I have enjoyed seeing several eastern coyotes at Lake Onalaska off the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, at Rowe Sanctuary along the Platte River in Nebraska, at deer feeders in Maine and Iowa, and at other places through live cameras and our home computer screens.

To me, they are impressive as they trot along, tirelessly. I admire them.

Eastern coyotes are intelligent, adaptable, and opportunistic and explore every niche of every habitat, including in fields, suburbs, and big cities throughout the United States, including southeastern Pennsylvania. Those traits make them successful as a species.

But coyotes are mostly nocturnal; they are cunning and seldom seen. Many folks don’t know they have coyote neighbors, including in this area.

These adaptable, handsome creatures are about the size of medium-sized dogs but are leaner and longer-legged. And coyotes have keen senses. 

They are skilled hunters of a variety of wildlife, including rodents and rabbits. But eastern coyotes also ingest berries and fruit, birds’ eggs, road-killed animals, and garbage. And they prey on smaller domestic animals.

Their eating most anything, most anywhere, is another reason for their success across North America. 

Eastern coyotes have a mixed ancestry. They descended from coyotes in the deserts of the American Southwest, an area free of wolves. But as wolves were exterminated in the American West, desert coyotes spread north into southern Canada, where some mated with wolves.

The young were bigger than their coyote parents. And those coyote/wolf descendants spread into eastern Canada and the United States.

Some coyotes mate with dogs, which descended from wolves. Coyotes, wolves, and dogs are closely related and interbreed, with fertile young, which adds to the genetic mix. Like wolves, eastern coyotes hunt wildlife in family groups and howl to rally family members together.

Efforts are made to eradicate eastern coyotes, but to no avail. Their intelligence and adaptability serve them well.  

Eastern coyotes, like their relatives worldwide, are intriguing and admirable. Some eastern coyotes could be readers’ neighbors, wherever you live. Long live eastern coyotes, which are a mix of coyote, wolf, and dog heredity.  


Clyde McMillan-Gamber is a retired Lancaster County Parks naturalist.

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