While wolves are larger and bulkier, coyotes have bushier tails. Coyotes run with their tails down, while dogs run with their tails up and wolves with their tails straight. Wolves hunt in packs, while coyotes hunt primarily in pairs. A wolf’s call is a sustained howl while a coyote’s rises and falls. Coyotes are more adaptable than wolves and have learned to thrive in human-altered environments.
A coydog is a dog/coyote hybrid that is more myth than reality, due primarily to the difference in breeding cycles. Even when mating is successful, pup survival is often a problem since domestic dogs and coydogs do not assist in parental care as male coyotes do. While coydogs do exist as rare individuals, there is little genetic evidence of dog/coyote interbreeding.
Coyote attacks on humans are very uncommon and rarely result in serious injuries. Only two deaths have ever been documented—a toddler in California in 1981 and a 19-year-old woman hiking alone in Nova Scotia in 2009. Children are more at risk than adults, and attacks are more common in urban areas where coyotes have lost their fear of humans thanks to intentional or unintentional feeding.
Coyotes were first documented in Rhode Island in the late 1960s and are found in all parts of the state except Block Island. A major research project, the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study (link), has been underway since 2004 to study the coyotes of Aquidneck and Conanicut Islands in order to develop science-based coexistence and management strategies.
There is no closed season for coyotes in Rhode Island. They can be taken at any time of the year by any means, although city and town ordinances may restrict hunting or the discharge of firearms in residential areas. The use of foothold traps, snares or poison is prohibited. Complete rules and regulations are available through the RI Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Coyotes have an important role to play in the ecosystem. They are considered a keystone species, whose presence or absence has a major effect on the surrounding biological community. As top predators, they help control pests such rodents, rabbits, deer and geese. They have also been found to benefit bird populations by preying on many of the small mammals that prey on the birds, their young or their eggs.