What do you do if you see a coyote?

coyote prints in a sand patch

Coyotes roaming your neighborhood?

There was a time that seeing a wild coyote even close to a business or residential area was rare, and almost exciting, even here in Texas. Today though, many creatures that are considered wild are showing up in parking lots of businesses and in the yards of homes. Even in the most densely populated areas of big cities like Dallas or Fort Worth, seeing a wild coyote in neighborhoods isn’t uncommon, prompting cities like these to establish departments to handle large nuisance wild animals.

Seeing larger wild animals in urban areas is now becoming so common, it is worrisome for residents in these areas, especially in areas with new home construction. For anyone that isn’t familiar with the life of a wild coyote, you wonder what is the difference between a wild dog and a coyote, and why is there such a focus on catching these creatures and eliminating them?

How dangerous is a coyote?

Dogs, for the majority, are domesticated animals and have lived around and with humans for the last 12,000 to 15,000 years. Coyotes are wild animals, typically living in the wild, among nature. While they can be domesticated if raised around humans from a pup, historically, they have proven not to make a good pet. They are not fit for common domestication, and they do not do well living amongst a human population. 

While they may not be fit for domestication, coyotes are only as dangerous as you allow them to be. A wild coyote who gets too close can attack humans and domesticated pets, so in that aspect, yes, a wild coyote is dangerous, especially for children or small pets. However, the risk is minimal and with human behavior modification, any incidents can be reduced or even prevented.

As some say, an ounce of prevention can go a long way. With a wild coyote, start with aversion. Here is some advice and tips on what to do if you see a wild coyote, or have heard they are in your area:

Don’t Feed Them

Eliminating their chance of developing an association of humans with food is a great way of preventing a wild coyote attack. When a wild coyote is fed, it will lose any natural fear of humans. Eventually, it will, by nature, test humans as possible prey. They will soon become accustomed to humans providing them with food and could become aggressive when they encounter a human that is not offering an food to them. Avoid any intentional feeding and eliminate unintentionally feeding like leaving your pet’s food outside. Even bird feeders are an attraction to a wild coyote because of the birds, squirrels, and other rodents that are attracted by bird feeders and pet food. They learn where they can find food and will keep coming back to that area.

If you have noticed an increase in wild coyotes, take precautions with compost piles and trash bins as these are also a source of food for a wild coyote. They are naturally inclined to avoid human foods, but when the population of their preferred prey is low, or a young coyote doesn’t know how to hunt effectively yet, they will eat what they can find.

Report Aggressive and Fearless Coyotes

When a wild coyote doesn’t seem to have any fear of you or other humans or acts aggressively, report this to the DFW Wildlife, the local law enforcement, or wildlife officials where you are located.  All cities and towns should have a procedure on how to handle these types of reports. The aggression signs to notice are the same as a wild dog:  

  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Raised hackles
  • Snarling
  • Unprovoked agitated barking

Avoid Creating Conflict

Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. Aggravating, hazing, and taunting a wild coyote is asking for trouble. The key to getting along with them is communal respect, extreme caution, and awareness.

Keep Your Pets Contained

A wild coyote is probably living closer to you than you realize, and they are watching for possible prey, like cats and dogs that roam and run loose. As you hike or walk with your dog, keep it on a leash. Even pet dogs that are left outside in a fenced-in yard are at risk. Never leave your pet unattended outside. Electrified fences can keep your domesticated pet contained, but don’t count on it keeping a wild coyote out.

Fencing or Repellant Can Help

Six foot or higher fencing topped with a roller bar may keep a wild coyote out of your yard. Repellents may keep coyotes out of your yard as well, but thorough testing has not been completed and therefore shouldn’t be 100% trusted. Motion detecting lights and sounds are more effective. A spray repellent like pepper spray has proven to be a moderate success, but again, don’t depend on it 100% for protection.

DO NOT RUN

If you encounter a wild coyote, DO NOT RUN. Instead, shout, yell and throw something towards it. The coyotes’ breeding season in Texas is usually during May. They are like any other parent and will be on the defense where their puppies are nested. Avoid areas where coyotes have been seen during this time of the year and even then carry some type of noisemaker when you take your jog, run, or walk. One example would be an air horn or a can filled with rocks.

If you see a wild coyote during the day, exhibit caution. He or she may have become accustomed to humans and will be prone to attack. Again, DO NOT RUN, but scream, yell, wave your arms and throw anything you can at it.

Do Coyotes work in packs?

Coyotes stay in family groups, but when it comes to hunting and traveling, they usually can be found solo or in pairs. They are often confused with wolves who do work in packs and are rarely seen alone.

What time of day are coyotes most active?

Coyotes are crepuscular or nocturnal, meaning their active time of the day is early mornings or late evenings. It is dawn and dusk when they are out searching for food, however, they will respond to coyote calls at all hours of the day or night. In years before, it was said that if a coyote is out in broad daylight, then they are likely rabid. It is best to err on the side of safety and assume this is still true and follow the suggestions we stated earlier in this piece.

What are coyotes predators?

The wild coyote has few predators, especially the adult coyotes. The most common predators of the coyotes are:

  • American Black Bear
  • American Alligators
  • Canada Lynx
  • Cougars
  • Golden Eagles
  • Grizzly Bears
  • Wolves 
coyote walking down a street

Coyotes in your area

Coyotes are a beautiful part of nature. Unfortunately, there are instances where they are a danger to humans and domesticated animals.  As it was mentioned in this piece, typically, if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. Be cautious and report any sightings of these creatures to DFW Wildlife, the local law enforcement, or wildlife officials. If you need help with a wild coyote in Arlington and Fort Worth, TX, call Dallas Fort Worth Wildlife Control at (817) 606-7607 or (972) 954-9244!