A lone Coyote howling at the moon has become a true symbol for West America. In reality, these nocturnal predators are not solitary at all and they often hunt in groups. They inhabit vast territories in North America, from Alaska to Costa Rica and from the Pacific Ocean to the gulf of Saint Lawrence.
When European settlers came, the population of many large predator species were decreased. This, however, was not the case for Coyote, who have kept spreading despite being hunted very often. Although Coyotes prefer grassy prairies, they have excellent adaptation skills and can live in any climate, from the frozen regions of Alaska to the dry deserts of Sonoran.
It is interesting that humans were the ones that helped these animals spread widely across all North America. The excessive hunting of wolves has decreased rivalry for food and made it easier for Coyotes to survive and cutting forests has made many areas more suited for the lifestyle of the Coyote.
Coyotes usually live in groups or pairs with their mating partners. They are nocturnal and hunt at night, using their excellent cooperation skills in a group. Coyotes are carnivores and most of their diet is made of rabbits, hares, squirrels and other small rodents. In groups they can also sometimes hunt deers or moose. In some regions, almost 50% of the Coyote’s food table consists of carrion, although they always prefer fresh prey. Amazing symbiosis has been observed between Coyotes and badgers – the badger finds a rodent’s cave, digs it open and then lets the Coyote kill whatever is inside, afterwards sharing prey with the Coyote.
Their mating period lasts throughout the first few months of the year. After copulation, the pair digs a hole or occupy an existing one. Gestation period lasts for 2 months and 5-10 pups are born. Both the parents take care of them for about seven weeks. Nine months later they are already fully developed and in the second year of their life, they leave their parents and search for their own territory. Sometimes, though, the young Coyotes will merge with the parents’ pack and stay in the area of their birthplace for the rest of their lives. Coyotes usually live 4 years, although they can live to be as old as 14 years in the wild and even 22 years in captivity.
Humans have hunted Coyotes for as long as history can tell. The spectacular fur is used widely in making coats, and also many shepherds would hunt these animals, because they posed a serious threat to sheep herds. In the beginning of the 1970s, more than 100’000 Coyotes were killed in the United States and in 1977 more than 300’000 Coyote fur coats were sold. Coyotes are protected in 12 states, while in others they are still widely hunted. Despite this, their population doesn’t seem to be decreasing, thanks to their excellent adaptation skills which allow them to inhabit more and more new territories.