The coyote is the most common species of mammal in North America. They are called “wily” by humans because of how intelligent and adaptable they are. Due to their versatile nature, coyotes spread fast across North America and have even adapted to living in cities amongst people.
Coyotes (Canis Latrans) belong to the Canidae family and have similar traits to their relatives; the wolves species, dogs and foxes. No wonder they are also called prairie wolves and brush wolves.
Coyotes are a common sight all over Texas, and their range occupies the territory of the former red wolf. They have adapted to Texas state transformation over the years and can live in urban and suburban areas.
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Types of Coyotes
There are a total of 19 subspecies of coyotes found in North America, Eastern America, Central North America, Central America, and Mexico. There are very few physical traits to differentiate them. Their fur coloring comes in a mix of white, brown and black. They can only be set apart by the region they live in. Coyotes that live in mountain areas have darker fur, while coyotes that live in the desert have a lighter coat.
The Central US Coyote is divided into 4 species over Central North America. The Plains Coyote can be spotted in central Canada, Alberta, Oklahoma and Texas.
The Plains Coyote has the height of a medium-sized dog, almost the size of a bearded collie but with wolf features. The coyote is visibly smaller than a wolf. They usually measure between 32 to 37 inches long ( 81 to 94 cm). They weigh between 20 to 50 lbs ( 9 to 23 kg).
Coyotes have yellow eyes and fluffy tails with big ears. Their fur looks quite well maintained, and it has soft fur underneath and firm outer hairs. Their fur coloring can be grayish-brown and grayish red with white underfur. Like the dog relatives, coyotes shed once per year, in the summer, and they replace their coat with a new one.
Lifespan and Life Cycle
These prairie wolves live between 10 to 15 years, similar to the lifespan of a medium-sized dog.
They are very agile mammals, and they are both great on land and on water. They can run up to 40 mph (64kph), but they cannot climb trees.
Coyotes are highly sociable animals and tend to live in small packs. They live in pairs or family units and have hierarchies. They can hunt alone or in a pack. They usually hunt in packs if they go for larger animals like deer. Teamwork is always the key to bringing a big prey home.
Coyotes display multiple ways of communication within the pack. They use sounds, body language and scents. Some say that this animal is the most vocal in North America. Their sounds are a mixture of barks, howls, and growls like their relatives. Their call is quite distinctive as it sounds like a yip-like howl.
They have long claws that help them dig, usually finding dens created by badgers or other animals. They enlarge them and make it their home. Coyotes are nocturnal creatures, so they sleep during the day and hunt at night. However, they can adapt to any kind of environment. Coyotes that live in cities adapt their night and day cycles to avoid humans and traffic.
Coyotes are called opportunistic feeders. They aren’t picky eaters at all and can eat almost anything, alive or dead. This means they can eat meat, fish, vegetables, berries and even garbage.
They usually hunt small animals like rabbits, squirrels, mice, and they can also hunt together for livestock. Their diet also includes insects and snakes. In urban areas, they can eat pet food, garbage, and food left out by humans. Coyotes have an important ecological role, as they keep rabbits and rodent populations in check. Sometimes they can hunt free roaming human pets like cats and dogs.
Coyotes can be found in forests, plains and deserts. Since they can adapt to all kinds of environments, they also live in mountains, swamps and tropical rainforests. They have adapted so well that they can live alongside humans in urban and rural areas.
Their habitat usually overlaps with wolves, but as the wolves population declines, the coyotes take over these habitats.
Their range starts from Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central America. They are on almost every part of the continent except the polar region. Initially, coyotes were only seen in prairies and desert areas, but humans helped them expand their territory through agricultural development and killing cougars and wolves. Since some zones developed into cities, coyotes live even in New York and Los Angeles.
The breeding season starts from January to March. What is interesting about them is that they do not mate for life but tend to stay together for several years. The female has a gestation period of two months and births an average of 6 puppies.
The pups are small, helpless and blind, and they need their parents to survive. Both partners participate in taking care of the litter. The mom is on nursing duties, while the dad hunts for food and protects them from threats. After approximately 10 days, the pups open their eyes, and in about a month, they can exit their den and explore.
In 9 months, the young coyotes become fully independent. The males will wander off, possibly to start their own pack, while the females usually remain with their parents for much longer. They stay to help with the nursing duties of the new litters.
At 9 months old the young coyotes reach adulthood and sexual maturity. They typically live up to 15 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.
According to IUCN, coyotes are not an endangered species. They live in large numbers all over North America, and their population is on the rise. Even though coyotes are hunted or killed by accident every year, their numbers are not declining.
This is possible because of their amazing ability to adapt to every environment and humans. Another factor that leads to their rise in numbers is that their natural predators: the local bears, wolves and cougars, are declining. Coyotes are the least concerned species, but their population number is currently unknown.
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Coyotes are medium-sized mammals that are very smart and agile, which makes them have only a few natural predators. These include bears, wolves, and cougars, but since they are being depleted in the wild, they aren’t that much of a threat to mature coyotes. Predators usually go for pups, old or wounded coyotes. Sometimes golden eagles swoop down to snatch young coyote puppies.
Humans are a known threat to coyotes. Hunting is one way that humans impact the lives of these animals, and around 400,000 coyotes are killed like this each year. They are usually hunted for their fur and keep the population in check. Another threat to coyotes is car accidents and diseases.
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Interactions with Humans
In captivity, coyotes are found at the Cameron Zoo in Waco, Texas. In North Texas, they can be spotted in Frisco, Dallas and Fort. They will visit these cities because they know they can find food.
In East Texas, they frequent cities like Tyler and Longview. This happens mostly right after the breeding season. They need extra food for the pups. In Central Texas, coyotes live in cities like Austin, Travis and its surroundings.
If you ever encounter a coyote, be aware that they are accustomed to humans and usually they are not afraid of us. The best method to get rid of a coyote is to haze them, which reinforces them to be fearful of humans. There are a few simple methods to haze them like yelling and waxing your arms when you encounter them.
You can also use noisemakers such as whistles, air horns, or even your voice to scare them away. Using stones and sticks and throwing at them also helps with the hazing.
It is important to never run away from a coyote. This will encourage the animal to chase you, and you don’t want to be changed by a coyote. These animals are fast runners with 40 mph, and they will probably catch you.
Overall, coyotes’ attacks on humans don’t generally happen, but it is highly recommended to never interact with them or feed them. The hazing method is beneficial as it maintains their fear of humans and can deter them from populated areas like parks or backyards.
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Cultural References – Myths and Legends
Native American Culture
Coyotes are associated with Coyote spirit, an important figure for indigenous groups. For them, this animal symbolizes an intelligent entity with supernatural powers. They usually see him as good and evil, depending on the circumstances.
The Coyote Fire Legend
Many tribes share the same creation story, where the coyote brought fire to the people. One freezing winter, humans were in distress. They were crying over their dire situation as they were cold. They had nowhere to go and no way to keep themselves warm, so they invoked the coyote spirit for help. The coyote decides to help the humans.
On a mountain peak, there was a glow that could be fire, so the spirit decided to investigate. He went up the summit, and when he reached the top, he saw three fire monsters standing next to a fire pit. As a powerful and clever spirit, the coyote studied the monsters for a few nights to learn their habits.
One night, while the monsters slept, the coyote snuck inside their camp and stole a burning branch and starter running down the mountain. The monsters heard the noise, woke up, and started chasing after the thief. They couldn’t match the speed of the coyote, but one monster nearly caught him and only managed to burn the tip of his tail.
Without the coyote’s knowledge, his animal friends followed him to the mountain and watched everything that happened. The coyote became very tired from being chased around, and when he saw his friend cougar in a bush, he passed the burning branch to her. He then passed out from exhaustion while the cougar started running with the fire.
The monsters immediately went after the new animal. However, the more the monsters ran, the more fire evaporated into thin air.
The cougar was almost down the mountain, but she was tired, so she passed the branch to the squirrel. The squirrel took the brushwood and started running from tree to tree while the fire monsters chased. The sapling has moved from one animal friend to another and eventually reached the people, while the fire monsters evaporated completely.
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Are coyotes invasive to Texas?
Coyotes are not an invasive species in Texas. They do not attack people unprovoked, however, it is still dangerous to be near a coyote. Farmers and hunters are allowed to kill coyotes to keep their population in check.
Is a coyote dangerous?
Attacks on humans are very rare. There are only a few documented attacks where coyotes were harmful towards humans. They are known to attack pets like cats and dogs, so it’s better to not leave your dog roaming around at night and keep pet food inside.
What is the difference between a dingo and a coyote?
The main difference between these two animals is their fur color. Coyotes have grey or reddish fur, while dingos have a general tan color, usually black and tan.