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Canis latrans - Coyote
Range:  North America and Central America
Size:  25 lb (11.5 kg) - 75 lb (34 kg)

The coyote is a small species of wolf indigenous to North America.  It branched off from the main wolf line perhaps as much as 2 million years ago, and so possesses some rather distinctive physical features of its own.  Most notably, it is smaller than other wolf species, and has proportionately longer ears and a more pointed nose.

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It is the most widely distributed of all the continent's canids, ranging from far northern Alaska to Nicaragua.  Virtually the only parts of North America is does not inhabit are those which are covered with ice year round.  The coyote evolved as a creature of the western grasslands.  However, it has massively expanded its distribution in recent times since Grey and Red wolves, it primary competitors for habitat, have been eliminated throughout most of its range.  The highly opportunistic feeding habits of the coyote have also aided its success.  It will take a very wide variety of prey animals, and though it prefers to eat fresh meat, it will also resort to scavenging on carrion if necessary.  Like many other canid species, it also includes a large amount of plant material in its diet, especially fruit.

Image © Wyman P. Meinzer

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Image  Wyman P. Meinzer

 
coyote - Image  Don Baccus
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The coyote was likely more of a daytime hunter in the past, but has now become far more nocturnal because of human activity.  Coyotes are basically solitary animals, and unlike other wolves, do not form packs.  However, small groups of individuals have been observed to loosely associate for a short period of time.  Both parents participate in caring for the young, with the male performing most of the food gathering.  Litter size is variable, although six pups is average.

Image © Don Baccus

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The coat colour of the coyote is variable, and largely depends on the surrounding habitat.  Those from arid zones are rather brownish yellow, whilst those occurring in the northern latitudes tend to be darker.  Also, the size of a coyote is greatly influenced by the environment in which it lives.  Individuals from the hot, dry deserts of the far southwest only average about 25 lb (11.5 kg), but those in the northern forests can weigh up to 75 lb (34 kg).
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coyote

 
coyote pup - Image  Glenn D. Chambers
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The coyote's name originates from the Aztec word "coyotl", which means "barking dog".  It is a name which describes the species well, as it is highly vocal.

Image © Glenn D. Chambers

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Click hereto go to my page on the fossil coyote.

COYOTE LINKS:
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The Coyote - Desert USA

 
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