Yellowstone's coyotes (Canis latrans) are among the largest coyotes in the United States; adults average about 30 lbs. and some weigh around 40 lbs. This canid (member of the dog family) stands less than two feet tall and varies in color from gray to tan with sometimes a reddish tint to its coat. Coyotes live an average of about 6 years, although one Yellowstone coyote lived to be more than 13 before she was killed and eaten by a cougar.
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 gray wolf, by its overall slight appearance compared to the massive 75 to 125-pound stockiness of the bigger dog. The coyote is a common predator in the park, often seen alone or in packs, traveling through the park's wide open valleys hunting small mammals. But they are widely distributed and their sign can also be found in the forests and thermal areas throughout Yellowstone. They are capable of killing large prey, especially when they cooperatively hunt.
Coyote ( Canis latrans ) in Yellowstone National Park Photo courtesy of Kim Keating, USGS
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