At CVC, we’re often asked by neighbours to clarify if they’ve spotted a wolf or coyote roaming about the Credit River Watershed. By learning a little more about the history, behaviours and physical characteristics of these species, we can continue to connect with nature while giving these animals the respect and understanding they need to survive.
Dog, fox, wolf and coyote species all belong to the Canidae (dog) family, making it easy for humans to mistake one for another. While dogs have been domesticated for centuries, it was only in 1919 that a coyote sighting was first confirmed in Ontario.
The Eastern coyote is commonly found throughout southern Ontario and northern rural areas. It’s a hybrid species between the smaller Western coyote and the Eastern wolf, sometimes referred to as a coywolf. Today, both Eastern and Western coyote species can be found in Ontario.
Ontario’s two wolf species, the Grey and Eastern wolf, live much further north. Eastern wolves live in Algonquin and Grey wolves in northern Ontario. There have been very few reported wolf sightings in southern Ontario. Coyotes live all across the watershed. They’re found in the highly urbanized areas of southern Mississauga along Lake Ontario and all the way north to the agricultural headwaters of the Credit River.
Despite rarely seeing wolves in southern Ontario, people often get the two confused. These species are active at dusk, dawn and during the night, which makes it difficult for human eyes to see them. Comparing their facial features to one another is very helpful for proper identification:
|Short and round||Taller and pointed|
|Wider, more blocky, larger nose pad||Longer snout, more pointed, small nose pad|
|Smaller, narrow, angle down and can be blue, black or yellow in colour||Wider in size and yellow or brown in colour|
|Body weight and height|
|70 – 150 lbs||15 – 50 lbs|
Wolf (Left) Coyote (Right)
Just like our loved family hound, coyotes are curious animals driven by their sense of smell. Eastern coyotes have adapted well to living in urban areas and humans should know how to act if they encounter one:
- Avoid eye contact
- Raise and wave your arms to increase your size
- Don’t run away (just like a dog, it will think you want to play)
- Open and close an umbrella or shine a flashlight in the coyote’s direction
Coyotes play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They help control mouse, rat, beaver, rabbit and deer populations. If you see a coyote or wolf that looks sick (active during daylight hours, patches of fur missing, extremely skinny) please report it to your local animal control.