Threats and Dangers to Coyotes (Are Coyotes Going Extinct?)

Coyotes need every bit of cunning they have to survive in the wild. Aside from dealing with the forces of nature, several large predators consider the species their primary food source.

What are some of the dangers coyotes face regularly, and how do they defend themselves? Is the species on the verge of extinction? Floofmania takes a look at how wily coyotes really are!

What Are The Main Threats to Coyotes?

A coyote with unkempt fur looking over its shoulder on a grass field.

Coyotes are incredibly adaptive animals who can survive almost anywhere. As such, they are not immensely threatened by things like climate change and habitat loss – they simply adjust and find new ways to survive, such as infringing on human property.

However, coyotes still need to deal with other animals and humans.

Primary Coyote Predators

The coyote’s main predator is the larger, faster, and stronger wolf. However, many other large predators also prey on the species because of their relatively small stature.

Specifically, which predators hunt coyotes depends on where they live. Various bear species and wolves make coyotes their prey in Northern areas, while coyotes have to defend themselves against large cats in warmer regions.

Animals that hunt coyotes include:

  • Gray wolves
  • Large cats, including mountain lions and lynxes
  • Bears, including grizzly bears and black bears
  • American alligators
  • Golden eagles

How Do Coyotes Defend Themselves Against Predators?

Coyotes are social animals that live in family packs of up to six adults. The group members all work together to defend their territory and raise their young. Their numbers also make them less likely to be attacked by predators.

Additionally, coyotes rely on their keen senses of smell, hearing, and sight to detect predators before they can come too close.

However, if they are ever confronted with a predator, a coyote’s instinct is to run away at speeds up to 43 miles per hour (69kph)!

A juvenile coyote pressing its muzzle against rock.

Other Animals That Attack Coyotes

Coyotes prey on small animals such as bunnies, foxes, rats, and rattlesnakes. These species pose no threat to coyotes.

On the other hand, while coyotes are typically solo hunters, the canines sometimes band together to take down bigger animals such as deer, cattle, bison, and other livestock. While these bigger mammals will not go after coyotes unprovoked, they may harm the canines in their self-defense.

Are Coyotes In Danger From Pet Cats and Dogs?

Coyotes are generally closer in size to medium-sized dogs like Border Collies or Poodles. Therefore, they are typically threatened by bigger dog breeds such as German Shepherds, Labradors, Irish Setters, Greyhounds, and American Bull Dogs, which can all weigh up to three times the size of a coyote!

Coyotes and domestic dogs rarely come into confrontation with each other. Unless provoked, neither domestic nor wild dogs attack each other. If they feel threatened, coyotes prefer to retreat, leading most pet dogs to withdraw. 

However, interactions can become dangerous when these canines make communication errors. Dogs may chase retreating coyotes into the woods because they think it is trying to play with them. Inevitably, the coyote will feel threatened and attempt to defend itself, leading to a dog fight between the two.

Pet cats have more means of escape and may scamper up trees or squeeze into tight spaces when confronted with a coyote. Should a battle ensue, however, coyotes are more likely to win against the pet cat unless the coyote is exceptionally young or inexperienced?

A pack of wolves in the snow.

Humans Are The Biggest Threat To Coyotes

Humans pose the most significant threat to coyote populations.

As scavengers, coyotes are prone to eating anything they can find, including garbage and leftover food they may find lying around. Unfortunately, now and then, it leads to coyote poisoning.

Some people also enjoy hunting and regularly take down coyotes for their hides. Others hunt coyotes in desperate attempts to curb the species’ population size despite advisories discouraging this practice.

However, these methods to drive coyotes off their property won’t work because new ones will only replace the old. Additionally, the species can increase their reproductive rate to replenish their population size to match how much they are being hunted!

It’s a bizarre, neverending cycle: since coyote populations are growing, they run out of space and have no choice but to impede on human territory, which forces humans to fight back, and so on. 

Ideally, the best way to deal with coyotes is to protect their habitats enough so that they can stop entering ours. But in the meantime, residents can focus on protecting their property and leaving the coyotes to themselves. After all, nature has its way of keeping the population sizes of all species in check.

Are Coyotes Endangered or Threatened?

Despite the many dangers they regularly face, coyotes are classified as a species of “least concern” and are not in danger of extinction anytime soon. Their ability to adapt makes reaching total extinction impossible because the coyote finds a way to thrive even under the worst circumstances. 

On the contrary, coyotes are continuing to rapidly repopulate, which has left many humans concerned. Coyotes are thriving more than ever and have expanded their range by 40 percent since the 1950s. 

Today, coyotes are found in 49 states, Mexico, and Canada. Scientists predict that this canine species will soon transcend past the Darien Gap and into South America at its current repopulation rate.

It is difficult to determine precisely how many coyotes there are in the United States since the numbers constantly fluctuate, though some places have more of the species than others.

As a side note, there is a subspecies of the coyote that became extinct in the Ice Age: The Pleistocene coyote (Canis Iatrans Orcutti). These coyotes were much larger than modern coyotes but were eventually wiped out due to changes in climate and the extinction of other species they regularly interacted with. 

Juvenile coyote lying on a rock.

Are Coyotes A Protected Species?

At this time, coyotes are not a protected species. It is legal to hunt coyotes all year, with restrictions only put in place regarding the time of day and size of rifles to be used.

However, they are an essential species and should be protected should their numbers ever dwindle.

Reasons Why Coyotes are Important

As omnivores, how coyotes eat or get eaten will impact every living being in their ecosystem. Their placement in the middle of the food chain makes them integral contributors as predators and as prey.

Coyotes as Predators

Coyotes play a vital role in managing rodent and rabbit populations. Aside from keeping our properties from being overridden by them, coyotes help prevent the transmission of diseases and other pathogens that rodents carry.

The canine is also the main predator of foxes, which are known to hunt domestic cats. By limiting fox populations, coyotes are unknowingly protecting our pets!

Meanwhile, as scavengers, coyotes also help keep our environment clean. They occasionally feed on carrion (half-eaten animals left behind by other predators), which keeps our community safe from bacteria that grow on them.

Some of the small animals that coyotes prey on include: 

  • Fox
  • Opossums
  • Raccoons
  • Deer
  • Birds
  • Rodents (rats, gophers, rabbits, squirrels)
  • Dead animals

Coyotes as Prey 

As discussed at the beginning of this article, coyotes are the primary food source for several animals, including wolves, bears, large cats, alligators, and more.

Coyote walking in long strides along a path next to a hill.

Is The Coyote A Keystone Species?

Keystone species are species that play a critical role in their biological community. 

As a mesocarnivore, coyotes play an active role in controlling the population of the small animal community. Therefore, coyotes are counted as keystone species that stabilize the ecosystem.

Might Coyotes One Day Go Extinct?

It is not likely that coyotes will ever go extinct. Being the wily creatures that they are, coyotes will most probably simply continue to adapt and spread.

Author: Bernice Go

Bernice Go is a violinist and orchestra manager by profession but a writer by hobby. She enjoys writing about various topics, from music to animals to self-development. When she isn’t playing the violin or writing, she loves reading, traveling, playing video games, and savoring a good cup of coffee.

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