Red Wolf vs Coyote: What Are the Differences?

Red Wolf
© Rejean Bedard/

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: May 21, 2023

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The red wolf and the coyote are very hard to tell apart without knowing which differences they possess. Most people might ask why they would need to tell them apart at all. Well, the red wolf is an incredibly endangered species, with fewer than 100 of the animals roaming the United States these days. If a person was out hunting and saw what they thought was a coyote and shot it, they might find out later that it was a red wolf and then suffer the dire legal consequences. So, we’re going to show you a red wolf vs coyote matchup and help you learn the major differences between them.

Comparing Red Wolf and Coyote

Red WolfCoyote
Lifespan10-12 years10-15 years
SizeWeight: 40lbs-90lbs
Length: 37in-47in
Height 20in-26in
Weight: 15lbs-45lbs
Length: 30in-35in
Height 18in-26in
Muzzle– Thick, shorter muzzle compared to coyote– Long, narrower muzzle compared to red wolf.
Range– Southeastern United States– North America and parts of Central America
Colors– Red, black, grey, white, brown– Buff, black, grey, or brown
Calls– Long howl duration– Yapping and howls

The 6 Key Differences Between Red Wolf vs Coyote

Rarest animal – Red wolf

The origin of the red wolf is unclear; it may be an offshoot of the gray wolf or something else entirely


The most noticeable differences between a red wolf and a coyote are their size, muzzle, and colors. The red wolf is larger than a coyote by a significant amount, almost doubling its weight but standing just about the same height as the other.

The red wolf’s muzzle is shorter and thicker than the coyote. A coyote has a long, narrow muzzle. Lastly, the colors of the red wolf include red, black, grey, brown, and white. The red color is not that bright. In fact, it’s closer to a cinnamon color, so it can be mistaken for the buff color on a coyote by people that are not familiar with the latter’s color. Coyotes can be buff, black, grey, or brown.

However, red wolves tend to have a lot of bright white on their legs and a cream underbelly, and that can help people differentiate between the two creatures.    

Red Wolf vs Coyote: Lifespan

The red wolf tends to live for 10-12 years in the wild if they are not hunted. Coyotes can live longer since there are more of them to hunt in packs to secure kills. Coyotes live about 10-15 years.

Red Wolf vs Coyote: Size

Red wolves are larger than coyotes, but they are shorter than them, too. A red wolf can weigh up to 90lbs, grow up to 47 inches in length, and stand about 26 inches tall. The coyote typically weighs about 45lbs at maximum, only reaches a length of 35in, but it can grow the same height, about 26 inches.

On average, though, the red wolf is a larger creature than a coyote.

Red Wolf vs Coyote: Muzzle

coyote walking in the field

Coyotes have a longer, narrower muzzle compared to red wolves.


Red wolves have a shorter, thicker muzzle than a coyote. In fact, coyotes’ muzzles are noticeably narrow and long compared to many canines their size. Each animal’s muzzle distinct. However, it’s hard to compare the two without having the other animal in close proximity.

Also, the muzzle size is not the best way to tell the two animals apart. Red wolves are larger than coyotes. As a result, the difference in their facial features may be harder to see.  

Red Wolf vs Coyote: Range

The range of the red wolf and the coyote overlaps in some places. The coyote’s range is much larger than the red wolf’s former range. We say former because the red wolf had fewer than 100 members of the species living in the wild, and it’s unknown if they will go extinct in the wild soon.

The red wolf lived throughout the Southeastern United States, a much smaller range than the coyote. Coyotes live throughout all of North America and into Central America. They’re common in the prairie lands of the United States and often seen throughout Mexico.  

Red Wolf vs Coyote: Colors

The red wolf has some red colors in its fur, but the red can also be mistaken for a buff color that is found in coyotes. Aside from many people simply not knowing what a red wolf looks like, the colors are another point of confusion.

Red wolves have a reddish-brown or cinnamon color prominently featured in their coats. However, they tend to have white legs and a cream-colored underbelly that can help someone identify the creature.

Coyotes can have a buff color, grey, brown, and black in their coats. Although the buff in their fur can be confused for a washed-out red color, it’s not as reddish as the red wolf’s fur colors.  

Red Wolf vs Coyote: Calls

A Red Wolf at Tacoma, WA Pt. Defiance Zoo, USA

Red wolves call similarly to other wolves but

coyotes implement a lot of yapping into their howls


©Christine Majul / Flickr – Original

Both the red wolf and the coyote engage in howling to communicate with other members of their species. Yet, the howls of a coyote and a red wolf are different. Red wolves have long howls that are similar to their cousins, the grey wolf. They are drawn out howls and they’re quite loud but use lower frequencies in their vocalizations.

Coyotes also howl, but their howls are not long and drawn out. Instead, they use a great deal of yapping noises to punctuate their howls.

Red Wolf vs Coyote: Conservation Status

Do Coyotes Hunt in Packs

Many more coyotes exist than red wolves.


Lastly, the red wolf and the coyote have different conservation statuses. The red wolf is nearly critically endangered and nearly extinct in the wild, with as few as 30 of the creatures living in small packs. More red wolves may be out there, but they might not be currently tracked. One thing is for certain, they are in trouble.

The coyote is a creature of least concern. They are numerous in the wild and face no potential threats to their existence. Coyotes are widespread and have a very high population.

Red wolves and coyotes might look very similar, but they have some significant differences. It’s important to know these differences in case a person spots one of these creatures in the wild. They are on the tipping point of disappearing from the face of the planet, so it might be better to know what they look like to avoid harming their population even more while hunting.

In short, red wolves are larger than coyotes, have a distinct reddish color in their fur, and have shorter muzzles than coyotes.

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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