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Coyote (Canis latrans)

Canis latrans
(Order , Family Canidae)

Adult coyote.  Image from

Diagnosis: Coyotes display a wide range of gray-brown pelt colors while their ventral sides is more white/buff colored. Canis latrans is characterized by large ears, a bushy tail with black guard hairs, and small feet where sweat glands are located. They weigh 9 to 23 kg (20 to 50 lbs) with a body length of 81 to 94 cm and a tail length of 41 cm.  Intraspecific communication involves howls, yips, and barks.

Natural History: Coyotes can run at speeds up to 64 km/h (40 mph), jump over 4 m, and can hear at a frequency of 80 kHz. Typically diurnal, coyotes have adapted to become more nocturnal due to human pressure. They may hunt in large packs, especially in colder months, but pairs are more typical. Pairs stay together to raise their young and protect their territory. Females will den in badger dens, groundhog burrows, or dig their own. Litters contain an average of 6 pups after a gestation of around 60 days. There is a high mortality rate for coyote pups of 50-70%. Coyotes are mature after 12 months and can live for up to 14 years in the wild. Coyotes are considered a threat to livestock and as such are harvested. Some states have a fur harvesting season implemented; in Kansas coyotes are not classified as a true fur bearer and therefore are not protected by a hunting season.

Distribution: Canis latrans are found south from Costa Rica to northern Alaska and across the United States. Some have adapted to urban living and some cities have stable urban populations. 

Distribution of Coyotes (in purple). Map from

Habitat: Coyotes will live almost anywhere food is available. Dens are located in a wide range of habitats: brush-covered slopes, steep banks, rock ledges, hollow logs.  Territories are kept by a family, a breeding pair, or a single adult.

Diet: Coyotes are omnivores and opportunistic eaters. They hunt small rodents including rabbits, and mice, fish, frogs, and larger mammals such as deer. They also will kill livestock such as lambs and calves. They will also eat insects, snakes, fruits, grasses, and carrion.

Species Status: Stable

Video: Coyotes hunting - Canis latrans

National Geographic:
Forest Service- Index of Species info:

Bekoff, Marc. “Canis latrans.” Mammalian Species 79(1977); 1-9. Jstore.
Peterson, Rolf O, Joanne M. Thurber. “Changes in body size associated with range expansion in the coyote (Canis latrans).” Journal of Mammology 72.4 (1991); 750-755. Jstore.
Sacks, Benjamin N. “Reproduction and body condition of  Californian coyotes (Canis Latrans).” Journal of Mammalogy 86.5 (2005); 1036-1041. BioOne.

Submitted by: Corinne Juju Wellemeyer, July 2013


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