Dog family

Banff National Park

There are three species in the dog family in Banff National Park. Dogs are social animals that live and hunt in small groups. Hunting in groups allows them to take down larger prey than they would be able to hunt alone.



The wolf is similar in appearance to a large German Shepherd, but is lankier with longer legs and larger feet. Its muzzle is larger and less pointed (less fox-like) than that of a coyote. Most wolves in Banff National Park are dark in colour, although colours do range from whitish-gray to black.

Wolves returned to the park in the mid 80’s after a long absence. There are several packs that reside in the park and their numbers and pack dynamics fluctuate over time. In particular, one well known pack utilizes the lower Bow Valley in the park and is often observed by Park staff and visitors.

Characteristics: Built like a large German Shepherd, with longer legs. Colour can vary from white to black.



The coyote is a medium-sized grayish dog with a slender muzzle, large pointed ears, and a bushy tail. Coyotes are often seen patrolling the road right-of-ways in search of road kills and small rodents.

The Bankhead area, Vermilion Lakes, and the Bow Valley Parkway are all excellent places to see coyotes in the park!

Characteristics: Medium-sized dog. Thick, bushy tail. Greyish-brown in colour.

  Red Foxes

red fox 

The red fox is a small dog-like carnivore and is mostly nocturnal. Red foxes are not always red in color; their coats undergo different phases that can be black, silver, cinnamon or brown. They will typically have a white underside, black-backed ears and black on the front of their legs. Foxes have long, bushy tails which can range up to almost half of their length. 

Foxes are one of the most common carnivores seen in day use areas. They are naturally wary, but can display surprisingly bold behaviour if they receive food rewards or get too close to people. Like for all wildlife, it is essential to give them space and never feed or leave food unattended.

Characteristics: Small-dog like in size. Long, bushy tail. Colour can vary from black, silver, cinnamon or brown.

Was that a wolf, coyote or a red fox?


Coats are black, white, grey, cream, brown: all shades.

  • 36-45 kg, 67-82 cm tall at shoulder
  • Tail hangs straight out or down,never curls, held straight out when running.
  • Ears are rounded, small, upright.
  • Feet are very large to body size.


Coats can be all shades of tan and grey, rarely black.

  • 9-16 kg, 50 cm tall at shoulder, tail hangs straight out or down, held down when running.
  • Ears are pointed, large, upright.
  • Feet are proportional to body size

  Red Fox

Coats are commonly red but can also be seen as silver, black, cinnamon or brown. 

  • Approximately 5 kg, 1m in length, tail hangs straight out or down, held down when running.
  • Ears are pointed, black, and upright.
  • Feet are proportional to body size.

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