The Coyotes are sponsoring an exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo with a $10,000 grant through the team's foundation.
The exhibit is, guess what? Coyotes.
Howl about that.
The partnership launched in late July and is expected to run through July 2022. The funding focuses on educational signage around the Coyote exhibit and general zoo support.
Two Coyotes live in the exhibit, located in the zoo's "Arizona Trail" section. A male and female, named Zoltan and Hilda, were orphaned as pups, and adopted and raised by the zoo. The pair feeds on ground horse meat, kibbles, assorted fruits and vegetables and mice, per Senior Carnivore Keeper Carl Stone. Fridays are special, Zoltan and Hilda receive their special meal of the week - raw chicken.
"Zoltan was raised by hand by a human, so he's a little more comfortable approaching us, whereas our female Hilda keeps her space," Stone said. "They're unrelated. They're together for companionship. They definitely look to each other for different things. Hilda seems to gain a little more confidence watching Zoltan meander through the exhibit, and Hilda, even though she's much more shy, she definitely will assert herself more. Especially if Zoltan tries to steal her food."
Even though captive, they also hunt on their own.
"There are species that they would be hunting if they were in the wild," Stone said, "and those (sometimes) end up in their exhibit -- rabbits or local birds. (Zoltan and Hilda) hunt those animals in their exhibit."
The Phoenix Zoo welcomes an average of 1.4 million visitors each year, according to Director of Marketing and Communications Linda Hardwick.
"We are actually the second-most visited cultural attraction in the state of Arizona next to the Grand Canyon," Hardwick said. "We love to tout that. We will have approximately 200,000 children alone visit the Coyote exhibit (this year). We know the team is interested in targeting youth with educational aspects, exciting them with signage they can relate to a little bit more, like the caricature of the mascot (Howler)."
Indeed, a life-sized Howler welcomes visitors to the Coyote exhibit. To the left, are facts about the species displayed on a sign above a placard that reads, "Supported by Arizona Coyotes." More facts can be found on the team-sponsored Coyotes page on the Phoenix Zoo website.
Coyotes are found in 49 states, Stone said, the exception being Hawaii.
"They range anywhere from Northern Alaska to Costa Rica," he said. "It's pretty impressive because a lot of species aren't capable of that. It just shows how durable and adaptive they are to different environments they're in. In Arizona alone, it's estimated that there are 200,000 Coyotes."
The Coyote exhibit is expected to host some events. As part of the sponsorship, the Zoo will feature the Coyotes at its annual, holiday season "ZooLights."
"We have two howling Coyote (light displays) for ZooLights," Hardwick said. "We have three million lights. It's our 30th year of ZooLights. It's a huge Valley tradition. You guys are going to have a name placard at the howling Coyotes (displays)."
But an interesting question is: Are these Coyotes true Howlers?
"They're definitely more active at night, and kind of at dusk and dawn," Stone said. "Usually during the day, they hunker down. They will do their vocalizations, but they are very particular about when they do it. They'll do it if they hear other Coyotes in the area, they'll do it if they hear wolves howling. And they'll do it if they hear fire trucks in the area. The sirens spark them to vocalize."
Photos: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes (Phoenix ZooLights Photo courtesy: Dave Seibert)