What Do Coyotes Eat? A Comprehensive Guide to Their Diet

Thayne Muthler

Coyotes are highly adaptable and intelligent animals that can be found throughout North and Central America. They are known for their distinctive howls and yips, which can often be heard echoing through the night. Coyotes typically inhabit a variety of environments, including forests, grasslands, deserts, and even urban areas. Understanding their diet is crucial for several reasons, including managing human-wildlife conflicts and maintaining ecological balance.

Key Takeaways

  • Coyotes have a diverse diet that includes small mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, domestic animals, livestock, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and will scavenge for food when necessary.
  • Coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling populations of small mammals and birds.
  • Understanding coyote feeding habits and preferences can help promote coexistence and conservation efforts.
  • Coyote hunting techniques and strategies vary depending on the prey and environment.

Coyote Feeding Habits and Preferences

What Do Coyotes Eat? A Comprehensive Guide to Their Diet

Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat a wide range of food depending on what is available in their environment. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, such as rabbits, mice, and squirrels, as well as birds, insects, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, fruits, vegetables, and even domestic animals and livestock. However, their preferences can vary depending on factors such as seasonality, prey availability, and competition with other predators.

Coyotes have the ability to adapt their feeding habits to changes in their environment. For example, in areas where small mammal populations are low, they may shift their focus to consuming more fruits and vegetables. They are also known to scavenge for food and take advantage of opportunistic feeding situations. This flexibility allows coyotes to survive in a wide range of habitats and ensures their continued existence.

The Role of Coyotes in the Ecosystem

What Do Coyotes Eat? A Comprehensive Guide to Their Diet

Coyotes play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance within their ecosystems. As predators, they help regulate populations of small mammals and birds by preying on them. This helps prevent overpopulation of these species, which can have negative impacts on vegetation and other wildlife. Additionally, coyotes also control populations of insects and reptiles by including them in their diet.

The diet of coyotes has a cascading effect on other species within the ecosystem. For example, when coyotes prey on small mammals, it reduces competition for resources such as food and shelter, benefiting other species that share the same habitat. Furthermore, by consuming insects and reptiles, coyotes indirectly contribute to the health of vegetation, as these prey items can have detrimental effects on plants if their populations are left unchecked.

Coyote Prey: Small Mammals and Birds

Coyote Prey: Small Mammals and Birds
Species Percentage of Diet
Deer Mice 30%
Cottontail Rabbits 20%
Ground Squirrels 15%
Quail 10%
Other Small Mammals and Birds 25%


Coyotes are skilled hunters and have a diverse range of small mammals and birds in their diet. They are known to prey on rabbits, which are a staple food source for them. Coyotes use their keen sense of hearing and smell to locate their prey, and once they have detected it, they will stalk it before pouncing with great speed and agility. They also consume mice, squirrels, and other small mammals that are abundant in their habitats.

When it comes to birds, coyotes primarily target ground-nesting species such as quails and pheasants. They will patiently wait for the right moment to strike, using their stealth and patience to their advantage. By preying on small mammals and birds, coyotes help control their populations and prevent them from becoming overly abundant.

Coyote Prey: Insects and Reptiles

In addition to small mammals and birds, coyotes also include insects and reptiles in their diet. They consume a variety of insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, and ants. Coyotes have been observed flipping over rocks or digging in the ground to uncover these small creatures. They also feed on reptiles such as lizards and snakes, which they catch with their sharp teeth.

Insects and reptiles are an important part of the coyote diet as they provide a source of protein and nutrients. By including these prey items in their diet, coyotes contribute to the regulation of insect populations and help maintain the balance within the ecosystem.

Coyote Prey: Fish and Crustaceans

Coyotes are not limited to terrestrial prey; they also consume fish and crustaceans when the opportunity arises. They are skilled swimmers and have been observed catching fish in rivers, lakes, and even coastal areas. Coyotes use their agility and speed to chase down fish in the water, often surprising them with their hunting prowess.

In addition to fish, coyotes also feed on crustaceans such as crayfish and crabs. They will scavenge along shorelines or dig in the sand to uncover these tasty treats. Fish and crustaceans provide an additional food source for coyotes, especially in areas where they are abundant.

Coyote Prey: Domestic Animals and Livestock

One of the most contentious aspects of coyote behavior is their predation on domestic animals and livestock. Coyotes have been known to prey on small pets, such as cats and small dogs, as well as larger animals like sheep, goats, and chickens. They are opportunistic predators and will take advantage of easy targets when they present themselves.

Coyotes access domestic animals and livestock by exploiting weaknesses in fencing or by targeting animals that are left unattended. They typically go for the throat or neck area to quickly incapacitate their prey. This predation can have significant economic impacts on farmers and ranchers, as well as emotional consequences for pet owners.

Coyote Prey: Fruits and Vegetables

While coyotes are primarily carnivorous, they also consume fruits and vegetables when available. They have been observed eating berries, melons, apples, and other fruits that grow in their habitats. Coyotes may also feed on vegetables such as corn or pumpkins if they come across them.

Fruits and vegetables provide a source of carbohydrates and nutrients for coyotes. These food items can be particularly important during times when other prey sources are scarce. By including fruits and vegetables in their diet, coyotes demonstrate their adaptability and ability to survive in a variety of environments.

Coyote Hunting Techniques and Strategies

What Do Coyotes Eat? A Comprehensive Guide to Their Diet

Coyotes are skilled hunters and employ a variety of techniques and strategies to capture their prey. They often hunt alone or in small family groups, but they can also work together to take down larger prey. When hunting small mammals or birds, coyotes will use their keen senses to locate their prey before launching a surprise attack. They rely on their speed and agility to chase down and capture their quarry.

When hunting larger prey, such as deer or elk, coyotes will work together in a coordinated effort. They will use tactics such as herding or chasing the prey towards another member of the pack, who will then take over the pursuit. This collaborative hunting strategy allows coyotes to successfully take down larger animals that would be difficult for a single individual to overpower.

Coyote Scavenging and Opportunistic Feeding

Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and will scavenge for food whenever the opportunity arises. They are known to feed on carrion, which includes the remains of dead animals that they come across. This scavenging behavior allows coyotes to take advantage of food sources that require less energy to obtain.

In addition to scavenging, coyotes also exhibit opportunistic feeding behaviors. For example, they may raid garbage cans or dumpsters in urban areas, searching for discarded food scraps. They may also steal food from other predators or take advantage of the leftovers from larger carnivores' kills. This adaptability in feeding behavior ensures that coyotes can survive even in challenging environments.

Understanding Coyote Diet for Coexistence and Conservation

Understanding the diet of coyotes is crucial for promoting coexistence between humans and these wild animals. By knowing what coyotes eat, we can take steps to minimize attractants and reduce the likelihood of conflicts. For example, securing garbage cans, keeping small pets indoors at night, and implementing effective fencing can help prevent coyote predation on domestic animals.

Furthermore, knowledge of coyote diet can inform conservation efforts. By understanding the role of coyotes in maintaining ecological balance, we can develop strategies to protect their habitats and ensure their continued existence. Coyotes are an integral part of the ecosystem, and their presence is essential for maintaining healthy populations of other species.

In conclusion, coyotes are fascinating creatures with a diverse diet that includes small mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, fruits, vegetables, and even domestic animals. Their feeding habits and preferences are influenced by factors such as prey availability and competition with other predators. Understanding their diet is crucial for managing human-wildlife conflicts and promoting conservation efforts. By coexisting with coyotes and appreciating their role in the ecosystem, we can ensure a harmonious relationship between humans and these remarkable animals.



What is a coyote?

A coyote is a species of canine native to North America. They are typically found in open grasslands, forests, and deserts.

What do coyotes eat?

Coyotes are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Their diet includes small mammals like rabbits, rodents, and squirrels, as well as birds, insects, and fruits.

Do coyotes eat pets?

Coyotes have been known to attack and kill small pets like cats and small dogs. It is important to keep pets indoors or supervised when outside to prevent these attacks.

Do coyotes eat livestock?

Coyotes have been known to attack and kill livestock like sheep and goats. Farmers often use guard dogs or other methods to protect their livestock from coyote attacks.

Are coyotes a threat to humans?

Coyotes generally avoid humans and are not considered a significant threat. However, it is important to keep a safe distance from coyotes and not to approach or feed them.

What is the impact of coyotes on ecosystems?

Coyotes play an important role in ecosystems as predators and scavengers. They help to control populations of small mammals and birds, and also help to clean up carrion and other organic matter.