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Coyote FAQ's

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Q: How can I protect my cat or dog from coyotes?
Q: Can coyotes jump fences or walls? 
Q: Do coyotes attack people?
Q: What should I do if I see a coyote?
Q: Do coyotes attack livestock?
Q: How can I protect my livestock from coyote attacks?
Q: What do coyotes eat?
Q: Where do coyotes take their kill to eat it?
Q: How can you differentiate between dog and coyote kills?
Q: How do I know if my dog is part coyote?
Q: What do the different howls and yips made by a coyote mean?
Q: What animals are the coyote’s predators?
Q: What diseases or parasites do coyotes carry?

Q: How can I protect my cat or dog from coyotes?

A: There are a number of things you can do to prevent your small pet (cat or dog) from being attacked by a coyote.

  1. Keep small pets (cats, small dogs and other pets) indoors from dusk until dawn.   Or keep pets in a coyote-proof yard, area or cage from dusk until dawn.

  2. Install a fence or convert your fence to prevent coyotes from entering your yard.

  3. Feed your pets indoors.  Or if you feed them outdoors do so during the day and never leave pet food out at night.

  4. Make sure trash is not left outside in bags and that all trash cans have secure lids with locking mechanisms.  Secure the cans to a fence or wall with rope or elastic cord so the trash cannot be tipped over.

  5. Install motion sensitive lights in your back yard and around your house.

  6. Don’t leave fruit, berries or compost on the ground or uncovered.

  7. Don’t overflow bird feeders. Hang them high or in areas that are not accessible to coyotes.

  8. NEVER feed coyotes.  

  9. 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.  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.

  10. Clear brush and vegetation to remove habitat for small animals that may attract coyotes and to remove areas where coyotes can hide while stalking their prey.

  11. Always keep pets on a leash when walking in parks, forest areas or in residential areas. 

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Q: Can coyotes jump fences or walls?

A: Yes, coyotes use their front paws on the top of a fence and use their hind legs to propel themselves over the barrier. So if you have a yard, you can put a wire apron firmly attached to the bottom of the fence.

Your fence should be at least 5 to 6 feet tall and made of brick, cement blocks, wood or net -- wire is recommended.  Add extenders to the top of the fence that extend outward 15 to 20” to prevent the coyote from climbing the fence. Or you can use coyote rollers at along the top of the fence that keep coyotes and other wildlife from gripping the top of the fence to climb it.

Coyotes are good diggers and often will dig under fences. To prevent digging, securely attach a 4 to 6 foot wire apron to the bottom of the fence. Electric fences can also be used to prevent coyote intrusion. Electric trip wires can be used at the base of the fence or a foot or two out to prevent digging as well.

For diagrams and instructions on livestock fences please reference the following PDF document:

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/nreos/wild/pdf/wildlife/COYOTES.PDF

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Q: Do coyotes attack people?

A: Yes, coyotes have attacked people. It is not common, but there have been more attacks reported in recent years due to the urbanization and population growth of cities that boarder wildlife areas.

“Coyote attacks on humans and pets have increased within the past 5 years in California. Forty-eight such attacks on children and adults were verified from 1998 through 2003, compared to 41 attacks during the period 1988 through 1997; most incidents occurred in Southern California near the suburban-wildland interface.” (Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem, Timm and Baker ’04)

“Out of the 89 coyote attacks in California, 56 of the attacks caused injury to one or more people.  Out of those that caused injury, 55% were attacks on adults. In 35 incidents, where coyotes stalked or attacked small children, the possibility of serous or fatal injury seemed likely if the child had not been rescued.” (Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem, Timm and Baker ’04)

Normally coyotes are timid and shy away from people, but they have been known to attack people.  There is only 1 known fatality that occurred in California in 1981.  A 3 year-old girl was attacked and killed by a coyote when she was playing unattended in her front yard. 

If people feed coyotes or if there is a food source associated with humans the coyotes will become less fearful of people and more attacks will occur.  So in order to reduce or eliminate attacks it is VERY important that we condition the coyotes to fear people.  People can help condition coyotes by doing the following:

  1. NEVER feed coyotes
  2. Remove coyote food sources such as trash, fruit and pet food from the environment.
  3. Keeping small pets inside from dusk to dawn or in safe enclosures
  4. Never leave young children unattended in yards or parks.
  5. Harass coyotes with loud noises, clapping hands, yelling, throwing rocks at them and waving our arms to create fear
  6. Call the local Department of Fish and Game or local law enforcement agency if coyotes attack humans, become too aggressive by approaching humans and showing lack of fear of humans, or if they attack small pets.

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Q:  What should I do if I see a coyote?

A. You want to harass or scare the coyote so it fears you and leaves.  You can do this by shouting or yelling at the coyote.  Wave your arms and throw rocks at the coyote if necessary.  You can make loud noises by clapping your hands, blowing a whistle, knocking two boards together or by using a car horn,  air horn or other noise making device.  

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Q: Do coyotes attack livestock?

A: Yes. Most larger livestock are safe from coyote attacks unless an animal is very old or sick.  Coyotes most often target foals, lambs, calves, pigs and chickens.

“Coyotes account for 65 percent of all cattle and calf losses to predators and 61 percent of sheep and lamb predation (ADHIS.usda.gov) Wildlife Services (a program within the USDA’s and Animal and Pant Health Inspection service). “

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Q: How can I protect my livestock from coyote attacks?

A: Wildlife Services recommends and offers some technical assistance for the following non-lethal methods to reduce damage done by coyotes:

  1. Use net-wire or electric fencing to keep coyotes away from livestock.
  2. Shorten the length of calving or lambing seasons.
  3. Confine livestock in a coyote-proof corral at night when coyotes are most likely to attack livestock.
  4. Use lights above corrals.
  5. Remove dead livestock so coyotes won't be attracted to scavenge. 
  6. Remove habitats that provide homes to natural prey of coyotes, like rabbits, from lambing and calving areas.
  7. Use strobe lights and sirens to scare coyotes away.
  8. Use guard animals, such as dogs, donkeys, and llamas, to protect livestock.

For diagrams and instructions on livestock fences please reference the following PDF document:

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/nreos/wild/pdf/wildlife/COYOTES.PDF

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Q: What do coyotes eat? See video of coyotes eating fruit

A: Coyotes adapt to whatever food sources are available.  They are scavengers. The coyote's diet consists of many items including: calves, lambs, sheep, livestock carcasses, rabbits, mice, snakes, squirrels, birds, chickens, domestic cats, small dogs, insects, citrus fruit, food scraps in trash, compost, seeds, berries and pet food.

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Q: Where do coyotes take their kill to eat it?

A: Coyotes take their kill to a safe place to eat.  They may carry their prey up to a mile before consuming it.  They don’t leave much behind and tend to eat whatever they can fit in their mouth.  In some cases they may even eat a leather collar on a pet.  For this reason, not much evidence or waste is left behind.

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Q: How can you differentiate between dog and coyote kills?

A: One way to tell if an attack was by a dog or a coyote is to look at the size of their tracks and the spacing of canine tooth punctures.  Dogs aren’t known for killing sheep or calves for food and dogs are random in how and where they attack.  Coyote tracks have more of an oval shape and seem more compact that a domestic or wild dog tracks.

footpints dog and coyote

Notice how the coyote paw prints are more oval than the domestic (large dog) prints.

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Q: How do I know if my dog is part coyote?

A: Coyotes can breed with domestic dogs and wolves. A domestic dog/coyote hybrid is called a “coydog.” Coyote/domestic dog hybrids are rare.  It is very difficult to know for sure without a DNA test if a dog is a coyote/domestic dog hybrid.  New dog DNA tests are available to identify breeds of mixed dogs. We have not seen one yet that lists a coyote or a wolf as one of the breeds it can identify.  That does not mean a blood test does not exist, only that we were unable to find a specific test in our research on the Internet.

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Q: What do the different howls and yips made by a coyote mean?

A: Howling - communication with other coyotes in the area. Also, an announcement that “I am here and this is my area.”

Yelping - a celebration or criticism within a small group of coyotes. Often heard during play among pups or young animals.

Bark - The scientific name for coyotes means "barking dog," Canis latrans. The bark is thought to be a threat display when a coyote is protecting a den or a kill.

Huffing - is usually used for calling pups without making a great deal of noise.

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Q: What animals are the coyote’s predators?

A: People, wolves, bears and mountain lions are predators of the coyote.

Humans are the coyote's most common predator due to hunting, trapping, poisoning and accidental death. Coyotes are not protected animals.  Check your state's Fish and Game laws to see what is required to hunt coyotes.  In California a hunting license is required to hunt coyote.  Some states do not require a license. Coyote are considered nongame mammals and can be taken at any time.

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Q: What diseases or parasites do coyotes carry?

A: Distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus, and mange (caused by mites).  Coyotes also can be infected with rabies and tularemia, that can be transmitted to other animals and humans.  Numerous parasites live on the coyote including mites, ticks, fleas worms and flukes.  Coyotes are known to carry heart worm which is transmitted to dogs from mosquito bites.

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Additional Information and Resources

Arizona Department of Fish and Game
http://www.gf.state.az.us/

Colorado Department of Fish and Game
http://wildlife.state.co.us/

Nevada Department of Fish and Game

http://www.ndow.org/

Texas Parks and Wildlife

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/
Toll Free: (800) 792-1112  |  Austin: (512) 389-4800  

Utah Department of Fish and Game

http://wildlife.utah.gov/index.php

California Department of Fish and Game

http://www.dfg.ca.gov/

For more information about this and other WS programs or to find out how to request assistance from your WS State office, contact the WS Operational Support Staff at (301)734-7921 or visit our Web site www.aphis.usda.gov/ws.

Also, information on coyote research is available from the National Wildlife Research Center's Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/nwrc.

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