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Fox Vs Coyote (7 Key Differences)

Foxes and coyotes belong to the same family known as Canidae, which also includes domesticated dogs. Because they are both members of the same biological family, it is only natural to assume they would share some of the same traits. But what are the differences between foxes and coyotes?

Let’s look at the fox vs coyote and learn the key differences between these two animals.

Fox Vs Coyote – 7 Differences

Foxes are small or medium-sized animals that are in the Canidae family. They are well-know for their reddish or rust-colored coat, although there are gray foxes that have a gray-colored coat with a brownish ting. They are a common sight in backyards and wooded areas in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and various parts of North America.

The coyote, on the other hand are found throughout North America. This canine is sometimes confused for a wolf, though it is smaller in size.

1. Body Size And Weight

Fox
Fox | Image by Alain Audet from Pixabay

The fox is typically much smaller in size than the coyote, and reaches heights of only about 20 inches, while the coyote can grow over 2 feet tall. Foxes also weigh less than coyotes, with an average weight of 5 to 25 pounds. This is about the same average weight of a domesticated house cat.

Coyotes generally weigh much more with an average weight of 15 to 50 pounds. Coyotes are just all around larger than the fox. Their legs are longer and their body is much more muscular.

2. Aggressiveness And Safety

Coyote looks at its prey
Coyote looks at its prey | Image by Melanie from Pixabay

Foxes are usually not considered a threat to you, your children or your pets. Foxes have a natural tendency to turn and run away rather than stay and fight.

They are not considered dangerous and rarely attack humans, unless they are rabid, which is not a common occurrence. According to the Palo Alto Humane Society, cases in which non-rabid foxes attacked humans, cats, and dogs have occurred because the fox was cornered and attacking to defend itself.

Coyotes, on the other hand, are known to sneak into residential neighborhoods and snatch up small dogs and cats to feast on. With that said, however, coyotes attacking humans is not common. That doesn’t mean you should try to pet a coyote if you come across one as it is still a wild animal and can attack if provoked or frightened.

3. Social Behavior

Foxes are solitary creatures that tend to stay by themselves, except during mating season. You typically don’t see a group of foxes running or playing together. Coyotes are much more social than foxes, living together with several other coyotes, some of which may or may not be from the same coyote family.

4. Where They Live

Gray Fox on the road
Gray Fox on the road | image by Don Owens via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Foxes live in dens, which are underground burrows that they have dug out in the ground. These burrows are connected by tunnels, which allow the fox to move from one place to another while staying underground. Not only do they sleep in these dens, but they also store their food in them as well.

Foxes make their homes in forested areas, as well as in grasslands, deserts, and mountains. Coyotes live in packs, sleeping above ground in mountains and forests. They can even make residential areas and cities their home.

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Coyotes often hide in raised grounds or open covered areas during the day. They make their dens in hollowed tree stumps or rock outcrops, but they can also turn an existing den that was created by another animal, such as raccoons, into their new home.

5. Coat Color And Tail

coyote pouncing on prey

Another difference between these two animals is their coat color. The fox’s coat comes in a wide array of colors, including reddish orange, gray, white, yellowish brown, and silver. The coyote’s coat is typically gray or reddish brown.

The tail is another dead giveaway on whether the animal you see is a fox or a coyote. Foxes have a long and distinctive bushy tail that can be almost half of its body length. The coyote’s tail is thinner than a fox’s, and looks more like a dog’s tail.

6. What They Eat

Fox eating meat
Fox eating meat | image by Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Foxes typically eat small prey, such as mice, moles, rats, voles, and rabbits. On occasion, they may prey on small kittens but this isn’t their ideal food source.

Coyotes can also consume the same type of prey as the fox, but they are more inclined to go after bigger prey as well, such as small dogs, deer, and livestock. Because they can and will prey on livestock, farmers and ranchers have deemed the coyote a destructive pest.

7. Sounds

Brown fox howling
Brown fox howling | Photo by Rajukhan Pathan via Pexels

Foxes and coyotes have wildly different vocalizations that can help someone distinguish between the two animals. Foxes have a more high-pitched yelping or whining sound, though they can sometimes howl.

Coyotes are known for wolf-like howls that can also include some barks and yelps. Coyotes sound more like a dog or a wolf than a fox does.