Coyotes are most widely distributed of all the continent's canids, ranging from far northern Alaska to Nicaragua. Virtually the only parts of North America is does not inhabit are those which are covered with ice year round. The coyote evolved as a creature of the western grasslands. However, it has massively expanded its distribution in recent times since Grey and Red wolves, it primary competitors for habitat, have been eliminated throughout most of its range. Coyotes are omnivorous, eating plants, animals, and carrion. They were likely more of a daytime hunter in the past, but has now become far more nocturnal because of human activity. They eat primarily small mammals, such as eastern cottontail rabbits, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, and white-footed mice. They occasionally eat birds, snakes, large insects and other large invertebrates. They prefer fresh meat, but they consume large amounts of carrion. Part of what makes coyotes so successful at living in so many different places is the fact that they will eat almost anything, including human trash and household pets in suburban areas. Plants eaten include leaves of balsam fir and white cedar, sasparilla, strawberry, and apple. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the diet of coyotes in the fall and winter months.
Coat pattern of Coyotes varies and largely depends on the surrounding habitat. Coyotes from arid zones are rather brownish yellow, whilst those occurring in the northern latitudes tend to be darker. Also, the size of a coyote is greatly influenced by the environment in which it lives. Individuals from the hot, dry deserts of the far southwest only average about 25 lb (11.5 kg), but those in the northern forests can weigh up to 75 lb (34 kg). Coyotes are capable of running at speeds up to 65 km/hr and they can jump distances of up to 4 m.
Socially, coyotes live in a variety of arrangements. Some live alone, others in mated pairs, and others in packs, which may consist of one mated pair, their new young, and offspring from the previous season that have not yet left their parents. Packs are an advantage when preying on larger mammals such as deer, or defending food resources, territory, and themselves. Coyotes have been known to live a maximum of ten years in the wild and 18 years in captivity. Coyotes use auditory, visual, olfactory and tactile signals to communicate. They are the most vocal of all North American wild mammals, using 3 distinct calls (squeak, distress call and howl call) which consist of a quick series of yelps, followed by a falsetto howl. Howling may act to announce where territories are to other packs. Coyotes also howl when two or more members of a pack re-unite and to announce to each other their location. Their sight is less developed and is used primarily to note movement. They have acute hearing and sense of smell. They use stumps, posts, bushes or rocks as "scent posts" on which they urinate and defecate, possibly to mark territory. Coyotes are very good swimmers but poor climbers.
Coyotes serves as hosts for a number of diseases, including rabies. They are considered a threat to poultry, livestock, and crops. Coyotes may also compete with hunters for deer, rabbits, and other game species. Coyotes help to control some agricultural pests, such as rodents. Coyote pelts are also still collected and sold in some areas. On their conservation status, Coyotes are common and widespread because of their extraordinary adaptability.