What to Do About Coyotes
Frequently Asked Questions
- How can you protect your cat or dog from coyotes?
- Do coyotes jump fences or walls?
- Do coyotes attack people?
- What to do if you see a coyote?
- Do coyotes attack livestock?
- How can you protect your livestock from coyote attacks?
- What do coyotes eat?
- Where do coyotes take their kill to eat it?
- How can you differentiate between dog and coyote kills?
- How can you know if your dog is part coyote?
- What do the different howls and yips made by coyotes mean?
- What animals are the coyote’s predators?
- What diseases or parasites do coyotes carry?
Here are some things you can do to prevent your cat or dog from being attacked by a coyote.
- 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.
- Install a fence or convert your fence to prevent coyotes from entering your yard.
- Feed your pets indoors. If you feed them outdoors do so only during the day. NEVER leave pet food out at night.
- Make sure your 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 can't be tipped over.
- Install motion sensor lights in your backyard and around your house.
- Don’t leave fruit, berries or compost on the ground or uncovered.
- Don’t overflow bird feeders. Hang them high or in areas that are not accessible to coyotes.
- NEVER feed coyotes.
- 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's safe to descend and the coyote is gone.
- 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.
- Always keep pets on a leash when walking in parks, forest areas or in residential areas.
Yes, coyotes put their front paws on the top of fences and push with their hind legs to get themselves over fences. If you have a yard, 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 inches to prevent coyotes from climbing the fence. You can also use coyote rollers along the top of the fence to 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:
Yes, coyotes have attacked people. It isn't common, but there have been more attacks reported in recent years due to the urbanization and population growth of cities that border 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 serious 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 are only two known fatalities. In 1981 in California, a 3 year-old girl was attacked and killed by a coyote when she was playing unattended in her front yard. In 2009 singer Taylor Mitchell was killed in a coyote attack in Canada. Wikipedia says "Her death is the only known fatal coyote attack on an adult as well as the only known fatal coyote attack on a human in Canada. It shocked experts and led to a reassessment of the risk to humans from the predator behaviour of coyotes."
If people feed coyotes or if there's a food source associated with humans coyotes become less fearful of people and more attacks occur. To reduce or eliminate attacks it is VERY important that we condition coyotes to fear people. People can help condition coyotes by doing the following:
- NEVER feed coyotes.
- Remove coyote food sources such as trash, fruit and pet food from the environment.
- Keep small pets inside from dusk to dawn or in safe enclosures.
- Never leave young children unattended in yards or parks.
- Harass coyotes with loud noises, clapping hands, yelling, throwing rocks at them and waving your arms to create fear.
- Call the local Department of Fish and Game or local law enforcement agency immediately if you are attacked by a coyote, see them approaching a human or showing lack of fear of humans, or if a coyote has attacked a small pet.
Try 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. 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.
Yes. Most larger livestock are safe from coyote attacks unless the 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 Plant Health Inspection service).
Wildlife Services recommends and offers some technical assistance for the following non-lethal methods to reduce damage done by coyotes:
- Use net-wire or electric fencing to keep coyotes away from livestock.
- Shorten the length of calving or lambing seasons.
- Confine livestock in a coyote-proof corral at night when coyotes are most likely to attack livestock.
- Use lights above corrals.
- Remove dead livestock so coyotes won't be attracted to scavenge.
- Remove habitats that provide homes to natural prey of coyotes, like rabbits, from lambing and calving areas.
- Use strobe lights and sirens to scare coyotes away.
- Use guard animals, such as dogs, donkeys, and llamas, to protect livestock.
Coyotes will eat whatever food is available. They are scavengers. A 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.
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. Not much evidence or waste is left behind.
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.
Notice how the coyote's paw prints are more oval than the domestic (large dog) prints.
Coyotes do breed with domestic dogs and wolves. A domestic dog/coyote hybrid is called a “coydog.” Coyote/domestic dog hybrids are rare. Dog DNA tests are available to identify breeds of mixed dogs including whether a dog is part wolf or coyote.
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.
Wolves, bears and mountain lions hunt coyotes.
Humans are the coyote's most common predator however, killing them by 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. Coyotes are considered nongame mammals and can be taken at any time.
Distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus, and mange (caused by mites). Coyotes can also be infected with rabies and tularemia which can be transmitted to other animals and to humans. Numerous parasites live on coyotes including mites, ticks, fleas worms and flukes. Coyotes are known to carry heart worm which can be transmitted to dogs from mosquito bites.
Additional Information and Resources
Arizona Department of Fish and Game
Colorado Department of Fish and Game
Nevada Department of Fish and Game
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Toll Free: (800) 792-1112 | Austin: (512) 389-4800
Utah Department of Fish and Game
California Department of Fish and Game
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 www.aphis.usda.gov/ws.
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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