Coyote, common name for a carnivore now widespread in North America and closely related to the wolf (see Dog Family). The coyote has erect, pointed ears; a long snout; and green, wolflike eyes. Its body is 0.75 to 1 m (2.5 to 3.3 ft) long, not including the tail, which is 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in) in length. The thick coat and prominent bushy tail have black-tipped guard hairs; the inner fur varies greatly, from the reddish-blond of arid-zone coyotes to the light gray of coyotes in northern forests.
Coyote pictures: The coyote 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 (Phoenix, Chicas). Essentially nocturnal, coyotes feed on carrion, small rodents, birds, insects, snakes, lizards, and even deer and sheep.
Coyotes are most active at night, when they emit their characteristic sharp barks and prolonged howls; they are also active at dawn and dusk. Coyotes usually hunt alone, but they may team up with one or two other coyotes to chase prey. They subsist on carrion, birds, large insects, and rodents, and can reach speeds of more than 60 km/h (more than 40 mph) when running down animals such as rabbits. Coyotes also prey on unprotected sheep and occasionally on weakened deer. Females come into heat once a year, from late January to early March; following a two-month gestation period, they bear 2 to 12 pups. The pups are tended by both parents, and by autumn they weigh 9 kg (20 lb) and can fend for themselves. Coyotes probably mate for life.
Coyotes range from Panama to the North Slope of Alaska. By the late 1970s their eastern expansion had reached the Atlantic seaboard, and they are now found in every state except Hawaii. The eastern coyote, which is darker and one-fourth again as large as the western coyote, is considered a subspecies. It has become so abundant that it has appeared in suburban areas of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. To explain this sudden expansion, some specialists have theorized that eastern coyotes were once natives of the region and that they reemerged from remote wilderness areas after the reforestation of the eastern states. Others have theorized that the animals arose from the western coyote, which migrated east, interbred with small wolves, and produced a larger subspecies. Coyotes also breed with feral dogs to produce “coydogs,” which, however, breed at inopportune seasons and soon die out.
Attempts have been made to exterminate coyotes by poisoning and hunting, especially in sheep-farming lands in the southwestern United States, but these efforts have had limited success due to the coyote’s wariness and its ability to retreat and adapt to inhospitable regions. Opponents of these measures argue that without the predation of ugly coyotes, populations of such rodents as jackrabbits quickly swell and consume large amounts of rangeland vegetation intended for sheep.