Depending on where you live, coyotes may be a mythical creature you’ve never glimpsed before, or they may be a regular sight on your early morning or evening walks. Either way, these opportunistic animals are more interesting than you think!
Coyotes are amazing animals. They can run up to 43 mph, control how many pups they have in a litter based on food availability, and use 11 different ways of communicating. There are 19 subspecies of coyotes that live in every state except for Hawaii, and they can even mate with wolves and dogs.
Read on to find out all the amazing things about the cunning canine that goes by many names and has been wound throughout North American myth and legend for years.
51 Amazing Coyote Facts
Coyotes are survivors. From the time of the early settlers to the present, people have waged a silent war with these prowling canines and the truth is – the coyotes have won. Their cunning behavior and eccentric personalities have allowed this species to flourish in North America.
When we think of a species that can survive a so-called ‘apocalypse,’ many people think of cockroaches. But I’m convinced it will be the coyote that’s left behind, somehow still managing to expand its population and flourish.
1. Coyotes Are Most Active At Dusk and Dawn
A lot of coyotes are portrayed with their snouts pointed upward, a picturesque moon in the background as they howl in the dead of night. The truth is, wild coyotes are most active at dawn and dusk.
Some of their favorite prey (deer) are also active at this time, which is why they make it a point to be awake at these hours. During the day and late into the night, coyotes are usually taking it easy and finding a comfy place to sleep.
2. Coyotes Go By Tons Of Different Names
Have you ever heard someone call a coyote (Kigh-oh-tee) a coyote (Kigh-oat)? How about prairie wolf? Brush wolf? American jackal?
They are all the same animal! The original name for the coyote derived from the Aztec name ‘coyotl’ which was corrupted somewhat by the Spanish language and became ‘coyote.’
3. Coyotes Change Their Diet Based On What’s Available
Coyotes are NOT picky eaters. It’s one of the main reasons they have flourished so well. If they live in a marshy region where waterfowl and reptiles are the most abundant prey, that’s what they eat.
Living in the city? No problem, they’ll eat scraps and pet food left outside or in garbage cans. Living in a rural area? They’ll take advantage of rabbits, rodents, berries, fruits, and vegetables. They’ll even scavenge dead animals that have been hit on the road or perished of other natural causes.
Insects, grasses, melons, persimmons, plums grapes…it’s all on the menu for a coyote!
4. Coyotes Were First Seen By Americans In 1804
Coyotes were around long before 1804, but they were first observed by American explorers Lewis and Clark in September of 1804, in what is now present-day Chamberlain, South Dakota.
Unlike wolves, which were present in Europe, coyotes had never been seen before by European explorers. They certainly puzzled the explorers, who weren’t sure if this loping canine was a wolf or a fox. They ended up calling it a ‘prairie wolf.’
Later, naturalist Thomas Say would give these cunning creatures their scientific name, Canis latrans, which means ‘barking dog.’
5. Coyotes Will Eat Rattlesnakes
Remember how we mentioned coyotes will eat anything? We weren’t joking! According to Penn State University, coyotes will eat venomous snakes like the Timber Rattlesnake.
Coyotes don’t usually actively hunt rattlesnakes. Instead, they go after them if the snakes come too close to their den or threaten pups in any way.
If you’re interested, you can read more about coyotes and how they eat snakes here.
6. Coyote Attacks Are Rarer Than You Think
It can be scary when a predator is prowling your neighborhood. Seeing a coyote, bear, or bobcat can be a magical experience, but let’s face it, we all want to see these creatures from a very long distance or from the safety of our homes!
During a study done in Canada between the years of 1995-2010, there were a total of 119 human-coyote interactions, coming out to an average of 8 per year. Between the same time period, 91 coyote-dog interactions occurred (6 per year), where 92.3% of the encounters were with off-leash dogs. 32 coyote-cat interactions occurred in those 15 years (about 2 per year).
Coyotes are most bold in cities where they regularly interact with humans. In rural areas, coyotes are far more likely to skedaddle as soon as they see a human.
7. Coyote Populations Are Dense Near Cities
Surprised? Coyotes were a rare occurrence in cities as recently as the 1980s. Now? They’re everywhere!
This explosion of coyote populations around cities is thought to be the result of learned behavior. In rural areas where farmers have to protect their livestock to survive, they’re more likely to use aggressive means to be rid of a coyote.
In a city, the laws, regulations, and ordinances prevent coyotes from being persecuted. Over the years, coyotes have learned that city life is easy livin’.
8. Coyotes Can Hear Up To A Quarter Mile Away
A coyote’s sense of hearing is pretty impeccable. The shape of their ears is meant to capture even the smallest of movement.
During the wintertime, a coyote can hear a mouse moving beneath 7 inches of snow!
9. Coyotes See Well At Night
We humans tend to find everything a bit stranger and a bit unsettling at night. After all, we can’t see anything! Coyotes on the other hand feel pretty comfortable in the dark.
Their powerful night vision comes from the abundance of rod receptors in their eyes. These respond to low levels of light, as opposed to cones which respond to high levels of light.
Coyotes also have a mirror beneath their retinas called a tapetum lucidum. It reflects the observed light twice, giving the eye a better chance of seeing even in low-light conditions.
10. Coyotes Are Solitary Hunters
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to a coyote howl at night, you might notice an abundance of answering calls and think “Woah, that’s a huge coyote pack.”
More likely what you’re hearing is a coyote marking off its territory to other coyotes, who are answering the call and establishing their own boundaries. Even if a coyote is part of a larger pack, they will usually choose to hunt alone or in pairs.
Typical hunting coyotes range in pack size from a single coyote to two individuals. They rarely form larger packs while hunting unless they plan to take down large prey like a deer.
11. Coyotes Can Be A Wide Range of Colors
The Adirondack Ecological Center describes a coyote’s fur colors as “grayish, reddish, or yellowish-brown grizzled with black.” This wishy-washy description of a coyote’s fur color is a common theme throughout all coyote descriptions.
Many coyotes will even change fur colors throughout the seasons. Regional environments can also influence a coyote’s fur color. Typically, the color on the back is darker than the color on the stomach and legs.
12. Coyote Tracks Vs. Dog Tracks
It can be a little confusing trying to differentiate between coyote tracks and dog tracks. One of the biggest differences is the height-to-width ratio. A dog’s tracks will be wide compared to a coyote.
Additionally, dog tracks usually present with all four claw marks, while coyotes typically only have the top two claw marks showing. Coyote prints will be narrow, and taller than they are wide.
13. Coyotes Have An Excellent Sense of Smell
To thrive as well as the coyotes have, they must be equipped with top-notch hearing, sight, and smell. Luckily for coyotes, they have all three.
Coyotes have been known to be weirded out by even the subtlest of scents. Their natural instinct to avoid danger makes their sense of smell that much more important, especially when it comes to smelling people or hunters.
14. Coyotes Hunt In Packs To Take Down Larger Prey
Coyotes are opportunistic hunters and will eat whatever is available. In the summer and fall months, coyotes typically chow down on small mammals, rodents, berries, and vegetables.
However, when the colder winter months settle in, coyotes will sometimes form hunting packs to take down larger prey when smaller prey isn’t available.
15. A Coyote’s Preferred Food Is Deer
A coyote’s #1 go-to food is white-tailed deer. This may come as a surprise since we mentioned that coyotes are typically solitary hunters.
But just because coyotes like to eat deer doesn’t mean they always hunt them. Deer that have perished from car collisions or other natural causes are still fine for a coyote.
16. Coyotes Can Control Their Litter Size
Have we mentioned coyotes are adaptive? These clever canines can actually control their litter size based on what’s going on around them.
A study done in Colorado found that despite a 75% reduction in population numbers, coyotes were able to bounce back within 8 months to normal population densities.
Additionally, during high removal times, litters were more likely to have a high percentage of females than males to help with reestablishing their numbers.
17. Coyotes Are Wrapped In Indigenous Culture
The character ‘Coyote’ is an important cultural phenomenon in many indigenous people’s cultures. This character is described as a trickster and is often portrayed as being greedy or dishonest.
In some Native American cultures, Coyote is revered as teaching children important life lessons about survival and life in general.
18. Coyotes Stay Active During The Winter
Many animals hunker down during the winter months, sleeping the days away and staying warm and cozy in their dens. Not coyotes.
Like many animals, coyotes have a winter and summer coat which helps them stay warm and cool, respectively. Coyotes also actively hunt and forage in the winter months instead of hibernating or going into a temporary torpor.
19. Coyotes Live in Every State Except Hawaii
Once secluded to upper portions of Mexico and the western plains, coyotes can now be found in every single state in America except for Hawaii.
They’re found as far north as Alaska and Canada and as far south as Panama, according to a 2016 study. This means coyotes are primed to enter South America soon!
20. Coyote Populations Are Still Expanding
Since humans have started expanding their territories in North America, almost every animal in the country has seen a decrease in its population. Some have even gone extinct such as the ivory-billed woodpecker and a few species of mussels.
Not the coyote. Coyotes have actually expanded their population and territories. And they continue to expand every year.
If you need to keep coyotes away from your property, check out our guide on the best coyote repellents here.
21. Coyotes Eat Plants
When you think of a coyote, you may think of something similar to a wolf. A real carnivore. The truth is coyotes eat plenty of fruits, grasses, vegetables, and berries in their diet!
Here’s a detailed list of plants that coyotes eat.
22. A Group Of Coyotes Is Called A Band
They’re pretty musical too with all sorts of vocalizations. While they typically don’t play instruments, you’ll usually find 5-6 coyotes in a band.
23. Coyotes Are Prey to Cougars and Wolves
It’s hard to think of something hunting a coyote – after all, aren’t they the predators? Even though coyotes are mostly predators, they sometimes fall prey to animals like cougars and wolves.
24. Coyotes Use Other Animal’s Dens
When picking a den location, coyotes will often find a hollow between rocks or build a burrow in the soil. When they decide to go the burrow route, they’ll often find abandoned fox or badger burrows and expand on those instead of making their own. Lazy, right?
25. Coyotes Compete With Foxes & Lynx for Food
Foxes and lynx tend to go after a lot of the same food that coyotes do – rabbits, hares, squirrels, and other small mammals. This similarity in diet means coyotes often compete with them for food.
Foxes and lynx in the northeast previously did not have to deal with coyotes because they hadn’t expanded their territories yet. Now, however, they’re both going for the same food groups.
Luckily, lynx tend to go after rabbits and hares in more snow-covered areas while coyotes stay away from deep snow, so there is some separation there, but foxes have a hard time competing with coyotes.
For a full list fo what animals coyotes eat, check out our complete coyote meal guide here.
26. Coyotes Are Bigger In The East
On average, coyotes living in the eastern United States are bigger than their western counterparts. The reason? They’re part wolf. Genetic tests have shown that coyotes in the east are breeding with wolves, increasing their body size.
27. Coyotes Are Great At Pest Control
Those wily canines may be a nuisance to livestock owners or those with small pets around, but coyotes are very beneficial when it comes to pest control. They prey on mice, rats, rabbits, and other small mammals.
Studies have shown that when coyotes are removed from certain environments, the results can actually be disastrous because small rodents take over, out-competing other animals for vegetation.
28. Coyotes Can Jump Over Fences
Coyotes are pretty acrobatic. They can run, jump, dig, and pounce. In terms of height, coyotes can jump about 3 feet straight up in the air.
While this may not sound impressive, coyotes have been known to scale fences as high as 14 feet and can jump just as far across if they have momentum built up.
29. Coyotes Use Smell To Identify Family Members
To us humans, family members are identified based on their physical characteristics. You know what your parents or children look like. For coyotes, they use smell more than sight to identify members of their pack.
30. Coyotes Use Smell And Hearing To Find Prey
Although coyotes have a pretty keen sense of sight, it’s not quite as good as their sense of smell and hearing.
Those large, erect ears can pick up sounds from a quarter-mile away and their schnozz can detect the subtlest of smells, giving them a good idea where they might find their next meal.
Sight is only used to detect movement, not necessarily to find prey.
31. Coyotes Use Sound To Communicate
A 2006 journal article found that coyotes don’t just make noise to make noise. Each sound has a different purpose. The two most distinct sounds a coyote can make are barks and howls.
Howls seem to be more for communicating information to other pack members, or to warn outsider coyotes not to enter a pack’s territory. Barks and yips seem to be more related to assessing how far away other pack members are or to attract the attention of other pack members.
32. Wolves, Foxes, Wild Dogs, and Coyotes Are Part Of The Same Family
Canidae is a family of species that includes the coyote, along with 33 other species of animals. Jackals, wolves, foxes, wild dogs, and all their variations are part of this family.
33. Coyotes Mate In Late Winter to Early Spring
If you live near coyotes, you may notice an increase in their vocals between late January to March. This is because it is mating season. Although it lasts for about 3 months, female coyotes are only in heat for 2 to 5 days.
34. Coyotes Are Extremely Playful
A coyote’s life isn’t all about hunting, sleeping, and mating. Coyotes often pass the time by playing, and it’s not just the pups doing it!
Pups will often wrestle or chase each other, and bigger pups will even let the smaller pups pin them in mock-wrestling matches. Adult coyotes play too, most often chasing each other around for fun.
35. Coyotes Sleep On The Ground More Than In a Den
Even though coyotes create dens to raise their pups in, once the rearing season is over, coyotes often move aboveground. They sleep in densely wooded areas where they won’t be observed by humans or bigger predators.
36. Coyotes Hate Spicy or Strong Smells
We’ve mentioned quite a few times now that coyotes will pretty much eat anything. So, is there anything a coyote won’t eat?
Coyotes won’t eat anything with a very strong taste. Chilies and mint, for example, are two plants that coyotes leave alone.
If you’re interested, you can read our full list of scents that coyotes hate here.
37. City Coyotes Are Bolder Than Rural Coyotes
There’s a difference between a bold coyote and an aggressive one. Bold coyotes are those that aren’t afraid to come up on your porch and snag some left-out pet food or table scraps from a picnic.
Coyotes that live in urban and suburban areas have been studied and shown to be bolder than rural coyotes. Rural coyotes are very timid and will often run at the site of a human.
38. There Are 19 Subspecies of Coyote
Depending on the region a coyote lives in, it may have a slightly different appearance, behavior, and genetics than your typical coyote.
The northwest coast coyote, Texas plains coyote, California valley coyote, and mountain coyote are all examples of subspecies.
39. Coyotes Can Mate With Dogs and Wolves
Another reason why coyotes are so adaptive is their ability to mate with both dogs and wolves. Offspring are typically viable and able to reproduce themselves.
This was a big problem with red wolves, whose numbers had dwindled so low that they were mating with coyotes to try to survive. This in turn reduced their ‘pure red wolf’ numbers further until they were considered extinct in the wild in 1980.
Since then, pure red wolves have been reintroduced in the wild, but only about 20 wild red wolves exist in the world today.
40. Coyotes Vs. Wolves
If you don’t know too much about coyotes, you may be picturing them as slightly smaller wolves. This isn’t a bad comparison, but there are some distinct differences between coyotes and wolves.
Wolves are twice as big as coyotes on average. Wolf coloration is mostly black and gray, whereas coyotes also have yellow, tan, and red colorations. Wolves have wider muzzles than coyotes and often run with their tail horizontal, while coyotes run with it pointed downward.
41. Coyotes Can Climb Fences But Not Trees
Coyotes cannot jump very high, but they are well adapted to climbing fences that provide toe holds such as chain link fences.
Despite this, coyotes cannot climb trees. There is not enough traction and toe holds for the coyote to get a good grip.
42. The Largest Coyote On Record Weighed 75 Pounds
Coyotes typically weigh around 20 to 30 pounds. The largest coyote ever recorded weighed 75 pounds and lived in Wyoming. It measured 4ft. 11 inches from nose to tail.
43. Coyotes Are Monogamous
Coyotes have a strong family structure where the male and female both help in raising the young. While mating, coyotes remain monogamous. They may not mate for life, but the male will not leave to reproduce with other females in the same year.
44. Coyotes Don’t Like Being Yelled At
Coyotes are pretty skittish animals. They don’t want to be around humans and only do so if their habitats have been compromised and they have no other choice.
If you encounter a coyote and want to scare it away, make yourself known! Don’t hide, but present yourself as a threat. Yell, throw rocks at the coyote’s feet, and make yourself appear as large as possible. The coyote is likely to turn and skedaddle out of there.
45. Coyotes Can Run Up To 43 MPH
For comparison, the average human can run a max speed of 20 mph. Usain bolt’s fastest run was recorded at a little over 27 mph.
46. The Oldest Wild Coyote Was 12 Years Old
Just like most animals, coyotes in captivity live longer than wild coyotes due to increased resources and protection.
The oldest wild coyote was reported to be around 12 years old, with the average lifespan in the wild being 6-8 years.
47. Coyotes Are Good Swimmers
It’s not their favorite thing in the world to do, but coyotes can swim up to a half-mile if they need to. Coyotes rarely fish, but if they live near lakes and coastal regions fish can be a larger part of their diet than a land-locked coyote.
48. Coyotes Roll On Dead Things
Have you ever heard of coyotes throwing snakes up in the air? Or rolling over them? The reasoning behind this isn’t studied very much, but it’s thought to be a behavior done solely by coyotes.
Some researchers believe coyotes are getting the scent of something they hunted on them to show off to other coyotes. “Hey, look what I did!” Another thought is that it might mask their scent so it’s harder for bigger predators to smell them.
Lastly, researchers think coyotes may be marking their kill by rubbing their own scent on the dead animal, therefore warning other predators to back off.
49. Coyotes And Badgers Sometimes Work Together
Some observers have seen coyotes and badgers working in tandem to flush out ground squirrels or prairie dogs.
This partnership doesn’t happen very often, but it appears that both parties benefit from it, as the badgers are talented diggers and the coyotes can hear and smell the prey more clearly than the badger.
50. Humans Are The #1 Cause For Coyote Expansion
Coyotes have been around for a long time. But they haven’t been around everywhere for a long time. The reason? It’s us!
When Americans first settled around the United States, we tended to overhunt anything that we deemed too scary to live near. Grizzlies, wolves, and cougars were hunted extensively and eradicated from tons of areas where they once roamed.
This lack of big predators has allowed the coyote to flourish.
51. Coyotes Yip During The Evening
Often described as a series of yips, a group of coyotes called a ban yip during the fall season, generally towards the evening, near their den. You’ll often hear the entire band yipping as opposed to just one coyote!
That’s The Facts!
There you go. 51 amazing facts about the elusive, mysterious, and playful coyote. How many did you know? How many came as a surprise?
If you want to learn more about coyotes, you can check out some of our other articles about the wily coyote!
Alexander, S. M., & Quinn, M. S. (2011, October 04). Coyote (Canis latrans) Interactions With Humans and Pets Reported in the Canadian Print Media (1995-2010). Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 16(5), 345-359. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10871209.2011.599050
Breck, S. W., Poessel, S. A., Mahoney, P., & Young, J. K. (2019, February 14). The intrepid urban coyote: a comparison of bold and exploratory behavior in coyotes from urban and rural environments. Scientific Reports, 9. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-38543-5
Gese, E. M., Rongstad, O. J., & Mytton, W. R. (1988, October). Relationship between Coyote Group Size and Diet in Southeastern Colorado. Journal of Wildlife Management, 52(4), 647-653. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3800924
Murray, D. L., & Boutin, S. (1991). The influence of snow on lynx and coyote movements: does morphology affect behavior? Oecologia, 88, 463-469. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00317707#citeas
Swingen, M. B., DePerno, C. S., & Moorman, C. E. (2015). Seasonal Coyote Diet Composition at a Low-Productivity Site. Southeastern Naturalist, 14(2), 397-404. https://bioone.org/journals/southeastern-naturalist/volume-14/issue-2/058.014.0219/Seasonal-Coyote-Diet-Composition-at-a-Low-Productivity-Site/10.1656/058.014.0219.short
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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