Coyote vs Wolf

Wolves vs. Coyotes

Often mistaken for each other, coyotes and wolves share several similar characteristics, but their differences are even more notable if one makes the slight effort to see them. While their coats are similar in appearance, they both communicate through vocalizations and body language, and are social animals; they differ even in those aspects as well as those including what they eat, social structure, and adaptability.


Gray Wolves


  • Wolves range between 65-120 lbs

  • Average height at shoulder = 26-32 inches

  • Muzzle is large and squared

  • Ears are relatively smaller and rounded

  • Coats usually have more grays

  • Coyotes range an average of 28-35 lbs (Eastern Coyotes may range into the higher 40s)

  • Average height at shoulder = 21-24 inches

  • Muzzle is small and “pointed”

  • Ears are large and pointed

  • Coat has more browns/gold variations


Gray Wolves


  • Territory range 50-1000 square miles

  • Habitat usually consists of Forest and Tundra. Areas of extensive wilderness at present due to lack of adaptability to close human settlement.

  • Territory Range from 2.5 sq miles in Urban setting to over 25 square miles in non Urban setting.

  • Can survive in variety of habitats including woodlands, arctic zones, desert, and close to human development.


Gray Wolves


  • Limited variation in vocalizations. Howling has been often described as long, lonesome, and hollow sounding. Wolf howls usually lack notable change in tone/pitch.

  • Barking is limited to alerting of “danger”

  • Wider variation in body language/facial expression. It is often expressive and easily documented by observers.

  • Wide variation in vocalizations. Howling often described as a combination of near operatic “happy” yet short barks and yip-howls. Howling is rich of pitch and tone.

  • Barking is a commonly used vocalization.

  • Body language/facial expressions less expressive and more difficult to document by observers

Social Structure

Gray Wolves


  • Tend to live in cohesive packs ranging from 5 animals to near 20 (average 5-7).

  • Young stay with family groups for several years. If they disperse, usually after they are fully mature.

  • Pack active in assistance of pup raising

  • Female relies on entire pack to bring food for continued survival of herself and her puppies.

  • Wolves seem to thrive only in a cohesive pack, and lone wolves are less common.

  • Live in small family groups usually consisting of a mated pair and possibly one other from previous litter.

  • Young normally disperse to find own territories at approximately 10 months of age.

  • Both parents active in raising of pups. Possibly assistance with one pup from previous season.

  • Female depends on male for food following birthing for survival

  • Depending on conditions/geographical location, a coyote can be a member of a cohesive pack or a small family unit due to high levels of adaptability


Gray Wolves


  • Hunt in packs to bring down larger prey.

  • Diet primarily large ungulates such as deer, elk, bison, etc.

  • Not adaptable in surviving with a supplemental diet of grains, fruits, and vegetables as well as an overall inability to subsist on a steady diet of smaller prey.

  • Usually solitary hunters bringing down smaller prey.

  • Where lacking in competition from wolves and other large predators, coyotes can and have adapted to hunting in packs to bring down larger prey, however, rarely in the form of something as large as elk or bison.

  • Diet primarily small animals such as rats, mice, voles, rabbit, etc.

  • Can survive on a more multifarious diet supplemented with fruits, vegetables, and grains

Adaptability/Predator Control

Gray Wolves


  • Due to lack of adaptability, predator control efforts were effective in systematically exterminating wolves from the majority of the U.S. They required human intervention to make a slight comeback where they thrive under protection.

  • High levels of adaptability and compensatory rebound has foiled all attempts by the US government as well as hunters/trappers to eradicate coyotes from any part of the country. Instead, they have expanded their ranges to fill the niche left void by the disappearance of the gray wolf