Biology and Behaviour

The Coyote

The coyote is a predator that belongs to the family of the canidae. Coyotes are somewhat smaller than wolves but significantly larger than foxes. Coyotes have elongated snouts and relatively large standing ears. Their body length amounts to between 70 and 100 cm; their weight to between 7 and 21 kg. The dogs are considerably larger and heavier than the bitches. Similar to our domestic foxes, coyotes are able to adapt easily to different habitats and can be found in forests, grasslands, and deserts but also in swamp areas as well as in human settlements. Coyotes are good swimmers but not very good climbers. They avoid areas in which wolves are to be found.


The food spectrum of coyotes mainly comprises mammals. Coyotes hunt in teams and can therefore also take down deer. When they hunt alone, it is for mice, squirrels and rabbits but also for birds, snakes and large insects. Even though they prefer meat, coyotes will also forage through garbage in human settlements, searching for food. In autumn and winter, coyotes lay back distances of approx. 4 km per night. They play an important role in regulating the population of rodents and lagomorphs, thereby contributing to maintaining ecological balance. 


Female coyotes are in heat twice a year for a duration of 2 to 5 days. Normally, this is between January and March, which is also when pairing takes place. Coyotes are not monogamous but sometimes stay with the same partner for several years. Following a gestation period of 50 to 65 days, the female will give birth to 6 coyote pups on average – sometimes, to twice as many. At birth, the puppies weigh 250 g and are blind. They open their eyes after approx. 10 days, which is also when they begin to stick up their ears in coyote manner. After 3 to 4 weeks, the pups will leave the den to discover their surroundings. They are completely weaned at 5 weeks of age. The parents will continue to feed them with regurgitated food for a certain time. Young males will then leave their place of birth after approx. six months; whereas females will stay with their families. Coyotes reach breeding age at 12 months. Sometimes, they pair themselves with domestic dogs or even with wolves. In the wild, coyotes can reach up to 10 years of age.


The social structure of coyotes is quite dynamic and they do not necessarily have to live in groups. Sometimes, they form hunting groups of two or of entire families, depending on the availability and form of potential food. Coyotes use optical, olfactory, tactile and acoustic signals to communicate with each other. Howling is an important signal, because it draws territorial borders as well as informing family members of an individual coyote’s whereabouts. Coyotes also use scent-marking to communicate.


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