Posted by: petsweekly | August 24, 2010

Wolves and Coyotes in AZ

The Road Less Traveled

As many of you know, we took a short jaunt up to the high country this weekend. It was one of the more relaxing, refreshing vacations I’ve been on – probably because I haven’t had a vacation in over 2 years. (Yes, it’s been that busy and I’ve been that broke!).  I’m starting to realize how important vacations really are to my general well-being so Sambolina and I have decided it’s something we need to do more often – no matter how frantic life becomes!

Eagle catching fish

We saw a bald eagle on the lake and I actually got a picture of him catching a fish! Talk about awe-inspiring…

Because I’m a workaholic, and because I can’t seem to go anywhere that doesn’t somehow include animals, we came across a small adoption fair that was going on in Pinetop. As we wandered the tables and ooh’d and ahh’d over the cute little animals up for adoption, we came across a table that looked very out of place. It was covered with animal pelts, namely wolf and coyote pelts. That was my first clue that something was not right. When I approached the table, I learned why the pelts were on the table. It was the AZ Game and Fish table, and they aren’t paid enough to worry about things like displaying wolf pelts at an animal rescue event.

Normally, I would applaud them being there. Particularly in an area where the Mexican Wolf is trying to make a comeback. But, they didn’t seem to want to spend much time with me. Probably because my last interaction with them was over the phone when I was calling for information on the recent wolf killings and was promptly shut down. (Apparently, no one has the authority to talk to the press and when it comes to animals, PetsWeekly is considered press.) Since they have been avoiding me, I decided to take the bull by the proverbial horns.

So I asked the on-duty ranger about the recent wolf slayings (more on those later, but if you have been following PetsWeekly, you know that three wolves were recently shot and left on the side of a road, including an alpha male).  While our new ranger friend didn’t really want to talk about the actual shootings, his feelings were that the shootings were a result of mistaken identity.

My first inclination was to tell him that people probably shouldn’t be wandering around the forest shooting things they can’t identify. But, I know I am wasting my time in making that point. I mean, it’s only one ranger patrolling hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest, and this particular ranger didn’t seem to have a problem shooting coyotes, so he wasn’t all that concerned. I mean, it’s gotta be hard to keep track of every idiot with a gun in those mountains.

But, our pack is big enough that we can help manage the situation. If you’re like me and you just can’t stand the thought of a coyote being killed any more than you can stomach the idea of a wolf being killed, I hope you’ll take a moment to turn in any strange activity you happen across. While it is legal to kill a coyote (but PLEASE don’t do it!!), the penalties for shooting a wolf in Arizona include criminal penalties up to $100,000 and/or 6 months in jail, or a civil penalty of up to $100,000. So a case of mistaken identity can be very costly. The law doesn’t care if you “think it was a coyote” – they care that you shot a wolf. And it can be very difficult to tell the difference.

My suggestion? Stop shooting anything dog-like.

And if everyone who goes on vacation is on the lookout for suspicious behavior, I figure we can make a difference. So let’s take a moment to view the differences between coyotes and wolves. I’m pretty sure that won’t stop the destruction of the packs up North, but at least I can say I tried to pass word along that we should be keeping an eye out on irresponsible hunters. If you see something, report it!

There are a lot of dogs and coyotes that look like wolves, and a lot of wolves that look like dogs or coyotes, so just report everything to be on the safe side. But according to the AZ Game and Fish Department, these are some of the characteristics:

A pic of a coyote


  • Ears are prominent, pointed, relatively long
  • Nose is slender and pointed
  • About 20-inches tall at shoulder; 4-feet long, including tail
  • Front paw, 2.5-inches long x 2-inches wide
  • Moves with more bounce and bounding
  • Nose is more pointed; face is mostly one color
  • Usually displays skittish behavior unless fed
  • Legs and feet are smaller, more delicate
  • Weigh 20-35 pounds
  • Fur color is very similar to wolves: Grizzled shades of buff, gray, black and rust. They are rarely white or black.

A pic of a wolf


  • Ears are rounded, relatively short
  • Nose is large and blocky
  • About 30-inches tall at shoulder; 5- to 5.5-feet long with tail
  • Front paw, 4.5-inches long x 3.5-inches wide
  • Moves with stiff and unique gait
  • Nose is broad; face often has markings
  • Sometimes displays curious behavior
  • Legs are longer, more lanky; feet are larger
  • Weigh 50-80 pounds
  • Fur color is very similar to coyotes: Grizzled shades of buff, gray, black and rust. Not all white or all black

Please don’t shoot, trap, hunt, stalk, or tease either one of them. I understand that if you’re a rancher or hunter, you probably want too, but don’t. It’s illegal to shoot a wolf and it’s just not right to shoot a coyote. The state has funding in place to reimburse you for any lost cattle.

And if any of my pack members has an idea about who shot any of the three murdered wolves this year, AZ Game and Fish will give you $10,000 for turning that person(s) in. I know that our pack members would do it for free, but you may as well take advantage of the reward. That’s not a bad chunk of change for a phone call! And if you tell us about it as well, we’ll give you an appreciative nose tap and a big bear hug!

To report wolf sightings, possible livestock depredations, or harassment of wolves call one or all of these numbers:

  • Wolf Project Interagency Field Team at (928) 339-4329 or (888) 459-9653
  • Arizona Game and Fish Department Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700
  • White Mountain Apache Tribe at (928) 338-1023


  1. Hopefully many people will read this and report shootings of any kind. Thanks for the photo’s…it is CLEAR which is which.
    I hear pops sometimes on weekend mornings and I do believe it may be people shooting coyotes…right in the city limits of Phoenix. People with guns are not that discerning in my opinion, so we all need to be on alert…and keep your domesticated pets inside your house and certainly inside your fenced yard. My neighborhood has WAY too many missing pet posters on the mailbox!

  2. […] POST THAT DIDN”T GET THE ATTENTION IT DESERVED: Wolves and Coyotes in Arizona […]

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