Friday, March 8, 2013

All About Coyotes

Project Update
There are only a couple of things to fix on the online rockhounding adventures.  I am waiting to find out from my webmaster what link I should use for the USER INPUT page.  The original link he gave me doesn't seem to be working right.  If I have to change the link, given that we have reorganized the logistical slides for the project, then I'll have to make the change to all 710 pages.  Then I'll have to re-upload/republish all nine segments, which takes around six hours.  But then we will be launching.

All About Coyotes
During our snowshoe the other day, we spotted a coyote on the icebergs.  Living a few nukes out of town, I hear them at my house all the time, and occasionally see one in my yard.  I decided that since I really don't know that much about them, I should post a blog update on the subject.

The coyote (Canis latrans), also known as the American jackal, brush wolf, or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine 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.

Currently, 19 subspecies are recognized, with 16 in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and three in Central America. Unlike the related gray wolf, which is Eurasian in origin, evolutionary theory suggests the coyote evolved in North America during the Pleistocene epoch 1.81 million years ago alongside the dire wolf. Although not closely related, the coyote evolved separately to fill roughly the same ecological niche in the Americas that is filled in Europe, Asia, and Africa by the similarly sized jackals. Unlike the wolf, the coyote's range has expanded in the wake of human civilization, and coyotes readily reproduce in metropolitan areas.

The color of the coyote's pelt varies from grayish-brown to yellowish-gray on the upper parts, while the throat and belly tend to have a buff or white color. The forelegs, sides of the head, muzzle and paws are reddish-brown. The back has tawny-colored underfur and long, black-tipped guard hairs that form a black dorsal stripe and a dark cross on the shoulder area. The black-tipped tail has a scent gland located on its dorsal base. Coyotes shed once a year, beginning in May with light hair loss, ending in July after heavy shedding. The ears are proportionately large in relation to the head, while the feet are relatively small in relation to the rest of the body. Certain experts have noted the shape of a domestic dog's brain case is closer to the coyote's in shape than that of a wolf's. Mountain-dwelling coyotes tend to be dark-furred, while desert coyotes tend to be more light brown in color.

Coyotes typically grow to 30–34 in (76–86 cm) in length, not counting a tail of 12–16 in (30–41 cm), stand about 23–26 in (58–66 cm) at the shoulder and weigh from 15–46 lb (6.8–21 kg).  Northern coyotes are typically larger than southern subspecies, with the largest coyotes on record weighing 74.75 pounds (33.91 kg) and measuring 1.75 m (5.7 ft) in total length.

Though coyotes have been observed to travel in large groups, they primarily hunt in pairs. Typical packs consist of six closely related adults, yearlings and young. Coyote packs are generally smaller than wolf packs, and associations between individuals are less stable, thus making their social behavior more in line with that of the dingo. In theory, this is due to an earlier expression of aggression, and the fact that coyotes reach their full growth in their first year, unlike wolves, which reach it in their second. Common names of coyote groups are a band, a pack, or a rout. Coyotes are primarily nocturnal, but can often be seen during daylight hours. They were once essentially diurnal, but have adapted to more nocturnal behavior with pressure from humans.

Coyotes are capable of digging their own burrows, though they often prefer the burrows of groundhogs or American badgers. Their territorial ranges can be as much as 19 km in diameter around the den, and travel occurs along fixed trails. Like other canis species, coyotes mark their territories with urine

Female coyotes remain in estrus for two to five 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. The gestation period lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from one to 19 pups; the average is six. These large litters act as compensatory measures against the high juvenile mortality rate – about 50–70% of pups do not survive to adulthood. The pups weigh approximately 250 grams at birth, and are initially blind and limp-eared. Coyote growth rate is faster than that of wolves. The eyes open and ears become 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 old. Sexual maturity is reached by 12 months. Unlike wolves, mother coyotes will tolerate other lactating females in their pack.

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 sometimes be heard in the day, even in the middle of 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. When a coyote calls its pack together, it howls at one high note. When the pack is together, it howls higher and higher, and then it will yip and yelp and also do a yi-yi sound, very shrill, with the howl.

Coyotes are opportunistic, versatile carnivores with an adaptable diet, depending on the season. They primarily eat small mammals, such as voles, prairie dogs, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels, and mice, though they will eat birds, snakes, lizards, deer, javelina, and livestock, as well as large insects and other large invertebrates. The coyote will also target any species of bird that nests on the ground. Though they will consume large amounts of carrion, they tend to prefer fresh meat. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the coyote's diet in the autumn and winter months. Part of the coyote's success as a species is its varied diet. As such, coyotes have been known to eat human rubbish and domestic pets. Urban populations of coyotes have been known to actively hunt cats, and to leap shorter fences to take small dogs.

Coyote attacks on humans are uncommon and rarely cause serious injuries, due to the relatively small size of the coyote, but have been increasingly frequent, especially in the state of California. In the 30 years leading up to March 2006, at least 160 attacks occurred in the United States, mostly in the Los Angeles County area.

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