Living with Coyotes
Coyotes exist in every major metropolitan area in the contiguous United States. Perceived human-coyote conflicts are very common, but actual threats to humans are rare; therefore, it is important to 1. Understand what constitutes aggressive or threatening behavior from a coyote and 2. Become informed about best practices with regards to coyotes and strategies to minimize risk of conflict.
Most perceived human-coyote conflict stems from a misunderstanding about coyote behavior and ecology in urban environments. Coyotes are a “synanthropic” species, which means that they live alongside and benefit from humans. Coyotes are omnivores and are extremely flexible in terms of habitat requirements. Combined, these characteristics mean that coyotes can live and reproduce not only in larger green spaces, but also in the center of cities, with little obvious habitat. Although urban coyotes are likely to be more nocturnal than their rural counterparts, it is still common to see coyotes during the day in cities, especially in green spaces such as parks or golf courses, but in neighborhoods as well. It is also common for coyotes to watch, approach, or even follow people. When coyotes follow people it can be particularly concerning to members of the public; however, this behavior is called “escorting” and occurs when a coyote attempts to see humans or domestic dogs safely out of its territory. This behavior is more common during the spring and summer when coyotes may have a den with pups nearby. Escorting is not unsafe and does not usually result in aggression, even if the coyote may appear threatening.
The main concern regarding coyotes is generally the fear that a coyote will attack people or pets. Although coyote attacks on humans are extremely uncommon, when they do occur it is almost always a result of coyotes being fed by humans. Not feeding coyotes (or other wild mammals), making sure pet food and trash are not accessible to coyotes, and never approaching coyotes are the best ways to mitigate the risk of coyotes attacking humans. Since coyotes are wild animals, small dogs and cats may be viewed as prey, while large dogs may be perceived as a threat. Keeping dogs leashed in areas with coyotes and keeping pets indoors at night are good ways to help ensure the safety of pets. For those with small dogs who are particularly concerned about coyotes, you can also purchase coyote vests that are great at deterring any predators, including coyotes!
If coyotes become particularly emboldened, the next step that should be taken is “hazing,” or scaring a coyote away. Hazing should be used with bold coyotes (e.g. coyotes that approach or follow humans), coyotes that enter people’s yards, and in any other situation where coyotes appear “too comfortable” around humans. Yelling, clapping, flashing lights, or spraying with hoses are some common hazing techniques. Although rare, coyotes that show aggression toward humans should be taken seriously. However, unless there is evidence of aggressive interactions between coyotes and humans (e.g. interacting with humans with raised hackles or
bared teeth, lunging or biting at humans or leashed pets), removal is generally not recommended. Even if one group of coyotes is removed, it is likely that other coyotes will move into vacant habitat and the problem will repeat itself.
You can read more about tips for coexisting with coyotes and keeping yourself and your pets safe here: https://www.cabq.gov/environmentalhealth/urban-biology/urban-wildlife/coyotes