Wild Guide

By |
From Missouri Conservationist: March 2020

Coyote | Canis latrans




Total length: 39–54 inches; weight: 18–30 pounds


Grassland habitat in northern and western Missouri, but increasing throughout the state.

Coyotes live in semiopen, brushy areas, along timber edges, and in open farmlands, occupying territories ranging from about 9 to nearly 30 square miles. Both male and female coyotes look very much alike. Their upperparts are light gray or dull yellow, with black-tipped hair. The backs of their ears are reddish and their muzzle is yellowish. Their throat and belly are white to pale gray.

Life Cycle

Coyotes mate in early spring and bear young by late April or May. Both parents rear the litter, which usually consists of five to seven pups, until they can hunt and behave like adults. Coyotes live singly, in male-female pairs, or in a pack. They are mostly nocturnal, but can be seen in the day.


Coyotes eat carrion as well as prey they kill themselves. Rabbits and mice make up almost two-thirds of their diet, while other animals and plants, including wild fruits, make up the rest. While 10 to 20 percent of a coyote’s diet may include livestock, poultry, and farm-raised produce, putting them in direct conflict with humans, their remaining diet is neutral or even beneficial to the human population.

Human Connections

Coyotes control rodent pests. Coyote pelts are durable and have long been used for scarves and trimming coats.

Ecosystem Connections

Coyotes feed on smaller animals, keeping their populations in check. Similarly, they feed on sick, old, and injured animals. As scavengers, they feed on carcasses, thus keeping the natural landscape clean.

Did You Know?

Coyotes can develop opportunistic feeding habits, picking off easy prey and accessible human food and trash. These habits can lead to conflicts with farmers, ranchers, and suburbanites. If you are experiencing nuisance coyotes, contact your local MDC wildlife damage biologist, who can provide instruction, equipment, and assistance. For more information, visit mdc.mo.gov/regional-contacts.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler