The coyote is a member of the dog family. They weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, have pointed ears, a narrow muzzle, and bushy tail. Males tend to be larger than females. Pelts are usually grayish-brown, but occasionally black, often with a patch of white chest hair. When running, coyotes usually hold their tails extended out behind them at "half-mast." Coyote tracks are narrower and more elongated than dog tracks.
Coyotes are native to North America. Once strictly a western species, coyotes now occur throughout the eastern United States. Coyotes began expanding their range into northwestern Florida in the 1970s, and are now considered to be a naturalized species in all 67 Florida counties. They are extremely adaptable; just about any type of forest or farmland is suitable habitat. They can also adapt to and live in suburban and urban areas.
The scientific name of the coyote, Canis latrans, literally means "barking dog." Coyotes make a variety of vocalizations from barking to shrill yips and howls. They are active day or night, but usually most active at sunset and sunrise.
Coyotes are territorial. A resident pair will establish a territory shared only by other members of their family group.
A coyote’s home range varies from 1,500 to 12,000 acres depending on the individual, food availability and other factors. Coyotes established in urban areas have smaller home ranges than coyotes in rural areas.
Coyotes eat a variety of plants and animals including fruits, insects, rats and mice, rabbits, birds, deer, livestock, virtually any type of carrion, and people’s trash and pet food. They usually hunt alone, sometimes as a pair, but rarely as a group.
Coyotes have one breeding cycle per year. They can first breed when they are 10 months old. Breeding occurs in late winter and following a 63-day gestation period, 4 to 6 pups are born. They den in hollow logs, brush piles and burrows. Pups emerge from dens when they are about 3 weeks old. Parental care lasts until the pups are about 9 months old. The young usually then disperse to a new area, where they establish their own breeding territories. Some pups, however, may stay in their parents' territory and assist with rearing the next year's litter.
Coyotes live in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout Florida. Follow these tips to avoid conflicts.
- Feeding coyotes is illegal. They will lose their fear of humans.
- Secure garbage cans. Clean up pet food and fallen fruit.
- Secure livestock in predator-resistant enclosures.
- Keep pets in enclosed areas. Walk dogs on a short leash.
- Living with Coyotes
- Protect Your Pets from Coyotes and Bears
- FAQs: Coyote (Canis latrans)
- Coyotes in Florida Infographic Poster
- 2007 Report on Coyote in Florida
- Mammals of Texas information
- University of Florida information and research
- Living with Urban Coyotes brochure
Image Credit: Carli Segelson