side by side images of coyote and fox

Coyote vs. Fox: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve ever seen a coyote and fox side-by-side, they look similar. But some crucial differences between these two species set them apart. They have different diets, sizes, behaviors, and habitats that help distinguish one from the other.

In this article, we’ll dive into the captivating world of coyotes and foxes, unraveling their physical distinctions and shedding light on what makes each of them truly remarkable.

Key Pest Points:

•  Coyotes are larger and more adaptable, inhabiting grasslands, forests, and even urban environments, while foxes prefer woodlands, fields, and rural/suburban areas.
•  A coyote exhibits social behaviors, while foxes are primarily solitary animals.

Physical Characteristics

When it comes to physical appearances, coyotes and foxes display distinct features that help distinguish one from the other. Let’s take a closer look:

A coyote resting in the forest

Coyote Appearance

Coyotes have unique characteristics that set them apart from other foxes. Here are some of their most recognizable features that will help you understand what does a coyote look like:

  • Ears and tail characteristics: Coyotes have pointed ears that stand erect, giving them a keen sense of hearing. Their bushy tails are typically carried downwards and may have a black tip.

These features help to differentiate coyotes from other canines and easily spot them in the wild.

A Trans-Caucasian fox resting on the grass looking aside.

Fox Appearance

Foxes are smaller than coyotes and have unique physical features that make them easier to identify. Here’s a glimpse of what makes them unique and to help you understand what does a fox look like:

  • Fur color and texture: Foxes exhibit various fur colors, including red, gray, silver, and white. Their fur is typically soft and fluffy, providing excellent insulation.
  • Ears and tail characteristics: Foxes have distinctive, triangular-shaped ears that sit atop their heads. Their long, bushy tails are often held horizontally and can be quite eye-catching.

These characteristics help foxes blend in with their surroundings, making hunting and surviving in the wild easier.

Contrasting Physical Characteristics

While coyotes and foxes belong to the same family (Canidae), their physical traits reflect their unique adaptations to different environments. Coyotes’ larger size and robust build are well-suited for traversing diverse habitats, while foxes’ smaller stature and elegant features allow them to navigate through narrower spaces with agility.

Although coyotes and foxes may share certain resemblances, their varying physical characteristics provide valuable clues about their lifestyles and habitats.

Habitat and Range

When it comes to habitat preferences, coyotes and foxes, each have their own favored environments. Let’s explore where you’re likely to find these charismatic canines.

Coyote Habitat

Coyotes are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, showcasing their incredible resilience. Here are some of the typical habitats they inhabit:

  • Grasslands: Coyotes are skilled hunters and have adapted well to open grasslands, where they can find an abundance of prey like rabbits, voles, and ground-nesting birds.
  • Forested areas: Despite their association with open spaces, coyotes can also thrive in forested regions. They use forest edges and clearings, utilizing their excellent tracking skills to chase down prey such as deer and small mammals.
  • Urban environments: In recent years, coyotes have demonstrated adaptability by expanding their territories into urban areas. They have learned to navigate neighborhoods and green spaces, capitalizing on abundant food sources like rodents and discarded human waste.

Coyotes can spread their populations across the North American continent by surviving in a wide range of habitats.

Red fox kit looking to see if its safe to come out of its den.

Foxes Habitat

On the other hand, Foxes have their own habitat preferences that suit their unique hunting and nesting requirements. Here are the preferred habitats of these cunning canids:

  • Woodlands: Foxes thrive in wooded areas, utilizing the cover of trees and brush to conceal themselves while hunting. Woodlands provide them access to small mammals, birds, and insects and secure den sites for raising their young.
  • Fields and meadows: Open fields and meadows serve as prime hunting grounds for foxes. Here, they can find an array of small mammals, such as mice, voles, and rabbits, which form a significant portion of their diet.
  • Rural and suburban areas: Foxes have shown an impressive ability to adapt to human-altered landscapes. They often take advantage of rural and suburban areas with natural habitats and human activities. These environments provide them with food sources like poultry, garbage, and pet food.

Coyotes and foxes have successfully carved out their niches in the natural world by occupying distinct habitats. Their ability to adapt to a range of environments showcases their remarkable survival skills and resourcefulness.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Now that we have covered their habitats let’s delve into the appetites of coyotes and foxes. These canines have similar dietary preferences and feeding habits that reflect their adaptability to various food sources.

Foxes and coyotes are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they have a diverse diet that includes animal and plant matter. Here’s a breakdown of their dietary preferences:

  • Small mammals: Coyotes and foxes are skilled predators and have a penchant for small mammals. They will eagerly hunt down rodents like mice, voles, and rabbits, which provide them with a substantial source of protein.
  • Birds: Feathered friends are also on the menu for coyotes and foxes. They are adept at catching and consuming birds, particularly ground-nesting species like quails and turkeys.
  • Insects and fruits as supplements: While meat makes up most of their diets, coyotes and foxes supplement their meals with insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles. Additionally, they may consume fruits, berries, and even carrion when available.

Both coyotes and foxes showcase remarkable adaptability in their feeding habits, capitalizing on the available food sources in their respective habitats. Their ability to thrive on various prey items contributes to their success as resilient predators.

Behavior and Communication

Regarding behavior and communication, coyotes and foxes exhibit fascinating differences contributing to their unique lifestyles. Let’s explore these aspects further:

Social Structure

Understanding coyote foxes’ social dynamics is necessary for deciphering their behavior and communication signals.

Coyote Social Dynamics

Coyotes are known for their adaptable social structure. They exhibit social behaviors and will form family groups. However, they will usually hunt and travel alone or in pairs.

Fox Social Dynamics

In comparison, foxes have a more hierarchical social system. They are also typically solitary hunters but will form pairs during the mating season and sometimes live together.

These candids are fascinating creatures and adapted to live in a variety of habitats. Their diverse diet reflects their adaptability to various food sources, and their behavior and communication patterns are fascinatingly different.

Hunting Techniques and Strategies

Coyotes and foxes both use ingenious strategies to hunt and capture their prey. Let’s take a closer look at their hunting techniques:

Coyote running with muskrat in its mouth

Coyote Hunting Skills

Coyotes are highly skilled hunters, employing various hunting techniques depending on their prey. They use a combination of stalking, chasing, and pouncing to capture small mammals and birds.

Fox Hunting Skills

Foxes exhibit a more opportunistic hunting style. They rely on their stealth and agility to silently approach their prey before launching a quick attack. Their hunting techniques often involve stalking and pouncing on small mammals and birds.

Both coyotes and foxes demonstrate impressive hunting techniques that support their success as successful hunters. Their varied hunting strategies are a testament to their adaptivity and creativity in the wild.

How To Prevent Coyotes and Foxes From Invading Your Yard

While coyotes and foxes play vital roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems, it’s understandable that you may want to prevent them from encroaching on your property. Here are some effective measures you can take to discourage their presence:

  • Secure Your Property: Install sturdy fencing around your yard, ensuring it extends at least six feet underground to prevent digging. You can also seal gaps or openings in existing fences to deny them access to your property.
  • Remove Attractants: Eliminate potential food sources by securely storing garbage in animal-proof containers. Also, avoid leaving pet food or birdseed outdoors, as these can entice coyotes and foxes—finally, clear fallen fruits, as they can attract wildlife.
  • Limit Access to Shelter: Seal off potential den sites, such as crawl spaces or areas beneath decks, sheds, or porches. Then, trim vegetation near structures to reduce hiding spots.
  • Maintain Outdoor Areas: Keep yards well-lit, as coyotes and foxes are more likely to avoid well-lit areas. Then, store firewood and other items off the ground and away from structures.
  • Use Deterrents: Install motion-activated sprinkler systems to startle and deter coyotes and foxes. Also, utilize noise-making devices, like air horns or whistles, to create loud and unexpected sounds when you spot them. You can also consider using scent deterrents that mimic the scent of predators or prey.
  • Be Mindful of Pets: Supervise pets outdoors, especially during dawn and dusk when coyotes and foxes are more active. Keep dogs leashed if walking and avoid areas with a high coyote or fox activity.

It’s essential to remember that preventing coyotes and foxes from entering your yard requires consistent efforts. By implementing these preventive measures, you can minimize the chances of encounters and promote coexistence between humans and wildlife.


Is a coyote stronger than a fox?

Coyotes tend to be larger than foxes and have stronger jaws, making them more powerful hunters.

Are coyotes and foxes related?

Coyotes and foxes are both members of the Canidae family but belong to different genera. Coyotes are members of the genus Canis, while foxes belong to either Vulpes or Urocyon genera.

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