iced up harbour in lake Ontario

How can you tell the difference between dog and coyote tracks.


Coyotes come in my yard to check out the fallen seed under the bird feeders. This seed also attracts many small animals including mice, voles, rabbits and opossums, all prey for coyotes.

There is a bit of brush and some farms around which is home to deer and to coyotes.

I've seen many kinds of tracks around and sometimes it's hard to figure out who they belong to. I still can't tell a small rabbit from a large squirrel, except when the tracks end at a tree.

Coyote and dog tracks however are not particularly difficult to tell apart.

Coyote tracksCoyote tracks

Coyote tracks above are typical. Oval shaped with sharp nails. Below are dog tracks with much rounder shape, and usually blunter nails.

dog tracksdog tracks

If you look at the dog tracks on the bottom you can see that the toe pads are bigger with less space between them while the coyote always seems to have a lot of space between the individual toes, and between the toes and the pad.

The coyote tracks are narrower and more oval than the dog's almost round outline.

The coyote always seems to have sharp pointy nails while the dog is often blunter and rounder nails.

Dog tracks seem to vary a lot more, maybe because there are many different types of dogs. You can sometimes see marks of fur in hairy breeds.

In dogs the toes 1 and 4 sometimes seem to point to the side while the coyote's toes point to the front.

If you are still having trouble look at the collection of tracks. If it was a dog playing on a walk he might be wandering and running around more. That's not a very good indicator because a coyote will go around if he's sniffing for mice in a field. Or for that matter they will also play and jump around.

coyote droppings

A much better indication of coyote tracks is spoor. Coyote poop is quite different from dog's. It is often full of little bones, fur and feathers, bits of vegetation, undigested bird seed, apple peel, and is not as solidly formed as a dog's. Most dogs have a nutritious diet that creates uniformly textured droppings. The coyote's wild diet is reflected in the spoor and is much more varied. It can be quite small or up to near an inch across. They seem to happily leave their droppings along their paths.

The coyote dropping in the picture is only a few hours old. I nudged it with my foot and it fell apart.

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