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Coyote Ecology

Did you know that the scientific name for the coyote is Canis latrans (western coyote)?

  • They are part of the Family Canidae which include dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals. The Family Canidae is referred to in general as the canids.
  • Genetics from Eastern Wolf and Western Coyote hybridization has evolved into the Eastern Coyote, Canis latrans. There are references to the Eastern Coyote as being classified Canis latrans x lycaon and Canis latrans var.. This unique and historically significant genetic blending brings into the wild mix – the modern day Coywolf.
  • Weight ranges on average between 22- 41 pounds (weigh-ins from our data). The higher weight samples (38 and 41lbs.) reflects coyotes that were FED by humans. The 38 lb. coyote was ‘hand fed’ outside of a restaurant in the Hamilton Ontario area. The 41lb yearling coyote was regularly baited with dead stock from a local farmer. Road kill weight samples 86> over a span of two decades including geographic regions of southern Ontario and beyond Sudbury
  • Dominant pairs usually mate for life; subordinate members will start breeding if the alpha pair dies. An alpha male provides the necessary nourishment for the female during denning including regurgitating food for her (pups) to ingest. Coyotes demonstrate excellent skills as solitary/pair hunters and when rearing pups the alpha male will provide much of the food. Alpha males have been observed leading solitary lives after the death of the alpha female mate.
  • Coyotes form highly social and structured family units called packs. Pack members share in the hunting, pup rearing and territory protection duties. Intact, established packs are capable of hunting larger ungulate prey targeting weakened, unhealthy herd members. Pack size varies depending on habitat, available food sources, human impact (urban/rural). Our past research concludes 2-3 adults, and pups, however, variations in pack size ‘cycle’ due to habitat/available food sources/mortality rates.
  • Parents are key facilitators in teaching appropriate hunting skills to the pups. Juveniles are dispersed in the fall (evidence of spring movement also) to establish their own territory, a juvenile may remain with the pack to help rear next year’s pups (called a Beta). The Creekpark Pack demonstrated this behaviour over a two year period.
  • ‘Lone’ or transient individuals do occur-utilizing buffer areas around an established territory; however survival is more difficult for these loner animals.
  • Vocalizations (howls, barks, throat growls, yips) are used to communicate between pack/non pack members-defending territory, distress, warnings, celebration, to locate pack members, mating and mourning. Brief periods of interaction between previous pack members of the Creekpark Pack during my studies occurred- vocalizations, proximity tolerance increased during these times.
  • Although coyotes are carnivores, their foraging and hunting behaviour is described more accurately as opportunistic omnivores. They utilize carrion wherever possible, however, the coyotes diet consists of mainly rodents, rabbits, fruit, insects, human sources, geese (eggs). Coyotes can become habituated to livestock when proper farming methods are ignored. The lack of dead stock removal is a reliable attractant for all carrion feeders, especially coyotes.
  • Habituated feeding of coyotes impacts behavior on many levels. Consider implementing a Feeding Wildlife By-Law in your city or township. As an enforceable tool for prevention, this is an accessible option for communities.
  • Coyotes are an integral part of our diversified ecosystem and provide a necessary and healthy prey/predator balance.
  • Benefits to a farmer—Coyotes keep meso carnivores such as fox and raccoons in check and can potentially minimize crop damage by hunting abundant rodent populations. Predator friendly ranching/farming techniques prove successful in creating practical and peaceful coexistence between people, livestock and predators.
  • Mortality rates are very high, humans having the highest impact, vehicles second.
  • Education initiatives, wildlife proofing property and safety tips that include a factual overview about coyote ecology benefit coyotes and the communities they live in.

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