Can’t tell a fox and a coyote apart? Well, you are not alone. Both animals belong to the wild dog family, and it is easy to get confused. In addition, we only learn about wild animals from zoo visits, books, and pictures. This does not really prepare us to recognize a wild species roaming in our backyard.
Seeing the species in pictures does not give us a true understanding of their comparative heights, vocalizations, and body weight. Here is a list of key fox vs coyote differences so you can tell them apart.
The fox belongs to the family Canidae under the order Carnivora. They are small-to-medium sized and are very adaptive and versatile canines. Foxes can be found in deserts, forests, grasslands, and mountains. Often, foxes live in areas close to humans to avoid coyotes.
Foxes have characteristic features like a pointed nose, long and thin legs, a lithe frame, and a bushy tail. They are nocturnal animals, meaning they come out at night to hunt, and they are omnivorous, so they can feed on both vegetation and meat.
Foxes can measure between 45 and 70 cm long and weigh between 8 and 20 pounds. In the wild, foxes have an average lifespan of 6 to 7 years, while in captivity, they can live up to 12 years.
There are more than 10 species of foxes found all over the world, and the most common and recognized ones are the red fox and the gray fox. Both are prevalent in Canada, South and North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Red fox: The red fox is predominantly red with a white tail tip and white markings on its underside. It has dark brown or black “stockings” and black markings behind the ear tips. However, the markings can vary, and you cannot differentiate them solely based on this. Red foxes are long and slim and weigh around 8 to 13 pounds. However, as they have very thick fur, they may appear bulkier. Their tails are very long — they can be as long as their bodies!
Gray fox: Gray foxes are very similar in build to red foxes but are shorter and more muscular. They weigh between 7 and 10 pounds and have long tails like red foxes. The gray fox has gray fur on the face, back, and tail, and white and red-orange markings on the belly and chest. They can climb trees and even have camouflaging capabilities, which make them difficult to spot.
Just like foxes, coyotes also belong to the Canidae family. They can be considered the big brothers of foxes, as they are taller and heavier. They can weigh around 50 pounds and measure around 76 to 86 cm in length, and, unlike foxes, they hunt for bigger animals like deer.
However, they also hunt for reptiles and rabbits, which overlap with the diet of the foxes. They are primarily carnivores but can also feed on berries, fruits, and insects.
They have bigger bodies, but the tails are smaller. There are around 19 species of coyotes, and their color depends on the location they live in. They mostly have black, gray, white, or red-colored fur and characteristic triangular-shaped ears. Their snouts are long and thin, and their tails are bushy and have a black tip.
Like the fox, coyotes can adapt to various environments and have a lifespan of around 6–8 years.
Fox Vs Coyote: 6 Differences
Now that we have understood what a fox and a coyote are, let’s compare the animals to find out the key points of difference that help with the fox vs coyote distinction.
One can tell the difference between a fox and a coyote just by looking at them.
Foxes typically have white, black, tan, gray, and orange fur colors. They have small faces, pointy ears, and narrow muzzles. They have long and bushy tails that are almost the same length as the body. When the fox runs, the tail can hang in the air and not touch the ground.
The fur of coyotes is mostly white, cinnamon, rusty, brown, or gray. Their faces are larger, and their muzzles are wider. They, too, have pointy ears but not as pointy as that of a fox. The tails of coyotes are not as long as their bodies. They are also not very bushy and hang down when the animal runs.
2. Body Size
Foxes are smaller; they stand 14 to 20 inches tall and measure 1.5 to 3 feet long. A fox weighs between 10 and 15 pounds on average.
Coyotes are larger. They are roughly 3.5 to 4.5 feet long, with a height of about 24 inches. Coyotes weigh around 50 pounds.
As the fox is a small animal, it mostly hunts other small prey like lizards, rabbits, reptiles, snakes, and other small mammals. Also, they are nocturnal and mostly hunt during the night.
Coyotes are larger; even though they prey on large animals like deer, they also feed on small animals. They have an overlapping diet and are known to steal food from the fox’s den. Coyotes hunt during the day.
4. Living Arrangements and Social Behavior
The fox is a solitary animal and will only seek company during the mating season. However, it may sometimes share its territory with immediate family members.
The coyote may not be as social as a wolf, but it is still much more social than a fox. They live in packs with family and non-family members.
Foxes are not very local. At the most, they may make high-pitched yelping or whining sounds, nothing like a dog or a wolf.
Coyotes are very vocal. They make wolf-like howls and other noises, like barks, yelps, and yips.
Coyotes, wolves, and all other large carnivores are foxes’ adversaries. Wolves, lions, bears, tigers, and humans all prey on coyotes.