Coyote

Canis latrans

Conservation status: least concern

 
a coyote looking at the camera
Coyote

NPS / Neil Nurmi

Basic Biology

  • Color: grey to light reddish-brown
  • Weight:15-30 pounds
  • Diet: mainly rabbits and rodents, but carrion, birds, reptiles, and prickly pear fruits are eaten when available. In Death Valley, coyotes have also been known to eat domesticated fruits such as dates and grapes as well as feeding on garbage left out or given to them by humans (which is not permitted).
  • Habitat: coyotes exist in a huge diversity of habitats across North and Central America, from tropical forests to frozen tundra, high plains, coastal regions, and mountains. In the park, they are seen from the low salt flats to the mountain forests.
 

Description

Coyotes in Death Valley are well adapted to survive in this harsh desert habitat. They tend to be smaller and more solitary than their eastern counterparts. They have a light gray to reddish-brown coat that blends in well with the bare rocks and sandy soils of the valley. Being diurnal, coyotes are active during both day and night, with peaks in activity at sunrise and sunset. Most foraging activity will occur after dark, but daytime activity increases during the mating season.

Coyotes communicate by vocalizing, scent marking, various body displays, and are often heard yipping and barking after dark. With around a dozen different vocalization types, it is not uncommon to mistake a few coyotes communicating with each other for a larger group.

They are highly intelligent and social animals and exhibit a high level of parental care. Courtship begins a few months before breeding, with the breeding season beginning in late winter and peaking in mid-spring. Both females and males are capable of breeding as yearlings, but the majority of individuals will not breed until their second year. Juvenile coyotes usually disperse alone, but sometimes in groups, at six to nine months of age. However, some coyotes do not disperse until their second year. Juveniles may disperse up to 100 miles from their den, but shorter dispersal distances from 5 to 30 miles are much more common.

 
a four toed print in mud
Coyote print in fresh mud.

NPS photo

Tracks & Signs

Coyote tracks are similar to be those of a domestic dog, but with close inspection you can begin to tell the two apart. A coyote’s track will usually be laid out in a straight line, very direct. A dog's path will often wander as they explore an area. Coyote footprints are more oblong than those of a dog and often show small, sharp nails. A dog’s footprints will usually be rounded and show larger, rounded nails.

 
a coyote dead in the road with a vehicle approaching
Fed coyotes often are hit and killed along roads when begging.

NPS / Kurt Moses

Threats & Issues

Unfortunately, human-coyote interactions have become soured in recent years. As perhaps well-meaning visitors feed them, this all too often results in an early death for the animal. In fact, many fed coyotes have learned to stop traffic by standing in roadways to beg for handouts. This is a dangerous behavior for the coyote, as well as humans near it, and leads to increased vehicle collisions, higher risk of attacks on visitors, and animals becoming dependent on human assistance to survive. Please remember: feeding any wildlife in the park is illegal!

Last updated: September 30, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley , CA 92328

Phone:

760 786-3200

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