The coyote (Canis latrans, meaning "barking dog", also prairie wolf) is a member of the Canidae (the dog family) and a relative of the domestic dog. Coyotes are only found in North America. Coyotes may occasionally assemble in small packs, but normally hunt alone. more...
Coyotes live an average of about 6 years. The word "coyote" derives from the Náhuatl (Aztec) word cóyotl (IPA /ˈkɔ.jɔtɬ/).
Despite being extensively hunted, the coyote is one of the few medium-to-large-sized animals that has enlarged its territory since human encroachment began (another is the raccoon). Coyotes have moved into most of the areas of North America formerly occupied by wolves, and the "dog" one sees scrounging from a suburban trashcan may in fact be a coyote.
The coyote stands less than two feet (0.6 m) tall and varies in color from gray to tan with sometimes a reddish tint to its coat. A coyote's ears and nose appear long and pointed, especially in relation to the size of its head. It weighs between 9 - 22 kilograms (20 - 50 lb), averaging 14 kg. The coyote can be identified by its thick bushy tail, which it often holds low to the ground. It can be distinguished from its much larger relative, the Grey Wolf, by its overall slight appearance compared to the massive 34 to 57 kg (75 to 125 lb) stockiness of the bigger canid. The coyote is an extremely lean animal and may appear underfed even if healthy.
The northeast coyote and the Cape Cod coyote are thought to be a 50% mix with the Red Wolf. Coyotes can also hybridize and produce fertile offspring with Grey Wolves and domestic dogs. However practical constraints such as the timing of estrus cycles and the need for both parents to care for the pups limit such crosses in the wild. Hybrids between coyotes and Domestic Dogs are known as "Coydogs".
Coyotes are highly adaptable and live in a variety of different niches. Their behavior can vary widely depending on where they live, but in general they live and hunt singly or in monogamous pairs in search of small mammals including rabbits, mice, shrews, voles, and foxes. It is an omnivore and adapts its diet to the available food sources including fruits, grasses, and vegetables along with small mammals. In Yellowstone National Park, before the reintroduction of the wolf, they began to fill the wolf's ecological niche, and hunted in packs to bring down large prey.
Coyotes mate for life. They breed around the month of February and 4–6 pups are born in late April or early May. Both parents (and sometimes undispersed young from the previous year) help to feed the pups. At three weeks old the pups leave the den under close watch of their parents. Once the pups are eight to twelve weeks old they are taught to hunt. Families stay together through the summer but the young break apart to find their own territories by fall. They usually relocate within ten miles. The young are sexually mature at 1 year of age.
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