Written By: Madison Penton, Emma Ross, Adam Bocskei & Jesse Beauchamp
Distribution: The coyote, Canis latrans, is a North American based species which is part of the family Canidae. Coyotes can be found country-wide in the United States and Mexico. While in Canada the majority of the distribution of this animal tends to be in the west side of the country as far north as the Northwest Territories (including Alaska) and as far east as the southern part of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario (Churcher, 2012). Figure 1, demonstrates the global distribution of the Canis latrans while, Figure 2 illustrates the Ontario wide distribution of this canid. Coyotes are not found in the northern part of Ontario, but their family member the gray wolf, Canis lupus is present there (IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), 2008).
Figure 1: The Coyote is found primarily in North America but is now being found as far south as Panama. (Emma Ross, ArcMap 10.4. Modified from Basemap ESRI 2015, Dark grey)
Figure 2: The Coyote is found primarily in North America but is now being found as far south as Panama. (Emma Ross, ArcMap 10.4. Modified from Basemap ESRI 2015, Dark grey)
Habitat: It is predicted that coyotes originated from open habitats in west-central North America and were able to expand their range due to forestry, agricultural development, and the eradication of wolves (Chubbs, Phillips, 2005). Although coyotes can live in forested areas, forests are not considered to be ideal habitats due to the coyotes poor hunting abilities in dense vegetation (Hidalgo-Mihart, Cantú-Salazar, López-González, Martínez-Gutíerrez, 2006). It is thought that habitat selection by coyotes may be influenced by the availability of water in arid sites such as prairies, but also as on moist sites such as riparian zones (Poessel, Gese, Young, 2017). Like many Canidae species, coyotes hold territories to ensure optimal reproductive fitness through group living, and to sustain access to food, space, and cover (Cese, 2001; Bekoff, Diamond, Mitton, 1981). Coyotes are well known for their adaptability and use of urban environments. Coyote populations can even respond positively to urban environments. In southern California, a study conducted by Ordeñana, et al. (2010), showed that coyote occurrence increased with both proximity and intensity of urbanization. Individual coyotes may be classified in their social organization as residents or transients. Transient coyotes do not maintain territories and exhibit nomadic movements with no fidelity for any one area (Hinton, van Manen, Chamberlain, 2015).
Potential For Infestation: A study conducted by Carlson et al. (2008) suggests that female coyotes only reach estrus once per year. They are socially monogamous as well as territorial and once they are bonded with a male coyote, the pair remains together for a number of years. During this time they have litters averaging 3-7 pups which are typically born between May and March after a 60-63 day gestation period. Pups reach sexual maturity as early as 10 months, but the majority begin producing litters at roughly 22 months. Placental scars show that fecundity is at its highest between 3 and 8 years (Carlson, D. A. et al., 2008).
Sacks (2005) states that the coyote has an unusually wide range of life history strategies due to their highly variable fecundity. The size of their litter and their survivorship depend heavily on food resources and stress levels. They have the ability to compensate for increased mortality through their adaptability and increased litter sizes. In situations where coyote mortality is high, they tend to reproduce at higher rates, resembling r-strategists. In situations where mortality is low they tend to reproduce at lower rates, resembling k-strategists (Sacks, 2005).
The reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 proved to be an important opportunity for coyote research. According to the National Park Service (n.d.), coyote populations were reduced by as much as 50% within 3 years of the first wolf being reintroduced (see figure x). However, by 2007, coyote populations had recovered back to the levels previously observed before gray wolf reintroduction (National Park Service, n.d.). This is an example of the coyote’s ability to adapt quickly to stress through both behavioral changes and reproductive strategies.
Figure 4: Coyote populations in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park before, during, and after gray wolf reintroduction in 1995 (National Park Service, n.d.).
Survivorship: Coyote survival rate is generally even throughout their life due to their ability to make use of a wide variety of food sources and the relatively low number of natural predators through most of their range. Windberg’s (1995) study indicates that coyotes age 1-2 can expect a survival rate of 0.56, while coyotes age 2-8 have the highest rate of survival at 0.69. Juvenile coyote survival (birth to following spring) ranged from 0.32 to .73 (Windberg 1995). This places coyote in the Type II Survivorship curve (see figure x).
Figure 5: The figure depicts Type I, Type II, and Type III survivorship curves. Coyotes are unique in that they can fit into more than one curve, though they tend toward the Type III side of the Type II curve (Alpha Image, n.d).
Dispersal/ Vectors: Historically Coyotes, Canis latrans only existed in West- central North America until the expansion of agricultural lands began. (Boisjoly, D., Ouellet, J., & Courtois, R., 2010). Coyotes travel in packs by foot and their ranges are made up primarily of open lands but they can have ranges in many types of climates. Unlike their relative the Grey Wolf urban areas with high populations of humans don’t stop coyotes from moving through an area . Coyotes actually flourish in disturbed environments such as towns and cities because of the high food availability. Coyotes have also been seen traveling by roads and even using bridges to travel through developed areas (Hinton, J.W., van Manen, F.T., & Chamberlain, M.J., 2015)
Special Considerations: Coyotes have long been considered a nuisance to some livestock farmers. In the United States, coyotes are the largest victim of livestock predator control, constituting 75% – 95% of all large predators removed (Berger, 2006). Although control efforts are often successful in terms of the number of carnivores removed, the effects of predator removal on the success of the livestock farming are not fully understood (Berger, 2006). In one study conducted by Berger (2006) to examine the effectiveness of government subsidized predator control, he concluded that “From both an economic and a public policy perspective, taxpayer dollars might be better spent to support sheep producers through direct cash payments or some other form of subsidy if the goal is to increase sheep and wool production and not merely to kill carnivores.” Due to their adaptation to urban environments, coyotes are occasionally involved in conflicts with pets, and humans (Poessel, Gese, Young, 2017).
Alpha Image. (n.d). Survivorship Curves. Retrieved from http://alfa-img.com/show/survivorship-curve-example.html
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Boisjoly, D., Ouellet, J., &Courtois, R. (2010). Coyote Habitat Selection and Management Implications for the Gaspésie Caribou. Journal Of Wildlife Management, 74(1), 3-11. doi: 10.2193/2008-149
Carlson, D. A., & Gese, E. M. (2008). Reproductive Biology of the Coyote (Canis Latrans): Integration of Mating Behavior, Reproductive Hormones, and Vaginal Cytology. Journal of Mammalogy, 89(3), 654-664. Retrieved from http://ra.ocls.ca/ra/login.aspx?inst=sandford&url=?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview221473118?accountid=28555
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Poessel, S. A., Gese, E. M., & Young, J. K. (2017). Research paper: Environmental factors influencing the occurrence of coyotes and conflicts in urban areas. Landscape And Urban Planning, 157259-269. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.05.022
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Sacks, B. N. (2005). Reproduction and Body Condition of California Coyotes (Canis Latrans). Journal of Mammalogy, 86(5), 1036-1041. Retrieved fromhttp://ra.ocls.ca/ra/login.aspx?inst=sandford&url=?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/221453698?accountid=28555
Swingen, M. B., DePerno, C. S., & Moorman, C. E. (2015). Seasonal Coyote Diet Composition at a Low- Productivity Site. Southeastern Naturalist, 14(2), 397-404.
Windberg L. A. (1995). Demography of High Density Coyote Population. Retrieved from https://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/nwrc/publications/95pubs/95-70.pdf
Young, J. K., Andelt, W. F., Terletzky, P. A., & Shivik, J. A. (2006). A comparison of coyote ecology after 25 years: 1978 versus 2003. Canadian Journal Of Zoology, 84(4), 573-582. doi:10.1139/Z06-030