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Fox vs Coyote – 5 Key Differences

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key point:

  • Coyotes are wild canids, while foxes belong to the genus Vulpes , which contains fewer species.
  • Foxes vary in color, shape and size, while coyotes are generally uniform in appearance.
  • In general, coyotes are larger and more muscular than foxes.

If you've ever caught a glimpse of a wild canid wandering around your neighborhood, chances are it's a fox or, depending on where you live, a coyote. The coyote is a special species of wild canid in the canid family; it is closely related to wolves, dogs, and jackals. A fox, on the other hand, is defined as any species in several different genera, including Vulpes, Lycalopex , and Urocyon .

wild fox stalking prey
Red foxes have five toes on their front paws, but only four on their back paws!

© Jackie Connelly-Fornuff/Shutterstock.com

Coyotes are fairly uniform in shape and color, while foxes have a much greater degree of body variation. These varieties include everything from the all-white arctic fox to the desert-dwelling large-eared fennec fox.

Anyone with sharp eyes should be able to easily tell the difference between a fox and a coyote. You just need to know which features to pay attention to.

Five Cool Facts About Fox vs Coyote

Both foxes and coyotes are members of the canine family, but despite some similarities, they have many unique characteristics that set them apart.

Here are five cool facts about foxes and coyotes:

  1. Coyotes are wild canids while foxes belong to the genus Vulpes.
  2. Coyotes are bigger and taller than foxes.
  3. Both foxes and coyotes have non-retractable claws that are perfect for their hunting and survival needs.
  4. Both foxes and coyotes are skilled hunters, but they have different strategies. Foxes are opportunistic predators that eat a variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, and insects. Coyotes, on the other hand, are more specialized and prefer to hunt larger prey such as deer and rabbits.
  5. Foxes are known for their intelligence and problem-solving abilities. They have been observed using tools such as pushing snowballs down hills to distract and catch prey. Coyotes are also smart and adaptable, but not like foxes.
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Comparing Fox and Coyote

Here is a quick breakdown of the key differences between foxes and coyotes.

fox Coyotes
length 1 to 3 feet (5 feet including tail) 3 to 4.5 feet (over 5 feet including tail)
weight 2 to 30 lbs. (1 to 14 kg) 15 to 50 lbs. (7 to 23 kg)
color Red, gray, brown, black, white, silver, etc. reddish brown or gray
distribute worldwide North America
Body Long body, short legs, large ears relative to body size Muscular body, shorter legs and ears relative to overall size

5 Key Differences Between Foxes and Coyotes

How does a layman with no special wildlife training tell the difference between a fox and a coyote? Location is usually the easiest method. If you live outside of North America, you will almost certainly be dealing with foxes, since coyotes have a limited range. But if you live in North America, identification gets trickier. You can usually rely on these five basic physical characteristics or behaviors to tell the difference.

Fox vs Coyote: Size

Due to their wolf-like genetics, coyotes are on average much larger and more muscular than foxes. It is usually more than 3 feet long and 2 feet tall. Even the largest fox, the red fox, can't quite reach the size of an adult coyote. Its body is less than 3 feet long and less than 20 inches tall. Foxes also have much shorter legs and a more tubular body. Many fox breeds are not much larger than a typical house cat, although thick fur often makes them appear larger than they are.

Fox vs Coyote: Coat Color

Coyotes are usually various shades of gray with flecks of red on the sides. In foxes, by contrast, coat color always varies by species. The most common coat colors are red, gray, silver and yellowish brown.

While you might think that red foxes are easily identifiable by their rusty red coat color, you should keep in mind that this species also comes in several different color morphs, including gray, silver, and dark brown. The gray variants of red foxes and gray foxes (an entirely different species than red foxes) are probably the most easily mistaken for coyotes.

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Fox vs Coyote: Tails

Foxes have a long, bushy tail that is almost as long as the body itself. It is sometimes covered with a white or black tip. You may notice that when a fox is running, its tail has a tendency to hang in the air. A coyote's tail is short for its body size and tends to hang down when the coyote is running. It's also not as bushy as a fox tail.

Fox vs Coyote: Living Arrangements and Social Behavior

While not as social and gregarious as wolves, coyotes are pack animals, living with several other family members and sometimes even non-family members. Mating season is the only time coyotes voluntarily use the den.

Otherwise, they sleep and rest on the ground. Foxes, by contrast, are solitary animals outside of the breeding season, sometimes sharing territory with their immediate family. It lives in dens or burrows with a network of tunnels and well-defined rooms.

Fox vs Coyote: Voices

Coyotes are among the most vocal of all the wild canids in the world. They can be identified by their long, mournful, wolf-like howls, which rise and fall in pitch and are sometimes mixed with barks, barks, and barks. Foxes, by contrast, do make some howls, but are most easily identified by a high-pitched whine or call. They sound nothing like wolves or dogs.

Do coyotes hunt in packs?
Do coyotes hunt in packs?

©iStock.com/GatorDawg

Fox vs Coyote: Lifespan

Fox and coyote lifespans can vary based on a number of factors, including species, habitat, and overall health. In general, foxes have a shorter lifespan than coyotes, with most foxes only living 2-4 years in the wild and up to 14 years in captivity, while coyotes can live up to 14 years in the wild and up to 10 years in captivity. live 15 years.

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It's worth noting, however, that both foxes and coyotes face a myriad of threats in the wild, including predators, disease, and human activity, which can affect their overall lifespan.

Jackal: Fox/coyote offspring?

If you've ever seen a jackal, or even seen a picture of one, you know that these animals look a lot like the offspring of a coyote and a fox. However, jackals are not the product of a mating of these two animals, and they are not the same as foxes or coyotes. Among canids, jackals are closely related to coyotes. Coyotes live in North and Central America, while jackals make their homes throughout the Old World.

Summary: The Fox and the Coyote

feature fox Coyotes
body size 3 feet long
20 Tall Short Legged, Tubular Body
3 feet long
2 feet tall with long legs like a dog
coat color Red, gray, white, silver, yellow brown Various grays with some red on the hind legs
Tail Fox with long bushy tail runs behind Shorter tail coyote hangs when running
Behavior Dens/burrows where solitary may share territory with immediate family except during breeding season Dens when packing animals for mating with family and non-family
vocalize Howl, whine, scream Different kinds

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fox vs coyote
fox vs coyote

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about the author

Heather Hall


I'm a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by nature. When I do my daily runs, I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I have two dogs that take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

How do you tell the difference between a fox and a coyote?

The easiest way to identify them is their size and body shape. Coyotes are larger in size with longer legs, a more developed body and a thinner tail. In comparison, foxes have shorter legs, smaller bodies, and bushy tails. It also exhibits a wider range of coat colors, including white, silver, gray, yellowish brown, and an intense orange-red coat. In terms of their behavior, foxes are more solitary. They tend to live in dens more often and emit a high-pitched bark. Finally, location is a good indicator if all else fails. Coyotes do not live outside of North America.

Which is heavier, the fox or the coyote?

Coyotes are much heavier than foxes. A typical coyote weighs up to 50 pounds. The heaviest known specimen weighed about 75 pounds. In comparison, most foxes weigh between 10 and 20 pounds. The heaviest known fox weighed about 38 pounds.

How do you tell the difference between fox poop and coyote poop?

Coyote droppings are usually large, smooth, and may taper at one end. It may also contain small bone fragments or hair from larger prey.

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