Avoiding conflicts with coyotes

SIX EASY STEPS TO AVOID CONFLICTS WITH COYOTES

Conflicts with coyotes can be avoided by taking simple precautions or by altering behaviors to minimize the confrontation:

  1. Do not feed the coyotes
  2. Do not let pets run loose or be unattended
  3. Do not run from a coyote
  4. Repellents or fencing may help
  5. Report aggressive, fearless coyotes immediately
  6. Do not create conflict where it does not exist

1.  DO NOT FEED COYOTES

Intentional feeding, such as bait stations in yards or parks, should be avoided. However, many people unintentionally feed coyotes by leaving pet food or garbage out at night or having large bird feeders. Coyotes are usually not interested in bird food, but bird feeders often attract rodents, especially squirrels, which then attract coyotes. If you are seeing an increase in coyotes, double check your own actions to make sure compost piles and trash bins are not allowed to be a source of food. Although coyotes seem to have a natural inclination to avoid human-related food, this can change when prey populations are low, or if the coyotes are young and haven’t yet learned to hunt effectively.

2.  DO NOT LET PETS RUN LOOSE

If coyotes live nearby (which they probably do, even if you don't know it), do not let pets run loose, especially domestic cats. When hiking in urban parks, keep dogs on leashes. Pets left outside, even with fencing, remain at risk for predation. Do not leave your pets unattended outside, not even for a second.

3.  DO NOT RUN FROM A COYOTE

When you encounter a coyote, shout or throw something in its direction. Do not run away. Do not play victim if you can help it. If a coyote seems intent on defending a certain area, particularly around pupping season (May), your best bet may be to alter your route to avoid conflict with a normally calm animal. We recommend if you are out walking that you carry some sort of noise maker with you (some have reported success scaring off coyotes by shaking a can of rocks). 

4.  REPELLENTS OR FENCING MAY HELP

Some repellents may work in keeping coyotes out of small areas such as yards, although these have not been tested thoroughly for coyotes. Repellents may involve remotely activated lights or sound-making devices. Fencing may keep coyotes out of a yard, particularly if it is more than six feet in height with a roll bar across the top. Spray repellents (pepper spray, etc) that you can carry with you have been reported with only moderate to no success.

5.  REPORT AGGRESSIVE, FEARLESS COYOTES IMMEDIATELY

When a coyote fails to exhibit fear of humans or acts aggressively by barking or growling in the yard or playground, the animal should be reported as soon as possible to the appropriate officials — usually an animal control officer or police officer.

6.  DO NOT CREATE CONFLICT WHERE IT DOES NOT EXIST

If a coyote is acting as a coyote should by avoiding humans and pets, do not seek out opportunities to haze or otherwise aggravate the animal. Embracing communal respect is key.

WHEN SHOULD I BE CONCERNED?

A list of signs indicating an increase in threat from coyotes is presented here (see Figure 1). It is important to note, however, that coyotes are highly variable in their behavior and this sequence may not always be predictive. Still, management programs for urban coyotes should begin with public education and untangling facts from myths. People should understand the differences between true threats and coexistence. It is important to stress that our relationship with coyotes is directly affected by our behavior — coyotes react to us, and we can foster mutual respect or a lack of respect through cues we send to them. Coyote removal is best employed as a solution only after education has been attempted or if there is an immediate, and obvious, threat to human safety.

Figure 1. Indicator chart of various coyote threat levels
site near where 441 was trapped and tracked

Coyote 441 is one of the most successful urban coyotes we have observed. This female was captured near the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago on March 10th, 2010. At the time of capture, she was a subadult in excellent condition, weighing 11 kg. A GPS collar was placed on her and we recorded her locations until November 2010 when her collar blew off (these collars are programmed to remotely fall off at a specified time).