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Coyote
Canis latrans

The Dogs
Dog Family (Canidae)

Measurement: Size: 112-137 cm Weight: 9-23 kg

Description: The trickster, as the Blackfoot of southern Alberta knew the coyote, is a common sight throughout the Canadian and American Rockies. Look for a medium sized gray dog with a grizzled coat with a reddish tinge. The underside is white, and the tail is thick and brushy.

Coyotes, like wolves can be very vocal. Their yipping call can make for a pleasant chorus on the mountain airwaves. It is much more dog-like than the wolf, with short, high-pitched yaps rather than the haunting howl of the wolf.

Range: Coyotes are found throughout the United States and southern Canada. Their range extends north to the Yukon and Alaska following the Rocky Mountains. Despite man's attempts to wipe out the coyote throughout much of the 20th century, the coyote actually managed to extend its range during this same period.

Diet: Coyotes are easily the most versatile predator in the Rockies. While they are principally a predator of small game like mice, voles, ground squirrels and birds, they also eat large amounts of carrion. They also take the occasional domestic pet. In terms of adaptability, they are very quick to take advantage of unique situations. They have been known to follow grizzly bears. Grizzly bears will occasionally dig up ground squirrel colonies, most of which have a back door. As the bear goes in through the front door, the coyote patiently waits at the back door. When the ground squirrel thinks it's time to retreat, and heads out the back door, the coyote takes it and leaves the grizzly hungry. They have also been known to play dead and wait for ravens to come and pick at their carcass, at which turn about is fair play, and the coyote instead picks at the raven's carcass. For some reason, they have commonly been seen stealing golf balls from courses in Banff and Jasper. They may think they look like eggs, but biologists are not certain of the real reason.

In Banff National Park, fences have been erected along the Trans Canada Highway, and coyotes quickly learned to take advantage of this change to their world. While they would rarely be a predator of large game animals like bighorn sheep, they learned that when the sheep were chased that they would run towards nearby cliffs where they would normally have the advantage (due to their climbing skills). Unfortunately, high fences cut off the cliffs, and so the coyotes quickly learned to stampede the sheep into these fences. Park wardens began to find carcasses of sheep where these fences passed highway rock cuts. The wardens then covered the fence with a green mesh to give the sheep an earlier warning that there was a physical obstacle that they could not pass. This has had the effect of equalizing the advantage the coyotes had gained.

While coyotes are an effective hunter, they occasionally become the hunted. Wolves and cougars may take the odd coyote, but man is their main predator. Coyotes are generally not dangerous to humans, but there have been numerous cases where people, in particular children, have been bitten.

Reproduction: Coyotes tend to move in mated pairs. There may be a small pack made up of siblings, within which there will be a dominant pair. This pair is the sole breeding pair and the remainder of the pack will assist in the raising of the pups. Mating takes place between January and March. The female will dig a den in the spring, with the pups arriving in April or May. Gestation is 60-63 days. The typical litter is six with some litters as high as nine pups.

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005

 

 

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