Basic Identification: Wolf vs. Coyote

Most people who don’t get the opportunity to take an animal identification course to help them properly identify wildlife species.  This lack of education often results in false identification of wolves and coyotes.

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are 28-31 inches long, with a 12-16 inch tail.  They stand 21-24 inches in height at the shoulder.  Coyotes also weigh between 20-50 pounds.  Coyotes all look fairly similar with their grayish brown coloration.

Coyotes are opportunistic feeders.  They usually feed on small mammals, but will also prey on birds, lizards, javalina, goats, sheep, cattle and deer.  Coyotes target newborn cattle and deer more than the adults.  Coyotes will hunt in packs, but these packs are smaller than wolf packs.

File:Coyote by Rebecca Richardson.jpg

Gray Wolves (Canis lupus) are 35-52 inches long, with a 14-20 inch tail.  They stand 28-31 inches in height at the shoulder.  Gray Wolves weight between 60-154 pounds.  Wolves come in a variety of different colors ranging from white to black.

Gray wolves are large enough that as a pack they are capable of hunting and killing mammals that are much larger than they are. These types of wildlife can include deer, elk, moose, caribou and bison.

Notice the color differences and the size of the wolves around the bison in the photograph below.

File:Canis lupus pack surrounding Bison.jpg

File:Kolmården Wolf.jpg

Coyotes have longer ears and smaller feet; whereas, wolves have shorter ears and larger feet.

Using the length, height and weights outlined above it is easy to realize that wolves are much larger than coyotes.  When it come to weight the largest adult coyote will be almost always be smaller than the lightest adult wolf.

If you are looking for a good identification field guide for mammals I would recommend the Peterson Field Guide (this where I took my information from to write this post). My pictures came from Wikipedia.


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