July 13, 2005
The chances of people and pets encountering a coyote will increase over the
summer as young coyote pups begin exploring and more people are outside
enjoying warmer weather, cautions the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW.)
Coyotes have litters during April and May, delivering an average of five or
six pups. Adult coyotes will need to travel farther and forage more to feed
their young. This can lead to increased aggressiveness, said DOW officers,
who have seen an upswing in reported coyote encounters.
"Although coyotes are active year-round, we have entered the season of
increased contact between people and coyotes," said Jerrie McKee, district
wildlife manager. "The Division wants to caution people about encounters
with coyotes. These are not pets. They are wild animals that are predators,
and they should be treated with caution and respect."
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a member of the dog family. It resembles a
small German shepherd with the exception of the long snout and bushy,
black-tipped tail. Coyotes are extremely adaptable and resourceful, and can
survive on whatever food is available. They prey on rabbits, mice, birds
and other small animals, as well as young deer and sheep. In urban areas,
coyotes have attacked people's small pets - cats and dogs included –
particularly when pets are allowed to roam free or walked off-leash. A
typical coyote weighs about 50 lbs., and can easily outmatch a smaller pet.
"This is the time of year when we've seen coyotes become more territorial,"
McKee said. "We've had calls of people walking their dogs when coyotes have
become aggressive." One woman in Lakewood reported in May that a coyote
attacked her small dog – while she was walking it on a leash – and she was
slightly bitten and scratched defending her pet.
Coyotes are adaptable predators, found in most open habitats, including
city neighborhoods, open space, parks and trails. They are tolerant of
human activities, and adapt and adjust rapidly to changes in their
environment. As coyote pups grow older and there is more competition for
food, a coyote's behavior can change. The biggest problems occur when
people feed coyotes -- either deliberately or inadvertently.
"Urban coyote conflicts often center on feeding issues," said McKee. "We've
had complaints about a coyote approaching people and learned that it was
regularly being fed by restaurant workers. People will leave food along a
trail. It doesn't take long to teach a wild animal to associate people with
food, but it’s very difficult to convince a habituated coyote to return to
wild ways." A simple understanding of ‘habituated’ means that the coyote
has changed its behavior in response to previous human interaction. It has
learned behavior to get what it wants – food.
Coyotes that appear friendly may be mimicking behavior that has been
rewarded with food in the past: Remember that all wildlife is
unpredictable. Do not get close or encourage interaction with wild animals.
When it becomes apparent that no food is forthcoming, the coyote’s behavior
can change abruptly.
A common chorus that wildlife officers hear is: "Why doesn't somebody come
and move these coyotes somewhere else?" With coyote-human conflicts found
throughout the state, there is no "somewhere else." According to state
policy, coyotes are not relocated. And, even if it were allowed, there is
no community asking to receive coyotes that have been habituated and lost
fear of humans, and different conflicts where there are coyotes and
livestock or agriculture.
Removing coyotes simply because they've been seen near residences is
usually unwarranted. Urban coyotes, foxes and other omnivores can co-exist
with humans in urban areas, often keeping rodent and small mammal
populations in check. However, if a coyote displays aggression toward
humans, it may be destroyed.
“Removing habituated coyotes does not solve the problem. There will always
be coyotes, foxes, and other mammals living among humans and if an
individual animal is removed, another will soon take its place,” McKee
said. Solving the problem begins with altering our behavior: not feeding
wild animals, not approaching wild animals, and helping to re-instill an
animal’s natural wariness of people by scaring the animal away if it is
seen approaching people.”
Remind children not to approach or feed any wildlife. If children feel
threatened by the presence of coyotes or other wildlife, they should stay
in a group and walk slowly to an area where adults are present. Make sure
your child understands that a coyote is a wild dog and should be treated
For more information, please ask for a copy of “Living with Wildlife in
Coyote Country” at your local Division of Wildlife office or on the web at
Living with Wildlife in Coyote Country.
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TIPS TO REMEMBER:
Discouraging Coyotes near Homes
-Frighten coyotes with loud noises; use unnatural odors (such as ammonia)
to clean trash cans.
-Remove food attractants such as pet food, table scraps on compost piles,
fallen fruit, and spilled seed beneath birdfeeders.
-Remove vegetation and brush that provides cover for prey and hiding cover
for coyotes; trim lower limbs of shrubs and conifer trees.
-Use yard lights with motion detectors, appearance of the sudden light may
frighten coyotes away.
Protecting Pets and Children
-Keep pets in fenced areas or kennels; remember split rail fences and
invisible fences will not keep your pet safe from predators. Pet kennels
and runs should have a fully-enclosed roof.
-Provide human supervision while outdoors, even in your own backyard.
-Do not allow pets (or children) to run loose in areas where there is
coyote activity. Keep pets on leash or leave the area when you see a
coyote. Most urban areas have leash laws requiring dogs to be under
control. Coyotes and foxes have been known to be responsible for many cat
disappearances in residential neighborhoods.
-Although rare, coyotes have been known to injure people. Most of these
incidents involved people feeding coyotes. Teach your family not to
approach wildlife and never feed wildlife.
-Treat the presence of a coyote as an unfamiliar and potentially
-Coyotes are usually wary of humans and will avoid people whenever
possible. Aggressive behavior toward people is not normal and is often a
result of habituation due to feeding by humans.
-Never feed or attempt to "tame" a coyote.
-Do not turn your back or run from a coyote.
-If approached or followed by a coyote, make loud noises, yell and make
yourself look big.
-If the coyote approaches to an uncomfortably close distance, throw rocks
or other objects at the coyote.
-Adults should keep themselves between the coyote and small children.