Coyotes Can Be Dangerous: Are they a threat?

Depending on where you live, coyotes could be a part of your everyday life. You may see them during the day and hear them howling at night. What does that mean for you and your pets? Should you be worried?

Coyotes have been known to attack people and pets, so there is a possibility that they can be dangerous toward people (especially small children). With that being said, coyotes are not usually aggressive toward people and confrontations with them can usually be avoided.

Coyotes can be dangerous to you and your pets. Let’s look at ways to keep them away and keep everyone safe.

Are Coyotes Dangerous to People and Pets

Like most wild animals, coyotes usually avoid people and populated areas, but this is changing as population centers are spreading into the wild and encounters between people and coyotes are becoming more common.

The decrease in the grey wolf population is also allowing them to spread into areas that historically didn’t have coyotes.

Feeding coyotes is one of the worst things that people do which causes them to lose their fear of people and increases the chance that they will attack people.

Automatic lights are a great way to protect your home from predators. They often scare nocturnal animals away when they come on.

Coyote Attacks on People

A coyote will attack a human if it’s cornered or (very rarely) if it’s rabid. Coyotes can kill adults but it’s not very likely. There have only been two people killed by coyotes between the U.S. and Canada according to the Humane Society.

The small size (about 35 lbs. but they can reach 50 lbs.) of coyotes keeps them from being able to kill an adult easily. They also don’t travel in packs (some people call them bands) as large as those associated with dogs and wolves so they really don’t pose as much of a threat to people as you may think.

Most of the injuries caused to adults by coyotes come from them trying to rescue their free-roaming pets from an attack.

Children are at a lot more risk when it comes to coyote attacks. Even though it doesn’t happen often, a coyote could easily take down a child if put in that situation.

What do you do if You See a Coyote

“Hazing” is a term that’s commonly used when talking about coyote encounters. This means that you throw things, yell and make noise without actually injuring the animal. You’re trying to intimidate it and make it not want to come back into the area.

Here are some things you should do if you come in contact with a coyote:

  • If you have a dog with you, keep control of it! Pick up small dogs and keep larger dogs close to you.
  • Make yourself seem as big of a threat as possible. Wave your arms, yell, and stare straight into the coyote’s eyes.
  • Don’t turn away from them. Do not run away. This could trigger the attack instincts of the coyote.
  • Keep “hazing” the coyote until it leaves. (Between February and July you shouldn’t harass the coyote. This is season where coyotes have their pups and they will defend their dens violently. Instead, walk away calmly and without turning your back to it. You should still seem intimidating, but not overly aggressive.)

If you see a coyote in your yard, the steps to take are a little different. In this case, you need to stand your ground.

Follow these steps if you come across a coyote in your yard:

  • Make yourself seem as large as possible, wave your arms and yell at the coyote in a commanding voice.
  • Bang things like pots and pans together or other items to make as much noise as possible. This has the added benefit of potentially warning your neighbors.
  • Throw small rocks, sticks, balls, or anything else you have at hand to scare them away.
  • You can also stray them with a hose if you have one close by. Pepper spray and bear spray are other good options.

Coyote Attacks on Pets

Coyote attacks on pets are way more likely than they are on people. Coyotes tend to see large dogs as potential rivals and smaller dogs and cats as prey.

Rabbits, voles, and mice are the normal things that coyotes hunt, but feral and tame dogs and cats are also potential prey. As coyotes move into populated areas, wild animals are less common and household pets are more at risk.

If you leave your animals outside for long periods of time or let your cat roam the neighborhood, they’re at a much higher risk of getting attacked by coyotes.

Protecting Your Pets from Coyotes

There are some simple steps you can take to keep your pets safe from a possible coyote attack.

One of the best ways to protect pets is by aggressively harassing any coyotes found on the property. This makes the area less appealing and means they’re not likely to return.

Cats shouldn’t be fed outside. If you do feed them outside, do it at certain times and remove any leftover food as soon as they’re done eating. Consider feeding them on an elevated position that coyotes can’t reach.

You can also make use of cat poles (12 foot tall 4x4s placed vertically in the yard) so they have somewhere to run to if they’re approached by a coyote.

The best way to protect cats is by simply keeping them inside.

Dogs are at the most risk from coyotes that have become used to people.

Keep your dog’s food and water inside so it doesn’t attract coyotes into your yard.

Don’t chain your dog outside, and don’t leave them unattended if possible. This is especially true for small dogs that can’t defend themselves against a coyote.

Large dogs are less likely to be attacked but they are sometimes attacked because they’re seen as competitors.

How do You Know if You Have Coyotes in Your Area?

Coyotes can do a pretty good job of announcing their presence in any given area.

Howling is probably the most recognizable way that you can tell if coyotes are in your area. This is part of the way that they announce that a certain territory is theirs.

Scat is another way that they mark their territory. They use their feces to mark the boundaries and paths in their territory. Usually in very obvious ways.

You can tell the difference between dog feces and coyote feces because it’ll have a rope-like appearance with hair and bones in it. Dog feces are usually smooth because of the food we give them.

Finally, you can tell by their tracks in and around the area. One of the easiest ways to tell them apart from domestic dog tracks is by looking at the way that they’re traveling. Domestic dogs tend to wander about sniffing and winding their way through an area. Coyotes moving from one area to another will tend to travel in a straight line.

What Attracts Coyotes?

There are a lot of things that we do that will attract coyotes.

The primary way that we attract coyotes is by providing them with food. Most of the time this is by accident or by necessity.

Pets can be seen as food, the food we feed our pets can attract them and so can things like trash and compost piles. Even bird feeders, which attract mice and rats, can be a way that we involuntarily provide coyotes with a source of food.

Chicken coops and other farm animals will attract coyotes and composted meats or meat left in the trash will definitely bring animals to your property.

Dog feces and urine actually attract coyotes as well. Make sure that you don’t leave a yard full of dog poop and your pets will be a little safer.

What Can Keep Coyotes Away?

Keeping coyotes away from your property can be difficult. They’re extremely athletic, decent diggers, and become used to humans pretty quickly.

Non-Lethal Ways to Keep Coyotes Away

I prefer non-lethal ways to get rid of predatory animals if it’s possible. A lot can be done by just adding deterrents to keep them away.

Adding fencing is a possible way to protect from coyotes but it’s not really as simple as putting up a fence and calling it good.

Some coyotes can jump over a 6-foot tall fence and barely touch the top as they clear it. I’ve read accounts of coyotes climbing fences that are up to 14 feet tall!

With this in mind, it’s important to think about ways to keep coyotes from just hopping your fence. Wire mesh fences are actually one of the best ways to keep them out.

The wire mesh makes it more difficult for them to climb or vault over as long as it’s high enough to keep them from jumping it in a single leap. Wire mesh fences at least 6 feet tall will probably do the trick.

Be sure to bury the fence a foot into the ground as well since coyotes will dig under a fence similar to dogs.

There are products out there that you can put on top of your walls to keep animals from climbing on top of them. These spikes prevent animals from standing on top of walls and make it less likely that they’ll push off of the top as they try to climb over.

Scaring off coyotes with automatic lights are another way to keep them away. Automatic lights startle coyotes and can keep them out of areas at night. There are also automatic noisemakers that will keep them away.

Urine from predators like wolves can also help keep them away from your property, but it has mixed results. Sometimes it works well and other times it doesn’t seem to have any effect at all. You can try urine as a last resort if nothing else seems to be working.

If you have animals like cows and sheep, you can get a donkey to act as a guard animal. A donkey in the same pen with your other animals will make all kinds of noise alerting the herd.

They’ll also usually chase the coyote and will even stomp them to death if they don’t run away fast enough. Not all donkeys are up to the task so make sure to see how they react before you trust them with the lives of other animals.

You can also keep coyotes away by limiting the areas that they like to sleep or take shelter in. Keep grass cut low, burn or dispose of loose brush piles and don’t have thin hedges around your property. They also like rocky outcroppings and premade dug out areas made by other animals. The only time they make dens is during the pup season.

Lethal Ways to Get Rid of Coyotes

When nothing else works, you sometimes have to go to lethal means to remove predators and keep your family, pets, and animals safe.

This is especially true when coyotes have become used to humans and no longer get startled away by harassment, lights or other noises.

Trapping and poison bait are common ways to kill coyotes. They work to get rid of them but you run the risk of killing your neighbor’s pets and other animals if you’re not careful.

For coyotes that just won’t go away, and are killing or threatening your animals, shooting them is probably the best option. It doesn’t risk other animals, takes out the nuisance animal and kills them quickly and humanely.

Make sure that you have a clean shot and use a caliber that’s going to kill them with one round.

Clean up after your animals as best as you can and take their food inside at night.

Where Do Coyotes Live?

Coyotes can be found all across North America from Canada to the United States and Mexico all the way down to Central America and even some tropical areas.

As time passes and people spread out more and more, coyotes and people are running into each other more often. In fact, Los Angeles is one of the places with the highest amount of reported coyote injuries!

They’re super adaptable and have been able to thrive where other animals are falling off.

What Time of Day do Coyotes Hunt?

Coyotes typically hunt at night and tend to sleep during the day although it isn’t uncommon to see them up and moving around during the day. They’re solitary most of the time but they do form small packs when hunting larger animals like deer.