English Names: coyote
Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Spanish Names: coyote
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Coyote (Canis latrans)
A coyote resembles a medium-sized dog with a long, bushy black-tipped tail, big ears, and a pointy face. The fur color varies from grayish to light brown, with a buffy or white underbelly. You'll never see a fat coyote in the wild. Wiry and with long, slender legs and small feet, a desert coyote usually weighs only 15 to 25 pounds. The tracks are much smaller than those of a domestic dog of the same size.
Coyotes are extremely adaptable and are found in all habitats, even in cities.
• Diet: Coyotes are omnivores, eating anything from road-killed carrion to cactus fruit, mesquite beans, seeds, plants, and meat. They hunt small animals such as rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes, insects — especially grasshoppers and crickets — and any injured animal they can subdue.
• Behavior: These canids scavenge for whatever they can find, sometimes running along the roads in the morning looking for roadkills. They also actively hunt small prey. They use their keen senses of smell and hearing to find occupied burrows they can dig into after mice or ground squirrels. In addition they chase down rabbits and pounce on grasshoppers.
Gray foxes and coyotes compete for similar prey, and so coyotes will often kill gray foxes when they can catch them. When coyote populations diminish due to mange, distemper or other factors, fox populations usually increase as a result.
Coyotes are mostly social animals, living in small family groups. Within the larger hunting area of a coyote family is a central core area where the den sites are located. This area is scent-marked and defended, particularly during the spring and summer months. Coyotes urinate on bushes or other plants, then scrape the ground with their paws, which have scent glands. This leaves both olfactory and visual markers for other coyotes. Scats are also used to mark the territory.
The breeding season is February to March with young born in April and May. Coyotes only use dens for whelping pups. They are very secretive about the den location and if it is disturbed by predators or people the mother coyote immediately moves the puppies to a safer site. Some yearling pups may stay with the parent coyotes through the next winter and help raise the new batch of puppies in the spring.
Coyotes typically sing a “good morning” wake up song around dusk as they prepare for the night's hunt. They also sing to communicate with neighbors, to keep track of family members, after summer rains, during the full moon, and it seems, just for fun.
Coyote & Fox
The coyote is without a doubt the most famous desert animal, the very symbol of the west. He is prominently figured as the Trickster as well as the Wise One in Native American myths and legends. The coyote fascinates us with its intelligence and adapability. It can survive eating anything from saguaro fruit to roadkills, and is able to live in any habitat from cactus forest to the city. The coyote has expanded its range throughout the United States despite human attempts to eradicate it. The coyote is not only intelligent, curious and playful, it has very keen senses that adapt it for survival — acute hearing, excellent vision, and an extremely sensitive sense of smell.
The gray fox is the quieter relation, going about its nocturnal hunting without attracting as much attention as does the coyote. This fox doesn't dig as much as coyotes do, but it is our only canid that regularly climbs trees. It hunts in and sometimes sleeps in trees, and has even been seen napping in the arms of a saguaro.
The little kit fox inhabits the dry, open flats and is more nocturnal, so it is not often seen by people. The kit fox is also more carnivorous than the coyote or gray fox, depending on kangaroo rats for most of its diet. This fox is a great digger, and any area occupied by kit foxes will be pocked with dozens of den holes.