Coyotes, like jackals, don’t get much respect, so let’s start off on the right foot by meeting Dakota Coyote in this 2020 video:
Please don’t try to hug the next coyote you meet — as she says in the video, Dakota’s affection doesn’t even extend to the other caregivers at that rescue center.
But it’s wonderful to see.
So what are coyotes? The “jackal of the Americas”?
Not really. According to these researchers, there is no closer a connection between jackals and coyotes than there is between lions and pumas (a/k/a mountain lions).
One pair is in Family Canidae, and the other is in Family Felidae. That’s about it, only the canids resemble each other much more closely.
It’s true that jackals and coyotes are in the same genus, but as the Illinois State Museum notes on their website:
The genus Canis includes wolves, coyotes, jackals, and the domestic dogs. In the midwestern U.S. at least three members of the genus are found in sites that date from the last Ice Age. These three members are the dire wolf (Canis dirus), the gray wolf (Canis lupus) and the coyote (Canis latrans). One additional species, the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), was almost certainly also present at the very end of the Pleistocene (after about 12,000 years ago); however, none have been recovered in Pleistocene sites from the Midwest.
One model for the evolution of the genus Canis would be as follows:
The genus arose in North America sometime in the Late Miocene. A species of the genus entered Eurasia from North America via Beringia during the Late Miocene.
Coyotes derived from an exclusively North America lineage of the genus [Comment: I have corrected my dire-wolf post.] This lineage is close to (or may be) C. leophagus.
The gray wolf, jackals, and hunting dogs derived from the Eurasian lineage. The gray wolf may have evolved from a wolf-like species such as C. etrucus. In the Early Pleistocene the gray wolf (Canis lupus) entered North America via Beringia.
The domestic dog is almost certainly derived from the gray wolf. Whether the wolf was domesticated just once or several times in different places is still a topic of much debate…
But it sometimes seems that coyotes are everywhere, including sometimes our streets and backyards.
What about people and coyotes?
- Canid Specialist Group page.
- National Wildlife Foundation: Coyote Nation
- “Ghost DNA from hybrid coyotes could save endangered red wolves“
Edited November 14, 2022.
Speaking of pumas (coming in at about 3:15):
The note with this video, uploaded in 2010, says that this was actually a mother distracting the coyotes from her two cubs after they arrived while the cats were feeding on a deer in a nearby meadow!
Featured image: slowmotiongli/Shutterstock