• Scientific Name: Canis latrans
  • Niimiipuutímt: ’iceyéeye

Coyote howling

The name coyote is derived from the Aztec word “coyotl”. 

Coyotes are found throughout the United States (except Hawaii) and in most of Canada.  Prior to 1900, coyotes were restricted to areas west of the Mississippi in the United States and west of Ontario’s Lake Nipigon in Canada.

The coyote’s success is attributed to the coyote’s ability to adapt.  Coyotes have adjusted well to human disturbed environments, and now thrive in close proximity to people.

The coyote is a member of the canid family of which includes both wolves and domestic dogs.

Physical Appearance:

Coyotes range in color from near black to off white.  Some appear rust colored with a white or gray throat and belly.

Like other predators, coyotes vary in size.  The males are larger than the females.  The average size of a coyote is 37 inches long and 18 inches high.  Their weight varies from 20 to 50 pounds.

The coyote is distinguished by its long narrow snout, pointed ears and general dog-like appearance.

The female prepares the den.  The male assists in the raising of the young and initially supplies most of the food.  The pups are born blind and hairless.  They begin eating meat at 8 weeks of age and start hunting between 8-12 weeks.

Coyote and cubPhoto H.Kuchera, Bigstoc Images

The pups disperse between November and March.  The family may hunt together temporarily in mid-winter but do not form true packs.

People should never approach pups or attempts to take them from a denning area.  Even if you see pups unattended, their parents are usually just a short distance away.  Adults rarely abandon their young.


  Sitting coyote howling  


Tell-Tale Signs:

Coyote tracks are very similar to other members of the dog family.  Imprints show four toes and toe nails; front tracks are larger than the rear.  The front tracks are 2 to 3 long and 2 inches wide.  Rear tracks are 2 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide.

Their scat is variable in size and consistency, depending on diet.  It often contains hair, berries, bone fragments and sees.  You are likely to find droppings along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, atop knolls, near boulders or prominent tufts of grass.

Coyotes may be the most vocal of land mammals.  Although most people are familiar with the coyote’s howl, the animal actually has a language that incorporates a variety of sounds.  They have long clear calls in addition to barks and yips.  Their vocalizations are designed to bring individuals together or let other coyotes know their location.


Coyotes have expanded their range over the last century.  They are found in all habitats, ranging from grasslands and deserts to urban areas and mountains.

Coyotes are common in areas where rabbits, mice and gophers live.  These may include lush rangelands or over grazed pastures.

In order to provide shelter for their pups, coyotes den in a wide variety of places including brush covered slopes, steep banks, rock ledges, thickets hollow logs.  They will also dig their own burrows.  Dens of other animals are frequently used.


Coyotes are opportunistic hunters.  They prey on small mammals, domestic pets, livestock and domestic fowl but will readily eat carrion and plants.  A coyote will adjust its diet depending on the food that is available.


photo credits: Jim Peaco and Bryan Harry