The Facts

  • Genus/Species: Canis latrans
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Location: North and Central America



The Scoop

Wily and Intelligent

The coyote’s scientific name canis latrans actually means barking dog. Coyotes are found in the forests, plains and deserts of North and Central America. They live in burrows. Sometimes they will dig their own burrows, but they are intelligent enough to make their home in an empty burrow if possible, so they save themselves the trouble of digging.  A coyote has a pointed nose and ears and a long, bushy tail. Their fur varies in color, from light brown to a grayish color. The fur on their belly is usually white. The coyote has a range of distinctive sounds that it uses to communicate with pups and other adults, including barks, yips, howls, yelps and huffs. As with all canines, they also use body language; their ears, tail and facial expressions- to get their point across.

Coyotes are about the size of a medium sized dog. They are very intelligent, have excellent vision and a great sense of smell. They use their smell to locate prey that is scurrying below the snow. When hunting in pairs, one animal typically distracts the attention of the prey, while the other coyote sneaks up from behind. Coyotes will also stalk their prey, and when opportunity presents itself, they will leap on top of it. They will sometimes wade in the water to catch fish and forage and sometimes sit along the banks for crayfish or turtle eggs. In general, coyotes eat a variety of food items, including small rodents, rabbits and carrion, as well as some fruits and plants. Since coyotes are one of the most adaptable animals in the world, they will change their diet and breeding habits to accommodate the changing environment. Perhaps this is the reason that coyote are not endangered in any way. They are survivors.


Did You Know? 

  • The coyote is South Dakota's state animal and its howl is known as the song of the west.
  • Coyotes "sing" as a way to communicate with other coyote families and as a way to keep track of their own family members.
  • Coyotes can run as fast as a car- about 40 miles an hour. 
  • Coyotes are good swimmers. They also regulate their body temperatures by panting.


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