Coyotes have survival instincts

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coyotes are common in Southeast Missouri. Their numbers seem to be on the increase largely due to their ability to survive in proximity to man. The coyote is a close relative to the domesticated dog and in rare instances one may even breed with a dog of similar size. The resulting offspring is called a coydog.

An adult coyote will usually weigh 25 to 50 pounds, stand about 2 feet tall, and be close to 3 feet long from tip of nose to base of tail.

A coyote's diet can include almost anything. Mainly they subsist on field mice, grasshoppers (and other insects), snakes and rabbits. But they will also accept a meal of frog, fish, songbird, deer fawn, young bobcat, young fox or squirrel. They will also eat fruits and berries. And if those food items are in short supply a coyote will prey on small farm animals like chickens, house cats or small dogs.

Reports of coyotes attacking humans are uncommon. Only two human fatalities have ever been attributed to coyotes. One was a small child, and the other was a 19-year-old.

Coyotes are native to North America and range throughout the whole continent except for northern parts of Canada.

Coyotes have few predators, but in Canada gray wolves are known to kill and eat coyotes.

I was able to take this photo of a coyote two days after the Jan. 20 snowfall.

It gave me a fleeting opportunity when it stopped for a few seconds to apparently scratch a flea.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the O'Tenem Gallery.

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