My first impression upon seeing a coyote skull was of how small in size it was. I’m used to seeing coyotes in real life: the skull appeared so much smaller than life. Coyotes are known for their long snouts. The palate length/width ratio for a coyote is more than 2; whereas that for wolves and dogs is less than 2. The entire jaw length is 5.5 inches; the line of teeth is just under 4 inches. Of particular interest is the very narrow lower jaw.
Like dogs, coyotes have four canine teeth, two upper and two lower, for grabbing and holding prey. These canine teeth are not as sharp as those of a cat. The premolars — teeth behind the canine teeth — are used for tearing chunks of meat from larger prey. Coyotes also have molars for chewing, but these teeth don’t get much use except in crunching bones or eating hard objects such as nuts. Coyotes are very versatile in their eating habits: consuming fruits and insects, as well as carrion and rodents.
How sensitive is a coyote’s mouth, and how finely can a coyote manipulate its teeth? I’ve seen a coyote dismember a cricket before eating it, and I’ve seen a coyote remove a thorn from its paw: things most dogs cannot do. I’ve seen a coyote pick a tick off of another coyote’s back. So a coyote’s control of its mouth is VERY fine. My own dog’s very uncanny ability to finely manipulate with her teeth may be indicative of a coyote’s ability to do so. My little dog had an instinct for what was healthy and what was not. Cinder did not like the bandaid on my finger — I’m sure she could sense the small wound underneath which needed only air to heal. As I sat with her she caringly began to take the bandaid off of me. I let her do it and watched. The gentleness and precision involved were absolutely astonishing — she barely touched the finger itself at all. The reason I allowed her to do this was because of a previous incident involving her own health.
Cinder was born with fragile coronoid processes which broke and got into her elbow joint. The bone chips had to be removed. The operation involved an incision down the front part of a foreleg. And she had 11 stitches. The amazing thing is that four days before the stitches were to come out, she took her health into her own hands. Stitches left in too long can become infected. She may have sensed infection beginning or maybe she sensed that they were no longer needed. I saw her take out her own stitches, one at a time, ever so gently so as not to hurt anything else. Using her teeth, she actually unknotted a few of the stitches, and she cut through the rest. Once she began this, I allowed her to continue because it was obvious that she knew what she was doing. I trusted her innate knowledge, even more so as I continued to watch. The doctor’s timeline for the same stitch removal was only four days away. This story is to show how extremely finely specific dogs can manipulate their teeth and mouths. For a coyote, the control would be even more precise.