Something had been howling near my house recently, and I wasn’t sure if it was a wolf or a coyote. I looked for a sign of what it was and found some prints and scat. I did some research to find out what it was and thought this might be helpful for you.
Coyotes are smaller than wolves, with a darker coat and a pointed muzzle. Coyotes make high-pitched howls, barks, and yelps, while wolves have a lower howl, whine, and bark. Coyotes can be seen in urban areas, whereas wolves usually stay away from humans.
There are many differences between the coyote and the wolf. Please read on to find out further information to tell the difference next time you look at one of these fantastic animals.
|Tan, brown, gray,
black (relatively common)
|Tan, brown, gray, white (very rare),
black (very rare)
|26 – 38” tall
|23 – 26” tall
|40 – 175 lbs.
|20 – 40 lbs.
|Rounded, relatively short ears
|Pointed, rather long ears
|Very long legged
|Legs of normal length
Size and Weight
Coyotes are usually smaller than wolves. While coyotes have an average weight of 25 to 45 pounds, gray wolves range from 50 to 100 pounds. Red wolves are equally significant, with a weight of 100 pounds. In addition to their weight, coyotes tend to be nimble compared to wolves. They have a more streamlined body than wolves.
A difference in these species can be identified from their coat coloration. The fur of the coyote tends to be brown and pale yellow. While gray wolves do feature pale grey fur, their skin tends to be on the darker side. Most grey wolves have dark gray to black hair.
Red wolves have intricate, reddish-brown fur. Their bodies can also have several yellow and white patches, with these patches being most apparent on their limbs, faces, and chests.
The third significant difference lies in the snout of a wolf or coyote. While coyotes have slender and angular beaks, red and grey wolves tend to have broader noses.
The most significant difference between wolves and coyotes lies in their habitat and human interaction. Coyotes have adapted to live in forests, urban environments, suburbs, and lush meadows, despite being native to the prairies.
They have also adapted themselves to be comfortable around people because they are likely to find a constant food source.
Wolves are not usually seen around people; they prefer staying in the forest cover.
Differences In Diet Between Coyotes and Wolves?
There are many differences in the food habits of wolves and coyotes. As coyotes inhabit areas with human settlements, they are more adaptable regarding food.
Coyotes are carnivores and therefore eat meat. However, unlike wolves, they thrive and survive on smaller animals. Most coyotes eat a meal of rabbits, mice, rats, and other small mammals.
Since they also have black molars with a huge chewing surface, it is simpler to thrive on fruit, insects, and grass.
Unlike coyotes, who thrive on both meat and vegetation, wolves are entirely meat-eaters. Gray wolves, found along the US’s continental parts, survive on massive, hooved mammals like elk, buffalos, deer, and even moose. They prefer beavers, hares, other small mammals, and birds for secondary food.
These species also prey on domesticated livestock and feed on already-killed animals when a new meat source is no longer available.
Differences In Sounds of Wolves and Coyotes?
The howls of coyotes and wolves are entirely different. Upon close observation, you’ll notice that coyotes tend to make high-pitched howls, barks, and yelps. This sound is also similar to the sound of a playful pack of terriers. Their cries range from short, mid-pitched tones to higher-pitched barks that often sound like a scream or a high-pitched human laugh.
In general, coyotes also tend to bark a lot. These howls and barks are an aspect of their pack behavior. If you find the howling to be on a higher note, it indicates that the pack is together.
A typical coyote pack may contain half a dozen in a single box, whereas most wolf packs have six or seven animals.
The howl and bark of wolves are much different from coyotes. Wolves whine, growl, and bark from time to time. Their sound is similar to an anxious dog. The sounds can also resemble the sound of a dog begging for something.
The whines of wolves can be playful, anticipatory, or intimate. One specific high-pitched whine suggests the wolf is preparing for an impending attack. These high-pitched whines are usually combined with shorter howls.
Other than the whine, every other sound made by the wolf is distinctively different from the coyote. Unlike the higher-pitched tones of a coyote, the howls of wolves are usually lower-pitched.
They are long, low, and filled with harmonics. One individual male howl can pass through a whole octave.
Wolves can also whimper in soft notes. The sound is used to greet other wolves but is also used to submit to an alpha wolf.
Wolves do not yelp like coyotes. They also won’t continue barking, unlike the coyote. If they cannot relay their message with a few barks, they will either attack or retreat without making any other sound.
How To Tell The Difference Between Coyote And Wolf Tracks?
The tracks of coyotes and wolves are also distinctively different. A coyote’s tracks are usually 2.5 inches long and 2 inches wide. The methods of a wolf can be as large as an adult human palm. They are 5 inches in length and almost 4 inches in width.
The edges of these tracks are also different, with the coyote tracks tending to have crisper advantages. On the other hand, the ways of wolves tend to have a fluffier pattern. These differences are more noticeable and relevant in winter as they have more significant and longer hair along their feet.
The Difference in Societal Structure Between Coyotes And Wolves
The societal structure of wolves varies mainly from that of coyotes. Unlike coyotes, wolves tend to be social creatures who prefer living and hunting in packs. The packs are further organized in a rigid and hierarchical structure.
While the size of packs tends to vary, a typical group comprises ten members. The alpha male and his partner lead the pack, although other members raise the pups.
Coyotes, too, are pretty social, and their packs comprise more members than wolves. Since these species tend to prey on small mammals, they do this alone when they hunt.
Which Is More Dangerous Among Wolves And Coyotes?
Wolves are more dangerous than coyotes. This is especially true for gray wolves. Owing to their massive size and aggressive nature, wolves qualify as one of North America’s most dangerous animals. Coyotes, however, although wild animals, can generally be scared off with hazing.
Unlike coyotes, which are omnivorous, gray wolves are carnivorous. Amid tense situations, wolves can easily tear apart most animals that cross their path.
Coyotes use vegetables and grasses as secondary food sources, so they are less dangerous than wolves.
Maintaining a distance from these species is always better, as they can harm us.
Are there any Differences in the Life Expectancy of Wolves and Coyotes?
The life expectancies of wolves and coyotes are different. Unlike wolves, coyotes aren’t an endangered species, and they can survive up to 13 to 15 years in the wild. However, most of them tend to die even before they reach three years of age. The oldest reported coyote is an 11-year-old alpha female.
Coyote pups usually die during the first few months away from home. The rate of survival tends to be consistent depending on the season.
Wolves can survive for 6 to 8 years in the wild. They die relatively sooner than their captive counterparts. The mortality rate among wolf pups is usually 60%. One of the most common reasons for death is starvation.
Other causes include fights with larger animals and other wolves. These aggressive fights often result in mortal injuries. Individual wolves also die due to ailments. The risk to their lives significantly increases when humans tend to creep into their habitats.
Are There Any Differences in Their Habitats?
In addition to physical features and other differences already explained, wolves’ and coyotes’ living environments are also different. Coyotes live along with diverse ranges. These ranges include forests, desert lands, lofty mountains, farming sites, cities, and meadows.
Gray wolves tend to be more restricted. They live along woodlands and the more remote tundra.
Red wolves reside in forests, marshy areas, and lowlands near water. Unlike coyotes, wolves prefer living in more open spaces.
Are There Any Differences in The Mating Habits of Coyotes and Wolves?
The mating habits of coyotes and wolves have minor differences. Coyotes tend to mate during February. Only the alpha pair from the packmates, while the subordinates assist in raising the newborn.
Coyotes are incredibly monogamous, and bonds between the pairs have been seen to last a lifetime. In April, the female starts hunting for a new den after a gestation period of 62 to 65 days.
Pup season is perhaps the only instance when coyotes are seen to use dens voluntarily. Otherwise, they prefer sleeping on the ground amid cover or in the open.
Dens can be hollowed tree stumps, outcrops from rocks, or burrows made by raccoons and other animals. However, the coyotes prefer to build their den themselves.
They usually look to have some protective cover along with the den. This protection can be a bush, tree, or any other form of drainage.
It is common for coyotes to move their pups from one den to another. The relocation is completed in a bid to protect them. Individual coyotes choose secluded zones for the den. However, others prefer residing in urban areas. Coyotes can relocate to buildings or even make their den in a parking lot.
The litter of a coyote usually contains between four to seven pups. The litter’s size tends to vary, with the most significant reported debris holding 11 dogs in a single den. Coyotes can easily tweak the size of the holes depending on the population and the abundance of food.
Although it is difficult to ascertain their litter’s proper size in urban areas, most estimates state that their waste is more significant than usual. This could be due to the excellent food supply. Pups stay in their dens for at least six weeks, after which they start traveling small distances with the adults.
Only the alpha male and female start mating in wolf packs, with their mating time ranging from January to March. Wolves start breeding at 2 or 3, and they generally mate for their entire lifetime.
Upon reaching sexual maturity, most wolves leave their original pack to find a new territory. They may also do this to join new groups. Coyotes, however, do not follow this habit.
The dispersing wolves are seen to roam up to 40 to 70 miles. In some instances, they may also cross 100 miles. The distance covered entirely depends on their gender, current habitat, and other packs’ availability in the area.
After a gestation period of 63 days, the alpha female gives birth to a pack of blind pups. Coyotes are born with sight. The size of their litter ranges from 4 to 7 dogs. For the first three weeks, the packs nurse their pups every 4 hours to ensure their body temperature is stable. The mother usually stays with her pup and feeds the child with the food brought by other pack members.
Weaning of a wolf pup is usually completed after they reach eight weeks of age or can eat semi-solid substances. After they start eating solids, the pack members move them to another site where they learn throughout the summer how to hunt. By 6 to 8 months, they start traveling with other members and participating in hunts.
What Is The Difference Between The Scat Of Wolves And Coyotes?
The scat of wolves and coyotes is radically different. Coyotes have smooth and shiny manure less than an inch in diameter. The waste can contain ungulate hair. They may also have small bone fragments of smaller rodents like mice and rabbits. The dung tapers at the end.
The wolves have a relatively rough scat. The diameter of this scat is between 0.5 to 1.5 inches. Usually, it is more than 1 inch. Unlike the feces of coyotes, the waste of a wolf appears cord-like. It can also contain small bone fragments and ungulate hair. They also have a tapered end.
Are There Any Differences In The Range Of Coyotes And Wolves?
Wolves and coyotes tend to vary in terms of range. Coyotes have an excellent ability to adapt to a wide range of environments. These environments include both urban and rural areas.
Although native to the western US, coyotes have almost successfully covered North America’s entire continent. This range also includes significant portions of Canada and Alaska. Some species of Coyotes have also stretched along Mexico and down to Central America, going as far as Panama.
While wolves historically ranged throughout North America’s top parts, they are now only found in Canada, some northern states of the US, and the famous Yellowstone National Park.
As massive predators, wolves, and coyotes compete for similar habitats and foods. The range of coyotes has expanded primarily due to the decrease in the overall population of wolves.
Coyotes tend to be fewer in spots where the population of wolves is more plentiful. When a new set of wolves were introduced in Yellowstone National Park, this park witnessed a subsequent reduction in coyotes’ overall population.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.