Monday, December 24, 2012

Collared Coyote - Yellowstone Reflections

Coyote in Yellowstone National Park - collared and ear tagged
A few days later, we were cruising the Northeast Entrance Road along Soda Butte Creek around dusk hoping for a view of the Lamar Canyon wolf pack and their pups when instead a collared coyote popped up. It had a radio collar and a bright pink tag on its right ear.

Sharp-faced coyote in Yellowstone National Park

The animal had the overall scruffiness and lanky sharpness, especially about the face, that I associate with the appearance of coyotes.

Ears with a sharper tip and a relatively longer muzzle on coyote as compared to wolves.
We saw only one other coyote the September week we were in Yellowstone, and the second coyote appeared to be fleeing across the Lamar Valley from a black wolf. And with good reason. Wolves are  larger than coyotes and not only compete as predators but will often kill coyotes. In 2011, of the 343 documented kills made by wolves in Yellowstone, 14  or 4% were coyotes (Smith). Coyote numbers have declined in the park since the wolf reintroduction.

The radio collar looked relatively large but did not appear to impede the progress of the coyote through the grassland, brush or crossing the road as we observed it.
I just wanted to mention that in this Yellowstone series, I was not close to the animals as the photographs might suggest. Rather, I used a telephoto lens and cropping to get photos of wildlife.

This is part of a series of posts on wildlife observed in Yellowstone National Park in September 2012. To see more posts, select "Yellowstone" in the Sightings box in the right column.


Coyote, Canis latrans
Gray wolf, Canis lupus

Smith, D.W., D.R. Stahler, E. Stahler, R. McIntyre, M. Metz, J. Irving, R. Raymond, C. Anton,
R. Kindermann, and N. Bowersock. 2012. Yellowstone Wolf Project: Annual Report, 2011. National Park Service, Yellowstone Center for Resources, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, YCR-2012-01. 


  1. That is one hardy-looking coyote though. I have yet to enjoy Ystone or a wolf in la wild. Have you ever seen one up close in a zoo or like? If not, maybe put it on your list. They are really big. Near 3 feet at the shoulder and pushing 100lbs. Surprised me - only seeing them in movies and photos and such, I think my mind had proportioned them along the lines of large dogs and yotes. But no - much bigger and thicker. And up close you realize fully that just one of them is more than large enough to take you out. And they live in packs. So cool.

  2. Well, now that is a SUPER interesting factoid. Sounds like it boots coyotes down to the "meso-predator" level, and when we got rid of the top predators (wolves, in this case) there was meso-predator release, and that meant (among other things) coyotes free to populate like mad. And kill and eat SO, so much of the animals they eat. Hence the value of top predators in regulating meso-predators, & the benefits to their would-be prey populations. =)

    Super interesting. Thank you for that SUPER valuable information.

    The wolf-coyote relationship sounds a bit like bobcat-domestic cat dynamics. Bobcats will kill domestic cats, and walk away. They do not suffer competition gladly. Which explained why one day, years ago, we found a dead cat by our shed. Except for being dead, the cat looked pretty normal--not scruffy, not eaten. A wildlife biologist friend of our surmised, esp. since the cat had not been eaten at all, a bobcat got it.

  3. One of the wolves we saw in Yellowstone passed right in front of the car (that wolf should be coming up in tonight's post if I keep on schedule around family holiday buzzing). And yeah, it was huge especially the paws. There is a lot more info about coyote and wolf interactions published but I just wanted to give you taste of interspecific competition to start thinking about how it might be working on more subtle level with predators in your area. This is exactly the type of conversation I wanted to stimulate. Keep it coming.


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