How can an animal be controversial? If it is a smart predator with a taste for livestock, it earns it's reputation quickly among farmers. Coyotes are a mid-sized canine which populates all of North America. Coyotes are reviled by livestock owners as they weigh in at around 40 lbs and can easily kill sheep, chickens, goats and baby cows, horses and pets. Coyotes can also pose a threat to people although it is exceptionally rare for them to be a threat to people and almost all negative interactions have occured in California where development is encroaching on wildlands.
Native American people had many myths and stories about coyotes. Coyote is often described as incredibly cunning and as a trickster. In stories, coyote uses humor to deceive and often rebelled against social norms. The word coyote is actually a Mexican Spanish word with a root in the Aztec language. But coyotes were a new predator for European settlers. They were described as small wolves or large foxes and found mostly in open plains. Over time, Anglo-Americans found the coyote to be a predator that challenged their livestock practices and considered them a nuisance predator.
Coyotes are widespread and while they used to be in open plains areas, they have steadily moved north and east due to deforestation. We have an active pack in our forested area and we can hear them howling in the spring. Coyotes that don't have ready access to livestock hunt all kinds of small mammals and birds. They also eat some grasses, seeds and a variety of berries and seeds as well. They will also eat carrion, garbage and pet food. These adaptable canines can survive on pretty much anything. We're happy to have them as neighbors but we don't leave food or garbage out and we keep a close eye on our pets in the yards.