Did you know coyotes can consume over 500 pounds of food every year?
Despite their small size, these wily canines require approximately 1.3 pounds of food daily. However, the amount of food they need varies depending on several factors, including body size, time of year, and habitat.
But what do coyotes eat?
Like their cousins the wolves, coyotes are skilled hunters with a diverse diet made of many animals. Sometimes, they also eat plants, such as vegetables and fruits.
In light of this statement, this comprehensive guide focuses on the animals that coyotes eat. By the end of this piece, you will have a better understanding of a typical coyote’s diet.
Overview of Coyotes
Native to North America and Central America, coyotes (Canis latrans) are fierce predators related to wolves and domestic dogs. They are an intelligent and versatile species that can adapt to diverse habitats.
In the wild, coyotes thrive in deserts, forests, and grasslands of Mexico, the United States, and Southern America. But due to the increasing human population, these medium-sized canids have been forced into urban and suburban areas. Because of this, human-coyote encounters are no surprise.
At first, it’s easy to confuse a coyote with wolves because they look similar. They share the same brownish-gray and light gray coat colors and bushy tails.
Luckily, there are a few distinguishing features you can use to identify coyotes. For instance, these canines have more slender faces than wolves. They also have thinners snots, small nose pads, and slightly larger ears than their cousins.
Additionally, coyotes are smaller. When fully grown, male coyotes weigh around 50 lbs while females weigh about 22 lbs. But their small size should not fool you because they are remarkable predators.
Coyote Diet and Feeding Behavior
Because coyotes belong to the family Canidae (canines), many individuals assume they are carnivores. But this is not entirely true because these creatures are also opportunistic omnivores.
That means they will consume plants and animal matter whenever they are available to them. For this reason, they can survive in many climates, ranging from deserts to urban areas.
Nevertheless, their carnivorous instincts often take center stage. The reason is that coyotes possess the keen senses, speed, and agility essential for hunting. Combined with their predatory prowess, coyotes have established a reputation as skilled predators.
Approximately 90 percent of the coyote’s diet is meat from a selection of small animals, birds, amphibians, etc.
Below, we have narrowed down some animals coyotes’ fancy. Check them out!
In the wilderness, coyotes occasionally hunt small mammals scurrying through fields and burrows, including:
- Guinea pigs
- Cubs of black bears and grizzly bears
- Meso-carnivores, like raccoons, skunks, and foxes
Most small mammals might look cute and innocent, but they can be a big headache for ecosystems and homeowners.
If the number of rabbits exceeds the carrying capacity of their environment, issues like overgrazing and habitat destruction can occur.
For homeowners, an excess population of small rodents can lead to crop and garden damage, increase health risk, and structural damage.
Predators like coyotes help to keep the population of these animals in check. That means they help balance off the ecosystem of a place.
Poultry and Birds
Coyotes are not limited only to land-dwelling creatures. They also have their eyes set on poultry and birds.
While birds are not their primary food source, these furry animals usually hunt a selection of avian species. With their heightened agility and speed, coyotes can chase and catch sparrows, songbirds, wild turkeys, pheasants, and others.
Besides wild birds, they often stalk backyard poultry, including chickens, turkeys, pigeons, quails, ducks, etc.
Dogs and Cats
Coyotes that live in urban and suburban areas can make a meal of pets like cats and dogs. These predators are opportunistic and will hunt down tame and feral cats. This usually happens when their natural prey is scarce.
Although they might avoid larger dog breeds, smaller breeds are not so safe. Nonetheless, such attacks are relatively rare.
Reptiles and Amphibians
It comes as no surprise that coyotes occasionally eat reptiles and amphibians. After all, they are highly adaptable and often modify their diet depending on what is available in the area. So, if they live in a region with snakes, coyotes will eat the slithering creatures to sustain themselves.
Apart from snakes, coyotes will eat the following reptiles and amphibians:
However, they don’t eat some toads because they are poisonous.
Fish and Marine Mammals
Some coyotes have developed a taste for marine animals. So, it’s not uncommon to find coyotes hunting for fish in rivers, ponds, and streams. They also devour dead fish and marine mammals’ carcasses that wash ashore.
Additionally, coyotes have been seen hunting young harps and elephant seals. However, marine animals don’t make up a significant percentage of coyotes’ diet. This is because coyotes are not well-adapted to aquatic hunting.
Insects and Invertebrates
When not hunting small animals, coyotes delight themselves in a meal of insects and invertebrates. From scorpions and spiders to grasshoppers, coyotes help control insect populations. This unique adaptation to available food sources shows their determination to maintain good health and survive.
Big Game Animals
Coyotes are not limited to small prey only; they can also take down big game animals. When hunting in a pack, these canines can kill larger mammals in their territory, including:
- White-tailed deer
- Bighorn sheep
Most times, they will target vulnerable animals, especially those that are pregnant, sick, old, or stuck in the snow.
Like hyenas, coyotes are scavengers. Sometimes, they consume carcasses of larger animals killed by other predators. This rings true when food resources are limited.
Sometimes, bold coyotes can break into farms and eat domestic sheep and cattle. As said above, they may primarily target young, weak, or isolated livestock.
If that’s not enough, they can adapt their hunting techniques to identify and exploit weaknesses in fencing. As a result, they pose a significant threat to farm animals.
Additional Food Coyotes Eat
As said earlier, coyotes have a diverse diet. Besides animals, they can feed on several fruits and vegetables.
During summers, the canines spend most of their time eating berries, melons, apples, and other fruits available.
In human settlements, it’s common to see coyotes going through garbage in trash cans looking for something to eat. And if you leave pet food outdoors, expect frequent visitations from these animals.
Which Animals Compete with Coyotes for Food?
Coyotes compete against several animals for food. Wolves, specifically gray wolves, are arguably the main competitors of coyotes.
While they share the same habitats, coyotes never venture into wolves’ territory. Otherwise, they will be injured or even killed. Sometimes, wolves kill and eat coyote pups.
After wolves, we have black bears and grizzly bears. The animals compete with coyotes for small animals and fruits.
Coyotes can also share the same environment with mountain lions (cougars). While these apex predators prefer larger mammals, they can compete with coyotes for deer, small prey, and scavenged carcasses.
Foxes also compete with coyotes for the same resources, but the latter often emerges dominant.
As for badgers, coyotes have formed a mutualistic relationship with them. When hunting, American badgers can work with coyotes to flash out and kill small rodents. The badger digs underground and flashes the rodents or rabbits, and the coyotes capture them above the ground.
How to Protect Your Pets or Livestock from Coyotes?
Coyotes can be a nuisance when they attack your pets or livestock. Fortunately, you can adopt a few techniques to deter and protect your treasured animals.
- Never feed the coyotes: Some people intentionally feed coyotes. This is a bad idea because the animal will no longer fear you. And whenever they visit and there’s no food, they might eat your pets. This holds especially if you’re not at home.
- Never leave your pets and livestock unattended: Coyotes naturally fear humans. However, if you’re not around, the animals might break into your property for food. And if your cat or sheep is around, it might attack it. If you have to leave home, ensure someone is around and on guard. In case of an encounter with a coyote, contact your local animal control service. Don’t try to provoke the animals since they might bite you, exposing you to pathogens like rabies.
- Install a fence: Alternatively, you can build a fence around your property. Opt for an electric fence because it’s quite effective at deterring coyotes from venturing into livestock enclosures. Remember, coyotes can dig to reach their prey. So, ensure your fence is solid and about 18 inches in the ground.
- Use coyote repellants: Use the coyote’s heightened sense of smell against them by introducing predator scents. Visit your local garden store and buy cougar, wolf, or bobcat urine. Next, sprinkle it along your property to repel the coyotes. You can also learn about additional coyote hazing techniques here.
That’s All, Today!
Coyotes are arguably the best opportunity feeders. They adapt and change their diet depending on their habitat. Because of this, they can thrive in many climates.
As omnivores, coyotes can feed on a diverse selection of food, including fruits, vegetables, and small mammals. However, a significant portion of their diet is made of meat.
They also have amazing predatory instincts and characteristics, which make them effective at hunting birds, reptiles, and even larger mammals.
That said, the coyotes’ diverse diet and hunting strategies make them an integral part of the ecosystem. And they play a crucial role in maintaining a balance in nature.
Nevertheless, they can become a problem if they venture into backyards, gardens, and farms. If you’re dealing with a coyote problem, use the tips above to deter the animals and protect your pets and livestock.
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