Also called PRAIRIE WOLF, BRUSH WOLF, or LITTLE WOLF (Canis latrans), New World member of the dog family (Canidae). The coyote, whose name is derived from the Aztec coyotl, is found from Alaska south to Costa Rica, and especially on the Great Plains. Historically, the eastern border of its range was the Appalachians, but the coyote has, during the 20th century, expanded its range, and now can be found in all of the continental United States, occupying the niche formerly held by the wolf. Smaller and more lightly built than the wolf, the coyote stands about 60 cm (24 inches) at the shoulder, weighs about 9-23 kg (20-50 pounds), and is about 1-1.3 m (3.3-4.3 feet) long, including its 30-40-centimetre tail. The fur is long and coarse and is generally grizzled buff above and whitish below, with reddish legs and a bushy, black-tipped tail. There is, however, considerable local variation in size and colour.
Noted for its nightly serenades of short yaps and mournful howls, the coyote is primarily nocturnal and hunts alone or in relays, running tail downward and sometimes attaining a speed of 64 km (40 miles) per hour. It feeds mainly on rodents and hares but also eats carrion and most types of animal and vegetable matter. It lives in a burrow where, in spring, six or more pups are born after a gestation period of 60-63 days. The parents, which are sometimes lifelong mates, feed and care for the pups until fall. The coyote hybridizes readily with the domestic dog, the offspring being called coydogs. An intelligent animal with a reputation for cunning and swiftness, the coyote has been persecuted by humans because of the damage (generally overstated) done by individuals that sometimes prey on domestic or game animals. Despite such persecutions, the coyote has adapted well to environments dominated by humans and is found with regularity in such populous areas as suburban Los Angeles.
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