The most famous desert animal is the coyote. One could even consider the coyote as a symbol of the West. Native American legends call the coyote the WISE ONE. Our relatives live in a natural area of the Sonoran Desert with a first hand view of coyote behaviors.
Sometimes called the Prairie Wolf, coyotes are a species of canine found throughout North America from eastern Alaska to New England and south into Mexico and Panama.
- Family: Canidae – Order: Carnivora – Species: Canis latrans
With their narrow face and big ears a coyote can be mistaken for a medium sized dog. The coyote’s fur color is light brown to grayish. They have a long, bushy tail with a black tip. Desert coyotes only weigh 15 to 25 pounds with long slender legs and small feet. You will NEVER see a fat coyote in the wild.
The picture above was taken while we stood in the backyard. Most evenings, as the sun begins to set the coyotes start the hunt for food. No matter how well we try to hide they know we are there.
The coyote is intelligent and has keen senses that adapt it for survival. They have excellent vision, acute hearing, and an extremely sensitive nose!
The coyote’s elongated nose, muzzle, has a highly developed sense of smell to detect prey, other coyotes and us humans.
According to Tennessee Wildlife Resources The coyote’s eyesight is six times greater than humans. The sense of smell of the coyote is 23 times better than a human.
Coyotes typically sing a wake up song around dusk as they prepare for a hunt. They make unique sounds to communicate with their family members.
To hear the sounds of a coyote try here: Arizona Desert Museum Coyote sounds
Coyotes adjust their hunting style to what foods are available. When they hunt small prey alone, they usually stalk it and then pounce. If the prey is larger like a deer, coyote will often hunt in small packs and work together to kill the prey.
Coyotes are omnivores, which means they will eat or try to eat just about anything. In the Sonoran Desert, coyotes vary their diet with the seasons. Cactus fruit, mesquite beans, flowers, insects, rodents, lizards, rabbits, birds, and snakes make up some of their dietary choices.
Secure your garbage cans because coyotes will knock them over. Coyotes also walk along the tops of walls around homes in search of unattended dogs and cats to eat. Coyotes have lured free-roaming dogs away from their owners to attack them. They are cunning.
The most common enemy that coyotes face is disease. Bears, wolves and mountain lions will also prey upon coyotes. A pack of coyotes is their strength and should never be underestimated. How fast can a coyote run? They run up to 30 mph.
Coyotes have a central den site which is used for rearing the pups and sleeping. They will scent mark the area around the den and defend it from other coyotes. The breeding season is February to March with young born in April and May. Coyotes only use dens for whelping pups.
In the wild, coyotes live between 10-14 years. In captivity coyotes are known to live much longer, as many as 20 years.
Coyote is always out there waiting, and Coyote is always hungry. – Navajo Proverb
Many Native American tribes consider the coyote to be their creator. Some tribes also regard Coyote as teacher and magician. Coyote is often associated with the “trickster.” In all of its roles, Coyote is a benevolent figure, intentionally or otherwise helping us to restore balance and order.