The long, mournful howling in the distance easily distinguishes the wolves' vocalizations from coyotes' high-pitched, yipping howls and dogs' barking. In daylight, however, when there's only a few paw prints to distinguish between the canine species, you may wonder if they're those of a wolf (Canis lupus), large dog (Canis lupus familiaris) or coyote (Canis latrans).
Measure the Tracks
Wolf paw prints are distinctly larger than a coyote's. Between 3 and 4 inches wide and 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 inches long, excluding the claws, an adult wolf's paw print is nearly twice the size of a coyote track. While wolf tracks resemble those of a large dog, most dog breeds have feet smaller than 4 inches long. Careful observation also reveals that dogs tend to wander about, sniffing, while wolves and coyotes generally travel in a straight line. In addition, a wolf's paw prints reveal that the front and hind feet travel in a line, called direct registration. Dogs' front and rear paw prints are generally not aligned.
With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.