Coyotes: frequent questions
What if I encounter a coyote?
A coyote attack on a human is highly improbable, even in areas with a sizable coyote population. In New York State alone, an average of 650 people every year are hospitalized from dog attacks. In contrast, across the nation only a few coyote attacks occur annually. So the risk is very low, and would be lower, except well-meaning people are feeding coyotes, leading to an association between humans and food. Also, most people run when they see a coyote and thereby behave like prey.
Coyotes will almost always run rather than fight. Trapped ones typically cower. Coyotes fed by humans, however, become less fearful of us. Should you come face-to-face with one, he may stay where he is just to watch you out of curiosity. Or, he may pretend to ignore you and go about his business. Either way, it's important for coyotes to stay afraid of humans, if we're to continue to co-exist peacefully.
So even though your preference might be to act more kindly, be aggressive. First, pick up small children or small pets. Wave your arms, yell, throw stones. He’ll turn and run away, telling himself that you're one nasty creature. Never turn your back. In the remote chance you're attacked, fight back. Hit and kick; don’t play dead as you would if under attack by a domestic dog (coyotes eat carrion, so this trick won't work). Let him know you're one tough customer, too tough to mess with. If you get bitten or scratched, immediately seek medical treatment. Coyotes seldom have rabies, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Rabies is a deadly disease.
Should I worry about my pets?
Dogs and cats are easy to catch and have become a favorite prey of urban coyotes. Some coyotes reportedly prowl neighborhoods specifically looking for unprotected pets. A determined coyote can jump an 8-foot fence and is willing to climb even higher! Even if you believe your yard is completely secure, don't leave pets smaller than a German Shepherd outside overnight.
If you keep rabbits or other small animals outdoors, be sure to keep them in cages made of solid framing and heavy gauge wire (chicken wire isn't strong enough). The wire should extend all across the bottom of the cage, as well.
How can I protect my yard from coyotes?
If you're living in a coyote area, stay with small pets and small children when they're outside. Untended small pets are easily taken by coyotes. Only in very rare instances have small children been attacked (with one death on record, a toddler in 1981). Still, a coyote hunting for food may not make a distinction between a raccoon and a small child. Never walk a dog smaller than a German Shepherd off-leash.
It takes labor and expense to effectively bar these smart, agile animals from your yard, but it can be done. Here's how to do it.
(Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife)
Construct a wood or wire 6-foot fence. Top it with an extender strung with wire (some use barbed wire) and set at a 45-degree angle. Coyotes are good climbers. They're also good diggers, so galvanized wire mesh must be buried at least 8 inches in the ground. Some say to extend the buried wire out a foot or more from the base of the fence, as you see in the illustration. It will help, too, to remove brush and tall grass on the outside of your fence, so coyotes don’t have the protective cover they prefer. A lot of work is involved here, but worth it if you have coyotes in your neighborhood and pets and small children in your yard.
Another possible solution is the Coyote Roller
Discourage coyotes by picking fruit as soon as it’s ripe and keep rotting fruit picked up. It may also help to block entrances to any outbuildings and crawlspaces on your property, to prevent them being used as a den. Make your compost bin inaccessible if you use it for garbage.
Don’t feed birds, as the seed attracts rodents, which in turn attracts coyotes.
If you have a coyote problem, you can call Animal Control and try to have the coyote(s) removed from the area. But coyotes are clever and this is often unsuccessful. Besides, eradication disturbs the ecosystem, as coyotes help keep other species under control. Other coyotes will eventually move in to fill the space left by the ones you’ve removed. The best solution is to safeguard your property while allowing the coyotes to go about living their lives as nature intended.
Can coyotes have rabies?
In 2001 (the most recent results), across the U.S. seven coyotes tested positive for rabies. This is according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, the likelihood of encountering a rabid coyote is pretty remote. However, the possibility always exists. Never approach a coyote or try to pet one. If you see a coyote behaving strangely -- acting aggressive (coyotes are normally shy), listless, lacking balance, drooling, for example -- call Animal Control.