Historically, coyotes were most commonly found
on the Great Plains of North America. Their range
now extends from Central America to the Arctic.
Except for Hawaii, coyotes live in all of the United
States, Canada, and Mexico. In spite of being hunted
and trapped for more than 200 years, more coyotes
exist today than when the U.S. Constitution was
Hardly any animal in America is more adaptable
to changing conditions than the coyote. Coyotes can
live just about anywhere. They are found in deserts,
swamps, tundra, grasslands, brush, and dense
forests, from below sea level to high mountains. They
have also learned to live in suburbs and cities like
Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Denver.
One of the keys to the coyotes success is its
diet. A true scavenger, the coyote will eat just about
anything. Identified as a killer of sheep, poultry and
deer, the coyote will also eat snakes and foxes,
doughnuts and sandwiches, rodents and rabbits,
fruits and vegetables, birds, frogs, grass and
grasshoppers, pet cats and cat food, pet dogs and
dog food, carrion, and just plain garbage.
Coyotes are active mainly during the nighttime,
but they can be moving at any time during the day.
Most sightings of coyotes occur during the hours
close to sunrise and sunset.
Adult coyotes weigh between 20 and 45 pounds.
Females are generally smaller than males and
western coyotes are generally smaller than eastern
Coyotes look like small collie dogs. They have
erect pointed ears, slender muzzle, and a bushy tail.
Most coyotes are brownish gray in color with a light
gray to creamcolored belly. However, a coyotes
color varies and may be somewhat darker or lighter
depending upon the geographic region and the time
of year. Most coyotes have dark or black hairs over
their back and tail.
A high reproductive rate and rapid growth of offspring
aid in the coyotes success. Coyotes breed in
February and March and pups are born about 60
days later. An average coyote litter contains four or
five pups. Pups are born in dens. In urban environments,
dens can be in storm drains, under storage
sheds, in holes dug in vacant lots, parks, or golf
courses, or any other dark, dry place.
Pups are cared for by both parents and can eat
meat and move about well by the time they are a
month old. Because food requirements increase
dramatically during pup rearing, this is a period when
conflicts between humans and urban coyotes are
common. By 6 months of age, pups have permanent
teeth and are nearly fully grown. About this time,
mother coyotes train their offspring to search for food
so it is not unusual to observe a family group
traveling through parks and golf courses. If food is
deliberately or inadvertently provided by people, the
youngsters quickly learn not to fear humans and will
develop a dependency on easy food sources.
After this training period, usually in October and
November, most young disperse and find their own
breeding territory, but one or two pups may stay with
the parents and become part of the family group.
Although coyotes tend to travel and hunt singly or in
pairs, they may form groups as population densities
increase or where food is abundant such as in
In areas where they are hunted or trapped,
coyotes are extremely wary of human beings.
However, in urban areas where they are less likely to
be harmed and more likely to associate people with
an easy and dependable source for food, they can
become very bold. They will come up to the door of
a house if food is regularly present. Coyotes have
learned that small dogs and cats are easy prey.
Newspapers across the country have carried stories
of coyotes harassing leashed dogs on walks with
their owners in and near parks and golf courses
within city limits.
Calls to Wildlife Services (WS), a part of the U.S.
Department of Agricultures Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service, for help or information involving
urban coyotes often pertain to the animals attacking
pets, eating garbage, or simply coming uncomfortably
close to houses or people on foot