Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Classification: Unprotected, non-game animal, furbearer
Life Span: Five to seven years
Coyotes average 24 inches tall at the shoulder and, including the tail are approximately four feet in length. Coyotes in the desert average about 20 pounds, while those found in mountainous areas average twice that. Females are slightly smaller than males.
The coyote is a member of the dog family (canidae) and resembles a medium-sized shepherd-collie type dog. Distinguishing characteristics include sharp pointed ears, a pointed nose, and a long bushy tail. The legs of a coyote are generally slimmer and the feet smaller than those of a dog of comparable size. The coat is predominantly gray, changing to tan along the belly, legs, muzzle and ears. Some guard hairs, as well as the tail are tipped with black. The intensity and amount of coloring varies and individuals are usually lighter in the winter.
From the low desert valleys to the alpine ridges coyotes are found in about any type of habitat where they can find food and a place to hide. They seem to show some preference for brush covered rolling hills and flats. Coyotes have perhaps the most varied habitat of any animal in Nevada.
Today coyotes can be found living in green belts in cities across North America including cities in Nevada. Many large cities in the west such as Los Angeles, Pasadena, Phoenix and Las Vegas have coyotes as permanent residents. Often, the coyote that is seen in an urban area may actually live there, and may not just be passing through on its way to or from an outlying area.
Coyotes are found in all continental u.s. states and Alaska. They flourish throughout the entire state of Nevada including urban areas. Even Las Vegas and Reno have resident coyotes.
The coyote is deeply rooted in the history and lore of the American west. Prior to the arrival of European people in north America, coyotes were found only in the central part of the u.s. and in northern Mexico. With the elimination of wolves from much of north America, the coyote’s range expanded greatly. Wolves fiercely defend their territories and will kill encroaching coyotes. Likewise, coyotes protect their territories by killing foxes.
Communication helps coyotes to maintain their social structure. The most distinctive of their calls is barking and yelping followed by a long howl that is followed by short, sharp yaps. This broadcasts their location to other members of their group.
Coyotes can run at speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour up to a sprinting burst of 40 miles per hour.they can travel well over 100 miles in a single night.
The coyote is an opportunistic feeder. In most areas of Nevada, rabbits, rodents and carrion make up the bulk of the coyote diet while deer and antelope fawns are occasionally taken. In other areas, the coyote diet includes insects and may include up to 40 percent plant material, such as flowers, grass, fruits and seeds. In some areas they prey on domestic sheep, cattle and poultry. Coyotes in urban areas forage at landfills and raid garbage cans and have been known to take domestic dogs and cats.
Breeding takes place from January to march and just before the pups are born, one or more dens are prepared for the litter. An annual litter of three to nine (average of six) blind, helpless pups are born from march to may. A mated pair typically stays together after the pups are born and both male and female share parental duties. A male and female may stay together for several breeding seasons, but don’t necessarily mate for life. The pups begin to nibble at regurgitated meat from the parents at three weeks and are weaned at six to seven weeks. Coyote pups have a very low survival rate in their first year. One study shows that only five to 20 percent of pups live to be one year old.
Nevada has a very healthy population of coyotes statewide. Though many efforts have been made to reduce its numbers and even to eradicate it, the resilient coyote is as plentiful today as it ever has been. In Nevada coyotes are classified as "unprotected," meaning they are not protected by state law or regulation. While a hunting license or permit is not required to hunt unprotected mammals, including coyotes, every person who takes a coyote by trapping, or sells raw furs for profit shall procure a trapping license.
Reason for Status:
The ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions and its opportunistic nature have allowed the coyote to continually increase its numbers and expand its range.
Management & Conservation:
Most coyote management is limited to removal of chronic problem animals. In areas where coyotes prey on domestic livestock, animals are removed to prevent further losses. In the past, some efforts have been made to eradicate coyotes from local areas but these efforts have proven mostly unsuccessful.