Coyotes are not as big as you might think. They weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. They have long gray to brownish gray fur, with buff-colored fur on their undersides. The best way to tell a coyote from a wolf is its smaller size, along with the fact that they have larger ears than wolves, and their tails are bushier. They also usually run with their tails between their legs, and wolves do not. Coyotes run in packs and you can often hear their “yip yip yip” sounds in the hills. They are mostly nocturnal, meaning that they prefer to hunt for food at night. They are usually shy to humans and will run away if you come across one of them.
Habitat: Coyotes can easily adapt to their surroundings, so they live throughout North America. They can often be seen scurrying through the sagebrush on BLM lands, especially in hilly areas. However, they can be found in open prairies, dense forests, or in urban areas near humans; wherever they can find adequate food.
Photo courtesy of Kim Keating, USGS
Food: These sly dogs aren’t always picky about what they eat. They will feed on small cottontails, jackrabbits, pocket mice, voles, ground squirrels and kangaroo rats. However, they are definitely capable of preying on larger animals, such as pronghorn fawns, elk calves, mule deer, and some domestic livestock (they especially seem to like sheep). In urban areas, they have been known to prey on pet cats and smaller pet dogs.
Fun Facts: Coyotes communicate through a series of yips or howls. If you camp in the woods or on rangelands, you may hear coyotes communicating in the night. Often, coyote sounds are confused for wolves.