Identifying coyotes involves observing size, color and physical characteristics as well as listening to vocalizations. Coyotes are smaller than wolves and are about the size of a small German shepherd. They have long pointed faces, narrow muzzles and large triangular ears. Coyotes can vary in color from gray to reddish or light brown. They have thick coats that often make them appear larger than they really are.
Coyotes also have long bushy tails with a black tip. Whereas foxes run with their tails pointed straight out, coyotes move with their tails pointed downward. The only time a coyote holds its tail horizontally is when it is displaying aggression. Foxes have a color difference and variation on their legs in contrast to coyotes that have the same overall color. Additionally, coyotes have distinctive yellow eyes that help them to see in low light.
Another way to identify coyotes is to listen to their calls. They are a series of high-pitched yips, barks and howls. Barking can often sound similar to a domestic dog. Coyote tracks can also help in identification. The front paw prints are larger than the rear that have distinctly smaller foot pads. Coyotes also have claw marks that are visible when the ground is soft.