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Do Wolves Hunt & Eat Coyotes?

Wolves do occasionally eat coyotes. When wolves do hunt coyotes, it is usually because of a lack of other food sources. Wolves prefer to eat ungulates, not other predators.

Wolves are predators. They hunt animals to feed on, and will typically stick to ungulates or small animals such as rabbits.

All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts) x
All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts)

However, there are times when these animals are scarce.

When this happens, wolves will hunt alternative animals, such as coyotes or foxes.

There are many other animals that also eat coyotes such as American alligators, brown bears, mountain lions.

Do Wolves Hunt Coyotes?

Wolves usually don’t actively hunt coyotes, however, they may do so under certain circumstances: if the coyotes are invading the wolves’ territory, or if they’re preying on wolf pups.

Wolves are very territorial and protective and will do almost anything to keep their pack safe. Hence, if coyotes are intruding on their land, they may be killed.

When it comes to food, wolves and coyotes see each other as competitors. Both hunt for many of the same animals, hence they do sometimes try to take each other out to reduce the number of predators around.

coyote foraging

How Do Wolves Hunt Coyotes?

Wolves’ strongest tool is their pack structure. When wolves hunt for larger prey, they do so in packs. They will typically also do so if they’re going up against other predators, even if coyotes are significantly smaller than them

When hunting, wolves use their strong bite, sharp teeth, as well as claws, to take down their prey. They also make use of advanced hunting strategies such as tactically chasing down and surrounding their prey. [1]

While wolves do sometimes hunt coyotes, most interactions between the two species occur when coyotes scavenge wolf kills or when they raid each others’ territories. 

Coyotes are known to steal food from wolves, and wolves will often chase coyotes away from their territory.

wolves hunting as predators

Do Wolves Eat Coyotes?

Wolves do occasionally eat coyotes, but it is not a common occurrence. This typically happens if the wolves are starving. Wolves primarily hunt deer and elk, but they will also eat smaller prey like rabbits and beavers. 

Coyotes are significantly smaller than deer or elk, so they are not as appealing to wolves. However, if there is a pack of hungry wolves and a few coyotes in the area, the coyotes may become prey.

What Do Wolves Eat?

Wolves are primarily carnivores, hence they feed on meat. However, they do show omnivorous tendencies. They supplement their diet with plants, especially if there’s no prey around. 

Wolves will hunt and eat a variety of different prey species, including elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, beaver, rabbits, raccoons, and even coyotes. 

Related: What do wolves eat?

wolves eating

Why Do Wolves Hunt and Eat Coyotes?

When wolves do hunt and eat coyotes it is typically because there are no other options for prey available at the time being. 

Wolves need to eat a lot, around 2.5 pounds just to stay alive, and 5 to 7 pounds if they want to reproduce. Hence, if they can’t find other animals, they may hunt down and eat coyotes.

Another instance where wolves have been observed to hunt coyotes is if they’re chasing them out of their territory. Introducing wolves to habitats where coyotes live has proven to reduce the population of coyotes. [2]

Are Wolves and Coyotes Related?

Coyotes and wolves are related. Both are members of the Canidae family. Coyotes are actually offspring of wolves and became their own species about 2 million years ago.

The two animals are even more related than most people know. They share about 96% of their DNA and have even been known to breed occasionally. [3]

It’s believed that most coyotes contain some form of wolf DNA and vice versa.

Coyote

Can Coyotes Kill Wolves?

No, coyotes can generally not kill wolves, however, this does depend on the circumstances. Wolves are generally larger, faster, and more agile than coyotes, making them better killers.

Wolves weigh about 80 to 100 pounds (36 to 45 kg), whereas coyotes only weigh 25 to 40 pounds (11 to 18 kg). Wolves are also taller, reaching about 30 inches tall (76cm) while a coyote is about 23 inches high (59 cm).

Lastly, their bite force differs significantly. Wolves can bite with 405 PSI, whereas coyotes can only bite with about half of this force.

However, in some instances, coyotes can kill wolves. If a lone wolf comes by a pack of coyotes, or if a wolf is injured, coyotes can win a fight.

wolf bite force

What Animals Eat Coyotes?

There are many different predators that eat coyotes. Wolves are one of the main predators of coyotes, as a pack of wolves can take down a coyote very easily. 

Other predators include American alligators, mountain lions, bears, and eagles, all of which are found in the same habitats. The same rules apply though, as these predators typically feed on other animals, but may eat coyotes if they’re starving.

Wolves vs. Coyotes

There are many differences between coyotes and wolves, but also some similarities. For one, they both live in packs, though coyotes hunt individually, while wolves may hunt in packs.

Wolves and coyotes are related, as both animals evolved from a common, ancient wolf. Coyotes evolved into their own species about 2 million years ago.

They share many physical characteristics, such as similar body sizes and fur coloring. Although they are technically competitors, they also rely on each other for survival in some ways.

For example, when food is scarce, coyotes will scavenge off wolf kills. In turn, wolves will sometimes kill coyotes to protect their territory or young pups.

Related: Wolf vs. Coyote

pack of wolves

Physical Appearance

Wolves are larger than coyotes. They’re both taller and heavier, and can without a doubt take down coyotes. They also have a bigger muzzle, with bigger teeth.

They do share some similarities though.

Both coyotes and wolves have long tails and big fur coats. While coyotes are smaller, they still share the same body structure as wolves.

Coyotes have bigger ears, though still erect as wolves. They also share many of the same coat colors, the most common being black, brown, and grey.

Gray Wolves

Habitats

Wolves and coyotes share many of the same habitats, however, they do have different preferences. Where coyotes prefer open areas, such as the prairie and desert, wolves prefer to live in forests or grasslands.

Wolves are also known to live in steppes, tundras, and boreal forests.

Both wolves and coyotes are highly adaptable animals and can thrive in a variety of habitats. Coyotes are more versatile than wolves and can live in almost all habitats.

Both animals typically follow their prey, and will hence change territory and habitats throughout their lives. When they cross paths, they may either engage or simply pass by each other.

couple of wolves in the wild

Conclusion

Wolves do occasionally eat coyotes, but they primarily hunt deer, elk, and other large prey. When wolves prey on coyotes, it’s mainly because they’re starving.

Coyotes are related to wolves, and they are also predators that eat smaller animals like rabbits and rodents. 

Besides wolves, American alligators, brown bears, and mountain lions are also known to eat coyotes. 

Coyotes typically scavenge food from animal carcasses or steal it from other predators. This is most often when they cross paths with wolves, as they’ll either scavenge on wolf kills, or prey on wolf pups.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.