The coyote, or Canis Latrans, is a wolf-like animal similar in size to a large dog. They can weigh between 15 and 45 pounds, and can run at a top speed of approximately 40 miles per hour. Coyotes are known for their unique vocalizations, in fact the scientific name means ‘barking dog’. They have highly developed vision and a sharp sense of hearing, and can range in color from gray to brown, helping to camouflage themselves in their surroundings.
There are a few characteristics that can initially help identify a coyote paw print. Size, shape and nail marks are the first indicators of the prints themselves, however, geography and natural habitat are also important- a coyote must live in the area to be able to make the tracks! The Humane Society’s Wildlife Land Trust has concise information on basic identifying characteristics and measurements. Coyotes tracks are distinct from wolves and domestic dogs and generally smaller. Although they will typically form packs of multiple coyotes, are fairly solitary animals when hunting. A coyote will hunt alone or possibly in pairs, so a single set of tracks may help to identify an animal as coyote.
Coyote prints are approximately 2 1/8 – 3 1/16 inches long by 1 5/8 – 2.5 inches wide. The front paw tracks are generally larger and more pronounced than the hind tracks due to the heavier distribution of body weight and the head of the animal in the front.
Coyote prints are generally more oval in shape, as opposed to squarish, like that of a dog or bobcat. Four toes, claw marks, and central heel pad are basic characteristics to look for when trying to identify coyote tracks.
Geography and other indicators
The basic wildlife profile of a coyote consists of knowing where coyotes live, what they eat, and some of their habits and will also aid in identifying prints. Generally speaking, coyotes inhabit much of the Central and Western regions of North and Central America. Different regions of the continents may host subtle variations of the species (there are approximately 19 subspecies), but all are classified as Coyote. Coyotes are highly adaptable, and are able to survive in a variety of climates.
Territory. Coyotes will mark their territory with urine or scat, so it would not be unlikely to find these markers near sets of tracks.
Diet. In keeping with their natural adaptability, coyotes will eat a wide variety of foods based on availability. Nuts, berries, meat, and vegetables are all possibilities in a coyote’s daily intake.
Predators. Usually larger animals such as bears, wolves, mountain lions, or even bobcats if present are natural predators of coyotes. Humans also pose a threat to the coyote.
Dens and reproduction. Coyotes will dig dens, usually from an old existing one, for safety and for protecting a litter of pups. Coyotes can have anywhere from two to eight pups per litter, and both parent will care for their young.