Coyote (Canis latrans)

Also known as the American Jackal, these animals are members of the canine family. Similar in size to a small German Shepherd, a wild coyote is often mistaken for a domestic dog in urban settings. The scientific name for coyote is Canis latrans, meaning “barking dog” in Latin. They have strong senses of hearing, sight, and smell. They can run 35 to 40 miles an hour and are strong swimmers.

It is not always easy to tell the difference between a coyote, a dog or a young wolf. The way they hold their tails when running is distinct. The coyote runs with its tail down; dogs run with their tails up; wolves run with their tails straight out.

The coyote is a very vocal animal. A long howl lets other members of the pack know the location of a coyote. Short barks warn of danger. To welcome a new member of the pack, coyotes yip. They growl to establishing dominance. Other sounds such as whining and whimpering are for when males and females are establishing bonds. They make a high-pitched bark to call their puppies.


Most coyotes have gray or brown colored fur with a cream-colored or white underside, but some have blonde, reddish, and charcoal coat colors. Most also have a black-tipped tail. They have very large triangular shaped ears and a long, narrow muzzle, mouth and a black nose. They have yellow eyes and long bushy tails, slim legs and small feet. The eastern coyote is larger than its western counterpart. Most adults are about 48-60 inches long from nose to tail and weigh between 20 to 50 pounds, with males typically weighing more than females.


Coyotes can be found in a variety of habitats, where they can create dens. They are able to dig but prefer not to if given the choice. They will make a den in a rocky crevice, a log, a cave or the dens of other animals. They will also move into an abandoned den of another animal and enlarge it, if needed.


Originally a western plains animal, they can now be found in all of the United States except for Hawaii. They also are found in parts of Mexico, Central America and Canada. They are very adaptive animals, proving that even with loss of habitat they are known to thrive in some big cities in the U.S.


Omnivore, eating mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, snakes, deer, and livestock, fish and insects. They will also prey upon cats and small dogs. Prefers fresh over carrion but will also eat fruit, berries and vegetables in the winter months, if needed. Coyotes usually hunt in pairs at night but have been known to hunt in packs to take down large prey such as a deer.

Life Span: 

Up to 14 years in the wild, 20 years under human care.

Family Life: 

Monogamous. Breeding season is January through March. Gestation period is 60-63 days. One litter a year averaging seven pups. The pups are born blind and with floppy ears. At about ten days after birth, they open their eyes. They don’t come out of the den until they are three or four weeks old. Both parents care for the young. Pups are weaned at about 6 to 8 weeks. They begin foraging and hunting with the adults when they are 8 to 13 weeks old. Between the age of six and nine months, all male pups leave their mother but the female pups stay with their mother's pack. They form strong family groups