Colorado’s Canines: Coyotes, Foxes, and Wolves

Coyotes, foxes, and wolves all belong to the scientific Family known as Canidae, or canines — just like your pet dog. There are some big differences, however, between all of these types of canines.

Coyote standing amidst trees Native American legends often refer to the coyote as a trickster. Colorado Parks & Wildlife calls them “opportunistic” and “naturally curious.” Many people think coyotes are only found in more rural areas or in the high country, but this is not true – they are being found in increasing numbers along the Front Range due to continued loss of their natural habitat. They’ve even been spotted in neighborhoods near downtown Denver. Coyotes will usually leave humans alone, but they can be a danger to your pets, so be sure to closely supervise your pets. If coyotes are in the area, you should make sure your cats stay indoors. When walking dogs, make sure they are leashed and within your sight, and don’t ever let dogs and coyotes interact. If you see coyotes nearby, it may be best to carry your dog, according to this brochure from Colorado Parks & Wildlife. You can also learn more about coyotes in the publication Who is Coyote?

red foxFoxes are also frequently found in urban areas and can also be a danger to small pets. The species most commonly found in the Metro area is the red fox. Red foxes can run at speeds of 30 MPH and have excellent sight, hearing, and smell. Like coyotes they are “opportunistic” so to avoid attracting foxes, be sure food garbage is properly stored. Learn more about red foxes at this “living with wildlife” page from Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Other fox species, including gray, kit, and swift, are found in more remote areas. The swift fox is a threatened/endangered species; you can read about Colorado’s swift fox conservation efforts in this report.

gray wolf

Of the different types of canids, wolves are certainly the most rare in Colorado. For many years there were no wolves in the state, but recently there has been discussion of reintroduction. Unlike foxes and coyotes, which rely on their keen intelligence to find food, wolves are much stronger, fiercer predators, and as a result their reintroduction has been controversial. To learn more see the publications Wolves: Knocking at Colorado’s Door and Findings and Recommendations for Managing Wolves that Migrate into Colorado.

Learn more about wolves, coyotes, and foxes by searching our library’s online catalog or visiting the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website.

Images courtesy Colorado Parks & Wildlife.