What do coyote tracks look like: identification & pictures

coyote 19
Coyote tracks have a heel pad with four distinct toes. Claw marks are visible above each toe on soft surfaces such as snow and mud. There is negative space between the heel pad and the toes. Coyotes direct register, so their tracks appear as a single line. 

What do coyote tracks look like?

Coyote tracks look similar to cat and dog tracks because each of these animals have four toes on each paw. The heel pad of a coyote will be visible in their tracks.

Like other canines, the heel pad of a coyote has one lobe in the front and two lobes in the rear. The inner two toes of coyotes are smaller than their two outer toes. The overall shape of coyote prints is ovular.

Coyotes can’t retract their claws, so the impression of a claw is usually visible above each toe impression. Claw marks from coyote toes will likely not be visible on hard surfaces such as concrete. 

What size is a coyote track?

An typical adult coyote’s front paws measure about 2 ½ inches in length and about 2 inches in width. The back paws are usually about 2 ¼ inches in length and about 1 ¾ inches in width.

Despite this difference in paw size, each print will appear the same size because of how coyotes walk. Coyotes often trot, and their stride while trotting is usually about 16 to 18 inches.

coyote tracks in loose soil

Do coyotes walk in a straight line?

Tracks made by four legged wild animals vary in appearance depending on the animal’s gait. Coyotes almost always walk in straight lines. Some animal footprints will appear side by side, and their tracks will display each foot. This is not the case with coyotes.

Coyotes single track, which means their rear paw lands directly or almost directly on top of where their front paw landed. This results in a single line of tracks rather than the track of each individual paw.

This way of walking is also called direct registering. Animals that direct register are known to be perfect steppers. Other animal tracks that indicate perfect steppers, along with coyotes, are foxes, cats, and moose. 

How can you tell coyote tracks from fox tracks?

Both coyotes and foxes are part of the canine family. This causes fox tracks to appear similar to coyote tracks. Both animals have four toes, and they both single-track.

However, foxes are significantly smaller than coyotes, so fox tracks are usually smaller in size. Fox tracks are daintier and more slender than coyote tracks. Coyotes have a large heel pad with a center lobe that sticks out. The heel pad of a fox is chevron-shaped. 

Red foxes grow thick fur on their feet in the winter, which blurs their tracks. Therefore, coyote tracks will be more prominent than fox tracks in the winter.

How can you tell coyote tracks from dog or wolf tracks?

Since coyotes are related to dogs, coyote tracks look similar to domestic dog tracks. Upon close examination, differences can be found.

Coyote prints are narrower and have more of an oval shape than dog prints. Dog tracks are more round than coyote tracks. The impression of the heel on a coyote track is more prominent and larger than dogs track. 

Both canines have four toes, single track, and have evident claw marks in their tracks. However, wolf tracks are larger than coyote tracks. The toes of wolves are more spread out than the toes of coyotes.

The claws on the front feet of wolves are longer than the claws on their rear feet. This is different from coyote tracks because all claws are about the same size on coyote prints.

What’s the difference between coyote vs dog tracks?  

While dogs can be many different sizes depending on their species, coyote sizes are predictable depending on age. Since dogs can be a variety of sizes, measurement differences between dog and coyote prints will also vary

Most domesticated dogs lack coordination and enjoy running in circles. Coyotes rarely walk in circles, so their tracks may not be as scattered as dog tracks. Coyote tracks can also look similar to wolf tracks.

Both coyote prints and dog prints have a negative space between their toes and heel pads. However, coyotes have a larger negative space in their prints than in dog prints. 

Coyote paw prints usually have two defined claw marks on their middle toes, while dog paw prints usually show all four claw marks. Coyote nails are sharper than dog nails, and this difference is noticeable in their prints.

How can you tell the difference between a coyote and a bobcat track?

At first glance, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a coyote track and a bobcat track. Generally, a coyote track will be larger than a bobcat track.

The biggest difference between a coyote track and a bobcat track is that bobcat tracks do not display any claw marks. The heel pads of a coyote and a bobcat are different. They both have a visible heel pad and four individual toe prints.

Bobcats have two lobes on the front of their heel and three lobes on the rear of their heel. This feature also helps identify the difference between their tracks.


Whitney is a graduate of Georgetown College and a current graduate student at the University of the Cumberlands. She resides in the beautiful state of Kentucky, which she has always appreciated and endeavors to maintain the land's well-being. A lover of animals and the earth, Whitney strives to communicate accurate information that will help readers learn new information, ideas, and become informed stewards of the natural world.

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