Fiona Sunquist ©
Traditionally associated with the American West, the coyote has become well established throughout the eastern United States. The removal of wolves and pumas, and the conversion of forest to more open habitats have promoted this range expansion. Recent observations of coyotes in New York’s Central Park are a testament to their adaptability.
Coyotes first appeared in the Florida panhandle in the 1970’s and are now well established throughout the state. The range expansion of the coyote and the red fox into Florida were also enhanced by hunters who repeatedly brought large numbers of both species into the state. The introduced coyotes and red foxes were released into the wild and used to train hunting dogs. The loss of forest cover and the increasing habitat fragmentation that is accompanying Florida’s rapid growth appears to been especially beneficial to the coyote and the red fox.
Coyotes are adaptable and opportunistic carnivores, flexible in their feeding habits and quite tolerant of people. They feed on small animals, fruit, and insects but they will also eat out of garbage cans, and scavenge road-killed animals. Coyotes also take domestic livestock and are known to be serious predators of sheep and newborn calves. They are known to damage watermelon crops by biting chunks out of ripening melons.
Coyotes have a variable mating system: they may pair for life or for a single season. Both parents guard and feed the young. Interestingly, coyotes respond to increasing persecution by increasing their litter size, thus compensating for population losses.
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