Distinguishing Different Coyotes: Facial Features and Behaviors

In one of our parks I have now been able to distinguish three coyotes:  a mom and her male yearling have been seen since last year, though the yearling has been seen by only a couple of people  – and they were not totally sure about this.  And on September 17th I was able to distinguish an additional female, which appeared to be a pup from this year’s litter. The mom was lactating both last year and this year. It is odd that she would have only one puppy each year, but that is what the observation has been — so far.

Distinguishing between each coyote by their markings is not always a reliable way of telling them apart : the coats have been changing with the seasons, and daylight conditions seem to alter the appearance of their coat markings, so that you cannot be sure of yourself.  I have found that the only reliable way to tell the coyotes apart is by their unique facial features, aided by observing their very different behavior — and a camera is better than the naked eye .

Boldness, shyness, amount of curiosity, amount of daring, sitting to observe or ready to flee, running forwards to observe or only away from, and easiness of gate are all behavioral characteristics which help identify these individuals. Facial features in coyotes are as different from each other as are humans’: The yearling has a built-in frown with thin eyes and a wide, almost squat face. The new female has a storybook wolf-like look with rounder but closer set eyes, which give the snout a wider and a more prominent look. The mom, until recently, has had a classical, sleek look, with unbelievably gorgeous, child-like eyes.

The mom has changed physically over the last few months. She was exceptionally thin and sprightly, but ever since her leg injury from which it took her a full month to recover, she seems older and heavier with more prominent line markings. However, her behavior remains her tell-tale, unchanging, distinguishing feature. No coyote has ever behaved like this one: she’s totally on top of her world.

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