Derrick Whelan, age 12, of Nampa, Ids., for his question:
HOW MANY BABIES DOES A MOTHER COYOTE HAVE?
A coyote is a wild animal that belongs to the dog family. It is also closely related to the wolf. A female becomes a mother after a two month gestation period in spring by bearing between five and 10 babies that are called pups.
Coyote pups are tended by both parents. By autumn each pup will weigh about 20 pounds and will be able to fend for himself. A male and female pair of coyotes probably mate for life.
The preferred way to pronounce the animal's name is to use two syllables and not pronounce the letter "e" on the end: ki oat. A second choice says you can use three syllables and sound out the final letter: ki oh tee. The first syllable rhymes with "eye."
The coyote has erect, pointed ears, a long snout and green wolf like eyes. Its body, including its 12 to 16 inch tail, is three to four feet long. The thick coat and prominent bushy tail have black tipped guard hairs. The inner fur varies. The inner fur varies greatly from reddish blond of arid zone coyotes to the light gray of coyotes in northern forests.
Coyotes range from Panama to the Alaska northern slope. By the late 1970s their eastern expansion had reached the Atlantic seaboard and they are now found in every state except Hawaii. Before that time they could be found only in the western part of North America.
The eastern coyote, which is darker and one fourth again as large as the western coyote, is considered a subspecies by some experts. It has become so abundant that it has appeared in suburban areas of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
To explain the sudden expansion, some specialists have theorized that eastern coyotes were once natives of the region and that they reemerged from remote wilderness areas after the reforestation of the eastern states. Others have theorized that the animals arose from the western coyote, which migrated east, interbred with small wolves and produced a larger subspecies.
Coyotes are most active at night, when they emit their characteristic sharp barks and prolonged howls. Usually they hunt singly or in relays with others, rather than in packs.
The animals eat gophers, rats, rabbits, large insects and birds. They can reach speeds of more than 40 miles per hour when running down animals such as rabbits.
Sometimes coyotes prey on unprotected sheep and occasionally on weakened deer. However, many wildlife experts believe that coyotes do more good by destroying rodents than they do harm as killers of livestock. They are fast enough to catch jack rabbits, which eat the grass that is needed for food by sheep.
Some attempts have been made to exterminate coyotes by poisoning and hunting, especially in sheep farming lands in the southwestern United States. But these efforts have been limited in success because of the coyotes wariness and its ability to retreat and adapt to inhospitable regions.
Besides, lots of experts defend the coyotes.