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Coyotes (Canis latrans) are intelligent, versatile and adaptable, traits that have helped coyotes spread across North America and adapt to living in the wild and alongside people in urban areas.
Often mistaken for a wolf, the coyote is about one-third the wolf’s size with a slighter build. Its coat colors range from tan to buff, sometimes gray, and with some orange on its tail and ears. Males are slightly larger than females. They communicate with each other by a variety of long-range vocalizations, earning them the name of “song dogs.” You may hear groups or lone animals howling, especially during dawn and dusk periods.
Coyotes are common predators in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, often seen traveling through open meadows and valleys. Until 1995, coyotes faced few predators in Yellowstone other than cougars, allowing the local population to boom. After wolves were reintroduced, however, dozens of coyote pups and adults were killed by wolves—primarily when feeding on prey killed by wolves. This reduced the coyote population in the park, allowing other small predators – like foxes – whose populations were once suppressed due to competition, to grow.
In the mythology and religion of multiple indigenous groups in North America, the coyote has an important place. It is typically a trickster figure, often attempting to manipulate other animals and beings.
Although often persecuted by humans for their veracious appetites, coyotes play an important ecological role helping to maintain healthy ecosystems and species diversity. As a top predator in some ecosystems, coyotes provide a number of benefits including regulating the number of rodents and mesocarnivores (such as skunks, raccoons, and foxes) which in turn, helps to boost biodiversity.