Canis latrans
Say 1823

cAn-is lA-trans

An adult Coyote.

Coyotes share external features with shepard dogs. The dorsal pelage ranges from grayish buff to brownish gray and is paler in winter than summer. The back of the ears is buffy to reddish. The tail is bushy and is tipped with black. The underparts are pale gray, pale yellow, or white. The muzzle is pale gray mixed with black. As in wolves, there is a mane of stiff hairs over the shoulders. The dental formula is: incisors 3/3; canine 1/1; premolars 4/4; molars 2/3. 

The Coyote is much smaller than the extirpated gray wolf and much larger than any of the foxes that occur in Kansas. The only mammal in the state with which it might be confused is the domestic dog. Coyotes can be distinguished from dogs by their habit of carrying their tail low, almost between their hind legs, when running. Also, coyotes have more elongate tracks, relatively longer canine teeth, and distinctive cranial features. 

Two subspecies of the coyote typically are recognized in Kansas, Canis latrans frustror in eastern Kansas west to Sumner County, and C. latrans latrans throughout the remainder of the state.

The overall distribution of the Coyote presently extends from northern Alaska to Costa Rica and from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. The species occupied a smaller range, primarily in open country, until the wolf was eliminated. This enabled the Coyote to expand into habitats once dominated by wolves. Historic records indicate that Coyotes could be found in every county in Kansas when the region was settled. The same is true today and, with the Puma and American Black Bear at low densities in the state, the Coyote is the dominant predator in many areas.
Fossils resembling Canis latrans have been found in Pleistocene deposits. Differentiation of modern canids occurred primarily in Pleistocene and Recent times. 

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 343 Total Records 
  • 310 Museum Vouchers 
  • 33 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (1); Anderson (4); Atchison (1); Barber (2); Barton (2); Bourbon (2); Butler (2); Chase (1); Chautauqua (2); Clark (2); Comanche (13); Cowley (7); Crawford (1); Decatur (3); Douglas (53); Elk (1); Ellis (14); Finney (22); Ford (2); Franklin (5); Gove (2); Grant (1); Greeley (1); Greenwood (15); Harvey (2); Hodgeman (4); Jackson (2); Jefferson (6); Jewell (2); Johnson (4); Kearney (4); Kiowa (3); Leavenworth (5); Lincoln (1); Logan (8); Lyon (2); Marshall (1); McPherson (2); Meade (4); Miami (10); Morton (14); Nemaha (3); Ness (2); Osage (7); Osborne (1); Ottawa (1); Pawnee (2); Phillips (1); Pottawatomie (2); Rawlins (1); Reno (4); Riley (3); Rooks (2); Rush (5); Russell (8); Saline (7); Sedgwick (2); Seward (2); Shawnee (16); Sheridan (1); Sherman (1); Stafford (1); Stevens (1); Thomas (1); Trego (8); Wabaunsee (2); Wallace (7); Wilson (2); Woodson (1);

Natural History:
More is known about the ecology of the coyote than any other carnivore. Coyotes are primarily nocturnal and are most active in the early evening. There is a second, minor peak of activity shortly before dawn. Some individuals are active during the daylight hours, especially juveniles during summer. Coyotes are usually solitary, although pairs may hunt together during the breeding season. Larger aggregations usually represent family groups or several males courting estrous females. Dens are constructed by coyotes in rangeland, in protected areas adjacent to farmland, on brushy hillsides, in thickets, and under rock ledges. Abandoned badger, fox, rabbit or woodchuck dens may also be used. A typical den has more than one entrance and is 1.5-6 m long. It serves primarily as a nest chamber. A female Coyote may prepare several dens and move the litter from one to another before the young disperse. Studies have indicated that daily movements of both males and females average about 4 km. However, one Coyote moved about 160 km. Density of coyotes depends on numerous variables but tends to be 0.2 to 0.4 coyotes per square km. Coyotes are highly vocal (the word "coyote" is derived from the Aztec word "coyotyl," meaning "barking dog"). There are doglike barks and squeals in addition to their characteristic howl. All told, 11 distinctive sounds, all presumably used to communicate with other Coyotes, have been categorized.

The size of Coyotes varies geographically. Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 1050-1400 mm; length of tail 300-400 mm; length of hind foot 175-220 mm; length of ear 80-130 mm; weight 12-18 kg. Females average slightly smaller than males. In captivity, Coyotes may live as long as 18 years. However, few wild animals live longer than 6 or 8 years. 

Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores, eating a wide variety of plant and animal foods, but focus on small mammals and carrion. Much of their diet consists of mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, and whatever dead animals they find. Ground-nesting birds also are eaten. Various fruits, berries, seeds, and grasses are consumed when available. Deer that are eaten are usually carrion; Coyotes rarely capture a healthy adult individual.
Adult coyotes have few natural predators. In areas where wolves occur, wolves may kill some and outcompete others. In fact, extirpation of wolves is thought to be one cause of the current abundance of Coyotes. Pumas are known to kill Coyotes, but this probably is not a common occurrence. Most mortality of Coyotes likely results from injuries and hunting. 

Female Coyotes are monestrous, the period of heat lasting from 2 to 5 days. Courtship may begin 2 or 3 months before estrous, which occurs in late winter or early spring. Breeding usually occurs sometime between mid-February and mid-March. Gestation lasts about 9 weeks, and the average litter size is 6. The same pair of individuals may breed year after year, but do not necessarily remain together for life. Gestation varies from 58 to 65 (average 63) days. Litters range in number up to nineteen (probably a combined litter from two females), but average 4 to 7 pups, the size varying with the abundance of prey. The young are born blind, weigh about 250 grams, and are 160 mm long. Their eyes open 14 days after birth. After about two weeks, both parents regurgitate partly digested food for the pups. They begin to eat solid food when they are about three weeks old and are weaned between the fifth and seventh weeks. The young first leave the den when they are two to three weeks old, and disperse when they are six to nine months old. Males may help the female and young by providing food and grooming the young. Coyotes reach adult weight at about nine months. Females and males may breed as yearlings but unless prey are abundant, yearling females do not produce litters.

Occurrence Activity:

1952 Cockrum, E. L. Mammals of Kansas. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 7:1-303. ():
1955 Tiemeier, O. W. Winter foods of Kansas coyotes. Trans. Kansas Acad. Sci., 58:196-207. ():
1957 Gier, H. T., D. J. Ameel, and O. W. Tiemeier. Coyotes in Kansas. Kansas agric. Exp. Stat. Bull., 393:1-95. ():
1968 Gier, H. T. Coyotes in Kansas. Kansas agric. Exp. Stat. Bull., 393:1-118. ():
1971 Mengel, R. M. A study of dog-coyote hybrids and implications concerning hybridization in Canis. J. Mam., 52:316-336. ():
1977 Bekoff, M. Canis latrans Mammalian Species 79():1-9
1994 Fitzgerald, J. F., C. A. Meaney, and D. M. Armstrong University Press of Colorado, Niwot, CO. 1-467pp.
2008 Timm, R. M., G. R. Pisani, J. R. Choate, N. A. Slade, G. A. Kaufman, and D. W. Kaufman, . pp.
Account Last Updated:
11/19/2019 1:14:14 PM

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