Coyotes are a canine species similar to wolves, found only in the Americas.
There are currently 19 recognized subspecies of coyotes, but some of them are informally grouped together because they’re very similar and their habitats overlap, which is why there are only 14 entries on this list.
Read on to learn more about the different types of coyotes you can find in the wild.
- Eastern Coyotes: Southeastern and Northeastern Coyotes
- Central Coyotes: Plains Coyotes, Northern Coyotes, Mountain, and Texas Plains Coyotes
- Southern Coyotes: Lower Rio Grande and Mearns’ Coyotes
- Pacific Coast (Western) Coyotes: California Valley and Northwest Coast Coyotes
- Other Subspecies: Mexican Coyotes, San Pedro Martir Coyotes, El Salvador Coyotes, Belize Coyotes, Honduras Coyotes, Durango Coyotes, Tiburon Island Coyotes, Peninsula Coyotes, Eastern Coyotes, and Colima Coyotes
1. Eastern Coyotes (Southeastern and Northeastern Coyotes)
Scientific name: Canis latrans frustor & Canis lastrans thamnos
The northeastern coyote can grow larger than the plains coyote (which is very large for a coyote) and they usually have a broader skull.
They’re found as northern as Canada, while in the USA, they occur in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, and a few bordering states.
Southeastern coyotes are found in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas. These coyotes are also known to grow larger than the plains coyote, so much so that they’re recognized as the largest coyote subspecies.
There are indications that southeastern coyotes are larger than other coyotes because of breeding with the red wolf (most wolves are noticeably larger than coyotes).
Some southeastern coyotes have a shade of red on their coat, which supports this hypothesis. This is, however, yet to be proven.
2. Central Coyotes (Plains Coyotes, Northern Coyotes, Mountain, and Texas Plains Coyotes)
Scientific name: Canis latrans latrans, Canis latrans incolatus, Canis latrans lestes and Canis latrans texensis
These four species are noticeably smaller with a paler coat in comparison to Eastern coyotes.
The plains coyote is the largest subspecies within this group, and until recently, it was believed that it was the largest of all the coyotes.
Plains coyotes occur from the Great Plains southward, towards the border with Mexico.
Northern coyotes usually aren’t as pale as plains coyotes, while they’re also found in Alaska and they’re not very common in the United States.
They’re the most northern out of all coyote species. Northern coyotes are the only coyote population living that far north (barring any individual wanderers).
Mountain coyotes are almost indistinguishable from plains coyotes, but they have larger and thicker tails, as well as longer ears.
They’re also known as the Great Basin coyotes, and they’re found anywhere from Alberta to Colorado and Utah.
The last type of coyote in North America within this group, Texas Plains coyotes, are smaller than regular plains coyotes, while their fur is usually brighter and more golden.
They have very small ears in comparison to the plains coyote, and they’re mostly found in Texas, New Mexico, and across the border with Mexico.
3. Southern Coyotes (Lower Rio Grande and Mearns’ Coyotes)
Scientific name: Canis latrans microdon & Canis latrans mearnsi
Both of these subspecies are small, even by coyote standards, and they’re mostly found in the southern USA and northern Mexico.
Mearns’ coyote has small teeth and brightly colored fur, while the Lower Rio Grande coyote has dark fur (sometimes called the ‘black coyote’), which is how the two can be told apart.
Unfortunately, not much more is known about these subspecies and further research is needed, as the latest relative update on their distribution and physical characteristics dates to 1979.
4. Pacific Coast (Western) Coyotes (California Valley and Northwest Coast Coyotes)
Scientific name: Canis latrans ochropus & Canis latrans umpquensis
California Valley coyote is a very short and seemingly underdeveloped species. They’re usually thin and dark, with a small skull and large ears.
Their legs are brightly colored. They occupy a very small area, west of Sierra Nevada, and are one of the most common types of coyotes in California, especially in the Sonoran regions of San Joaquin Valley.
Northwest Coast coyotes are also small animals with small skulls and weak teeth, but their fur is much brighter in comparison to the California valley coyote.
They don’t occupy southern, but northern areas near the Pacific Coast, particularly in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.
5. Mexican Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans cagottis
This type of coyote in Mexico rarely wanders across the American border, and they mostly stay in their natural habitat, hence the name.
They’re almost as large as plains and southeastern coyotes, and they’re strikingly red in color.
Seemingly a more developed coyote than many northern species, they have larger teeth and a wider mouth, making them better hunters. Coyotes are very adaptable animals, and Mexican coyotes are living proof of that.
It is believed that this species has spread to Central America, with sightings of coyotes becoming more common there.
6. San Pedro Martir Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans clepticus
The San Pedro Martir coyote is possibly the rarest type of coyote as it inhabits a very small, restricted area in southwestern California. They’re a very small species with a short, small skull and red fur.
Because of habitat restrictions and their low numbers, sightings are very rare and not much is known about them. Since 1902, there have been only 108 registered sightings of these coyotes.
7. El Salvador Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans dickeyi
It was originally believed that this species only occurred in El Salvador, but it was recently sighted in Panama, proving their migration across the continent.
Their fur is darker than that of other coyotes, and they’re quite large for a coyote.
8. Belize Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans goldmani
Belize coyotes are the largest of all non-North American coyote subspecies, almost reaching the plains coyote in size.
These coyotes are very secretive and sightings are extremely rare, so not much is known about them.
9. Honduras Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans hondurensis
This subspecies is found north of Honduras’s capital – Tegucigalpa. Honduras coyotes are characteristically copper-red, with thin fur and a broad skull, which is why they look malnourished.
There have been only four registered sightings since 1946, leading us to believe that this species is extremely rare.
10. Durango Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans impavidus
A large type of coyote, the Durango coyote is off-red in color. They’re found in a few Mexican states, particularly the state of Durango, after which it was named.
Like all coyotes, it’s a scavenger animal, often intruding human habitats when looking for food.
Aside from scavenging and feeding on carcasses and roadkill, it will hunt small animals, such as rabbits, lizards, and small birds.
11. Tiburon Island Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans jamesi
This type of endemic coyote is only found on Mexico’s largest island – Tiburon. It’s a pale species with heavy teeth and a large skull.
Not much is known about this species, but one specimen was recently documented hunting and killing an adult blue-footed booby.
This event marks a forward step in coyote research, as this sort of predation was never before documented in coyotes.
12. Peninsula Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans peninsulae
Found only in Baja California – peninsula coyotes are medium-sized coyotes with darker, more red fur.
The sightings of these animals are very rare and we know very little about them.
13. Eastern Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans var
This coyote is considered a hybrid of coyotes and wolves, which is why it’s larger than all other coyotes and there’s some debate as to how to classify them.
However, despite their genealogical differences from other coyotes, they’re still classified as coyotes.
Eastern coyotes are generally larger and heavier than all other coyote types, while they also develop longer legs.
They inhabit eastern states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and other bordering states, as well as eastern Canada.
Even though they’re mostly scavengers just like all other coyotes, the hunting abilities of these types of coyotes in Ohio are more developed because of their physical enhancements.
14. Colima Coyotes
Scientific name: Canis latrans vigilis
Colima coyotes are found on Mexico’s Pacific coast, where they’re recognizable by their almost entirely colored coat, with very few white parts.
They’re usually darker than other coyotes, but they can develop entirely yellow coats too.
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