Wolves don’t hunt and kill coyotes for food, but they might kill them or hurt them if coyotes enter their territory. Wolves are highly territorial and will attack any animal that threatens their domain.
A study from 2007 examined the correlation between wolf and coyote populations. The goal was to establish whether wolf populations interfere with coyote populations in any way.
The study found that higher wolf populations mean that there will be lower coyote populations because wolves are effective at taking over coyote territories.
However, when wolves were removed from a territory completely, coyote populations started to grow, which is an indicator of the dominance of wolves over coyotes.
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Do Wolves Hunt and Kill Coyotes?
Wolves might kill and hurt coyotes, but it won’t happen because they need food. Instead, wolves might kill coyotes because of their interference into the wolf territory.
The same study from 2007 conducted by Kim Murray Berger and Eric M Gese also found that the number of coyotes killed directly by wolves is very low.
However, this doesn’t mean that wolves don’t have an impact on coyote populations. The study found that where wolf populations are high, coyote populations decrease significantly.
This indicates that wolves will not predate on coyotes directly, but they still might have a big effect on coyote populations and their long-term wellbeing.
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Wolves and Coyotes Compete for Territory
Wolves and coyotes belong to the same family of animals – canids. They’re very closely related, and they have a similar DNA structure – although slightly different than the structure of dogs and wolves.
This means that wolves and coyotes will not see each other as food.
Instead, they will see each other as rivals that are vying for the same territory. And because of that, wolves might turn aggressive against coyotes – just as they do towards other wolves and even dogs if they threaten their territory.
Some aggression might be noticeable between the two animals. Wolves are larger and stronger than coyotes, and when they move around in packs, they are simply too powerful and strong for coyotes.
But Wolves Don’t see Coyotes as Food
Wolf attacks on coyotes for food are very rare. Coyotes are not seen as a potential animal of prey for wolves but rather as competitors that are looking to threaten their existence in nature and thus, coyotes must be pushed away from wolf territory.
This might result in a few battles between wolf and coyote packs, where coyote packs take the brunt of the damage.
There might even be some coyotes killed in these battles and confrontations when they do happen, although never will wolves kill coyotes for food like they kill ungulates, for instance.
Because of this power distribution that favors wolves, coyotes will look to avoid potential confrontations with wolf packs and will look to find new territories.
Wolves Indirectly Harm Coyote Populations
Wolves rarely directly kill coyotes and impact the population numbers – however, they do have a significant indirect effect on coyote populations.
Wolves are dominant and stronger when compared to coyotes. They are also very territorial, like coyotes. This means that inevitably, when wolves and coyotes live in the same territory, there will be disputes between the two.
The study from 2007 found that wolves were responsible for over 56% of transient coyote deaths.
The most likely reason for these high numbers of coyote deaths are due to loss of habitat.
When wolves inhabit an area, they make it their own and will deter away any other species that might threaten its habitat, including coyotes. Wolves are highly territorial and will battle for every inch of their territory.
On the other hand, coyotes will likely avoid confrontation to minimize the damage, but this might have a negative effect on the coyote pack on the long-term. They will have to look for new territory and this can be a challenge.
Finding food and shelter becomes harder for coyotes that have adapted to a certain habitat already. The coyotes that cannot adapt to this change of territory will likely not survive, especially if the weather conditions are not great when this happens.
Despite the fact that wolves don’t actively predate on coyotes, they are still responsible for a high number of deaths among the coyote population – mostly indirectly.
Do Wolves Control Coyote Population?
Several studies have shown that wolves reduce coyote populations.
The biggest challenge that coyotes face is loss of food.
When wolves and coyotes live in the same territory, wolves will always dominate coyotes and when it comes to food, they will take up the vast majority of food sources in a particular habitat where coyotes and wolves might coexist.
This means that coyote packs will need to find alternatives to survive. This includes either moving away to another territory, or trying to challenge the wolf dominance and look for food in the same habitat where they already reside.
This can have long-term consequences for the coyote population. They might be unable to find food and because of that, several members of the coyote population will die of hunger – especially the younger members.
Another challenge for displaced coyotes is finding shelter.
To find one, coyotes might have to move away to another habitat where they can survive comfortably, and this travel can have consequences for the older members of the population, which might starve out and die as a consequence.
Some studies have also found that coyote populations increase drastically where wolves are present. One of the main reasons as to why coyote populations have been so high in parts of North America is a lack of wolf population in those territories. Coyotes became the undisputed kings of their territories.
To conclude, wolves will not hunt and kill coyotes directly – and when they do, it will happen very rarely.
However, wolves can have a significant effect on the quality of life of coyotes. Wolves are stronger and dominant, and might take up large portions of coyote territories by taking up their food sources and also their living space.