Natural History of Coyotes

Coyotes are among the creatures such as crows, starlings, gulls, raccoons, and rats, which have managed not only to adapt to urban surroundings, but to flourish there.

The scientific name for coyotes is Canis latrans, which means ‘barking dog’ in Latin. It’s common name has evolved from the Aztec word coyotl, which also means ‘barking dog.’ Coyotes ‘singing’ from hill tops to a rising moon is associated in my mind with western films; cowboys guarding a restless herd, or fugitives listening for sounds of pursuit.

Coyotes are known for their opportunistic nature, eating everything from the rats, rabbits, frogs, snakes, and birds they kill themselves, to other animals’ or road kill, to garbage, and even fruit. (Once, in the Interior of B.C., years ago, I watched a coyote jump for berries on a Saskatoon bush, near another bush where I was eating berries while my horse munched on leaves.)

Coyotes can be prolific breeders with up to eight or ten pups in a litter, but the number varies with the food supply. (This is one reason why trying to kill them off is futile. The more coyotes are killed, the better the food supply for those which survive, which will encourage larger litters.) The coyotes mate for life, and the male helps build the den, and brings food for the mother and pups.

For more information about coyotes:

Canadian Museum of Nature

San Diego Natural History Museum

Stanley Park Ecology Society