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Coexisting with Coyotes

Coyotes are versatile, intelligent and adaptable to most habitats. Ironically, the qualities that have enabled the coyote to survive have now made it one of the most persecuted animals in the United States. However, the coyote's bad rap is undeserved. They actually play an important role in the ecosystem and do not pose a serious risk to humans.

Keeping Coyotes at a Distance

Coyotes are drawn to urban and suburban neighborhoods for two reasons: human encroachment into native habitat and the availability of food. Take the following steps to prevent coyotes from being attracted to your home:

  • Secure garbage cans by fastening lids with rope or bungee cords.
  • Dispose of especially attractive food wastes such as meat, cheese and eggs by adding a small amount of ammonia to the bag.
  • When composting, use enclosed bins rather than exposed piles. Avoid adding dog or cat waste, meat, milk or eggs to compost.
  • If you have fruit trees, pick the ripe fruit and keep fallen fruit off the ground.
  • Motion sensing lights or sprinklers may deter coyotes from your yard. A motion sensing sprinkler, the "Scarecrow," is available from Wally's Workbench.
  • Clear bushes and weeds away from your home. Dense vegetation provides attractive habitat for animals on whom coyotes prey.

Keeping Companion Animals Safe

Cats and small dogs may be seen as prey to the coyote, while larger dogs could be injured in a confrontation. To avoid these situations consider the following:

  • Fence your yard. The fence must be at least six feet tall with the bottom extending at least six inches below the ground. Fences can be made more effective by outwardly flaring the top of the fence.
  • Keep companion animals in at night. Coyotes are primarily nocturnal.
  • Keep cats indoors where they are also safe from cars, other animals and from getting lost.
  • Don't leave pet food outside.
  • Spay or neuter your dogs. Coyotes are attracted to and can mate with unsterilized domestic dogs.

Trapping and relocation of coyotes is not recommended except as a last resort. Disruption of family packs can cause orphaned juveniles to seek easy prey, such as small dogs and cats, and other coyotes may move into the vacated area.

Coyote Encounters

Coyotes are usually wary of humans and will avoid people whenever possible. Aggressive behavior toward people is not normal and is most often a result of habituation due to feeding by humans. If you encounter a coyote, remember the following:

  • Never feed or attempt to "tame" a coyote.
  • Do not turn your back or run.
  • Attempt to leave the area calmly.
  • If followed, make loud noises and make yourself look big. If this fails, throw rocks or sticks in the direction of the coyote, being careful not to hit the coyote.

Coyotes are not considered a disease threat. Outbreaks of rabies in coyotes are rare and not commonly implicated in the transmission of the disease to humans or companion animals.

More information about humanely co-existing with our wild neighbors can be obtained by browsing our other expert articles. Visit our "Animal House" display at our shelter for more ideas about "animal proofing" your home and yard.

Modified and reprinted with permission of the Animal Protection Institute