Over the last few decades, the coyote (Canis latrans) has become a common sight at Point Reyes National Seashore. However, during much of the 1900s, coyotes were relatively rare in the area. Although their historical abundance on the peninsula remains unclear, accounts from the mid-1800s claim coyotes were “thick as thieves” in Marin County, where a five dollar bounty on coyotes was issued in 1891. During the 1980s, coyotes became more common in areas adjacent to the peninsula and soon moved into the region. By the early 2000s, coyote sightings within the Seashore were fairly common.
Coyotes prefer open habitat such as grasslands, pastoral areas and edges of forests within the Seashore. They prey mostly on small mammals such as rabbits, mice, squirrels and gophers, but will also eat birds, frogs, snakes, insects, fruit and carrion. Mating occurs between February and April with an average of 3-6 pups born between April and May. Coyotes may pair for several years or life.
Coyotes at Point Reyes National Seashore can weigh up to 70 pounds, almost twice as much as they weighed in the 1800s and early 1900s, possibly due to breeding with wild dogs or even wolves in other areas. Their fur is grey or reddish-brown and slightly lighter underneath. They have prominent ears and a long bushy tail that they hold between their legs while running (in contrast to foxes and wolves, which hold their tails horizontal to the ground). They are the fastest members of the canid family, running up to 40 miles per hour for short distances and 25-30 miles per hour for greater distances.
Coyotes play an important part in the local ecosystem within the Seashore by keeping down numbers of smaller predators such as foxes, raccoons and skunks, which allows increased numbers of birds that nest on the ground or in low vegetation.
Best Time to View
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Coyotes are frequently observed in grasslands and pastoral areas, as well as open meadows surrounded by forest such as Divide Meadow on the Bear Valley Trail.
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife: Coyotes
- View Photo Gallery
- Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan: Coyote Information
- Nature Magazine Article: Rise of the Coyote
- Park Wildlife Lists
- Park Plant Lists
Content sourced from Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula by Jules G. Evens, An Annotated Checklist of Mammals: Point Reyes National Seashore by Gary M. Fellers and John Dell’Osso, and The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals by John O. Whitaker, Jr.