Can Coyotes Swim?

I have done a lot of research over the last few years on coyotes but was unsure if they could swim. There is very little evidence online or in the scientific community on whether coyotes can swim. Then, the other day I saw one crossing a river. So why do coyotes swim? Is it just to get to the other side?

Coyotes can swim, and are excellent swimmers. They prefer to be on land, however, only going into the water to find prey or to escape predators.

I wanted to find out more information about coyotes and their swimming abilities. There is not a lot of information out there, but I have gathered here everything I could find onto one page for you.

Coyote(s) in Bosque del Apache national wildlife refuge in New Mexico USA

Are Coyotes Good Swimmers?

Coyotes are members of the Canidae family, which also includes dogs, wolves and foxes. Members of the Canidae family can all swim, with dogs with the correct body types, especially enjoying the activity.

Coyotes share a similar body type as these dogs, with bodyweight that is distributed evenly between the head and the rear. They also have a weather-resistant coat in the winter and a large tail which can act as a rudder to guide them while swimming.

Coyotes have a powerful set of paws for swimming, which helps them to keep their head high above the water.

Their fur is buoyant to help them keep afloat in the water, with the thickness trapping air. This helps the coyote stay afloat, not sinking under the weight of their fur. The fur conserves heat, helping to keep them insulated after swimming.

Coyotes can swim and have several adaptations to help them. Coyotes do not fear water and are happy to cross deep rivers.

How far can Coyotes swim?

Coyotes are excellent swimmers and can swim at least 0.8km (0.5 miles). Coyotes swim slowly compared to their speed on land. This is far shorter than the distance wolves can swim. Wolves can swim up to 12km (7.5 miles). This is in part due to their webbed feet.

A coyote going into the water to cross a slough

Do Coyotes Like Water?

Coyotes are comfortable in the water, and will not hesitate to wade through icy streams or swim across short stretches of lakes or rivers. When it is summer, coyotes can often be seen bathing in streams to keep cool. Coyotes can also be seen washing mud from their coats in rivers and streams.

Coyotes will also follow their prey into the water. Coyotes will not let their prey escape due to water.  

When in danger from predators, coyotes will also enter the water to escape, when they feel their predators will not follow them.

Coyote(s) in Bosque del Apache national wildlife refuge in New Mexico.

Why Do Coyotes Swim?


There are a few reasons why coyotes choose to swim. One reason is that they swim to hunt. The population of the coyote is very high in North America. Due to competition from food from other coyotes and other animals, they need to hunt whatever food is available.  

Today, coyotes occupy most of the North American Continent. This has led to changes in the diet of the coyotes. As far back as the 1700s, coyotes were rapidly expanding their habitat across North America. 

Today, coyotes are found in an increasing number of cities in the United States and Canada inland and on coastal areas. This has led to coyotes adapting to prey on animals and fish found around ponds, lakes, rivers and streams.

Due to their vast population, coyotes will eat whatever food source is available to them. Coyotes are highly versatile in their choice but are primarily carnivores. 90% of a coyotes diet consists of meat.

Due to the high concentration of meat in their diet, coyotes will hunt in and around rivers. A coyote’s diet includes deer, sheep, rabbits, hares, rodents, birds, young water birds, pigeons and doves, amphibians, lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoise, fish, insects, and crustaceans.

Coyotes swim after young water birds, while looking for fish and amphibians to feed on. Coyotes do not regularly go after these as their primary food source, but when food is short, these can male up a large portion of their diet.

Coyotes have a wide area of hunting, and water will not hinder them from crossing to another side in search of prey. Coyotes will swim to the other side and continue its hunt.

For more information on what coyotes eat, I have written an article which you can find here.



Coyotes will also swim to escape from the predators. Common predators that feed on coyotes include bears, cougars, wolves, mountain lions, eagles and other coyotes. 

In the wild, coyotes encounter fierce competition, parasites, and habitat loss which leads to population control. Humans also pose a threat for coyotes in the hunt for their skins. When a predator attacks a coyote, they will run away. If they encounter a river or a lake, they will swim across to try and escape.

As with dogs, some coyotes seem to like the water, whereas others do not. This is backed up by a quote from Ta17rem on Predator Masters Forum, who states that coyotes would wait for the river to freeze before crossing a river, whereas other ones would use a bridge.  

Another member of the forum, pk1, said that he had seen coyotes swim across flooded irrigation ditches to get to a field on the other side. He also states that coyotes would cross ponds and marshes to get to ducks and geese that had been wounded by hunters, but not cleaned up.  

PK1 also says that at Potholes Reservoir near Moses Lake in Washington, he had spotted coyotes on the islands there. “No other way to get out there but swim.”

Coyotes can swim and will do so out of necessity for food, to escape predators, or just simply, to get to the other side.

Want to know more about how coyotes survive against predators. Find out in this article I have written.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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