If you live near an area that has coyotes nearby, chances are you will come across one eventually. While they appear to be very similar to dogs, they are still a wild animal and should be treated as such. Coyotes are very adaptable to their environments and are rather smart animals. Typically, coyotes are afraid of people and leave residences alone. However, if you have pets or farm animals, you may be visited by coyotes. It is essential to help coyotes remain in the wild and discourage them from coming on your property. Let’s learn more about Coyotes and how we can keep our homes and pets safe from these wild animals.
Facts about coyotes
According to coyotesmarts.org, here are some basic facts about coyotes.
- Coyotes weigh 30-50 pounds and can get to 3-5 feet in length from nose to tail. They can run as fast as 40 miles per hour, Yikes! Coyotes can also climb and jump fences up to 6 feet tall!
- Breeding season is December-March, and the coyote pups are born early spring. Coyotes will be more active and braver during this season as they are looking for their mates and collecting food. The average lifespan of a coyote is 6-8 years.
- When coyotes live near humans, coyotes are more active at night, so they are not seen. They also can be active at sunset and early morning.
- Coyotes usually eat insects, rodents, amphibians and snakes, and small game such as squirrels, birds, and rabbits. However, as we have expanded our living boundaries, coyotes have learned to scavenge our properties. They will search around our homes and neighborhoods for food, garbage, and hunt small animals such as cats, and even smaller livestock such as chickens. It is not uncommon for coyotes to live in cities as they can usually adapt and find many food sources.
- Coyotes usually hunt alone or in pairs, unless the prey is a deer or a larger animal. When they are going after larger animals, they may pursue in a pack.
How are coyotes a threat to our own pets?
Parasites and Disease
Like dogs, coyotes can get fleas, ticks, intestinal worms, heartworms, distemper, parvovirus, and mange. Because they live in the wild, coyotes are susceptible to rabies as well. However, they cannot “carry” the raccoon strain of rabies. There have not been any recent cases reported of coyotes having rabies.
Parasites such as intestinal worms and heartworm can be spread to your pets without coyotes even coming near your pet. Intestinal worms are spread through the feces of the coyote, so if your pet comes across the feces, they could be susceptible to getting intestinal parasites. Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes biting an infected dog and then biting your pet. The microscopic baby heartworms circulate into the bloodstream of the infected pet. When a mosquito takes blood from an infected animal, it picks up these baby heartworms. When the mosquito bites another pet, the heartworms will be able to enter the pet’s body via the mosquito’s bite wound on the pet. Learn more about heartworm from the American Heartworm Society.
Aside from coyotes passing parasites to your pets, they can also pass diseases on to your pet. The distemper virus can be given to other dogs via bodily secretions, mainly coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and nasal discharge. While your dog may not be near coyotes, distemper can also be introduced into the environment via urine from the infected dog. It does not live long in its environment once it has left the infected pet, so this is a small risk, but nonetheless, it is still a risk. Thankfully, most of our dogs are vaccinated against distemper regularly. Therefore, the likelihood of your pet getting distemper is low, if you have kept your pet up to date on their vaccinations.
Parvovirus is another disease that coyotes can get, which can be passed to your dogs. Parvovirus is spread via bodily secretions such as vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog encounters feces from an infected pet, they could be at risk of catching parvovirus. Luckily, most dogs are vaccinated regularly, so again the risk is small for your pet to get parvovirus if your dog has been routinely vaccinated.
Coyotes may prey on your pets
As we mentioned already, coyotes are also a threat because they may prey on your own pets. As our homes and neighborhoods have grown closer to natural coyote habitats, they have learned to search for garbage and small animals. Coyotes see dogs smaller than 40 pounds as a prey animal. Coyotes will also go after cats and smaller livestock, including chickens. If coyotes have had the chance to kill other farm animals, they may go after yours as well.
Items that attract coyotes to our residences and neighborhoods
Coyotes try not to come near humans unless they have learned that we may have a food source for them. Coyotes are attracted to the following items that are found in our neighborhoods:
- Open trash cans or compost piles, as well as open garbage cans or trash heaps.
- Fruit dropped from trees
- Pet food left outside, including birdseed and squirrel feeders
- Feral cat colonies or wild rabbits- they will eat the small pets’ food source and then prey on the small animals themselves.
- Unprotected chickens or other small livestock
- Roadkill or other dead animals
- Outdoor cooking areas such as barbecues, smokers, and outdoor ovens
If everyone in the neighborhood does their part in picking up after themselves, it will help remove the coyote’s temptation to come near our homes.
What do we do if we come across a coyote?
Coyotes are usually afraid of humans. As we discussed, one reason a coyote may be brave around a human is that they have been finding something to eat in the neighborhood or on a property. During the mating season, coyotes will also be more bold than usual because they are looking for their mates and finding reliable food sources.
Chances are, if you are going to come across a coyote, it will be on foot. Coyotes usually know to stay away from vehicles and will go away if they hear one approaching.
- If you come across a coyote on foot, the best thing you can do is make yourself appear as large as possible and become as loud as possible. Wave your arms in the air and shout, “go away!”
- If you have something with you that can make a lot of noise such as a whistle or horn, use it. Usually, by making a lot of noise and moving around, the coyote will go away.
- If the coyote is still resisting, walk towards them with your arms out while making a lot of noise. Throw rocks, branches, or anything else near you at them. It is very likely they will run away from you.
- If you have your pet with you and come across a coyote, restrain your pet as quickly as possible. The coyote may see a larger dog as a threat if the dog tries to chase the coyote. If you have a smaller dog, pick the little dog up and start making loud noises at the coyote to get the coyote to scamper away.
- If you live in an area that you know has coyotes around, consider carrying something that makes noise such as a whistle, as well as a spray bottle filled with vinegar to take with you on your walks.
Safety tips for your home… and your pets
Here are some general safety tips for keeping your home and pets safe from coyotes.
- Avoid feeding your pets outside as the food smells will attract the coyotes to come near. If you feed your pets outside, pick up the food and the bowls when they are done eating.
- Remove all food attractants from your yard (fallen fruit, rotten food, or garbage). Cover up and secure compost piles so the coyotes cannot snack on them. Clean and cover your outdoor kitchens and grills when you are done using them, so leftover food odors cannot be detected. Don’t forget to check the grease trays on your barbecues and smokers.
- Clean up the areas around bird feeders or small animal feeders– the food will attract the small animals as well as the coyotes. The coyotes will eat the food and then also prey on the small animals around the feeders.
- Dogs smaller than 40 pounds are often regarded as prey for coyotes. Do not leave them outside unattended, especially after dark, as coyotes will see them as easy prey. Outdoor cats are also thought of as prey, so if they do not have a safe shelter to hide in, they are at risk. Do not let your pets out before sunrise or after sundown without your supervision, or you could risk having a coyote come across your pet.
- Do not tie your dog up alone in the yard as this leaves them vulnerable and unable to escape if predators come into your yard.
- If you have a fence, check your fencing regularly. As we have already mentioned, coyotes can be excellent jumpers. Coyotes have been spotted jumping fences up to 6 feet tall. Just because you have a fenced yard does not mean your yard is entirely safe from visitors. If you have a fenced yard, consider putting something called “Coyote Rollers,” which are installed at the top of your fence and prevent anything from climbing over the fence. Check out the coyote roller website to see how they work! Aside from keeping critters from jumping your fences, also inspect the bottom of your fencing. Coyotes and other predators are known to dig under fencing as well, and fencing that is not at least 12-18″ underground has a chance of a critter digging under it.
What more can we do to protect our property and pets?
Aside from following the home safety tips mentioned, here are a few more things you can do to make coyotes feel unwelcome in your yard:
- Install floodlights around your home that are motion activated. Coyotes like to wander in the dark where they feel that they are not easily spotted. Stumbling on a motion light might startle them and cause them to think twice before coming closer to your house.
- Pick up your pets’ poop. Coyotes can smell your pet’s poop and might get more curious about visiting your property for a potential meal.
- Spraying odor deterrents such as wolf or mountain lion “urine” around your property may work. However, there is no hard evidence proving these sprays actually will deter coyotes, and the sprays must be continuously reapplied to the desired areas as they can be washed away.
- When you are walking your smaller dogs, check out the Coyote vests! These spiked vests sure are funny looking, but they protect your smaller dog from being quickly taken away by a coyote or other predator! The coyote vest will not guarantee your pet is completely safe from being grabbed or attacked by a coyote. Still, it will slow any predators down, and even make them hesitate to attack your pet. Check out the story behind the coyote vest, and the amusing pictures on the Coyote Vest Website.
Prevention is the safest solution
Ultimately the more opportunities we have to keep coyotes in the wild, the better off our homes, neighborhoods, and pets will be. Preventing coyotes from roaming your house and community is the safest solution to ensure your homes and pets are safe. If you have spotted coyotes near your neighborhood, alert your neighbors and encourage them to be on the watch. With safe practices and diligence, you and your community can remain safe and coyote free.