Outside of known wolf pack areas in Oregon, wolves are extremely rare. To see known wolf pack areas in Oregon visit www.odfw.com/Wolves. Wolves avoid humans, cities and towns and are primarily found in forested areas. Young wolves disperse from their birth pack to find a mate and new territory to set up their own pack. Dispersing wolves can travel great distances through unfamiliar country, so they are sometimes found in unexpected places. Dispersing wolves often travel during the day making them easier to observe and more vulnerable to mistaken identity.
Wolves are usually about three times larger than coyotes, but size can be challenging to determine. It is best to focus on the other physical traits of coyotes and wolves to tell them apart. Coyotes have small noses, large pointy ears, short legs and small feet. Wolves on the other hand, have thick snouts, shorter ears, long legs and large feet.
It is the responsibility of every hunter to know their target. It is important for coyote hunters to always check their target to make sure it is a coyote. During the late summer and fall, it can be especially hard to tell a young wolf apart from an adult coyote. Young wolves are small, colored similar to coyotes and their ears are larger in proportion to their head than when they are older. There is no hunting season on wolves in Oregon. Intentionally hunting or accidentally ”taking” a wolf is illegal and has serious legal consequences. If you are not sure of your target, do not shoot!
When you spot a wild canid you may have additional clues such as size, gait, and behavior or maybe you will only have a fleeting glimpse. Click below to see how well you can identify coyotes and wolves from photos. (All photos were taken in Oregon.)