Canis latrans

Coyote Gallery

About the Coyote


Geographic Range:


Class: Mammalia  
Order: Carnivora  
Family: Canidae  
Genus: Canis  
Species: latrans

Coyotes are probably best known for their howling at night. Their scientific name, “Canis latrans,”  means “barking dog.” These animals are some of the savviest and most adaptable predators. Coyotes are found in most North American ecosystems, including urban areas. They're not picky eaters and will eat carrion, fruits, insects and small mammals. Coyotes form pair bonds (though not necessarily for life) and have small family packs for the raising of pups.

Coyote Facts

At higher attitudes, coyotes tend to be gray and black, whereas in the desert they’re more brown. The fur is generally longer and coarser in northern subspecies. The coyote’s belly and throat are paler than the rest of its body. Melanistic (black) coyotes are rare. Coyotes are distinguished from domesticated dogs by their pointed, erect ears and drooping tail (which is half the body length).

Length – 3 to 5 feet; its tail measures 12 to 16 inches
Weight – 22 to 42 pounds

In the wild: Scavengers, coyotes feed on small rodents, rabbits, invertebrates, berries and other plant matter, as well as carrion.

Breeding season is January to March. Courtship lasts for about two or three months. Once the female choose her mate, the two may remain paired for a number of years (but not necessarily for life). After a gestation of 63 days, offspring can number between six to 18 pups. Pups are weaned at seven weeks and become sexually mature at 1 year of age.

Coyotes are clever and quickly take advantage of changes around them. The coyote’s extraordinary adaptability and indiscriminant eating habits have led to its success where other animals have failed to survive. They have a very keen sense of smell and can even detect prey scurrying under snow. Coyotes will form packs for more effective hunting, taking turns and working together to out-wit or exhaust their prey.

They're very good swimmers but poor climbers. They run on their toes (digitigrade), and can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Coyotes are active at night and in the early morning hours. In some places, coyotes live in loosely knit family packs while in other areas, they live either as mated pairs or as transient single animals. The mated pair is the basic social unit. The coyote is the most vocal of all North American wild mammals, using three distinct calls (squeak, distress and howl).

Coyotes are found from Alaska through Canada and from the United States to northern Central America. They’re highly adaptable and exist in all habitats where prey exists. Their northward expansion may be the result of the loss of wolves and cougars from their former ranges.

Median Life Expectancy: 
In the wild, 6 to 8 years
In captivity, 19 years

Population Status:
In the U.S. coyotes are protected in 12 of the 50 states, but many states have seasons for trapping/hunting. Many areas have banned the use of poisons for killing animals suspected of taking livestock.  In small parts of their range, interbreeding with domestic dogs and wolves may pose a threat. However, interactions among these species are usually aggressive.