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10 Species of Wild Canines in North America

There are 35 canine species known worldwide, with some of them found in North America. Wild canines in North America are a diverse group of animals that includes foxes, wolves, and coyotes. These species are all members of the Canidae family, which also includes domestic dogs.

This article will discuss the ten species of canids found on this continent, as well as the characteristics that distinguish them from one another.

10 Wild canines in North America

1. Gray Wolves

Gray Wolf
Grey Wolf | Image by keyouest from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Canis lupus

Gray wolves are one of the most recognizable and powerful predators on the planet. In fact, they’re much larger than most other canids, with males weighing up to 145 pounds and females weighing around 100 pounds.

These wolves can be found all over North America, preferring to live in forests, mountains, grasslands, and deserts. When possible, they avoid human contact and even avoid buildings and roads where humans are commonly found. Gray wolves are carnivores, which means they eat the meat of large animals like deer, elk, and bison.

2. Coyotes

Coyotes 
Coyote | Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Canis latrans

Coyotes are medium-sized canids that live in the wild. They’re native to North America, with a range that extends through Canada and the United States.

Coyotes are highly adaptable animals that have colonized previously uninhabited areas. Coyotes have also been introduced to Europe and South America.

Coyote fur colors range from grayish brown to silver gray or black, depending on the region. The ears of coyotes are large and pointed, even larger than those of wolves.

They can detect sounds from a mile away and even hear high-pitched sounds because of this. Their diet consists primarily of plants and small animals.

3. Arctic Fox

Arctic foxes
Arctic foxes David Mark from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Vulpes lagopus

There are many species of canids, but the Arctic fox is a unique species that live in the arctic regions of the world. The Arctic fox is distinguished by its distinct coat, which is also the warmest among all mammals. They have a dense undercoat that keeps them warm all the time.

Their fur can also be white or blue, depending on the species. These animals prefer coastal areas, pack ice, and have even been spotted in Canada’s boreal forests. They primarily feed on lemmings and voles, which are small rodents that live underground in burrows.

4. Domestic Dogs

Domestic dog on sea shore
Domestic dog on sea shore | image by Eran Finkle via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Canis lupus familiaris

Dogs are the most common domestic canid animal on the planet. They’re a subspecies of the gray wolf, which is native to North America. Dogs have similar behaviors and physical characteristics to their wild counterparts, but their interactions with humans have caused them to evolve over time.

Domestic dogs, unlike wolves, actively seek out human contact and form bonds with humans, allowing them to coexist with us without being considered truly wild animals. They’re now found all over the world, with many different breeds existing depending on the climate.

5. Gray Fox

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

Scientific Name: Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Gray foxes are small canids with grey coats and short legs. They’re commonly found in brushy woodland areas of North America, specifically from southern Canada to Venezuela and Columbia.

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They’re solitary animals, except during mating season, when they may hunt in pairs or small groups. Males become aggressive during this season, and they, like dogs, have scent glands in their anus that they use to attract mates. Gray foxes have retractable claws that allow them to climb trees to avoid predators that are nearby.

6. Red Wolf

Red wolf at the zoo
Red wolf at the zoo | image by Brandon Trentler via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Canis rufus

Red wolves are one of the world’s most endangered species. They have a reddish coat and the build of a small gray wolf. These animals are native to North America and are now found only in North Carolina.

They can be found in a variety of habitats, including swamps, forests, and wetlands. Small mammals such as rabbits, deer mice, cottontail rabbits, raccoons, and squirrels make up the majority of a red wolf’s diet. They’ll also consume birds and white-tailed deer that are seen in their habitat.

7. Swift Fox

Swift fox in the field
Swift fox in the field | image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific Name: Vulpes velox

Swift foxes are canids that live in dens for mating, pup care, and protection. They have a diverse range of habitats across the Great Plains of the United States and western Canada, but they prefer prairies and dry grasslands with fewer trees than forests.

They spend the day in underground dens and hunt for food at night by catching small mammals or eating berries and grasses. Swift foxes are very small and only weigh 50 cm, very much like the size of a house cat.

8. Kit Fox

kit fox
kit fox | credit: Bureau of Land Management – Utah

Scientific Name: Vulpes macrotis

The kit fox is known to be the smallest fox species in North America. They’re yellowish to gray in color and smaller in size than a house cat. These animals primarily feed on rodents, rabbits, dead animals, and occasionally fruits that are abundant in their environment.

They’re also opportunistic hunters, which means they’ll consume whatever prey is available and easily accessible to them at any given time. Kit foxes live in desert scrubs, chaparrals, and grasslands in the southwestern United States and northern and central Mexico.

9. Eastern wolf

Eastern wolf in the forest
Eastern wolf in the forest | image by Michael Runtz via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Canis lycaon

The Eastern wolf is a canid that was previously classified as a subspecies of the gray wolf but is now considered a separate species. You can find it from eastern Canada to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

These animals can grow to be 25 to 36 inches tall and weigh 50 to 60 pounds. Their coat is grayish brown with cream chests and flanks. Eastern Wolves are social animals that live in family packs of three to six individuals.

The Eastern wolf’s diet is primarily composed of large mammals such as elk, moose, and deer. They have also been observed consuming beavers, mice, and muskrats.

10. Island Fox

Island fox by Caleb Putnam
Island fox by Caleb Putnam

Scientific Name: Urocyon littoralis

The Island Fox is the smallest canid in North America, reaching up to 18 inches in length. They can only be found on six islands in the Southern California bight.

These foxes have rusty-colored sides and gray coats on their backs. They’re also one of the canid species that have been domesticated as pets or for pest control. Island Foxes primarily consume rodents, birds, and arthropods but will occasionally consume fruits.

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They’re solitary animals that are active during the day. Like dogs, they’re not afraid of humans and exhibit affectionate and playful behavior.