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What Is The Difference Between A Wolf And A Coyote?

Did you know that wolves and coyotes are very similar in appearance? Perhaps you saw one in your yard recently and you’re wondering which one it was. So, what is the difference between a wolf and a coyote? How can you tell them apart? Keep reading to find out more!

What are the Main Differences Between Wolves and Coyotes?

which is more aggressive wolf or coyote
Coyote

Wolves and coyotes are easy to confuse, especially if you know they both live in your region. They are both pack animals, and they are very similar in appearance.

So, what are the main differences between them? How can you tell them apart?

Size

Wolves are much larger than coyotes. Check out the video below for a great visual size comparison of the two predatory animals.

Face

Coyotes typically have larger, more pointed ears than wolves, and their snouts are longer and narrower. Wolves tend to have more rounded faces, while the faces of coyotes are more fox-like.

Vocalization

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, coyotes have shorter, more high-pitched howls than wolves. Coyotes’ calls also include more yipping and yapping noises, while wolves mostly howl, bark, and growl.

How Big are Coyotes Compared to Wolves?

As noted above, coyotes are much smaller and less powerfully built than wolves. Coyotes are usually about the size of medium to large dogs and may be mistaken for domesticated dogs, especially if seen from a distance.

On average, adult coyotes stand 21 to 24 inches to the shoulder, are 3 ½ to 4 ½ feet long, and weigh between 15 and 50 pounds. Wolves, on the other hand, stand 26 to 32 inches to the shoulder, are 4 ½ to 6 ½ feet long, and weigh between 70 and 150 pounds.

Wolf or Coyote: Which is More Aggressive?

Wolves are typically shy and prefer to avoid trouble, especially with humans or other predators. However, they can be extremely aggressive when hunting, defending their territory, or anytime they feel threatened.

In fact, they tend to be highly aggressive toward other canines in particular. It doesn’t matter whether the canines are domesticated or wild; wolves seem to see all dogs as threats. 

Once wolves have committed to the attack, they can be very aggressive, and their superior strength and power is a force to be reckoned with.

Coyotes can be fierce hunters, but they are not as aggressive as wolves. Often, they are more feared because they are mistaken for wolves, not because they are presenting an actual threat.

Coyotes can be scared off more easily than wolves, and they are not nearly as strong or powerful so they don’t pose as great of a threat most of the time. 

Of course, this isn’t to say they aren’t dangerous, as they certainly could cause injury and significant blood loss if they decide to attack. But, comparatively speaking, coyotes are generally less dangerous than wolves.

Wolf Vs. Coyote: Who Would Win?

wolf vs coyote who would win
Wolf

So, what if a wolf and a coyote decided to go up against each other, head to head? Which one would win?

Wolves are larger, more powerful, and more aggressive than coyotes. This gives them a significant advantage in a fight.

What’s more, wolves are more likely to attack coyotes based on the fact that they are in the canine family. Coyotes are more likely to try and avoid problems, which means they will always be on the defensive in a fight against wolves. 

Coyotes’ one advantage is that they can run slightly faster than wolves, and they can maintain their high speeds for longer than wolves can, so they may be able to outrun the wolves. 

But if taken by surprise and forced to fight a wolf, the coyote likely wouldn’t stand a chance. This is especially true if a lone coyote is attacked by a pack of wolves.

Do Wolves Get Along With Coyotes?

As mentioned, wolves tend to see all other canines as threats, and they have multiple advantages over coyotes in a fight. 

In most areas where coyotes and wolves coexist, the coyote population tends to diminish over time, largely because the coyotes are attacked and killed by wolves.

That said, wolves don’t always pick on coyotes. Sometimes they depend on them for survival.

In many areas, wolves are endangered and their numbers are down. In places where the wolf population is suffering, wolves may turn to coyotes for the answer. 

If there are no suitable mates among the wolves in the area, then the wolves may crossbreed with coyotes. This crossbreeding produces offspring sometimes known as “coywolves,” animals which grow up having characteristics of both wolves and coyotes.

What Do You Do if You See a Wolf or a Coyote?

Most of the time, you are much more likely to see a coyote than a wolf. Coyotes are less afraid of people and more widespread than wolves, and they sometimes live very close to urban areas.

Wolves are typically more aggressive than coyotes, but even coyotes can become aggressive if they are defending territory or young, or if they are desperate for food.

Whether you see a wolf or a coyote, your reaction should be similar. Follow these tips to protect yourself:

  • Make eye contact: Don’t engage in a staring contest with the animal, but let it know that you see it. Wolves and coyotes are less likely to attack if they know you are alert and keeping an eye on them.
  • Try to appear large: Don’t hunch over or try to hide. Instead, stand tall and try to appear confident; this will let the wolf or coyote know that you are a formidable opponent and will make them think twice about attacking.
  • Make noise: If the animal approaches you, attempt to scare it off by growling, yelling, clapping, or banging on anything you have handy that will make noise. Both wolves and coyotes are intimidated by loud and unfamiliar noises, and they may change their mind about getting close if you make a lot of noise.
  • Back away slowly: If the animal continues to approach, take careful, measured steps away from it. Do not turn your back on it or run away, as this will provoke it to chase you.
  • Climb a tree: If it is safe to do so, find a tree and climb into it, as the wolf or coyote will not be able to climb up after you. Again, make sure you face the animal at all times, make no sudden movements, and continue making noise to try and scare it away.

Conclusion

Wolves and coyotes are easy to confuse, but they have some key differences. 

If you were to see a wolf and a coyote standing next to each other, you would easily notice the size difference, as wolves are much larger than coyotes. Coyotes also have more slender faces, larger ears, and more high-pitched, yappy vocalizations.

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