Coyotes may occasionally form mutualistic hunting relationships with American badgers , assisting each other in digging up rodent prey. The amicable interactions between coyotes and badgers were known to pre-Columbian civilizations, as shown on a Mexican jar dated to — CE depicting the relationship between the two.
Being both a gregarious and solitary animal, the variability of the coyote's visual and vocal repertoire is intermediate between that of the solitary foxes and the highly social wolf. An aggressive coyote arches its back and lowers its tail. Although coyotes will sometimes bite their playmates' scruff as dogs do, they typically approach low, and make upward-directed bites. Combatants approach each other waving their tails and snarling with their jaws open, though fights are typically silent.
Males tend to fight in a vertical stance, while females fight on all four paws.
Fights among females tend to be more serious than ones among males, as females seize their opponents' forelegs, throat, and shoulders. The coyote has been described as "the most vocal of all [wild] North American mammals". At least 11 different vocalizations are known in adult coyotes. These sounds are divided into three categories: agonistic and alarm, greeting, and contact. Vocalizations of the first category include woofs, growls, huffs, barks, bark howls, yelps, and high-frequency whines. Woofs are used as low-intensity threats or alarms, and are usually heard near den sites, prompting the pups to immediately retreat into their burrows.
Growls are used as threats at short distances, but have also been heard among pups playing and copulating males. Huffs are high-intensity threat vocalizations produced by rapid expiration of air.
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Barks can be classed as both long-distance threat vocalizations and as alarm calls. Bark howls may serve similar functions. Yelps are emitted as a sign of submission, while high-frequency whines are produced by dominant animals acknowledging the submission of subordinates. Greeting vocalizations include low-frequency whines, 'wow-oo-wows', and group yip howls.
Low-frequency whines are emitted by submissive animals, and are usually accompanied by tail wagging and muzzle nibbling. The sound known as 'wow-oo-wow' has been described as a "greeting song". The group yip howl is emitted when two or more pack members reunite, and may be the final act of a complex greeting ceremony. Contact calls include lone howls and group howls, as well as the previously mentioned group yip howls. The lone howl is the most iconic sound of the coyote, and may serve the purpose of announcing the presence of a lone individual separated from its pack.
Group howls are used as both substitute group yip howls and as responses to either lone howls, group howls, or group yip howls.
Prior to the near extermination of wolves and cougars, the coyote was most numerous in grasslands inhabited by bison , pronghorn , elk , and other deer, doing particularly well in short-grass areas with prairie dogs , though it was just as much at home in semiarid areas with sagebrush and jackrabbits or in deserts inhabited by cactus , kangaroo rats , and rattlesnakes. As long as it was not in direct competition with the wolf, the coyote ranged from the Sonoran Desert to the alpine regions of adjoining mountains or the plains and mountainous areas of Alberta.
With the extermination of the wolf, the coyote's range expanded to encompass broken forests from the tropics of Guatemala and the northern slope of Alaska. They are often crepuscular , being more active around evening and the beginning of the night than during the day.
Like many canids, coyotes are competent swimmers, reported to be able to travel at least 0. The coyote is roughly the North American equivalent of the Eurasian golden jackal. Prey species include bison largely as carrion , deer , sheep , rabbits , hares , rodents , birds especially galliforms , young water birds and pigeons and doves , amphibians except toads , lizards , snakes , turtles and tortoises , fish , crustaceans , and insects. Coyotes may be picky over the prey they target, as animals such as shrews , moles , and brown rats do not occur in their diet in proportion to their numbers.
Coyotes kill rattlesnakes mostly for food but also to protect their pups at their dens by teasing the snakes until they stretch out and then biting their heads and snapping and shaking the snakes. When it comes to adult ungulates such as wild deer, they often exploit them when vulnerable such as those that are infirm, stuck in snow or ice, otherwise winter-weakened or heavily pregnant, whereas less wary domestic ungulates may be more easily exploited. Although coyotes prefer fresh meat, they will scavenge when the opportunity presents itself.
Rodent prey increases in importance during the spring, summer, and fall. The coyote feeds on a variety of different produce , including blackberries , blueberries , peaches , pears , apples , prickly pears , chapotes , persimmons , peanuts , watermelons , cantaloupes , and carrots. During the winter and early spring, the coyote eats large quantities of grass, such as green wheat blades. It sometimes eats unusual items such as cotton cake , soybean meal, domestic animal droppings, beans , and cultivated grain such as maize , wheat, and sorghum. In coastal California, coyotes now consume a higher percentage of marine-based food than their ancestors, which is thought to be due to the extirpation of the grizzly bear from this region.
In areas where the ranges of coyotes and gray wolves overlap, interference competition and predation by wolves has been hypothesized to limit local coyote densities. Coyote ranges expanded during the 19th and 20th centuries following the extirpation of wolves, while coyotes were driven to extinction on Isle Royale after wolves colonized the island in the s.
Coyotes may compete with cougars in some areas.
In the eastern Sierra Nevadas , coyotes compete with cougars over mule deer. Cougars normally outcompete and dominate coyotes, and may kill them occasionally, thus reducing coyote predation pressure on smaller carnivores such as foxes and bobcats. Other than by gray wolves and cougars, predation on adult coyotes is relatively rare but multiple other predators can be occasional threats. In some cases, adult coyotes have been preyed upon by both American black and grizzly bears ,  American alligators ,  large Canada lynx  and golden eagles.
Coyotes rarely kill healthy adult red foxes , and have been observed to feed or den alongside them, though they often kill foxes caught in traps. Coyotes may kill fox kits, but this is not a major source of mortality. In some areas, coyotes share their ranges with bobcats. These two similarly-sized species rarely physically confront one another, though bobcat populations tend to diminish in areas with high coyote densities.
Coyotes both single individuals and groups have been known to occasionally kill bobcats — in most cases, the bobcats were relatively small specimens, such as adult females and juveniles. In California, coyote and bobcat populations are not negatively correlated across different habitat types, but predation by coyotes is an important source of mortality in bobcats.
By the 19th century, the species expanded north and east, expanding further after , coinciding with land conversion and the extirpation of wolves. By this time, its range encompassed the entire North American continent, including all of the United States and Mexico, southward into Central America, and northward into most of Canada and Alaska.
Although it was once widely believed that coyotes are recent immigrants to southern Mexico and Central America, aided in their expansion by deforestation, Pleistocene and Early Holocene records, as well as records from the pre-Columbian period and early European colonization show that the animal was present in the area long before modern times. Nevertheless, range expansion did occur south of Costa Rica during the late s and northern Panama in the early s, following the expansion of cattle-grazing lands into tropical rain forests.
The coyote is predicted to appear in northern Belize in the near future, as the habitat there is favorable to the species. A recent genetic study proposes that coyotes were originally not found in the area of the eastern United States. From the s, dense forests were transformed into agricultural land and wolf control implemented on a large scale, leaving a niche for coyotes to disperse into. There were two major dispersals from two populations of genetically distinct coyotes. The first major dispersal to the northeast came in the early 20th century from those coyotes living in the northern Great Plains.
These coyotes have hybridized with the remnant gray wolf and eastern wolf populations, which has added to coyote genetic diversity and may have assisted adaptation to the new niche. The second major dispersal to the southeast came in the midth century from Texas and reached the Carolinas in the s. These coyotes have hybridized with the remnant red wolf populations before the s when the red wolf was extirpated in the wild, which has also added to coyote genetic diversity and may have assisted adaptation to this new niche as well. Both of these two major coyote dispersals have experienced rapid population growth and are forecast to meet along the mid-Atlantic coast.
The study concludes that for coyotes the long range dispersal, gene flow from local populations, and rapid population growth may be inter-related. Among large North American carnivores, the coyote probably carries the largest number of diseases and parasites, likely due to its wide range and varied diet. By the late s, serious rabies outbreaks in coyotes had ceased to be a problem for over 60 years, though sporadic cases every 1—5 years did occur.
Distemper causes the deaths of many pups in the wild, though some specimens can survive infection.
Tularemia , a bacterial disease , infects coyotes from tick bites and through their rodent and lagomorph prey, and can be deadly for pups. Coyotes can be infected by both demodectic and sarcoptic mange , the latter being the most common. Mite infestations are rare and incidental in coyotes, while tick infestations are more common, with seasonal peaks depending on locality May—August in the Northwest, March—November in Arkansas.
Coyotes are only rarely infested with lice , while fleas infest coyotes from puphood, though they may be more a source of irritation than serious illness. Pulex simulans is the most common species to infest coyotes, while Ctenocephalides canis tends to occur only in places where coyotes and dogs its primary host inhabit the same area.
Trematode Metorchis conjunctus can also infect coyotes. The most common species to infest coyotes are Taenia pisiformis and Taenia crassiceps , which uses cottontail rabbits as intermediate hosts. The largest species known in coyotes is T. Although once largely limited to wolves, Echinococcus granulosus has expanded to coyotes since the latter began colonizing former wolf ranges. The most frequent ascaroid roundworm in coyotes is Toxascaris leonina , which dwells in the coyote's small intestine and has no ill effects, except for causing the host to eat more frequently.
Hookworms of the genus Ancylostoma infest coyotes throughout their range, being particularly prevalent in humid areas. In areas of high moisture, such as coastal Texas, coyotes can carry up to hookworms each. The blood-drinking A. A day-old pup can die from being host to as few as 25 A. Coyote features as a trickster figure and skin-walker in the folktales of some Native Americans , notably several nations in the Southwestern and Plains regions, where he alternately assumes the form of an actual coyote or that of a man. As with other trickster figures, Coyote acts as a picaresque hero who rebels against social convention through deception and humor.
In the Maidu creation story, Coyote introduces work, suffering, and death to the world.