AskDefine | Define coyote

Dictionary Definition



1 small wolf native to western North America [syn: prairie wolf, brush wolf, Canis latrans]
2 someone who smuggles illegal immigrants into the United States (usually acress the Mexican border)
3 a forest fire fighter who is sent to battle remote and severe forest fires (often for days at a time)

User Contributed Dictionary

see Coyote


Alternative spellings


  • /kaɪˈ(j)əʊtiː/
  • /kaɪˈ(j)əʊt/
  • /kɔɪˈ(j)əʊteɪ/
  • /kɔɪˈ(j)əʊt/


From Spanish coyote, from Nahuatl coyotl.


  1. A canine species (Canis latrans) native to North America.
    • 1824: William Bullock, Six Months' Residence and Travels in Mexico, p. 119
      Near Rio Frio we shot several handsome birds, and saw a cayjotte, or wild dog, which in size nearly approached the wolf.
  2. A smuggler of illegal immigrants across the land border from Mexico into the United States of America.




Derived terms




coyote (plural coyotes)



coyote m (plural: coyoti)
  1. coyote



From Nahuatl coyotl.


coyote m (plural: coyotes)
  1. coyote
  2. A smuggler of illegal immigrants across the land border from Mexico into the United States of America.
  3. fixer, middleman

See also

Extensive Definition

The coyote () (Canis latrans), also known as the prairie wolf , is a mammal of the order Carnivora. The species is found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States, and Canada. It occurs as far north as Alaska and all but the northernmost portions of Canada. There are currently 19 recognized subspecies, with 16 in Canada, Mexico and the United States, and 3 in Central America.


The name "coyote" is borrowed from Mexican Spanish, ultimately derived from the Nahuatl word coyotl (). Its Latin name, Canis latrans, means "barking dog."
The word itself has two common pronunciations in the United States, used depending upon region or exposure to entertainment media. In northern and central areas such as Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas the word's last vowel is silent, making it a two syllable word (kai-oat), with the accent on the first syllable. In southwestern areas, such as Arizona and New Mexico, the last vowel is vocalised, making it a three syllable word, with the accent on the second syllable. The media has generally used the southern pronunciation, leading to a wider acceptance of that pronunciation, to the point that many people are unaware of the alternative.

Genus controversy

In 1816 in the third volume of Lorenz Oken's Lehrbuch der Naturgeschichte, the author found sufficient similarities in the dentition of coyotes and jackals to place these species into a new separate genus from Canis called Thos after the classical Greek word θώς (jackal). Oken's idiosycratic nomenclatorial ways, however, aroused the scorn of a number of zoological systematists. Nearly all the descriptive words used to justify the genus division were relative terms without a reference measure, and the argument did not take into account the size differences between the species, which can be considerable. Angel Cabrera, in his 1932 monograph on the mammals of Morocco, briefly touched upon the question of whether or not the presence of a cingulum on the upper molars of the jackals and its corresponding absence in the rest of Canis could justify a subdivision of the genus Canis. In practice, he chose the undivided-genus alternative and referred to the jackals as Canis. A few authors, however, Ernest Thompson Seton being among them, accepted Oken's nomenclature, and went as far as referring to the coyote as American jackal.
The Oken/Heller proposal of the new genus Thos did not affect the classification of the coyote. Gerrit S. Miller still had in his 1924 edition of List of North American Recent Mammals in the section “Genus Canis Linnaeas,” the subordinate heading “Subgenus Thos Oken” and backed it up with a reference to Heller. In the reworked version of the book in 1955, Philip Hershkovitz and Hartley Jackson led him to drop Thos both as an available scientific term and as a viable subgenus of Canis. In his definitive study of the taxonomy of the coyote, Jackson had, in response to Miller, queried whether Heller had seriously looked at specimens of coyotes prior to his 1914 article and thought the characters to be “not sufficiently important or stable to warrant subgeneric recognition for the group”. The coyote's dental formula is I 3/3, C 1/1, Pm 4/4, M usually 2/2, occasionally 3/3, 3/2, or 2/3 X 2 = 40, 42, or 44. Normal spacing between the upper canine teeth is 1⅛ to 1⅜ inches (29 to 35 mm) and 1 to 1¼ inches (25 to 32 mm) between the lower canine teeth. The upper frequency limit of hearing for coyotes is 80 kHZ, compared to the 60 kHz of domestic dogs.
Unlike wolves, but similarly to domestic dogs, coyotes have sweat glands on their paw pads. This trait is however absent in the large New England coyotes which are thought to have some wolf ancestry.
During pursuit, a coyote may reach speeds up to 43 mph (69 kph), and can jump over 4 meters (13⅛ feet). Common names of coyote groups are a band, a pack, or a rout. Coyotes are primarily nocturnal but can occasionally be seen during daylight hours.
Coyotes have been known to live a maximum of 10 years in the wild and 18 years in captivity.


Female coyotes are monoestrus and remain in heat for 2–5 days between late January and late March, during which mating occurs. Once the female chooses a partner, the mated pair may remain temporarily monogamous for a number of years. Depending on geographic location, spermatogenesis in males takes around 54 days and occurs between January and February. The gestation period lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from 1 to 19 pups; though the average is 6. The pups weigh approximately 250 grams at birth and are initially blind and limp-eared. The eyes open and ears erect after 10 days. Around 21-28 days after birth, the young begin to emerge from the den and by 35 days they are fully weaned. Both parents feed the weaned pups with regurgitated food. Male pups will disperse from their dens between months 6 and 9, while females usually remain with the parents and form the basis of the pack. The pups attain full growth between 9 and 12 months.Maturity is reached by 12 months.
Coyotes have also been known on occasion to mate with wolves though this less common as with dogs due to the wolf's hostility to the coyote. The offspring, known as a coywolf, is generally intermediate in size to both parents, being larger than a pure coyote, but smaller than a pure wolf. A study showed that of 100 coyotes collected in Maine, 22 had half or more wolf ancestry, and one was 89 percent wolf. A theory has been proposed that the large eastern coyotes in Canada are actually hybrids of the smaller western coyotes and wolves that met and mated decades ago as the coyotes moved toward New England from their earlier western ranges.


Hearing a coyote is much more common than seeing one. The calls a coyote makes are high-pitched and variously described as howls, yips, yelps and barks. These calls may be a long rising and falling note (a howl) or a series of short notes (yips). These calls are most often heard at dusk or night, but may be heard in the day. Although these calls are made throughout the year, they are most common during the spring mating season and in the fall when the pups leave their families to establish new territories.


Diet and hunting

Coyotes are versatile carnivores with a 90% mammalian diet, depending on the season. They primarily eat small mammals, such as voles, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels, and mice, though they will eat birds, snakes, lizards, deer, javalina, and livestock as well as large insects and other large invertebrates. Though they will consume large amounts of carrion, they tend to prefer fresh meat. Part of the coyote's success as a species is its dietary adaptability. As such, coyotes have been known to eat human rubbish and domestic pets. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the coyote's diet in the autumn and winter months.
The average distance covered in a night's hunting is 4 km (2½ mi). Wolf urine has been marketed and claimed to be an organic coyote deterrent, such as for deterring attacks on sheep.
Cougars sometimes kill coyotes. The coyote's instinctive fear of cougars has led to the development of anti-coyote sound systems which repel coyotes from public places by replicating the sounds of a cougar.
In sympatric populations of coyotes and red foxes, fox territories tend to be located largely outside of coyote territories. The principal cause of this separation is believed to be active avoidance of coyotes by the foxes. Interactions between the two species vary in nature, ranging from active antagonism to indifference. The majority of aggressive encounters are initiated by coyotes, and there are few reports of red foxes acting aggressively toward coyotes except when attacked or when their pups were approached. Conversely, foxes and coyotes have sometimes been seen feeding together.
Coyotes will sometimes form a symbiotic relationship with American badgers. Because coyotes are not very effective at digging rodents out of their burrows, they will chase the animals while they are above ground. Badgers on the other hand are not fast runners, but are well-adapted to digging. When hunting together, they effectively leave little escape for prey in the area.
Coyotes have also competed with and occasionally eaten Canadian lynxes in areas where both species overlap.

Relationship with humans

Coyotes are significant predators of a wide variety of rodents and rabbits and keep the populations of such animals from increasing to levels that humans may find undesirable. Although coyotes will eat nearly anything to some degree, studies of coyotes in rural areas have consistently shown that the most numerous food item of coyotes (both by weight and by number of individuals consumed) are rodents and rabbits. Also, because coyotes eat carrion readily (and thus are easily poisoned), the presence of larger animals (deer of many species, sheep, cattle, and even larger ungulates) in stomach contents of coyotes may not indicate that the larger animal was killed by the coyote.

Adaptation to human environment

Despite being extensively hunted, the coyote is one of the few medium-to-large-sized animals that has enlarged its range since human encroachment began. It originally ranged primarily in the western half of North America, but it has adapted readily to the changes caused by human occupation and, since the early 19th century, has been steadily and dramatically extending its range. Sightings now commonly occur in California, Oregon, New England, New Jersey, and eastern Canada. Coyotes have been seen in nearly every continental U.S. state, including Alaska. Coyotes have moved into most of the areas of North America formerly occupied by wolves, and are often observed foraging in suburban trashcans.
Coyotes also thrive in suburban settings and even some urban ones. A study by wildlife ecologists at Ohio State University yielded some surprising findings in this regard. Researchers studied coyote populations in Chicago over a seven-year period (2000–2007), proposing that coyotes have adapted well to living in densely populated urban environments while avoiding contact with humans. They found, among other things, that urban coyotes tend to live longer than their rural counterparts, kill rodents and small pets, and live anywhere from parks to industrial areas. The researchers estimate that there are up to 2,000 coyotes living in "the greater Chicago area" and that this circumstance may well apply to many other urban landscapes in North America. In Washington DC's Rock Creek Park, coyotes den and raise their young, scavenge roadkill, and hunt rodents. "I don't see it as a bad thing for a park," the assigned National Park Service biologist told a reporter for Smithsonian Magazine (March 2006). "I see it as good for keeping animal populations in control, like the squirrels and the mice." As a testament to the coyote's habitat adaptability, a coyote (known as "Hal the Central Park Coyote") was even captured in Manhattan's Central Park in March 2006 after being chased by city wildlife officials for two days.

Attacks on humans

Coyote attacks on humans are uncommon and rarely cause serious injuries, due to the relatively small size of the coyote. However, coyote attacks on humans have increased since 1998 in the state of California. Data from USDA Wildlife Services, the California Department of Fish & Game, and other sources show that while 41 attacks occurred during the period of 1988-1997, 48 attacks were verified from 1998 through 2003. The majority of these incidents occurred in Southern California near the suburban-wildland interface.
Due to an absence of harassment by residents, urban coyotes lose their natural fear of humans, which is further worsened by people intentionally feeding coyotes. In such situations, some coyotes begin to act aggressively toward humans, chasing joggers and bicyclists, confronting people walking their dogs, and stalking small children. However, the total number of sheep deaths in 2004 comprised only 2.22% of the total sheep and lamb population in the United States. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service USDA report, "All sheep and lamb inventory in the United States on July 1, 2005, totaled 7.80 million head, 2 percent above July 1, 2004. Breeding sheep inventory at 4.66 million head on July 1, 2005 was 2 percent above July 1, 2004." Sheep and Lamb Inventory, US data. Released July 22, 2005.
Coyotes will typically bite the throat just behind the jaw and below the ear when attacking adult sheep or goats, with death commonly resulting from suffocation. Blood loss is usually a secondary cause of death. Calves and heavily fleeced sheep are killed by attacking the flanks or hind-quarters, causing shock and blood loss. When attacking smaller prey, such as young lambs and kids, the kill is made by biting the skull and spinal regions, causing massive tissue and ossular damage. Small or young prey may be completely carried off, leaving only blood as evidence of a kill. Coyotes will usually leave the hide and most of the skeleton of larger animals relatively intact unless food is scarce, in which case they may leave only the largest bones. Scattered bits of wool, skin and other parts are characteristic where coyotes feed extensively on larger carcasses.
Coyotes are often attracted to dog food and animals that are small enough to appear as prey. Items like garbage, pet food and sometimes even feeding stations for birds and squirrels will attract coyotes into backyards. Approximately 3 to 5 pets attacked by coyotes are brought into the Animal Urgent Care hospital of South Orange County each week, the majority of which are dogs, since cats typically do not survive the attacks. Scat analysis collected near Claremont, California revealed that coyotes relied heavily on pets as a food source in winter and spring.. Dogs larger than coyotes are usually able to capably defend themselves, although small breeds are more likely to suffer injury or be killed by such attacks.


In the early days of European settlement in North Dakota, American Beavers were the most valued and sought after furbearers, though other species were also taken, including coyotes. Coyotes are an important furbearer in the region. During the 1983-86 seasons, North Dakota buyers purchased an average of 7,913 pelts annually, for an average annual combined return to takers of $255,458. In 1986-87, South Dakota buyers purchased 8,149 pelts for a total of $349,674 to takers.
The harvest of coyote pelts in Texas has varied over the past few decades, but has generally followed a downward trend. A study from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, however, found that there was no indication of population decline, and suggested that, as pelt prices were not increasing, the decrease in harvest was likely due to decreasing demand, and not increasing scarcity (where pelt prices would go up.) It suggested that fashion, and the changing custom of wearing fur garments, may be significant among these factors.
Today, coyote fur is still used for full coats and trim and is particularly popular for men’s coats.

Character in mythology

Many myths from Native American peoples include a character whose name is translated into English as "Coyote". He can play the role of trickster or culture hero (or both), and also often appears in creation myths and etiological myths.

Contemporary cultural references

The Coyote is a popular figure in folklore and popular culture. Reference may invoke either the animal or the mythological figure. Traits commonly described in pop culture appearances include inventiveness, mischievousness, and evasiveness. By far the best known representation is the animated Wile E. Coyote, whose popularity has spread the Spanish pronunciation of the word "coyote" throughout anglophone North America.


there are 19 recognized subspecies of this canid:

External links

coyote in Dutch: Coyote
coyote in Cree: ᒪᐦᐃᐦᑲᓐᑖᔥᑎᒥᒄ
coyote in Japanese: コヨーテ
coyote in Norwegian: Prærieulv
coyote in Norwegian Nynorsk: Prærieulv
coyote in Polish: Kojot
coyote in Portuguese: Coiote
coyote in Quechua: Kuyuti
coyote in Russian: Койот
coyote in Simple English: Coyote
coyote in Serbian: Којот
coyote in Finnish: Kojootti
coyote in Swedish: Prärievarg
coyote in Tamil: கோயோட்டி கோநாய்
coyote in Thai: ไคโยตี
coyote in Vietnamese: Chó sói đồng cỏ Bắc Mỹ
coyote in Turkish: Kır kurdu
coyote in Ukrainian: Койот
coyote in Chinese: 郊狼
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