Minnesota Profile: Coyote (Canis latrans)
Piercing eyes, bushy tail, and pointed muzzle are the coyote's most distinguishing characteristics. In form and size, coyotes resemble small, lean German shepherds. Males weigh 25 to 45 pounds; females, 22 to 35 pounds. Most coyotes have coarse, long brown or gray hair with dark guard hairs. Some are almost black; others are nearly white.
Range and habitat
At the beginning of European settlement, coyotes were common on the plains of North America. Today they range from Central America to the Arctic, including most of the continental United States. Coyotes live in deserts, swamps, tundra, grasslands, brush, dense forests, and even suburbs and small towns.
In recent years coyote numbers have increased in southern Minnesota, perhaps due to a decline in trapping and improved habitat conditions.
Predator and prey
Minnesota's most abundant large predator, coyotes eat rabbits, rodents, insects, and other small prey that are relatively easy to capture. They sometimes eat livestock and poultry. They very rarely hunt in packs as wolves do, and so are less capable of taking large prey. In late summer coyotes eat watermelon, berries, and other fruit.
Coyotes, foxes, and wolves are all members of the canid family and compete with each other. Field studies show that the closer animals are in body size and in the size of preferred prey, the stronger the competition. Wolves often kill or drive off coyotes in their home range. Coyotes do the same with red foxes. Wolves and red foxes tend to coexist peacefully because they prefer prey of vastly different sizes.
Coyotes are most active at night and in early morning. Where there is minimal human interference, coyotes will be active throughout the day during cool weather. They sleep in sheltered areas, but use dens only when raising their young.
Coyotes breed in February and March and raise litters of five to seven pups, although litters of 13 have been reported. Pups are raised in dens in steep banks, rock crevices, sinkholes, and underbrush. Both the adult male and female bring food to their young for several weeks. Other adults may also help in feeding and caring for pups. Some coyotes mate for life.
For more information, visit Minnesota DNR - Coyote.
Jason Abraham, DNR staff writer