The Difference Between Coyotes & Wolvesby Dennis Matherly on 11/17/18
Our area is a natural habitat for a number of wild critters, including both coyotes and wolves. While you wouldn't want to encounter either one unexpectedly, it's helpful to recognize the differences between them.
Coyotes are smaller than wolves and typically have a thick, bushy tail that they hold low toward the ground. You're more likely to encounter a solo coyote or a pair of coyotes as they are not known to travel or hunt in larger groups, such as packs. Coyotes have noticeably smaller, thinner legs than wolves. Coyotes are usually shy with humans but are more adaptable and more likely to get used to human presence faster than wolves. Coyotes also have a high-pitched yelp-sounding "howl" that more resembles a dog bark than a wolf's howl.
Coyotes prey on smaller animals, including mice, rats, rabbits and other rodents. They are also opportunistic scavengers and will take advantage of any road kill or other dead animal they encounter. If you have pet birds or poultry outdoors, coyotes will take advantage of the easy catch, if you don't have the animals secured. Coyotes have also been known to snatch small dogs and cats when hunting for food. When hunting a larger animal, such as a deer, coyotes typically hunt in pairs.
Wolves are larger in size and typically at least double the weight of coyotes. Wolves travel, live and hunt in packs. It is rare to see a wolf by itself without pack members nearby. They are also shy and secretive where humans are concerned and because of their pack, are less likely to get used to or approach humans, in most cases. Wolves use scent marking to carve out territories and secure hunting areas for their pack. Wolves communicate with the well-known howling sound. They also howl to attract mates or alert pack members to danger.
Wolves tend to prey on larger animals that can feed more members of their pack. Typical prey for wolves can include deer, sheep, goats, moose and elk. Wolves hunt in large groups called packs and work together to isolate and kill their prey. While wolves are less likely to attack poultry or pets, any animal left unprotected is vulnerable to becoming prey for wolves or any other wildlife looking for an easy meal.
Wolves and coyotes are both native to our area. In most cases, both will keep their distance from humans. However, if you do have pets or poultry that live outdoors, keeping them secure and protected is the best defense against a hungry predator of any kind.