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Fact File

Scientific Name: Canis latrans

Classification: Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Canidae

Identifying Characteristics

The males are generally larger than the females (8-20kg vs 7-18kg), with a body length of 1.0-1.35 meters. The coat color and texture shows geographic variation, but generally the coat color is a grey mixed with a reddish tint. The belly and throat are generally paler. This species is usually smaller than the gray wolf. The track (70mm by 60mm) is more elongated than the domestic dog but shorter than either the gray or red wolf. The stride (414mm) is less than the gray or red wolf. This species breeds in January and February, with a litter of 5-7 pups being born during April and May. The litter size is affected by population density and food supply. The home range size of the males is 20-42 km, and for females 8-10 km. Favorable den sites include brush covered slopes, steep banks, thickets, hollow logs and rock ledges. Dens may be shared and used for more than one year. The young emerge from the den in 2-3 weeks, and may disperse 6-9 months. Coyotes use visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile signals for communications.


Occurrence throughout the state is attributed to the steady eastward migration of this species, which is due to the elimination of other large carnivores, such as red wolves, from their former ranges in the east and to coyotes being highly opportunistic feeders and thus are highly adaptable to many habitats. An individual male was shot in Floyd County May, 1983. One was trapped in Tazewell County. Coyote complaints (1983-1984) were made in Bland, Rockingham, and Washington Counties, but no animals were shot or trapped. They build their dens in brushy areas or forests but hunt in primarily fields and meadows. Although the species is highly adaptable, it prefers hilly terrain which may be open or may contain brush.

Last updated: March 10, 2024

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Species Profile Database serves as a repository of information for Virginia’s fish and wildlife species. The database is managed and curated by the Wildlife Information and Environmental Services (WIES) program. Species profile data, distribution information, and photography is generated by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, State and Federal agencies, Collection Permittees, and other trusted partners. This product is not suitable for legal, engineering, or surveying use. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources does not accept responsibility for any missing data, inaccuracies, or other errors which may exist. In accordance with the terms of service for this product, you agree to this disclaimer.