Comparing Coyotes and Wolves

Nevada isn’t typically known for having wolves but, on occasion, one will take a stroll through the state. In 2017, for instance, a male member of California’s Shasta pack was confirmed to have wandered into Nevada. Do you know how to tell the difference between a Gray wolf and a coyote, should you encounter one in the wild? In some cases, it may be fairly obvious. In others, not so much. What are some of the key differences that you’ll want to be aware of?

In general, Gray wolves are significantly larger than coyotes. While coyotes usually weigh between 15-50 pounds, these wolves significantly outweigh them. Adults can range anywhere between 70 and 150 pounds. The ears are another dead giveaway! Coyotes have much larger ears relative to the size of their heads. Plus, their ears are taller and pointed, whereas a wolf’s ears are going to be shorter and rounded. Wolves are also much longer than coyotes, ranging from 4.5 feet to 6.5 feet from nose to the tips of their tails. At their longest, coyotes will reach 4.5 feet from nose to tail. Coat colors can be similar with coyotes being gray to a reddish brown and wolves mainly being a grizzled gray. Wolves have a lot more color variation within their coats, too!

That’s not to say that it’s not easy to confuse the two! Come mid-summer and fall, wolf pups can closely resemble coyotes. As their coats can be similar, and since the pups aren’t yet fully developed, it can be incredibly difficult to distinguish the two.

Either way, should you see a coyote or, in the unlikely event that you see a wolf, you should savor the experience! We’re very fortunate to have some amazing wildlife in Nevada!

Denise Peterson

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