County Wildlife Corner: Coyotes

(October 10) The Coyote (Canis latrans) is found throughout most of California, ranging from the low desert and valley areas to the highest mountain elevations. It proliferates in the foothills of San Bernardino County and often ventures into civilization, usually at night, seeking prey. The most common coyotes in San Bernardino County are  the C. l. clepticus, known as the San Pedro Martir coyote and the C. l. ochropus, known as the  California Valley coyote.
Referred to as the “little wolf,” coyotes resemble a medium sized shepherd type dog in many respects but feature large erect ears, a narrow muzzle and yellow eyes. The tail is round and bushy and is carried straight out below the back. Coyotes typically grow to 30–34 inches in length, not counting a tail of 12–16 inches, stand about 23–26 inches at the shoulder and weigh from 15–46 pounds.
Coyote coloration varies from grayish, tawny brown with a black tip on the tail in the low desert and valley areas to gray with white under parts in the highest elevations. Coyotes are intelligent and facile creatures with exceptional senses of smell, vision and hearing.
Coyotes are active at dusk, night and predawn and have a distinctive vocalization, which consists of various howls, high quivering cries and frenzied high pitched yapping. There are two howling seasons, January/February when breeding season starts and September/October when females are calling to their pups. Pups are ready to hunt on their own in the fall of the year of their birth and will relocate 5 to 10 miles from their parents’ range. The mortality rate for juvenile coyotes is 50% to 70% . Adults typically live 3-5 years. It is estimated 30% to 50% of the adult population dies each year. Coyotes compensate by breeding younger and having larger litters.
A coyote’s range varies  to 30 square miles. They become highly territorial and range far less as the local coyote population increases and there is fierce competition among them for food, water and shelter.
The absence of prey can factor into a smaller litter size. Fewer females will breed when there is a scarcity of food. Coyotes are opportunistic carnivores, feasting on whatever is available, including meat, fish, poultry, rodents, reptiles, insects, vegetables or fruit. They will kill to assuage their appetites but will feed on carrion, or domesticated pets when available. They will dig through trash and gorge on pet food.
A coyote’s sense of smell, vision and hearing allows it to live in rural areas and at the periphery of suburban area without being detected by humans.
Coyote can carry rabies and tularemia, diseases that can be transmitted to man and domestic pets. Specific canine diseases such as distemper and canine hepatitis can travel both ways, putting both coyotes and domestic pets at risk. Parasites that are carried by coyotes include mites, ticks, fleas, worms and flukes. Heartworm is the most important endoparasite in California’s coyote population and can be transmitted to domestic dogs by mosquitoes.
As Coyotes find urban areas a convenient place to find nourishment, they have lost their fear of humans and have become bolder. Efforts to control or exterminate the coyote by predator control agencies have produced an animal that is extremely alert and wary and well able to maintain itself.

Leave a Reply