fox vs coyote

Fox Vs. Coyote Comparison

The article explores the distinctions between foxes and coyotes, two closely related canid species. It delves into their size, skull size, scat size, weight, behavior, diet, geographic range, and preferred habitats, highlighting the unique characteristics that set them apart.

Foxes, belonging to the genus Vulpes and the species Vulpes vulpes, are about two times smaller than coyotes, which belong to the genus Canis and the species Canis latrans.

By providing an in-depth analysis, this article aims to shed light on the fascinating differences between these canid species.

Key Takeaways

  • Foxes and coyotes belong to the same family, Canidae, but they are different species.
  • Coyotes are larger and heavier than foxes, with longer bodies, skulls, and scat.
  • Coyotes have larger paws and faster running speeds compared to foxes.
  • Coyotes have a stronger bite force and are more social, while foxes are more solitary and have a diverse diet.


There are two main species within the Canidae family: the red fox, classified as Vulpes vulpes, and the coyote, classified as Canis latrans.

In terms of evolutionary history, both the red fox and the coyote have undergone divergent paths that have led to their distinct species classification. Taxonomically, the red fox belongs to the genus Vulpes, which includes other fox species such as the Arctic fox and the kit fox. On the other hand, the coyote belongs to the genus Canis, which includes other canid species such as the gray wolf and the domestic dog.

Phylogenetically, both the red fox and the coyote share a common ancestor but have developed unique characteristics and adaptations that have allowed them to occupy different ecological niches.

Understanding the classification of these species provides valuable insight into their evolutionary relationships and ecological roles within the Canidae family.


Foxes and coyotes differ in size. Foxes, specifically red foxes, have body lengths between 1.8 and 2.8 feet. Coyotes, on the other hand, have body lengths between 2.6 and 3 feet. Some eastern coyote males can reach lengths of up to 4.5 feet. It’s important to note that larger fox males can be larger than coyote females.

When it comes to comparative anatomy, coyote skulls are about two inches longer than fox skulls. Coyote skulls measure approximately eight inches in length, while fox skulls measure approximately six inches in length. Both species have elongated skulls with large braincases and elongated snouts.

Skull Size (Length)

Coyote skulls, being approximately two inches longer than their fox counterparts, measure around eight inches in length. This difference in skull size is a notable characteristic when comparing these two species.

Both coyotes and foxes have elongated skulls with large braincases and elongated snouts, which are evolutionary adaptations that allow for a better sense of smell and more efficient hunting.

The longer skull size of coyotes may provide them with an advantage in terms of strength and bite force, as the skull houses the muscles and structures necessary for biting and capturing prey.

However, it’s important to note that skull size alone doesn’t determine an animal’s overall capabilities, as other factors such as body size, weight, and behavior also play significant roles in their survival and ecological niche.

Scat Size

Continuing the comparison between foxes and coyotes, their scat size provides further insight into their dietary habits and digestive systems. When examining the scat characteristics between these two canids, several factors influence the size of their droppings.

Factors influencing scat size in canids:

  • Diet: The types and quantity of food consumed greatly impact scat size. Foxes, being omnivores, have a more varied diet that includes fruits, insects, and small mammals. On the other hand, coyotes, as opportunistic omnivores, have a diverse diet that includes a higher proportion of meat.
  • Body size: Larger animals tend to produce larger scat. Coyotes, being larger than foxes, have a correspondingly bigger scat size.


The weight of these canids is an important factor to consider when comparing foxes and coyotes. There’s a significant difference in body mass between the two species, with coyotes being about two times heavier than red foxes. Coyotes typically weigh between 20 and 50 pounds, while red foxes weigh between 10 and 18 pounds.

This difference in weight has a direct impact on their hunting strategies. Heavier animals, such as coyotes, have a greater strike force, allowing them to take down larger prey. Weight is an important asset in the animal world, as it provides an advantage in hunting and overall survival.

The difference in weight between foxes and coyotes plays a crucial role in shaping their hunting behaviors and strategies.

Paw Size

Moving on from the previous subtopic of weight, it’s important to consider the difference in paw size between foxes and coyotes. Comparing paw size can provide insights into their adaptation to different habitats and their hunting strategies.

Here are the key differences:

  • Adaptation to different habitats:
  • Foxes have smaller paws, which are well-suited for navigating various terrains such as forests, grasslands, and urban areas.
  • Coyotes, with their larger paws, are adapted to open areas and suburban environments, where they can traverse different types of terrain.
  • Paw size and hunting strategies:
  • Foxes rely on their agility and smaller paws to stalk and chase their prey, using their paws to maintain balance and make quick, precise movements.
  • Coyotes’ larger paws provide them with better traction and stability, enabling them to run at high speeds and chase down their prey more effectively.

Understanding the differences in paw size between foxes and coyotes sheds light on how these animals have adapted to their respective habitats and developed unique hunting strategies.


Comparing their speed, it’s evident that coyotes outpace foxes in terms of running capabilities. Coyotes have been known to reach sprinting speeds of up to 43 miles per hour, while red foxes can only run at a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour.

This gives coyotes a clear advantage when it comes to chasing down prey or escaping from predators. The higher speed of coyotes is likely due to their hunting strategies, as they’re known to be more active predators compared to foxes.

While both species have similar prey preferences, including small mammals and birds, the faster speed of coyotes allows them to cover more ground and increase their chances of successful hunts.

Strike Force

Continuing the discussion from the previous subtopic, how do the strike forces of foxes and coyotes compare? The strike force comparison between these two canids reveals some interesting factors affecting strike force.

Factors affecting strike force:

  • Speed: Both foxes and coyotes have different maximum running speeds. Coyotes can reach speeds up to 43 miles per hour, while red foxes can only run at a maximum of 30 miles per hour. This difference in speed can impact the strike force generated by each animal.
  • Weight: Another factor that affects strike force is the weight of the animal. Coyotes are about two times heavier than red foxes, with coyotes typically weighing between 20 and 50 pounds, while red foxes weigh between 10 and 18 pounds. Heavier animals can generate greater strike force due to their increased mass.

Considering these factors, it can be inferred that coyotes, with their higher speed and weight, are likely to generate a stronger strike force compared to foxes.

Jumping Abilities

Jumping abilities in foxes and coyotes are an important aspect of their physical capabilities. Both species possess the ability to jump significant heights, although the exact measurements may vary between individuals. Foxes are known to jump up to several feet in height, utilizing their powerful hind legs and flexible bodies. Coyotes, on the other hand, also exhibit impressive jumping techniques, enabling them to clear obstacles and navigate their environments effectively. These jumping adaptations are crucial for both species, as they aid in various activities such as hunting, escaping predators, and traversing their habitats. The following table highlights the jumping abilities of foxes and coyotes:

SpeciesJumping Abilities
FoxesCan jump several feet in height
CoyotesExhibit impressive jumping techniques

Both foxes and coyotes have evolved to possess these remarkable jumping abilities, which contribute to their survival and overall success in their respective ecosystems.

Bite Force

The bite force of coyotes surpasses that of foxes, with a measurement of 727 PSI. This strong bite force gives coyotes a clear advantage in terms of their hunting abilities and interactions with other animals.

When considering the bite force of these two species, it’s important to note the following:

  • Coyote hunting: Coyotes are skilled hunters that use their powerful jaws to capture and kill their prey. With their high bite force, they’re capable of exerting significant pressure on their prey, allowing them to effectively subdue and consume a wide range of animals.
  • Fox and coyote interactions: Due to their larger bite force, coyotes have the potential to overpower and dominate foxes in encounters between the two species. This can influence their interactions and may result in competition for resources or even predation, as coyotes have been known to kill foxes in some instances.


As the discussion transitions to the subtopic of behavior, it is important to note that foxes and coyotes exhibit distinct behavioral differences. Coyotes are known for their more social nature, often living in family groups and displaying complex pack dynamics. They engage in cooperative hunting, where they work together to take down larger prey. On the other hand, foxes are more solitary animals, preferring to live and hunt alone. They have smaller territories and are less likely to engage in cooperative hunting behaviors. Foxes are also known for their cleverness and adaptability, often using their intelligence to outwit their prey. Overall, while both species are adaptable and can live in various habitats, their hunting behavior and territorial tendencies differ significantly.

Coyote Hunting BehaviorFox and Coyote Territorial Behavior
Cooperative huntingSolitary hunting
Work together to take down larger preyHunt alone
Display complex pack dynamicsSmaller territories
Use intelligence to outwit preyCleverness and adaptability


Transitioning into the subtopic of diet, both foxes and coyotes have distinct dietary preferences and feeding habits.

  • Coyote Diet:
  • Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they have a diverse diet.
  • Their diet consists of small mammals, such as rabbits, rodents, and squirrels.
  • They also consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
  • Plant matter, including fruits, berries, and grasses, is also part of their diet.
  • They may scavenge on carrion and occasionally hunt larger prey like deer.
  • Fox Diet:
  • Foxes are omnivores and have a more varied diet compared to coyotes.
  • They primarily consume small mammals, such as rabbits, mice, and voles.
  • Birds, eggs, and insects are also part of their diet.
  • Foxes are known to feed on fruits, berries, and even carrion.
  • In urban areas, they may scavenge on human garbage and pet food.

Both foxes and coyotes adjust their diets based on the availability of food in their habitats, showcasing their adaptability as successful predators in different environments.

Geographic Range

Both foxes and coyotes exhibit wide geographic ranges, adapting to various environments and overlapping in some areas. Red foxes are distributed worldwide, except for some territories like Tasmania, with 45 subspecies. Coyotes, on the other hand, are distributed across Northern and Central America, with at least 19 subspecies.

Both species have adapted to different environments, allowing them to thrive in various habitats. Their ranges can overlap in certain regions where their habitats intersect, leading to potential competition for resources. Foxes are commonly found in forests, grasslands, and urban areas, while coyotes are adaptable and can live in diverse habitats such as open areas and suburban environments.

Despite their overlapping distribution, both species have unique adaptations that allow them to coexist in their respective environments.


Foxes and coyotes occupy distinct habitats, with foxes commonly found in forests, grasslands, and urban areas, while coyotes are adaptable and can thrive in diverse environments. Each species has its own habitat preferences, which have a significant impact on their behavior.

Habitat preferences:

  • Foxes prefer habitats with dense vegetation, such as forests and grasslands, where they can find cover and build their dens.
  • Urban areas also provide suitable habitat for foxes, as they can scavenge for food and utilize human structures for shelter.
  • Coyotes, on the other hand, are commonly found in open areas, such as prairies, deserts, and scrublands.
  • They’re highly adaptable and can also thrive in suburban environments, where they take advantage of the abundant food sources and cover provided by human settlements.

Impact of habitat on behavior:

  • Foxes in forested areas tend to be more secretive and have smaller territories, as they rely on their stealth and camouflage to hunt prey.
  • Urban foxes, on the other hand, have larger territories and are more tolerant of human presence.
  • Coyotes in open areas have larger territories and are more social, often living in family groups or packs.
  • In suburban environments, coyotes may exhibit bolder behavior and become habituated to human activity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Average Lifespan of Foxes and Coyotes?

The average lifespan of foxes and coyotes varies depending on factors such as habitat and food availability. Generally, foxes live for about 3-5 years in the wild, while coyotes have an average lifespan of 10-14 years.

How Do Foxes and Coyotes Communicate With Each Other?

Foxes and coyotes communicate with each other through a combination of vocalizations, scent marking, and body language. They use different calls to communicate various messages. They also rely on scent marking to establish territories and convey information about their presence. Additionally, their body language, such as postures and facial expressions, plays a role in communication. In terms of hunting strategies and prey preferences, both species are opportunistic predators. They use similar tactics such as stalking, pouncing, and chasing to catch their prey, which mainly consists of small mammals, birds, and insects.

Are Foxes and Coyotes Considered to Be Endangered or Threatened Species?

Foxes and coyotes are not considered to be endangered or threatened species. However, conservation efforts are important to ensure their populations remain stable. Human wildlife conflict can occur when foxes and coyotes encroach on human communities, but coexistence strategies can be implemented to mitigate these conflicts.

Do Foxes and Coyotes Have Any Natural Predators?

Foxes and coyotes both have natural predators. Foxes are preyed upon by larger carnivores such as wolves and cougars. Coyotes face predation from wolves, mountain lions, and bears. They communicate with each other through vocalizations and body language.

How Do Foxes and Coyotes Adapt to Different Climates and Environments?

Foxes and coyotes adapt to different climates and environments through various adaptation strategies. They are influenced by environmental factors such as temperature, food availability, and competition. These adaptations allow them to survive and thrive in a wide range of habitats.

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