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Coyotes (Canis latrans) are native to the Nearctic region. They are found throughout North and Central America. The wolf, red fox, arctic fox, swift fox, grey fox, and dog also belong to this family.
A male coyote is smaller and slimmer than the wolf and weighs from 9 to 23 kg, it has an overall length of 120â€“150 cm (including a 30â€“40 cm tail), and stands 58â€“66 cm high at the shoulder. A female is usually four-fifths as large. Coyoteâ€™s ears are usually wide, pointed and erect.
They have a tapering muzzle and black nose. Unlike most dogs, the top of the muzzle has an almost continuous line with the forehead. Coyotes have slightly slanted yellow eyes and black round pupils, which give them a look of cunning. Its teeth are amazingly long and can inflict serious wounds. The neck looks oversized for the body because it is well furred. Coyotes have long tongues like most dogs which, often hangs out between their teeth and helps regulate their body temperatures.
Like all Canidae, the coyote has, at the root of the tail, a gland that releases a scent. Glands like these also exist on other parts of the body. Scent glands often become more active when the animals meet. The coyoteâ€™s urine also has a very strong smell and is used to mark out its territory.
Coyotes utilize almost all available habitats including prairie, forest, desert, mountain and tropical ecosystems. The ability of coyotes to exploit human resources allows them to occupy urban areas. Water availability may limit Coyote distribution in some desert environments.
Food:Coyotes are opportunistic, generalist predators that eat a variety of food items, typically consuming items in relation to changes in availability. Coyotes eat foods ranging from fruit and insects to large ungulates and livestock. Livestock and wild ungulates may often be represented in coyote stomachs and scats as carrion, but predation on large ungulates (native and domestic) does occur (Andelt 1987). Predation by Coyotes on neonates of native ungulates can be high during fawning (Andelt 1987). Coyotes in suburban areas are adept at exploiting human-made food resources and will readily consume dog food or other human-related items.
Life Cycle: Courtship lasts for approximately 2 to 3 months. Female coyotes are monoestrous and are in heat for 2 to 5 days between late January and late March. Mating occurs within these 3 months. Once the female chooses a partner, the mates may remain paired for a number of years, but not necessarily for life.
Spermatogenesis in males takes around 54 days and occurs between January and February depending on geographic location. Gestation lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from 1 to 19 pups; the average is 6. The pups weigh approximately 250 grams. The young are born blind, limp-eared and pug-nosed.
After 10 days the eyes open, the pups weigh 600 grams and their ears begin to erect in true coyote fashion. Twenty-one to 28 days after birth, the young begin to emerge from the den and by 35 days they are fully weaned. They are fed regurgitated food by both parents. Male pups disperse from the dens between months 6 and 9, while females usually stay with the parents and form the basis of the pack. Adult size is reached between 9 and 12 months.
Sexual maturity is reached by 12 months. Coyotes hybridize with domestic dogs and occasionally with gray wolves.Female coyotes gestate and nurse their young. Both male and female coyotes bring food to their young after they are weaned and protect their offspring. The young sometimes stay with the pack into adulthood and learn how to hunt during a learning period.Coyotes have been known to live a maximum of ten years in the wild and 18 years in captivity.
Damage: Coyote predation on livestock throughout their range is a concern of ranchers. The sheep industry has been impacted by coyotes more than any other livestock commodity. Coyotes will kill or injure calves, poultry, hogs, and goats as well as feed on horticultural crops such as watermelon. Domestic pets, as dogs and cats, have been killed by coyotes.
Livestock damage from coyotes can be recognized by bite marks, bruises, and/or bleeding around the head and neck (Plate 4). This area is usually the target of an attack because coyotes generally kill prey by suffocation. Coyote canines are about 1ÂĽ inches apart and are clues in identifying a coyote attackâ€“as are the elongated tracks, hair and fecal droppings possibly found at the site.
Like turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) , coyotes are often seen scavenging on carcasses, but may not be the cause of the death. Livestock attacks usually happen in the late spring and early summer when pups are being cared for. This time coincides with the presence of beef calves nursing and foraging on pasture . Coyote damage to watermelon crops can be identified by tracks near the site as well as tooth marks in the rind of the fruit.
Control: Controlling coyote damage in Florida can be accomplished through integrated management strategies. Preventative methods such as exclusion fencing, guard dogs and even llamas have been used successfully by sheep and goat producers. An effective fence design requires a height of at least 66 inches with a 38-inch outward overhang to prevent coyotes from jumping over. Fence meshing should be no larger than a 6- x 4- inch weave . Realistically, the high cost of fencing makes this an impractical method of protecting large areas. Guard-dogs can be a less costly deterrent.
Legal means of coyote control include shooting and trapping. Both measures may be conducted throughout the year because of the coyoteâ€™s non-protected status. The use of guns and bows are allowed during daylight hours and at night with a special permit from the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission (FGC).
Commercially available predator calls are commonly used to attract coyotes into shooting range. The use of steel traps and snares are allowed with a special permit from FGC. A Number 3 trap with padded jaws helps to reduce coyote and non-target animal injuries. Snares are an alternative to jaw traps. Cable snares should have 3/16 in. cable with a locking slide and swivel for best results. Both capture techniques, when used correctly, can be effective. But keep in mind that coyotes are difficult to trap.
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