Coyote dens and fox dens are often found in similar areas and can often appear similar at first glance.
However, they are both structured differently, serve different functions, and are found in varying locations depending on which animal’s den it is.
What are the Differences between a Coyote Den and Fox Den?
While they may look similar at first glance, coyote dens and fox dens are nothing but.
Aside from the fact that they initially appear as holes on the ground, these burrows are not the same and can serve different functions depending on which animal resides in it.
To help you tell the difference between the two, here are some aspects in which these two homes differ.
Size of Openings
Coyote dens generally have larger openings. On average, entrances to these dens can reach heights of almost 12 to 14.5 inches. This is largely attributed to their much larger size compared to the fox’s relatively slender build.
On the other hand, fox dens usually have smaller openings with heights of only 7 to 8 inches.
According to an article published in Western North American Naturalist, that the fox’s burrows have much smaller openings to prevent other, larger predators such as the coyote from entering their homes.
Shape of Openings
The openings for coyote dens are usually elongated largely due to their long legs. However, these dens can have a wide variety of opening shapes as these animals prefer to utilize abandoned dens dug by other animals.
As a result, the openings can depend on the burrowing habits of the original inhabitant.
Because they are so small, openings for fox holes are commonly round in shape. While they mostly prefer digging their own burrows, they can also utilize shelters dug by other animals. In this case, they will most likely have oval-shaped openings.
Size and Depth of Dens
Coyotes usually reside in single-chamber dens that can occupy areas of around 3 to 50 feet. On average, coyote burrows can be as deep as of 24 to 48 inches below ground level.
Meanwhile, fox dens are usually composed of multiple chambers. Overall, dens can occupy up to 25 to 75 feet. These shelters can be located as deep as 3 to 10 feet below ground.
Number of Chambers
Coyote dens are simple in the fact that they are usually composed of a single chamber. This chamber can contain one or two entrances.
Sometimes, these animals will attach a secondary or terminal chamber with its own entrance. This chamber is connected to the main chamber by a single tunnel.
Fox dens are composed of several chambers connected by a web of tunnels with each chamber serving a specific purpose. These purposes include
- Rearing or nursing their young
- Storing Food
- General area for resting
Foxes can also dig up new chambers for each new batch of pups thus leading to a larger net of chambers. If not, they transfer to a new den altogether.
Purpose of Dens
Coyotes only use dens in the spring during coyote pup season. These burrows are used as birthing places for pups as well as temporary shelter to protect these pups from threats and predators while they are still vulnerable.
After mating, expectant mother and father coyotes dig or re-purpose dens to house their young. They then spend the following weeks guarding and bringing food to their pups.
As soon as these pups are able to fend for themselves, they join the adults above ground and roam forests and plains. They will not burrow down to the ground again until they mate and have their own children.
Contrarily, fox dens can serve as permanent shelters for these animals and serve various purposes in their lives.
Like the coyotes, foxes also primarily use these dens to allow vixens a safe space to give birth and nurse their young. In addition, these dens are also used to store excess food as well as provide shelter to foxes.
A fox can have up to three dens: a natal den to raise its family; a backup den located near the natal den just in case anything goes wrong; and a communal den to socialize and live with other groups of foxes.
Coyote hideouts are usually located no more than 1 mile away from a water source. They are usually found near steep banks, sinkholes, rock crevices, and other similar areas that provide protective concealment.
Sometimes coyote dens may be found in open areas but hidden in inconspicuous spots. It is also found that coyote dens are often oriented towards the south for warmth and protection against strong winds.
One can find fox holes in a wide variety of areas. Usually, they prefer forested areas with thick shrubbery to conceal the entrance to their den and protect their young as they play outside.
Because they are so used to human presence, they may even take shelter close to human settlements. They even have no trouble burrowing under houses and sheds. Like coyotes, they also orient their burrows towards the south.
To summarize everything that was discussed above, please see the following table:
|Opening Size||12 to 14.5 inches||8 to 15 inches|
|Opening Shape||– Elongated|
|Size||3 to 50 feet||25 to 75 feet|
|Depth||24 to 48 inches below ground||36 to 120 inches below ground|
|Number of Chambers||1 to 2||At least 4|
|Number of Entrances||Average 1 to 2||Average 1 to 9|
|Purpose||Rearing young||Rearing young|
Shelter during wet weather
Areas with shrubbery
Underneath houses and garden sheds
|Orientation||Towards south||Towards south|
Outside the Den
Aside from expanding on pre-used dens from other animals, coyotes can also utilize natural crevices underneath rock formations or trees to form their den.
Fox dens also usually have a mound or multiple mounds of dirt surrounding their den as a result of pups pounding on the ground playing.
Coyotes, on the other hand, tend to have looser soil surrounding their dens as a result of their own pups playing outside.
Both animals also tend to utilize the outside of their dens as latrines. So knowing what their poop looks like can also help you identify whose den it is.
Coyote poop is big, tubular, and around 3 to 5 inches long. Their distinguishing feature is that their ends are usually long, curly, and tapered.
Meanwhile, fox poop is 2 to 3 inches long with pointed ends. Both will usually have feathers, fur, or undigested bones from their last meal.
Because both of these animals tend to live in a wide variety of habitats, it is not uncommon for them to coexist in the same area. However, with the right knowledge, identifying which animal resides in which den can be easy.
A great rule of thumb would be coyote dens have bigger openings and are located near water. Meanwhile, fox dens have smaller openings and can be found closer to human settlements.