Location: Yellowstone National Park, WY
Often called the “Serengeti of North America”, Yellowstone National Park teams with elk, bison, deer and antelope, or at least it used to. I still jump at the chance to drive through Yellowstone for the chance to photograph the wild herds, though I see fewer and fewer animals with each visit. Some blame the re-introduction of the wolf. Others claim the ungulates head to the high country during the summer. Whatever the case, I was about to put my camera away, when I spotted this coyote (Canis latrans) about 30 yards to the right of the road. He seemed oblivious to the line of cars as he searched the sage for an unseen rodent. I quickly pulled over and put down my window.
Coyotes, also known as American jackals and Prairie wolves, are common from Panama to Canada. Unlike true wolves, coyotes have increased in number and range along with the human population. Both canines, coyotes and wolves differ in other ways in addition to their tolerance for people. When they evolved during the Pleistocene epoch, some 1.8 million years ago, coyotes originated in North America whereas wolves migrated from Eurasia. Coyotes run in smaller packs than wolves, usually six or less. Though they typically weigh less than 50 pounds, they are tenacious hunters. A pack can bring down a 500-pound elk. They are fast, too, sprinting up to 43 miles per hour. ‘Can’t tell if you’re looking at a coyote, a wolf or a dog? Watch it run. Coyotes run with their tail down, whereas wolves and dogs hold their tails straight out behind them