Coloration of coyotes varies from grayish brown to a yellowish gray on the upper parts. The throat and belly are whitish. The forelegs, sides of head, muzzle and feet are reddish brown. The back has fulvous colored underfur and long, black-tipped guard hairs that produce a black dorsal stripe and a dark cross on the shoulder area. The tail, which is half the body length, is bottle shaped with a black tip. There is also a scent gland located on the dorsal base of the tail. There is one moult per year, which starts in May with light loss of hair and ends in July after profuse shedding. Coyotes are significantly smaller than gray wolves and much larger than foxes. Coyotes are distinguished from domesticated dogs by their pointed, erect ears and drooping tail, which they hold below their back when running. The eyes have a yellow iris and round pupil. The nose is black and usually less than one inch in diameter. The ears are large in relation to the head and the muzzle is long and slender. The feet are relatively small for the size of the body. The pes has four digits and the manus has five with a small first digit. Coyotes run on their toes (digitigrade). The dental formula is 3/3 1/1 4/4 2/3. The molars are structured for crushing and the canines are rather long and slender.
Coyote Background Information. July 26, 2007 10:56 AM
The coyote appears often in the tales and traditions of Native Americans—usually as a very savvy and clever beast. Modern coyotes have displayed their cleverness by adapting to the changing American landscape. These members of the dog family once lived primarily in open prairies and deserts, but now roam the continent's forests and mountains. They have even colonized cities like Los Angeles, and are now found over most of North America. Coyote populations are likely at an all-time high.
These adaptable animals will eat almost anything. They hunt rabbits, rodents, fish, frogs, and even deer. They also happily dine on insects, snakes, fruit, grass, and carrion. Because they sometimes kill lambs, calves, or other livestock, as well as pets, many ranchers and farmers regard them as destructive pests.
Coyotes are formidable in the field where they enjoy keen vision and a strong sense of smell. They can run up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour. In the fall and winter, they form packs for more effective hunting.
Coyotes form strong family groups. In spring, females den and give birth to litters of three to twelve pups. Both parents feed and protect their young and their territory. The pups are able to hunt on their own by the following fall.
Coyotes are smaller than wolves and are sometimes called prairie wolves or brush wolves. They communicate with a distinctive call, which at night often develops into a raucous canine chorus.