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Coyote vs Wolf: Knowing The Difference



A pack of North American Coyotes lazily rest and sleep in a Canadian forest | Coyote vs Wolf Knowing The Difference | Featured

Tell coyote vs wolf apart with this guide on how to identify their differences so you know how to deal with them in the wild!

RELATED: How To Get Rid Of Coyotes On Your Land

In this article:

  1. Tell Coyote vs Wolf Apart Before You Meet Either
  2. Characteristics of a Wolf vs Coyote
  3. Coyote vs Wolf Behavior
  4. How to Deal with Coyote
  5. How to Deal with Wolves

How to Tell Coyote vs Wolf Apart

Tell Coyote vs Wolf Apart Before You Meet Either

Nothing quite like a stroll in the wilderness! So relaxing! But, what if you come across a coyote or a wolf?

Can you tell the difference and identify which is which? Coyotes and wolves can both be spotted in the United States and instantly distinguishing them aren’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.

Characteristics of a Wolf vs Coyote


Coat coloration can also provide hints in the identification of coyotes and wolves. Coyotes tend to have fur which 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.

Coyote vs Wolf Behavior


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.

Coyotes are usually skittish around humans and typically try to avoid people whenever possible. Wolves, on the other hand, are extremely wary of humans and not aggressive toward them by nature.

Gray wolves live in remote tundras and woodlands. Red wolves tend to live in forests, marshes, and lowlands close to water sources.

RELATED: Tips On How To Survive In The Wild | Defending Against Animal Attack

How to Deal with Coyote

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 which coyotes prey upon. Birdseed often attracts these innocent animals to your backyard which in turn attracts a coyote which is hungry.

As always, enjoy the outdoors, but always be aware of your surroundings and be safe!

How to Deal with Wolves

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!

Watch this video from the Business Insider to learn exactly what to do if you encounter a coyote in the neighborhood or in the wild:

While coyote and wolf attacks on humans are rare, you wouldn’t want to be in this stat. This guide should help you identify the differences between coyote vs wolf and of course help you deal if not avoid them!

Do you have any advice on how to deal with coyote vs wolf? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 27, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.