Nothing quite like a stroll in the wilderness! So relaxing! But, what if you come across a coyote or a wolf? Can you tell them apart? Coyotes and wolves can both be spotted in the United States and instantly distinguishing them isn’t always that easy. Coyotes exist in just a single species, while there are two species of wolves statewide – gray wolves and red wolves.
So, how can you tell them apart? Here are some physical differences.
Coat coloration can also provide hints in the identification of coyotes and wolves. Coyotes tend to have fur that is brown or pale gray. Gray wolves can also have pale gray fur, but their fur sometimes can be as dark as black. Red wolves are reddish brown in color. Their bodies also feature numerous yellowish-white patches over their face, chest, and limbs.
One thing they all have in common is they are all carnivorous, but with slight differences. For example, coyotes prefer animals like rabbits and rodents. Gray wolves prefer deer, beavers, and bison while red wolves prefer raccoons, pigs, and muskrats.
And finally, probably the main difference between them all is their living environment. Coyotes are pretty diverse. They live in deserts, forests, mountains, near or around farms, and sometimes can be spotted within the city limits. Gray wolves live in remote tundras and woodlands. Red wolves tend to live in forests, marshes, and lowlands close to water sources.
Wolves are extremely wary of humans and not aggressive toward them by nature. Wolf attacks are the rarest of all large predatory attacks. Respect for wild wolves and practicing wolf safety will help them resume their vital role as a part of the natural ecosystems of our planet. However, if you do happen to come upon wild wolves, take precautions and use common sense. Stay calm and do not run. Stand tall to make yourself look larger. Slowly back away while maintaining eye contact. Keep any dogs you may have with you on a leash. Always hike and camp in a group — never alone!
Coyotes are usually skittish around humans and typically try to avoid people whenever possible. Coyote attacks on human are extremely rare but, if you encounter a coyote:
- Never feed or attempt to tame a coyote.
- Do not turn your back on a coyote or run away from a coyote.
- If approached, make loud noises and make yourself look big. If this fails, throw rocks or other objects, but not directly at the coyote.
- Always keep yourself between the coyote and small children.
- Don’t feed other animals that coyotes prey upon. Birdseed often attracts these innocent animals to your backyard which in turn attracts a coyote that is hungry.
As always, enjoy the outdoors, but always be aware of your surroundings and be safe!