“…And today we’re talking about a legendary animal friendship. But more on that later.”
The American coyote is a famous animal in folklore and fables. The cunning animal is a mainstay in Native American folk tales and culture. Coyotes have long exhibited a behavior that was thought to only be true in stories. In fact, this odd partnership would fit right into a fantastic fable. But as it turns out the stories are true and the coyote found a friend in an unlikely ally. But even solitary animals sometimes turn to cooperation in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.
Description of the Coyote
- They’re like mini wolves in almost every way. Or an exact mix between a wolf and a fox.
- They are mid-sized canines, similar to a german shepherd, with blackish-greyish-tannish fur, triangular faces with long pointed snouts, large pointed ears, and long bushy tails.
Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words “measure up” into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new measure up intro this week! That means we get to hear from an animal and Carlos has to guess what it is.
- Prairie dog
- 1.0 to 1.35 m (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 5 in)
- How many coyotes go into the tallest ever totem pole?
- Hint: Totem poles are cultural symbols that represent family lineage in Northwestern Native American tribes. The tallest one is in Alert Bay, BC and it’s used to show the lineage of multiple families in the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwi kwak awa wake) tribe. However, some discount this pole because It’s made from two pieces rather than a single wooden spire.
- 39 coyotes. The totem is 173 feet, 10 feet of which is a separate piece of wood.
- 8 to 20 kg (18 to 44 lb)
- How many Mexican prairie dogs would a coyote have to eat to eat it’s weight in prairie dogs?
- Hint: Mexican prairie dogs are slightly smaller than their blacktailed kin, but larger than gunnison’s prairie dog. They are almost the exact same size as Utah prairie dogs.
- 22 prairie dogs. They’re about 2 pounds.
Fast Facts About the Coyote
- Range: All across North and Central America. Mainly in the western portion but they can be found as far east as Maine in sparse numbers. Their most concentrated range spans from Alaska to Panama. They like mountainous areas, but they’ll live wherever there is food. The next few decades may see them expand into South America.
- Diet: The reason these guys are of least concern and live all over the place is because they’re like raccoons and will eat almost anything that moves. In fact, they’re the main cause of pet and livestock loss in the western U.S. Some coyotes in CA sustain themselves almost entirely on pets through the winter.
- Five dogs are brought into the South Orange County Animal Hospital every week from coyote attacks
- They can hunt alone to catch small prey like birds and squirrels or in bands to take down things like cattle or elk.
- They’ll also eat berries, fruit, and a surprising amount of grass in the spring
- They’ll even eat caterpillars
- They can mate with domestic dogs to create some interesting hybrids
- Considered the most vocal of all north american animals
Coyote Major Fact: An Unexpected Friendship
Coyotes are canines that live in loose family communities. But even though they have all the earmarks of a pack-hunting canine, they rarely hunt in packs.
Coyotes that live in arid or plains regions tend to be opportunistic omnivores. They don’t take down large prey like wolves, so they usually prefer to hunt and forage on their own. Their diet consists of small game like mice, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, and lizards. It’s hard to share a small game with a pack in a way that’s worth it.
But hunting alone lowers their chance of catching prey. Enter the badger.
Coyotes and badgers have been reported to hunt together for hundreds of years. But a 1992 study confirmed what Native American tribes knew for centuries. Coyotes and badgers are often seen walking together when out for a hunt.
In fact, coyotes may be seen hunting with badgers more frequently than with one another. But if you’re imagining a fox and the hound style of animal friendship, it’s not quite that Disney-esque.
They tend to keep their distance from one another, even when hunting together. When one of them catches prey, they don’t share the spoils. Instead, the one that gets the kill takes it off to eat on their own. Still, they don’t just meet by coincidence on hunts. Coyotes have been seen walking up to badger dens and waiting for a badger partner to come out before embarking on a hunt.
Why Do They Do This?
They likely do this to increase their odds, even if they don’t share. Together they can hunt burrowing animals with more success. Ground squirrels are a common target and it’s been found that coyotes catch a third more ground squirrels with badger buddies than when they hunt alone. Coyotes have a higher vantage point and better eyesight. Badgers can smell prey underground. Together they can locate prey more efficiently.
Then the coyote can wait outside a burrow entrance while the badger infiltrates another entrance. Sometimes the badger catches prey underground, other times the escaping squirrel is grabbed by the coyote. Sometimes the opposite happens when the coyote scares animals into borrows where the badger is waiting.
Even though they are competing for the same prey, the energy saving benefits to hunting together outway the cost of losing a meal to a partner.
Ending: So find your band, expand your palette, and make some unusual alliances like the coyote here in LDT
Thank you to Casy for creating our theme song. To hear more of Casy’s music search Casy Michelle on Youtube.