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Classier Than Cougars: Monogamous Coyotes Recent reports of coyote sightings in the Richmond area -- in Bon Air, Chesterfield Airport and just off the Huguenot Bridge -- have inspired a curiosity, nay, an obsession, with these cunning pooches. Who knew coyotes were monogamous, like penguins? (And, on occasion, like humans.)
Mike Fies, a wildlife research biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, is quick to clarify that coyotes are indeed monogamous, but not in our sense of the word.
Monogamy to a coyote means choosing a mate, breeding and raising the pups together for a few seasons. Like their human counterparts, however, male coyotes occasionally stray from their chosen mates.
Scientists who study coyote genetics have found that one male's DNA can be spread throughout various families. If the alpha male dies or abandons the female, she can raise the litter on her own, occasionally with help from other coyote families. Though extremely difficult, life as a single coyote mother is also possible.
Did we mention density-dependent reproduction? It would be presumptuous (and incorrect, Fies says) to say that a coyote consciously cuts down on mating when times are tough, but the ever-adapting animals' bodies know best. When there is an overabundance of coyotes, and food and resources are scarce, female coyotes get less nourishment and therefore produce smaller litters
For the most part, coyotes live in family units -- father, mother, babies. They sleep, hunt and annoy farmers in small groups, and it's rare to see more than two grown coyotes together, unless the pups are about a year old and hesitant to start out on their own. When hunting, coyotes have been known to develop a pack mentality to take down larger animals, such as adult deer, Fies says.
Wile E. Coyote may have been a loner, but real coyotes band together when times get tough.