difference between a coyote and a wolf

Understanding the Differences Between Coyotes and Wolves

Physical Characteristics

Coyotes and wolves may both belong to the Canidae family, but they have distinct physical differences. Coyotes are usually smaller, measuring about 1-2 feet tall and weighing around 20-35 pounds. On the other hand, wolves are larger, standing at 2-3.5 feet tall and weighing between 50-175 pounds. Wolves have a broader skull and muzzle, while coyotes have a more slender frame and narrow face. Additionally, wolves usually have longer and thicker fur, which is primarily brown, gray, or black. In contrast, coyotes’ fur is shorter and sparser, and they are usually shades of brown, gray, or white.

Behavioral Characteristics

Coyotes and wolves are also distinct in their behavioral characteristics. Coyotes are generally more adaptable and have a broader dietary range. They can thrive in rural, urban, and suburban areas, and are known to scavenge on human waste and prey on smaller animals. Wolves, on the other hand, are less adaptable and depend on hunting as their primary source of food. They typically live in packs and have a clear hierarchy of dominant and submissive individuals. Wolves are also more vocal and have well-organized communication, while coyotes usually make short, high-pitched yelps.

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Distribution and Habitat

Coyotes are found throughout North and Central America, while wolves have a more limited range. Wolves once had a more extensive territory, but their population has decreased due to habitat destruction and hunting. Today, they are only found in specific regions in North America, Europe, and Asia. Wolves usually inhabit remote areas with dense forests, while coyotes are more adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats, including prairies, deserts, and forests.


In conclusion, while coyotes and wolves may seem similar at first glance, they have significant differences in their physical appearance, behavior, and habitat. Understanding these differences is crucial when dealing with wildlife management issues, as it helps create more effective and targeted strategies for their conservation and management.

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Table difference between a coyote and a wolf

Characteristic Coyote Wolf
Size Smaller Larger
Weight Up to 55 lbs. Up to 110 lbs.
Coat color Mostly grayish-brown with black markings Gray, black, or white with few markings
Habitat Urban and rural areas Forest, tundra, and prairie areas
Diet Small mammals, insects, fruits, and carrion Large mammals like elk and moose, and smaller prey
Social behavior Solitary, but may form pairs or packs in some areas Lives in packs with a strict dominance hierarchy