Though potentially active at any time, the coyote typically hunts during the early morning, at sunset, and throughout the night (4) (5). While this species was once believed to be solitary, it is now understood that it often forms breeding pairs and packs. Packs are usually small family groups, comprising a dominant pair and offspring from previous years (3). They are most commonly formed in northern regions in the winter, when food usually takes the form of large ungulate carcasses, which can be shared amongst the pack and defended from other coyotes (2).When hunting live prey, pack members usually work alone, stalking animals from up to 50 metres away, before making a rapid dash, or in the case of smaller prey, a rapid pounce (2) (3). On occasion, however, groups may chase larger animals for up to 400 metres (2). When pursuing prey the coyote can reach sprinting speeds of up to 65 kilometres per hour (3), making it one of the fastest terrestrial mammals in North America (5). An opportunistic feeder, the coyote’s diet includes fruits, insects, fish, small mammals, large ungulates, livestock and refuse (1) (3). Interestingly, coyotes are also known to form hunting partnerships with American badgers, in which the two animals travel together, utilising the coyote’s acute sense of smell to detect rodents. The badger then excavates the burrow in which the prey resides, while the coyote catches any fleeing animals, and the two predators share the proceeds (2) (5).
Coyotes breed between January and March, depending on latitude. Breeding pairs form strong pair bonds, and may remain together for many years, though not necessarily for life (4). After a gestation period of around 63 days, around six pups are born (3), which are initially nursed in a den excavated in a steep bank, under a rocky ledge or in a hollow log (4). The pups emerge after three weeks, and begin to take regurgitated solid food, although weaning does not occur until five to seven weeks old. If the breeding pair is part of a pack, ‘helper’ individuals, which are usually offspring from the previous year, assist with raising the young. After nine months the young reach adult size and may remain in the pack or disperse over long distances (4). As only the dominant pair in the pack are permitted to breed, pack members face the choice of remaining in the pack and attempting to gain dominance, or dispersing to find a mate. The latter option is risky, as transient, solitary individuals lack a territory, and must cover large ranges in search of food and a mate (2).