The upperparts of a coyote are light gray or dull yellow, with outer hairs tipped with black. The backs of the ears are reddish and the muzzle yellowish. The top of the tail is colored like the animal’s back, usually with a black tip and whitish below near the base, yellowish toward the tip. The front legs are whitish; the outer sides of the hind legs are reddish, with the inner sides whitish. The throat and belly are white to pale gray. The iris of the eye is tawny. The sexes look very much alike.
Total length: 39–54 inches; tail length: 10–16 inches; weight: 18–30 pounds.
Increasing throughout the state; most abundant in grassland habitat in northern and western Missouri.
Habitat and Conservation
Coyotes live in semiopen, brushy country, along timber edges, and in open farmlands, occupying territories ranging from about 9 to nearly 30 square miles. Because certain coyotes develop a habit of damaging livestock and poultry, effective control focuses on these particular troublemakers. For nuisance control methods, contact the Department. Additionally, coyotes have been harvested for furs, and hunters and trappers may pursue them during furbearer season.
Rabbits and mice make up almost two-thirds of the coyote diet, with other animal foods and plants (such as persimmons) making up the rest. Coyotes eat carrion as well as prey they kill themselves. While 10 to 20 percent of the diet may represent a loss to humans (livestock and poultry), the rest is neutral or beneficial.
Common and generally increasing throughout the state.
Coyotes are nocturnal but are also seen in daylight. Coyotes live singly, in male-female pairs or in family groups. They use complex expressions and postures to communicate. They mate in early spring; litters of usually 5 to 7 pups are typically born in late April or May. Both parents care for the young, which remain with the family as they learn to hunt and behave as adults. Coyotes can breed with domestic dogs; their offspring may resemble one or both of the parents.
Coyotes control rodent pests. Coyote pelts, used for trimming coats and scarves, are durable and attractive and have been increasing in value. Coyotes are often unjustly blamed for livestock losses caused by free-running dogs.
Coyotes feed on smaller animals and thus keep their populations in check; they also kill old, injured, sick animals unfit to survive. As scavengers, they eat carrion and therefore help clean the woods and fields.
Signs and Tracks
- 2½ inches long
- 4 toes.
- 2¼ inches long
- 4 toes.
- Common throughout Missouri.
- Coyote tracks are smaller than most people expect. They are the shape and size of an egg.
- Weight is focused on the middle two toes, which are often slightly pinched inward, with the two middle claw marks very close.
- The middle two claws usually leave marks. The first and fourth claws rarely show, unless in mud, and these can be close enough to the two middle pads as to be hard to see.
- Look for an X shape in the negative space between the pads.
- Stride is 18–22 inches between prints (walking).
- Tracks can be in a more or less straight line.
- Distinguish from similar-sized domestic dogs: coyote tracks overlap (they walk in their own footprints), and the prints are 18–22 inches apart. Medium-sized dogs’ tracks don’t overlap, and they are 6–8 inches apart. Also, domestic dogs tend to meander and not travel in a straight line.
- Scats often contain hair and are often placed in middle of a trail or other prominent place.
- Listen at evening, dawn, dusk for characteristic barks, yelps, and yaps, sometimes in chorus.