To the average person identifying between a coyote or a wolf will likely have an obvious outcome. A wolf is much bigger and howls much louder. Yes. That’s an interesting observation and correct I might add. But if you’re heading out into the state of Wisconsin to hunt coyotes, and think that tidbit of info is going to help you positively identify your target, good luck. No, better yet, keep reading. The truth is most people couldn’t tell the difference beyond size. But what happens when there are young wolves in the area and they’re moving – Fast – Right towards you? With an estimated wolf population over 800 animals and growing it pays you to know the difference between the two similar species.
Your best identification clue is indeed the size of the animal. If you think of any animal that is able to reach a larger proportion you would always recognize similar instances. Such as rounded ears. An adult wolf will appear as with rounded ears while the coyote will have the more pointed ears. Extra fur or muscle appearance around the neck area is another trait of the wolf and lacks on coyotes except in extreme growth cases which are very rare. Overall weight and length by the adults of the two species will always be evident.
You can expect a full grown wolf to be twice the size in wieght of the biggest coyote you will encounter and more likely 3 or even 4 times the size of many average coyotes. That is the extreme ends of the spectrum barring the over-sized wolf.
The height of the animals shoulder also tells a tale between the two. As expected the wolf with it’s larger size also sports a longer pair of legs. While the wolf measures in between 27″ and 33″ the coyote is seldom seen with a shoulder height over 2 feet. Again if the two extremes were to come together identification could be difficult.
Again with the animal’s size a mature wolf will reach a full body length between 5′ and 6′ while the coyote tops out before 4 1/2′ for the largest.
Another key factor that comes into play is the snout. As expected the wolf’s snout will look thicker around the muzzle area. The coyote will have a narrower snout which will make the area appear pointy in comparison.
When inspecting physical evidence such as tracks again, size makes the difference. If you find the tracks in the 3″ and 4″ range then you’re looking at wolves in the area. Coyotes seldom leave a track behind that reaches the 3″ level in length.
It’s probably best said that being sure of your target is the safest practice especially in areas where the coyote and wolf territories overlap.
You can discuss this information on our public coyote hunting forums or below in our comment area.