I’m a big fan of coyotes. I enjoy seeing them, hearing them and hunting them. I think the reason I like them so much is that I’ve always had a lot of respect for a underdog, which the coyote surely is compared to its more media divisive cousin the wolf, or other charismatic megafauna like the bear. Similar to Rodney Dangerfield, coyotes “don’t get no respect.” Unlike wolves there are no national groups crying for their protection, no one is pleading their case on the steps of the capital. In spite of this, coyotes are without a doubt one of the most successful predators in North America. They are ultimate survivors.
Below are some facts, history and trivia that might give you a better understanding of the coyote and maybe even help you put a couple extra pelts on your wall this year.
1. General description
Coyote males typically average between 18 and 44 pounds, while females average between 15 and 40 pounds. Northern subspecies tend to grow larger than southern populations. Body length typically ranges from about 3.5 feet to 4.5 feet. The largest coyote on recorded was killed near Afton, Wyoming in 1937; it measured 5.3 feet from nose to tail.
2. They’ve been in North America a long time
The modern coyote shows up in the fossil record during the Middle Pliestocene about 450 thousand years ago, after they diverged grey wolves about 1.5 million years ago.
3. They’re speed demons
The coyote can run up to 40 miles per hour. Its animated enemy the roadrunner can only run about 20 miles per hour, making Acme Rockets completely unnecessary in the real world.
4. Coyotes are very mobile can be found almost everywhere.
The 19 subspecies of coyote are found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama to the northernmost parts of Canada. Males will travel up to 100 miles to find food and new territory when their current location is overpopulated.
This, combined with the removal of wolves throughout the U.S might be a reason their populations have spread so quickly to the eastern parts of the nation.
5. Native American mythology
Coyotes play major role in the mythology of many Native American tribes. While their description varies, they are often seen as a crafty and intelligent trickster with a voracious appetite.
Depending on the culture, Coyote could be seen as hero who teaches and helps humanity, often instrumental in the creation of the world, as a antihero whose bad example is used to educate on the dangers of greed and arrogance, and as a mischievous trickster constantly getting himself in and out of trouble.
6. They are monogamist, most of the time
Coyotes will mate for years, but not necessarily for life. Boy coyotes court girl coyotes for about 3 months during the late fall and early winter. Sometime between January and late March, the ladies go into heat for two to five days. In spring, females den and give birth to litters of three to ten pups with both parents helping to feed and protect the young.
7. Will eat almost anything, but really have a taste for eating fawns
Not a big secret, and the main reason some want to see them removed from the landscape completely. Fawns are only a part of their diet though. Coyotes will happily eat almost anything from rabbit, to fish, frogs, water fowl, snakes, insects, fruit, grass and roadkill.
When it comes to deer, some studies show that coyote predation on adult deer doesn’t have a big affect on adult deer numbers. Coyotes are much more successful on predation of fawns during the spring and summer months, but the overall impact isn’t really significant to a state’s deer population.
There is one big exception though; the southeastern United States. Studies conducted in the region have shown that coyote predation on deer is seriously impacting fawn survival to the point that deer populations will not remain stable unless major management changes are put in place.
8. Coyotes and wolves have mated to form a new hybrid, the coy-wolf
Some of the coyotes wiping out deer populations on the east coast aren’t really pure coyote. Rather, they are the result of breeding between wolves, coyotes and even domestic dogs. This interbreeding has produced the stuff of nightmares; a extraordinarily adept new animal that is spreading across the eastern part of North America.
Like the coyote of the west, it can hunt on open plains, but also in forests and mountains like a grey wolf. The DNA it shares with domestic dogs has been brought up as the factor for them moving into cites like Washington DC, Boston and New York, apparently much less afraid of humans than purebred coyotes or wolves.
DNA research suggests that a large part of the domestic dog DNA comes from large breeds like Dobermans and German shepherds, pets that the hybrid animals see not as dinner, but as a potential mate. The result: a coyote hybrid with larger jaws, more muscle and a higher top speed, making it possible for individual coywolves to take down deer much more successfully than a typical coyote, with packs of coywolves capable of killing adult moose.
9. Trapping or shooting them out of your area probably won’t happen
Some recent studies have shown that eliminating coyotes from a given area, say a hunting lease or ranch is almost impossible. Researchers believe that this is due to the fact that at least half of a coyote population is made up of residents while the other half is made up of transients. A North Carolina study found that transient coyotes can move up to 100 miles, setting up shop in an area for a week or two.
If a resident coyote dies, the transient might then fill the spot. What this means for hunters, ranchers and land managers is that even if they continue to trap, shoot or poison coyotes on their property for infinity, you might only end up with the same number of coyotes you started with. That shouldn’t dissuade you from hunting and trapping them though.
Whether you love or hate the coyote, as a hunter you should know them, because they are out in the field and they sure as heck know about you.
by Dan Born