Once rare west of the Cascades, the Coyote is a marvel of adaptation and one of the few animals whose numbers have actually increased as a result of contact with human beings. As people began to eliminate natural habitat in the Pacific Northwest, pushing some species to the brink of extinction, the coyote quickly adapted. Omnivorous, intelligent and opportunistic, they expanded their diet to include human refuse and, in many cases, domesticated pets such as small dogs and cats. The “urban coyote” will often reside and hunt within heavily populated areas, finding shelter in drainage tunnels, parks or around farmland. (For example, sightings in the Portland area have dramatically increased over the last fifteen years.) In many areas, the coyote is considered a nuisance animal and may be actively exterminated.
Coyotes are much smaller and lighter built than their wolf cousins. They are easily identified by their narrow muzzles, upright and pointed ears, and thick, fluffy tails. Their coats range in color from dappled gray to reds, browns and golds. Their fur is thick and often mangy-looking, giving the impression of greater size.
Generally, Coyotes are solitary creatures that become more active during dusk and dawn when they can better avoid detection. Occasionally they will form loose packs or cooperate during hunts.
Non-urban coyotes range widely in terms of habitat, from forests to woodlands to open meadows. They generally prefer areas where there is an abundance of small mammals, including rodents. Due to their adaptable nature, however, coyotes can now be found in almost every part of Oregon.
Photo credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife