Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Coyotes: Natures Little Serenaders

     Coyotes have been living for about 2,000,000 years. They have survived through the Ice Age, the Stone Age, through famines and now humans. They are timid animals with a natural fear of humans. Coyotes are curious animals and may watch us from a distance. However, usually they will run long before we see them.
     Sometimes called a “natural wanderer,” they may travel 50 miles in one night. Coyotes have agile and graceful bodies, long, slender legs, which are thinner than most dogs; their paws are also smaller than dogs of comparative size. These attributes allow the coyote to cover 13 miles an hour when walking, 20 miles an hour when trotting, and an average top speed of 30 miles an hour, which is reached by galloping. Occasionally there is the “show off” such as the one who was clocked at 43 miles an hour, skimming over the ground in its galloping run.
     Their roving ways are usually to locate food for a hearty appetite. Coyotes are very opportunistic, especially when it comes to food. They are omnivores, which means that their diet consists of both meat and plants. They will eat everything, whether it is actually edible or not. Most of their diet is made up of rodents, birds, rabbits, grasshoppers and other insects. They will also eat carrion, and fruit they find. Some coyotes even steal from other predators. Coyotes seem to have a “sweet tooth,” and they are often spotted in watermelon patches, dining on the ripest ones.
     Scientists have found that if the coyotes in a given area are using all the available resources, there will only be enough pups to replace the adults who have died or were killed. Coyote parents treat their young as well as humans do. They cater to their offspring’s every need and zealously guard their pups from any danger. If adults feel that their young are threatened or if the den is infested with fleas, the parents will move their pups to a new location.
     Coyotes are sometimes called the ventriloquists of the Animal Kingdom. The coyote can change the position the hearer believes it to be; allowing the coyote to confuse an unfriendly visitor to their territory. They howl to locate a lost mate, send information about possible danger, the discovery of a food source or to ask for help. Listening to coyotes has convinced most naturalists that coyotes often howl for the pleasure of it, and at other times, they howl simply because they are lonely. As soon as the pups are old enough to join in on hunts, they begin to learn to call. In early summer, the sounds can be quite varied (and hilarious) as they try to mimic their parents. The common call of the coyote is two short barks and a long wavering yodel. Sometimes if you call back on a dark evening, you can get them to answer. However, as soon as they realize you are not another coyote, they stop answering. So much for that conversation.
     Coyotes are intelligent, adap-table creatures with many interesting habits. It is fascinating to watch how they thrive both in natural and in human-created habitats. Perhaps at some point in the future, we can learn to live in harmony with coyotes and other creatures which, like us, just want to find a safe place to live and raise their young.