a big coyote

5 Different Types of Coyotes and Their Subspecies

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are one of the most adaptable and widespread carnivores in North America. These intelligent canids have managed to thrive in various landscapes. This includes dense forests and urban areas. 

They have evolved into different subspecies or types based on their geographical distribution. In this article, we will explore the various types of coyotes found in some parts of America. We’ll shed light on their unique characteristics and the challenges they face in the ever-changing landscape.

1. Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans x Canis lycaon)

Photo from Wikimedia

The Eastern coyote is a fascinating subspecies found primarily in the northeastern regions of North America, including South Carolina. It is known for its larger size compared to its Western counterparts. This coyote species often exhibits characteristics of both coyotes and wolves.

Some theories suggest that Eastern coyotes have hybridized with the red wolf, leading to their distinctive features. They are opportunistic predators that prey on a variety of animals, including deer, small mammals, and even small domestic dog breeds.

The Eastern coyote is often referred to as the “coywolf” due to its intermediate characteristics between a coyote and a wolf. What makes the Eastern coyote particularly fascinating is its unique blend of traits that sets it apart from its Western counterparts.

Hybrid Origins

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Eastern coyote is its potential hybridization with the red wolf (Canis rufus). The red wolf is another native North American canid species that was once on the brink of extinction. 

It is believed that as red wolf populations dwindled, some interbreeding between red wolves and coyotes occurred, leading to a hybrid population with a diverse genetic makeup.

Size and Appearance

Eastern coyotes are often larger than their Western counterparts. This larger size is one of the defining characteristics that differentiate them from the typical coyotes found in the western United States. 

They have a robust build and can weigh significantly more, with males typically ranging from 30 to 50 pounds and females from 25 to 40 pounds. Their fur coloration can vary but often includes shades of gray, brown, and tan, and they usually have a bushy tail with a black tip.

Behavior and Diet

Eastern coyotes are opportunistic predators with a diverse diet. They are known to prey on a wide range of animals, including deer, rabbits, rodents, small mammals, birds, and even domestic animals like cats and dogs. Their adaptability in hunting and feeding habits allows them to survive in various habitats, from densely forested areas to suburban neighborhoods.

Social Structure

Eastern coyotes typically exhibit social behavior similar to that of their western counterparts. They are known to form family groups consisting of a breeding pair and their pups. These family units work together to hunt and raise their offspring. Eastern coyotes are known for their vocalizations, including howling, which is often used for communication within their family groups.

Ecological Impact

The presence of Eastern coyotes in the northeastern ecosystems has had significant ecological implications. They play a crucial role in controlling populations of deer, which can otherwise become overabundant and negatively impact the environment. Their presence can also affect smaller prey species, which has a cascading effect on the ecosystem.

2. Western Coyote

Photo from Wikimedia 

The Western coyote, also known as the plains or prairie coyote, is perhaps the most well-known type of coyote in North America. These adaptable creatures inhabit a wide range of environments, from deserts to grasslands. 

Western coyotes have a diverse diet, which can include small mammals, birds, carrion, and fruits. They have successfully adapted to urban environments, earning them the moniker “urban coyotes.”

Habitat and Distribution

Western coyotes are widely distributed throughout North America, and they are perhaps the most iconic and recognized type of coyote. They are highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of habitats, which has contributed to their widespread distribution. 

While they are commonly associated with the open plains and prairies, they are also found in deserts, grasslands, forests, and even urban areas. This adaptability has allowed them to expand their range significantly over the past century.

Physical Characteristics

Western coyotes typically have a slender, agile build. They are smaller than their Eastern counterparts, with adult males weighing between 20 to 45 pounds and females ranging from 15 to 40 pounds. 

Their fur coloration can vary widely, ranging from gray and brown to reddish-brown or even black. Like all coyotes, they have pointed ears, a long bushy tail, and a keen sense of smell and hearing.


One of the key reasons for the Western coyote’s success is its diverse diet. They are opportunistic predators and scavengers, meaning they can feed on a wide variety of foods. Their diet includes small mammals like rabbits and rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plant matter such as fruits and berries.

Additionally, Western coyotes are efficient scavengers. They will readily feed on carrion, helping to clean up the environment by consuming dead animals.

Urban Adaptation

Western coyotes have demonstrated remarkable adaptability to urban environments, earning them the nickname “urban coyotes.” As human development encroaches upon their natural habitats, some coyote populations have shifted to city life. 

They can be found in parks, suburbs, and even densely populated metropolitan areas. In urban environments, they often take advantage of available food resources, such as garbage, pet food, and small rodents.

Behavior and Social Structure

Western coyotes typically exhibit a solitary or pair-bonding social structure. However, they can also form loose family groups when raising their pups. Their communication includes a variety of vocalizations, including howling, yipping, and barking, which serve to establish territory and communicate with other coyotes.

There has been growing interest in coexisting with urban coyotes and managing their populations responsibly. Education efforts focus on reducing potential conflicts between humans and coyotes.

3. Central American Coyote

Photo from Wikimedia

Central America is home to its own type of coyote. These coyotes are adapted to the diverse ecosystems of the region, including tropical forests and grasslands. Their diet often includes small mammals and birds. Central American canis latrans coyotes play a vital role in maintaining the balance of their respective ecosystems.

Habitat and Distribution

Central America is home to a unique type of coyote that has adapted to the diverse ecosystems found within the region. These coyotes inhabit a variety of habitats, ranging from tropical forests to grasslands, and from coastal areas to mountainous regions. Their ability to thrive in such diverse environments reflects their adaptability and resilience.

Physical Characteristics

Central American coyotes share many physical characteristics with their North American counterparts. They have a slender and agile build, with fur that varies in coloration, often including shades of gray, brown, and tan. Their pointed ears and long, bushy tail are typical traits seen in all coyotes.


Central American coyotes are opportunistic predators with a diet that varies depending on their habitat and the availability of prey. Their primary food sources often include small mammals such as rodents and rabbits, as well as birds. 

They are also known to consume fruits, insects, reptiles, and amphibians when these resources are accessible. The flexibility in their diet allows them to adapt to the changing food availability in their habitats.

Ecological Role

Central American coyotes play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance of their respective ecosystems. Their predation on small mammals helps control populations of species that might otherwise become overabundant and cause ecological disruptions.

Additionally, by preying on birds and other small animals, they contribute to the regulation of prey populations within their habitats.

Conservation and Challenges

While Central American coyotes are important components of the region’s ecosystems, they face various challenges related to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as conflicts with humans. Urbanization, agriculture, and deforestation can impact their natural habitats, leading to reduced access to food and shelter.

There are education and awareness programs aimed at reducing conflicts between coyotes and humans. They emphasize responsible waste disposal, proper pet management, and safe interactions with wild animals.

4. South American Coyote

Photo from Wikimedia

Although coyotes are primarily associated with North America, some reports suggest the presence of a South American coyote type. These coyotes are thought to inhabit regions of South America, including parts of Argentina and Chile. Research is ongoing to understand their distribution and behavior.

The existence of South American coyotes, sometimes referred to as the South American coyote type or the South American Canis latrans, is a subject of ongoing research and intrigue within the scientific community.

While coyotes are primarily associated with North America, there have been reports and sightings of similar canids in certain regions of South America, including parts of Argentina and Chile.

Characteristics and Behavior

The South American coyotes, if indeed a distinct subspecies or closely related species, are thought to exhibit traits similar to their North American counterparts. 

These traits may include a slender, dog-like build, pointed ears, and a bushy tail. However, the specific physical characteristics and behaviors of South American coyotes, if they exist, are still being studied.


Reports and sightings of South American coyotes have been sporadic, and their distribution within South America remains poorly understood. These sightings have been concentrated in areas of Argentina and Chile, particularly in the southern regions of both countries.

Researchers are working to gather more data on their presence and distribution to determine the extent of their range.

Potential Hybridization

One intriguing aspect of South American coyotes is the possibility of hybridization with other canid species in the region. South America is home to a variety of canids, including culpeos (Andean foxes) and maned wolves, among others.

Hybridization with these species could result in unique genetic combinations and adaptations that differ from their North American counterparts.

Human-Coyote Interactions

Understanding South American coyotes is also essential for promoting responsible coexistence with local communities. As with North American coyotes, it’s important to educate people about how to minimize potential conflicts, particularly in areas where South American coyotes are known to inhabit.

This includes securing food sources, practicing safe waste disposal, and taking measures to protect domestic animals.

5. Red fox and Coyote Hybrid

Photo from Owl Online

A red fox and coyote mix, sometimes referred to as a “coyfox” or “coyote-fox hybrid,” occurs when a coyote and a red fox interbreed. These hybrids can exhibit a range of physical and behavioral characteristics that combine traits from both parent species, including variations in size, fur color, and hunting behaviors. 

The occurrence of such hybrids is relatively rare in the wild, as coyotes and red foxes are different species with distinct behaviors and habitats, but it can happen in areas where their ranges overlap.

Urban Coyotes

Urban areas in North America have seen an increase in coyote populations over the years. These urban coyotes have adapted to city life and often feed on readily available resources, such as trash and small mammals. Coexisting with urban coyotes requires responsible waste management and awareness to avoid conflicts.

Coyote Hunting and Management

Coyote hunting is a controversial topic in North America. Some states allow regulated hunting to control the coyote population and protect livestock. However, it is essential to strike a balance between conservation efforts and responsible hunting practices to ensure the long-term survival of the Canis latrans coyote population.


Coyotes in North America exhibit remarkable diversity, with various types and subspecies adapted to their specific environments. From the Eastern coyote’s wolf-like characteristics to the urban coyote’s adaptability to city life, these canids are a testament to their ability to thrive in a range of ecosystems. 

As human activities continue to impact their habitats, understanding and preserving the different types of coyotes in North America becomes increasingly crucial for the conservation of natural resources and the delicate balance of our ecosystems.


Is the gray fox a coyote?

The gray fox is often mistaken for a coyote due to its similar appearance. While not a true coyote, the gray fox is closely related and shares some characteristics.

Is the African wild dog a coyote?

No, the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is not a coyote. They are two distinct species of canids with different geographical distributions and characteristics.

Which types of coyotes are dangerous?

Coyotes are generally not considered dangerous to humans but can pose a threat to small pets and livestock. Secure pets and livestock to minimize potential conflicts. Attacks on humans are exceedingly rare.

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