Coyote Canis latrans Say



Photo courtesy of R. H. Barrett,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Images Library

Description:   Coyotes are the largest native canid now found in Kansas. They can be distinguished from other wild Kansas canids by their large size. Typically, the belly and throat are light gray, pale yellow or white. The muzzle is dull gray on top, mixing with black fur along the sides to create a grizzled appearance on the cheeks. A triangular patch of long, coarse guard hairs between the shoulders may be erected in threat display. The back of the head and nape are gray., strongly tinged with yellow. The long, pointed ears tend to be deep fulvous mixed with black hairs. Gray fur along the back is tipped with black, creating a grizzled appearance, although individuals in western Kansas may be more reddish. There may be black patches on the front of the forefeet and near the base of the tail. There is often a narrow stripe of white fur around the lips. The tail is well furred and colored like the body, but may have black hairs at the tip.
Size:   The size of coyotes varies throughout their range. Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 1140-1300 mm; tail 320-370 mm; hind foot 190-212 mm; ear 100-120 mm; weight 12.7-15.7 kilograms.

Range and Habitat:   Coyotes are distributed throughout Kansas. Although originally an animal of open grasslands, they are now found in a wide range of habitats. they appear to be most common, in eastern Kansas, in mixed woodland and grassland habitats such as forest edges and abandoned fields. In central and western Kansas they are frequently found along stream drainages or where the terrain tends to be rolling or hilly.

  There are two subspecies of coyote in Kansas, Canis latrans frustror Woodhouse, in eastern Kansas from Atchison County southwest to Sumner County, and C. latrans latrans Say throughout the remainder of the state.

Reproduction:   Breeding usually occurs from mid-February to mid-March. Prior to breeding, a male may court the female two to three months, and females remain in estrous for a long period before ovulation occurs.

The same pair of individuals may breed year after year, but do not necessarily remain together for life. Gestation varies from 58 to 65 (average 63) days. Litters range in number up to nineteen (probably a combined litter from two females), but average 4 to 7 pups, the size varying with the abundance of prey. The young are born blind, weight about 250 grams, and are 160 mm long. Their eyes open fourteen days after birth. After about two weeks, both parents regurgitate partly digest food for the pups. They begin to eat solid food when they are about three weeks old and are weaned between the fifth and seventh weeks. The young first leave the when they are two to three weeks old, and disperse when they are six to nine months old. Males may help the female and young by providing food and grooming the young. Coyotes reach adult weight at about nine months. Females and males may breed as yearlings but unless prey are abundant, yearling females do not produce litters.

Habits:   Coyotes are primarily nocturnal and are most active in the early evening. There is a second, minor peak of activity shortly before dawn. Some individuals are active during the daylight hours, especially juveniles during the summer. Coyotes are usually solitary although pairs may commonly be seen during breeding season. Larger aggregations may represent family groups or several males courting estrous females.

  Coyote dens are constructed on brushy slopes or draws, in thickets, hollow logs, or under rock ledges. Abandoned badger, fox, rabbit or woodchuck dens may also be used. The den is usually 1.5-6 meters long and consists of a nest chamber and often more than one entrance. Females may prepare several dens and move the litter from one to another before the young disperse.

  Males tend to have larger ranges than females, covering 20-40 square kilometers, while females range over 8-10 sqaure kilometers. Home ranges of males frequently overlap. Population densities vary, but in good habitat may average two or three coyotes per square kilometer.

Food:   Coyotes are omnivorous, eating a wide variety of plant and animal foods. Approximately ninety percentage of their diet consists of mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, and carrion. Ground-nesting birds are also eaten. Various fruits, berries, seeds, and grasses are consumed when available. Deer that are eaten are usually carrion and coyotes rarely capture a healthy adult individual.

  Coyotes locate their prey by sight, sound, and scent. Small prey such as mice and rats are stalked and pounced upon. Larger prey such as deer are occasionally hunted by pairs of coyotes.

Remarks:   Coyotes are the most vocal of all North American mammals, and are probably best known for their high pitched howl. The "lone howl" is often preceded by a series of "herald barks," and is thought to communicate the location of separated members of the group to one another. "Group howls" probably reinforce the social bonds of the pack. The major predators of coyotes are wolves and mountain lions. Coyotes may live up to nineteen years in captivity, but seldom more than six to eight year of age in the wild.

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