Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For other uses of the word Coyote, see Coyote (disambig)
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a member of the Canidae (the dog family) and a relative of the domestic dog. Coyotes are only found in North America. Coyotes may occasionally assemble in small packs, but normally hunt alone. Coyotes live an average of about 6 years. The word "coyote" derives from the Náhuatl word cóyotl (IPA /ˈkɔ.jɔtɬ/).
This coyote stands less than two feet (0.6 m) tall and varies in color from gray to tan with sometimes a reddish tint to its coat. A coyote's ears and nose appear long and pointed, especially in relation to the size of its head. It can generally be distinguished from its much larger relative, the Grey Wolf, by its overall slight appearance compared to the massive 75 to 125-pound (34 to 57 kg) stockiness of the bigger canid.
Despite being extensively hunted, the coyote is one of the few medium-to-large-sized animals that has enlarged its territory since human encroachment began (another is the raccoon). Coyotes have moved into most of the areas of North America formerly occupied by wolves, and the "dog" one sees scrounging from a suburban trashcan may in fact be a coyote.
Coyotes are highly adaptable and live in a variety of different niches. Their behavior can vary widely depending on where they live, but in general they live and hunt singly or in monogamous pairs. (In Yellowstone National Park, before the reintroduction of the wolf, they began to fill the wolf's ecological niche, and hunted in packs to bring down large prey.)
Coyotes breed around the month of February and 4–6 pups are born in late April or early May. Both parents (and sometimes undispersed young from the previous year) help to feed the pups. Young are sexually mature at 1 year of age.
Character in mythology
There are many myths from Native American peoples in which a Coyote plays the role of the trickster and is often the antagonistic force. The trickster is roughly comparable to Satan in Abrahamic traditions, but is more often portrayed in myths as representing foolhardiness and other flaws; a more accurate comparison is with the Norse God Loki. It is in this sense that the Coyote stereotype formed the basis of the protagonist of Roadrunner cartoons. Despite the typical 'trickster' role, Coyote also features prominently in several Native American creation myths. In one such role Coyote is said to have created people by kicking a ball of mud (sometimes a bit of feces) until it formed into the first man.
Wile E. Coyote is a Warner Brothers cartoon coyote who is endlessly trying to catch and eat an extremely fast Road Runner with his tricks. His efforts are always futile, and he usually harms himself, or blows himself up, in the effort.
The cartoon character Wile E. Coyote has a comically exaggerated nose, tail and ears, inspired by the appearance of the real animal, as seen below.
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