Canids are often social animals, living and hunting in groups with complex communication systems and organizational structures. Canids communicate with vocalizations—usually barks, whimpers, growls, and howls. Canids also use body positions, head movements, and scents from scent glands to mark hunting territories, display authority, or advertise their receptivity to mating.
Coyote: The coyote, Canis latrans, is the most widespread relative of the wolf in North America. The native range of the coyote extends from Panama northward to the North Slope of Alaska and includes all states except Hawaii. Coyotes can survive in a variety of habitats and have successfully adapted to an urban existence in many parts of the United States and Mexico. Essentially nocturnal, coyotes feed on carrion, small rodents, birds, insects, snakes, lizards, and even deer and sheep. Coyotes mate from January to March and usually give birth to between 5 and 10 pups following a two-month gestation period. Both parents participate in the raising of the young.
Social behavior among canids is based on the family group, which centers on a breeding pair. In wolves, for example, the breeding male, called the alpha, maintains dominance over other pack members using dominant body postures, facial displays, vocalizations such as growls and barks, scent marking, and when necessary, fighting. The second in charge, known as the beta, is the breeding female.
Red Fox Hunting: The red fox, a member of the dog family Canidae, is an agile, intelligent hunter. When capturing small prey such as mice, the fox will pounce on the intended victim from above in much the same manner as a cat.
The size and composition of the family group varies from species to species. It is also influenced by the available food supply and by the habitat where the animals live. African hunting dogs are perhaps the most strongly social of all canids. They have been known to gather in packs of hundreds of individuals, but the usual number ranges from 10 to 30. The dominant female is typically the only female in the pack to breed, but all pack members help to raise the young by regurgitating food for the pups. Sick or injured adults are also assisted in the same way. Quarrels in the pack are unusual, and serious fights are rare. Unlike almost all other mammals, young females of this species—instead of young males–leave the pack to breed with members of other packs.
Canid packs, especially African hunting dogs and dholes, often hunt cooperatively, enabling them to pursue and kill much larger animals. They are able to do this using a technique called relay hunting, in which one member of the pack chases prey, then another takes over, followed by another, continuing until the prey animal is exhausted. The canids then attack and kill the prey.
Red foxes live in much smaller groups and usually hunt alone. A monogamous male and female pair typically defends a territory in which they hunt and raise their young. Sometimes several female foxes, usually a mother and her daughters, are found with a single male. The younger adults are helpers, assisting the breeding pair in territorial defense and providing food for the young.