As our human population continues to grow, we are spreading into areas where wildlife once ruled. Coyotes are being seen more and more in urban areas, where they used to reside only in the countryside. Housing developments and natural habitat destruction like wildfires & flooding are forcing them into finding new territory. Coyotes have even been found in the middle of Manhattan! (See photos taken in Central Park.) Just because you haven’t seen them, don’t assume they are not there – coyotes now live in every part of North America. A single coyote’s range from their den can be a radius of 12 miles, and while they tend to be nocturnal, they do hunt at all times of the day. Coyotes are very adaptable and opportunistic, taking advantage of many human behaviors that unintentionally provide them with easy food and water. So what can you do to keep you pets safe from Coyotes? Read on!
Coyotes are like any other wildlife. We need to learn to co-exist with them as peacefully as possible. They have just as much a right to be living on this planet as humans and our pets. We wish them no harm. That said, we certainly want to keep our pets (and humans) safe from being eaten or hurt by a coyote! So here is our favorite advice assembled from city, state and university websites whose links we’ve included below, as well as our first-hand experience. We’ve tried many of these tips for living safely with coyotes we’ve seen in our own urban neighborhood. It is very rare for a coyote to attack a human or a dog on a leash being held by a human. (Rare = From 1988 to 1997 in southern California, 53 coyote attacks on humans– resulting in 21 injuries– were documented by a University of California Wildlife Extension Specialist.) If you or your pets are attacked by a coyote, contact your local wildlife agency to ask if you should file a report.
What should I do if see a coyote?
- GET BIG! You want to appear larger than the coyote to scare it off. Raise your arms, wave them around, and shout as loud as you can to scare off the coyote. (We like yelling “GET OUTTA HERE!!!!) If you are wearing a jacket, open it up and flap it around like a cape.
- Keep your dogs as close to you as possible, but do not bend over.
- Carry a large colorful umbrella and a bunch of golf balls or rocks in your pocket. You can open and close the umbrella a few times, put it over your shoulder so you look BIG, and if they don’t head the other way, throw the golf balls/rocks at the coyote.
- Carry an air horn and blow it to scare coyotes away.
If the above scare tactics don’t work, walk slowly backwards (do not turn your back to the coyote) to a safe place, like a friend’s house, a business, your car, or across a busy street.
What should I NOT do?
- Do NOT turn your back on them and run – that is acting like prey.
- Do NOT throw food at them
- If they are within 50 feet of you, do NOT bend down to pick up small animals. This will make you look like you are cowering and small. Get your pet as close to you as possible and get big!
How can I keep my dog safe out on walks?
- Walk your dog on a 6-foot leash at all times.
- Walk in high-pedestrian traffic areas.
- Try not to establish a regular routine (leave at different times each day) and walk different routes each day to avoid setting up a pattern for the coyote to detect. They will stalk you if they learn your routine!
- Avoid bushy areas or paths near abandoned properties.
Is it OK for my dog to “play” with coyotes?
Never encourage or allow your dog to interact or “play” with coyotes. We have friends who have seen a pack use a young coyote as “bait” to lure a dog to “play” with them, and then to follow them into their pack attack area and be killed! Our friend watched this happen from their 2nd story window next door, at first thinking it was “cute” the dog and coyote were playing. You can watch a video of a pack working like this at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCyUuIMFAro — nothing violent it ends before they attack, however read the video description.
Don’t FEED them!
When coyotes are fed by humans, they loose their natural fear of humans. This is VERY DANGEROUS! You may be OK, but the next small child or person with their pet may not be so lucky.
How can I keep my pets safe from coyotes at home?
Keep them indoors when not with you on leash. Pets kept indoors (no pet doors) are safe. Pets allowed to roam free (such as cats) and even in your yard are not. But dogs need to go outside to use the bathroom at the very least, and feral caretakers aren’t going to bring their feral cats inside. So here are some more tips to protect you pets at home from coyotes:
Clear brush and vegetation. Remove habitat for small animals that may attract coyotes and to remove areas where coyotes can hide while stalking their prey.
Install cat posts. You can install one or more 7-foot or higher posts with a platform at the top for cats to use as an escape from coyotes. The posts need to be made of a material that the cats can climb, like tree bark, sisal rope, or outdoor carpet. When being chased by a predator a cat can climb the post and sit on the platform until it is safe to descend and the coyote is gone.
Remove items that will attract coyotes:
- Pet food. Of course you aren’t leaving pet food outside and feeding the coyotes, are you? But even putting down your pets food and feeding them outside, if the pet drops any of the food on the ground (and then licks it up) will leave the SMELL of the food on the ground, and will attract coyotes. Feed pets indoors and ask your neighbors to do the same.
- Other “food” you should pick up ASAP is fallen fruit.
- Compost piles should be outside your pet yard.
- Fountains and fish ponds are watering stations for coyotes. Consider draining them and replacing them with other landscaping, or surround them with electric wire.
- Keep kitchen garbage stored inside until just prior to garbage pickup.
- Vegetable gardens are delicious buffets for coyotes, so keep them as far away from areas where you play with your pets, outside of your pet yard.
- Small animals such as rabbits or chickens housed outside are a HUGE attraction. As you can see in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=A20PVog0ra0
- Birdfeeders are delicious to coyotes. Hang them high out of reach, and not in your back yard, and do not overfill. Keep the area under them swept clean of seed.
Keep pets on leash with you, even in your yard.
Unless you have a coyote-proof yard (see “fencing” below) all pets in coyote-prone areas should only go outside while on a 6 ft leash held by a person. The smaller the dog, the greater the risk – but coyotes may also view bigger dogs as a threat (to their territory, food, or young) and attack. Coyotes are FAST. They can run up to 40 MPH, and have been clocked sprinting at 45 MPH!!! Even if you are standing in the yard with your pet, there is no way you can stop a coyote from running in at that speed, and biting, killing, or carrying off your small pet.
Here’s a video shows how quickly a coyote can run up and grab a little dog. Fortunately, their Rottweiller saved his little friend’s life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQbXSl1ReuQ
“Is my bigger dog safe?” The size of the coyote determines how big of prey they can carry off. They can easily kill a cat or small dog and dart off with it, even leaping over a fence with it, before you have time to do anything. Single coyotes are known to kill animals up to the size of and including Bobcats (20-30 pounds) with a single shake. (See studies here.) Packs of coyotes can take down an elk weighing over 500 pounds (reference here). That said, what are the chances your bigger dog is safe off-leash in your own fenced yard? There are too many variables to be able to make a definitive statement. Coyotes behave differently in different environments. You can use the tips on this page to reduce the risks as much as possible, but any size dog loose in a yard is at risk.
Coyotes are AMAZING athletes and very smart. Most can clear-jump without touching a 5 foot fence. (As you can see in this photo.) They can jump and get over a 6-7ft fence barely touching it with their paws – we’ve seen it live, it looks like they are levitating! Here’s a video of a coyote leaping like a cat onto a 6ft wall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3at0R8QZWE (the leap happens at the very end).
Fencing should be solid and smooth (like a stucco wall or smooth boards) and 6-7 feet tall, then add 15 to 20” long extenders that extend outward at a 45-degree to prevent the coyote from climbing the fence. Another option is chain link (or solid fencing) topped with www.coyoteroller.com. All fencing should also have hardware cloth buried 2 feet down and out along the perimeter, as coyotes are excellent diggers, and going under a fence is their preferred method.
Tall multi-wire or electric fencing or barbed wire on top of a solid tall fence is also effective. Of course check with your local ordinances before installing or modifying any fencing.
Is a 6-sided (top and bottom) chain link or steel mesh run. Coyotes can easily tear through normal chicken wire, and are incredibly good diggers. You need to use heavy gauge wire mesh (“hard ware cloth”) on all 6 sides (including the top AND bottom) of your small pet enclosure outside to make them coyote-proof. Washington State has some good diagrams on their website here http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/coyotes.html#problems
Here are some other resources if you’d like to read more about keeping your pets safe from coyotes:
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