Also known as the “prairie wolf,” the coyote is Texas’ most frequently viewed large carnivore. Characterized by a dog-like body and a long, bushy tail, the coyote weighs an average of just thirty pounds. Their thick coat is grayish in color, with reddish tinges to the legs and ears, and a lighter-colored belly and nape. Coyotes have yellow eyes which reflect as greenish-gold at night. Extremely vocal animals, the coyote’s mournful howls and yapping barks often fill the night with haunting songs.
Coyotes are extremely intelligent, curious, and adaptable creatures, inhabiting diverse habitats throughout Asia, Europe, and western North America, including Texas. In contrast to the now rare timber or gray wolf (Canis occidentalis), coyotes prefer open terrain. Classified as opportunistic carnivores, coyotes readily eat fish, rabbits, rodents, deer, and carrion, as well as birds, plants, insects, and even small domestic animals. Coyotes are extremely wary of humans, although they can become habituated to people if fed. Like the raccoon, coyotes are clever and determined scavengers; they have been known to haul full ice chests away from unsuspecting campers under the cover of darkness.
Coyote life is extremely precarious; less than one half of all juvenile coyotes live to reach adulthood. Those that do manage to survive have a life expectancy of ten to fifteen years.
One Texas location in which to view coyotes is Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi. Pay specific attention to the grassy roadsides, sand dunes, and sheltered freshwater ponds. Coyotes are most active at night and in the early morning.