the evolution of coyotes likely occurred within the last million years or so. In contrast, the evolution of modern humans occurred sometime between about 150,000 and 200,000 years ago. The modern coyote is believed to have emerged sometime after the last extinction of the large animals during the Ice Age. Forced to compete with wolves, they probably adapted by becoming smaller.

Because of their genetic similarities, coyotes are capable of viable interbreeding with wolves and even domestic dogs. These hybrids, sometimes called coyotes or coyotes, are relatively rare in the wild because they rarely mate with other species. Part of the reason for this rare interbreeding may include differences in geographic range, different breeding seasons, and hostility between species in the wild.


A vigilant coyote looking to the right with a blurred green background
Coyote adaptations impressive in terms of habitat©Paul Tessier/Shutterstock.com

The coyote is widespread across much of North America, from as far south as Panama to as far north as Canada and Alaska, although its greatest density occurs on the Great Plains. This highly adaptable animal has evolved to live in mountains, swamps, forests, plains, deserts, and even tropical rainforests. As coyotes have become more common, they have learned to live alongside humans in both urban and suburban environments. This range sometimes overlaps with wolves, but as wolf populations decline, these animals benefit by taking over these ranges.


what coyotes eat
© AZ-Animals.com

Many people don’t know that coyotes are omnivorous. The vast majority of the animal’s diet consists of small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and mice, and sometimes large mammals such as deer. The rest of the diet consists of birds, snakes, insects, and sometimes even fruits and vegetables. These animals play important ecological roles by controlling these abundant animal populations. However, if coyotes hunt threatened species, this could cause problems for local wildlife diversity.

Coyotes prefer to hunt live animals, sometimes relying on the teamwork of the wolf pack and sometimes stalking their prey alone, but they certainly won’t let the carrion feast when they have time. Some coyotes have learned how to deftly eat human food or leftover trash.

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Predators and Threats

grizzly bear in the snow
Bears are a threat to coyotes©Dennis W Donohue/Shutterstock.com

Due to their size, speed, and ferocity, coyotes have only a few natural enemies in the wild. Wolves, bears, cougars, alligators and other large predators have been known to prey on them, but coyotes are rarely their preferred prey. Predators are more likely to seize opportunities to snatch young, old, or injured coyotes than adults.

More commonly, these animals face intense competition for space and food from bears, wolves, and big cats. Due to their small size compared to the largest top predators, they are easily driven out of their main hunting locations. It doesn’t help that the diets of coyotes and wolves often converge.

Like all species, these animals are affected by human activities. Hunting may be the biggest threat to coyote survival. Humans kill about 400,000 coyotes each year, according to National Geographic. Many of these deaths were the result of coyotes retaliation after they attacked livestock such as sheep and cattle. These animals are also often hunted for sport or fur.

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

mother and baby coyote on rock
Female coyotes often stay with packs to help care for babies©iStock.com/roclwyr

The coyote breeding season usually lasts for a short period between January and March each year. Males and females may pair for years at a time, but not always for life. Females are in estrus only a few days a year, so they have very little time to reproduce.

After carrying her pups for about two months, the female will give birth to an average of about six pups within the nest confines. Maximum litter size was a staggering 19 pups. Because the cubs are born small, blind and almost completely helpless, both parents play a role in feeding and caring for the young, although the mother does most of the nursing duties. It takes more than a month for the pups to be fully weaned, after which their parents feed them cud.

Young coyotes will be completely independent from their parents for about six to nine months of their lives. Males will often roam around in search of their own riches, but females will stay longer in the group, sometimes helping to raise and feed later offspring. These animals reach full size and sexual maturity within the first year. A typical coyote can live up to 10 years in the wild and 18 or 20 years in captivity. Hunting, disease and car accidents are common killers of coyotes.


Coyotes are the species of least concern, according to the IUCN Red List, which tracks the conservation status of many known animals. Although large numbers of coyotes are hunted each year, coyote populations are actually increasing across most of their natural range. This is because these animals are very well adapted to human civilization. Declining populations of local wolves, bears and cougars may also have helped increase coyote populations. However, the exact population size has not been fully estimated.

coyote in the zoo

Coyotes are a very common sight in American zoos. There is a coyote den along the Minnesota Trail at the Minnesota Zoo. The Akron Zoo exhibits coyotes on Grizzly Ridge near red wolves and grizzlies. The Wild Florida exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo features coyotes. Coyotes are also seen at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas, and Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

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Coyote FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is a coyote?

The coyote is a medium-sized wild canid. Coyotes and wolves are similar in appearance and footprints, but you should tell coyotes apart by their smaller body size.

What does a coyote sound like?

To communicate with other animals, coyotes make barks, growls, screams, howls, and similar sounds. It can be difficult to distinguish coyotes from wolves, but coyotes typically have a shorter, sharper howl that is sometimes interrupted by screeches and barks.

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How fast can coyotes run?

Coyotes can run at about 40 MPH. For comparison, that’s about the same speed as a racehorse. It can also leap an astonishing 13 feet in the air.

How dangerous are coyotes?

Coyote attacks are extremely rare. Only a few deaths were recorded. However, as coyotes become less afraid of humans, positive and negative encounters may become more common. They have also been known to attack and kill small dogs and cats, so it is best to discourage interaction by chasing coyotes away and keeping food out of their reach.

How big are coyotes?

Coyotes are about as big as a medium-sized dog.

Are coyotes herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Coyotes are carnivores, which means they eat other animals.

To which kingdom do coyotes belong?

Coyotes belong to the animal kingdom.

Which category do coyotes belong to?

Coyotes belong to the class Mammalia.

What door do coyotes belong to?

Coyotes belong to the phylum Chordate.

What family do coyotes belong to?

Coyotes belong to the canine family.

What order do coyotes belong to?

Coyotes belong to the order Carnivora.

What type of mulch do coyotes have?

Coyotes are covered with fur.

What genus do coyotes belong to?

Coyotes belong to the genus Canis.

What type of habitat do coyotes live in?

Coyotes live in forests, plains, and deserts.

What are coyotes’ primary prey?

Coyotes prey on rabbits, mice and deer.

Who are the coyotes’ natural enemies?

Natural enemies of coyotes include humans, bears and wolves.

What are the distinguishing characteristics of coyotes?

Coyotes have pointy ears and noses, and long, bushy tails.

How many children do coyotes have?

The average number of babies a coyote has is 6.

Any fun facts about coyotes?

Coyotes are also known as coyotes!

What is the scientific name of the coyote?

The coyote’s scientific name is Canis latrans.

What is the lifespan of a coyote?

Coyotes can live 10 to 15 years.

What’s the Difference Between Wild Dogs and Coyotes?

The most obvious difference between dingoes and coyotes is their coloring. Coyotes are usually gray or reddish in color with a white throat and underparts. Dingoes are usually tan, sometimes black and tan or white.

What is the difference between a coyote and a dog?

Coyotes differ from dogs in domestication status and behavior. Coyotes tend to have larger ears than most dogs, along with a few other key physical differences.

Who would win a battle between a cougar and a coyote?

Mountain lions will win the battle against coyotes. It has the size, strength and ability to kill a lone coyote. A fight can begin with a cougar stalking a coyote and quickly end with a decisive ambush.

What are the main differences between Catahoula Leopard Dogs and Coyotes?

The main differences between Catahoula Leopard Dogs and Coyotes are appearance, diet, health issues, and lifespan.

What’s the Difference Between a Gray Fox and a Coyote?

Both gray foxes and coyotes are members of the canid family and look alike but differ in many ways. Coyotes are generally larger and carnivorous, while gray foxes are omnivorous hunters. Gray foxes are solitary nocturnal animals, while coyotes live in packs.

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  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) Encyclopedia of World Animals
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