The coyote is the size and shape of a small shepherd dog, about four feet in length with a full, black-tipped tail about 14 inches long. Weights are 30 to 40 pounds. Their long hair varies in color with geography and season from pale grayish buff to rich reddish brown. The ears are rusty red behind. Coyotes may live up 20 years, but ten years is a rough average. In an extermination effort from 1915 to 1947, bounties were paid on 1,884,897 coyotes in the United States. Coyotes are managed as furbearers in Colorado.
Range: Coyotes live statewide in Colorado and in many areas are quite common. They thrive despite widespread attempts to control or eradicate them because of their alleged attacks on livestock. Individuals may be very bold, attracted to open garbage dumps where carcasses of poultry or livestock are discarded.
Habitat: Coyotes live just about everywhere in Colorado. The availability of food plays an important role.
Diet: Coyotes eat plants and meat. On a hunting circuit three or four miles long, they forage for birds, eggs, mice, rabbits, carrion of large wild mammals or livestock and occasional insects and fruit – in short, just about anything organic. They are active day or night, but mostly at dawn and dusk.
Reproduction: Females breed just once annually, in January to March, and produce a litter of about six pups after a gestation period of nine weeks. The expectant female burrows up to 20 feet into a hillside or bank to prepare a nursery den for the young, and frequently digs a second burrow in case the litter is disturbed in the first. The male brings food to the nursing mother. The young weigh only about nine ounces at birth, but develop rapidly and are weaned at seven weeks. As they mature, pups spend much time and energy in aggressive interactions with littermates that eventually influence their social positions.
By David M. Armstrong
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History
University of Colorado-Bouldermausmann@aol.com