The coyote may be found in all of the United States (except Hawaii), Canada and Mexico. Although native to the desert southwest, circumstances have allowed the coyote to extend his home range eastward into Tennessee. Reasons for range expansion include the decline of wolves, habitat availability, and natural range expansion. The coyote, red fox and gray fox are the only wild canids that inhabit Tennessee.
Coyotes are very vocal animals, its Latin name “Canis latrans” means barking dog. Intelligent and very adaptable, they can live almost anywhere including fields, farmlands, forests and urban areas.
The average weight of a coyote in Tennessee is 20-40 pounds, about the size of a small to medium sized German Shepard. The coyote has erect, pointed ears, slender muzzle with a black nose and a bushy tail which is carried down as it runs.
The coyote's fur is long, coarse and heavy, varying in color. Most are grizzled gray or brown to reddish gray with buff under-parts. A grey-black band of longer hair (typically five inches long) runs down the mid-back and forms a shoulder saddle or mane. The eyes are typically yellow or amber with round black pupils. Their eyesight is six times greater than mans. Sense of smell is extremely well developed, more than 23 times better than mans. Coyotes rely upon this sense for hunting and detecting scent left by other coyotes. The coyote may run up to 30 mph for short distances. They are good swimmers; however, coyotes are poor climbers.
Coyote tracks are oval in shape and the toenail marks tend to hook inwards. Dog tracks are more round and have deeper nail marks pointed outward. As typical with all members of the dog family, the coyote’s front foot is larger than the hind foot. The front foot track of the coyote averages 2 ½ inches in length. Coyote droppings (scats) are quite variable but are typically large, strongly tapered and contain much hair, bones, feathers or seeds.
A typical group of coyotes consist of a mating pair and their off springs. The family unit is largest in the summer when pups, parents, and non-breeding adults are together at dens.
Coyotes breed during January through March. Daytime activity increases during the coyotes breeding season. After breeding season, coyotes begin a frenzy of feeding activity and begin searching for suitable denning sites. Coyotes may dig their own den or enlarge another animals den. Natural holes, blown down trees or rocky ledges may also be utilized as den locations.
The typical litter size is 5-6 pups born 60-63 days after breeding. The entire family unit including the mother, father and other family members help raise young by providing food. The young are weaned after 5-7 weeks. Young coyotes begin dispersal in October, at which point a young coyote may travel up to 100 miles from its birthplace.
Coyotes are chiefly nocturnal, but may be active by day. Coyotes communicate through a series of yips, barks and howls. A common call of the coyote is two short barks and long wavering yodel known as the howl. They use stumps, posts, bushes or rocks as “scent posts” on which they urinate and defecate, this marks the animals territory and communicates with other animals.
Adult males have large territories (15-25 square miles) in which they roam; adult females occupy areas of six to ten square miles. The availability of food affects the territory size of the coyote. The adaptable coyote may eat almost anything. They prefer fresh kills but will eat carrion. The most important foods to the coyote are rodents, rabbits, insects, watermelons, apples, persimmons, muskrats, squirrels, skunks and domestic fowl.
Major Differences Between Coyotes & Dogs
- The coyote is similar in size to a small to medium German Shepherd
- Coyotes carry their tails quite differently than a domestic dog. A coyote's tail is typically held down, although not between the animal's legs. Dogs usually carry their tails in the air.
- An adult coyote track is approximately 2 1/2 inches in length. The track is shaped like an oval, and the toenails are close together and hook inward. A dog's track is round in shape and the toenails tend to point outward. The walking stride ranges between 12 to 15 inches apart. When running, the stride made be anywhere from 3 to 10 feet apart.
Coyotes may be hunted year-round in Tennessee. There is no bag limit.
Coyotes are susceptible to a variety of diseases including rabies, mange, distemper, parvo enteritis, hepatitis and internal parasites. External parasites including lice, mites, fleas and ticks also afflict coyotes. In other states coyotes have become human health concerns because they are reservoir hosts of rabies. Coyotes are not reservoir hosts of rabies in Tennessee.