Fox vs coyote: 4 key differences between fox or coyote

fox and coyote
Foxes and coyotes are a part of the same Canidae family. However, they differ in body size, social behavior, dangerousness, and vocalizations. Although they are both canids, foxes fall under the subfamily Vulpini and coyotes fall under the subfamily Canini.

While foxes and coyotes may look similar, perhaps with similar fur color, bushy tails, and pointy ears, they are quite different creatures:

Body Size

Coyotes are much larger than foxes. Coyotes, on average, are about four feet in length and about two feet tall. The dimensions of a coyote are similar to that of a medium-sized domestic dog. An average red fox is about three feet in length and is about twenty inches tall.

Foxes have shorter legs than coyotes. Foxes may appear bigger than they are due to their thick fur, but they weigh less than coyotes.

Foxes are comparable in size to an adult house cat. The size difference between a fox and a coyote is one of the most helpful factors in telling them apart.

Social behavior

Coyotes are pack animals, unlike foxes, who prefer to be alone unless it’s breeding season. Coyotes are social animals and will live with other coyotes, even if they are not in the same family. Foxes are solitary animals and generally only tolerate sharing their den space with their immediate family. 


Coyotes are generally more dangerous than foxes.

While foxes will attack small animals such as chickens, coyotes will attack bigger animals such as deer, sheep, and moose. Coyotes are more likely to attack your house pets than foxes are.

If a fox and a coyote got into a fight, the coyote would definitely win. Coyotes are also more likely to attack humans than foxes are. 


Coyotes create long, wolf-like howls while foxes make strange and varying sounds.

Foxes will scream, yelp, and bark, although a coyote’s bark is more similar to a dog’s than a fox is. A coyote’s sound will often be heard in groups since they live in packs.

lurking fox hunting

Can a fox be mistaken for a coyote?

Indeed, some people struggle to tell the difference between a coyote and a fox, especially a gray fox. The different coat colors make it easier to tell apart a red fox and a coyote.

Coyotes and foxes both have a variety of different colors in their coats. A coyote can have gray, white, tan, and brown colors visible in their fur. Coyote tails generally have a black tip on the end.

Red foxes, as the name suggests, have red fur. White fur covers their chest, and they have a white tip and black tip to their tail. The back of their ears are black, and the bottom half of their legs are black.

Grey foxes are also given their name based on their fur color. They have grey fur on their back, tail, and face. Their chest and belly typically consist of red, white, and black fur. The back of their ears are orange, and their tail tips are black. They usually have a black stripe down their back.

Knowing these differences and patterns in fur color will help you identify which animal you are looking at.

coyote with its ears up

Coyote predators: The animals that eat coyotes

Coyotes travel in packs which benefits them when they are under attack. They will defend each other and therefore are more vulnerable when traveling alone.

Although coyotes can use their size, sharp teeth, and claws to defend themselves, they are intelligent enough to know what animals they will fall victim to.

The top predators of coyotes are:

  • Alligators
  • Canada lynx 
  • Cougars
  • Eagles
  • Grizzly bears and Brown bears
  • Mountain lions
  • Wolves

Alligators will attack coyotes while the coyote is drinking near the edge of a water source. This is a moment when the coyote is vulnerable because its defenses are down while it drinks. The alligator will lie low in the water, waiting for the right moment to attack.

Lynx are predators to coyotes, but the coyote will put up a good fight when being attacked by a lynx. Sometimes the coyote will win, and sometimes not.

If the coyote is in a group, the lynx will be overpowered and eaten by the coyote pack.

The coyotes that lynx typically kill are weak, ill, young, or pregnant. They attack these coyotes because they know a strong and healthy coyote could win in an attack.

Coyotes are one of the cougars’ favorite meals. Cougars are good at sneaking and will often surprise kill the coyote. However, if the victim coyote is with its pack, the cougar may lose.

Eagles, specifically golden eagles, will swoop down and catch coyote pups to eat. Golden eagles may kill a coyote or may just eat from its carcass. 

young fox in the forest

Grizzly bears and brown bears hunt many large mammals, including coyotes. Although coyotes aren’t at the top of bears’ most loved foods, bears will kill and eat them if given the chance.

Mountain lions will easily win in an attack against a coyote. They are skilled hunters that sneak up on prey to attack them from behind. Sometimes, a mountain lion won’t kill a coyote because it wants to eat the coyote but instead kill it in a fight for food.

Coyotes bravely attempt to steal food from mountain lions, such as deer and elk.

Wolves hunt in packs, just like coyotes. This can result in an attack on larger prey. However, wolves see coyotes more as competition for food than as food themselves.

Wolves prefer to kill larger mammals for more meat to consume and for more meat to share with their pack. If a coyote does not initiate a fight, which could be started by trying to steal the wolf’s food, the wolf will usually simply ignore it.

Although coyotes are far from extinct, humans are also one of the top killers of coyotes. Humans kill them for fur, in self-defense, and while hunting.

Homeowners that have a coyote on their property may kill the coyote employing poison, trapping, or shooting. Coyotes are often also killed for population control. 

coyote on the road

Do coyotes eat other predators?

Coyotes are omnivores but mostly eat meat. Coyotes will eat a variety of mammals.

Coyotes eat small mammals such as rodents, birds, and fish. But they will also eat larger mammals, including deer, elk, moose, sheep, and bison. 

Coyotes will work together to attack deer and other animals. They will separate to trick the animal and to run it down successfully.

Coyotes are intelligent enough to know to attack a larger animal with their pack rather than individually. They are also fast and can run about forty miles per hour.


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.

Recent Posts