When it comes down to it, hazing and securing food sources are more effective at solving coyote problems than killing.
When it comes to understanding how to get rid of coyotes, you should first understand their role in the ecosystem. Coyotes play a large role in keeping rodent populations down, so while their propensity to dine on pets and livestock can be troublesome for homeowners and farmers, retaliating in an inhumane way is certainly not the answer.
If a Coyote is in Your Neighborhood
If you spot a coyote in your neighborhood, don’t panic. Most coyotes avoid people. Seeing a coyote out during the day is not a cause for alarm, especially in the spring and summer when they’re looking for food for their pups.
If a coyote displays no fear of people, he’s probably been fed. You can reinstill his fear by raising your arms and yelling to drive him away. This is called hazing. Unlike trapping, which sometimes catches pets or other wildlife but rarely the coyotes that are causing the problems, hazing works.
Coyotes may mistake small, unattended pets for prey or attack large dogs they view as threats to territory or dens. To keep your animals safe, take two simple steps:
Watch your pets. Keep cats indoors, and never leave small dogs outside unsupervised or let any dog out of your yard off leash.
Secure food sources. Store garbage in wildlife-proof containers and feed pets indoors.
What To Know If You See or Encounter a Coyote
Humane-coyote encounters, and coyote attacks are rare.
An encounter with a coyote in an urban or suburban landscape is a rare event, even when coyotes are found in large numbers.
Coyotes are generally nocturnal and seldom seen. You may catch a glimpse of a coyote, however, as they move from one part of their territory to another in search of prey (usually small mammals such as mice and voles).
Observing a coyote in this manner (even during the daytime) does not mean that the coyote is sick or aggressive. If the coyote is scared away by your presence, they are exhibiting natural behavior and is not cause for concern.
A coyote that does not run away when encountering humans has, most likely, become accustomed or habituated to people. This generally occurs when a coyote has been fed (in the form of handouts, pet food left outside, or unsecured garbage).
Coyotes who come to depend on these sources of food may begin to approach humans looking for a handout and may begin to exhibit what’s perceived as “too tame” or aggressive behavior.
When coyotes become habituated, hazing can reinstill the natural fear of humans. Hazing entails using a variety of scare techniques to teach a coyote to regard people as threatening and stay away from them.
Coyotes who have lost their fear of humans should not be tolerated or enticed but instead given the clear message that they should not be so brazen.
Hazing is a method that makes use of deterrents to move an animal out of an area or discourage an undesirable behavior or activity. Hazing can help maintain a coyote’s fear of humans and deter them from backyards and play spaces.
Using a variety of different hazing tools is critical so that coyotes don’t get used to redundant or single stimulus devices, sounds, and actions.
- Yelling and waving your arms while approaching the coyote.
- Noisemakers: Voice, whistles, air horns, bells, “shaker” cans full of marbles or pennies, pots, lid or pie pans banged together
- Projectiles: sticks, small rocks, cans, tennis balls, or rubber balls
- Other: hoses, water guns with vinegar water, spray bottles with vinegar water, pepper spray or bear repellent
The simplest way of hazing a coyote involves being loud and large:
- Stand tall, wave your arms, and yell at the coyote, approaching them if necessary, until they run away.
- If a coyote has not been hazed before, they may not immediately run away when you yell at them. If this happens, you may need to walk towards the coyote and increase the intensity of your hazing.
- The coyote may run away but then stop at a distance and look at you. It is important to go after the coyote until they completely leave the area. You may need to use different tactics such as noisemakers, stomping your feet, or spraying the coyote with a hose to get them to leave.
There are several tools that you can carry with you while walking your dog that can be used to repel coyotes. These include:
- Homemade noisemakers
- Whistle or small air horn
- Squirt guns
- Pepper spray
- Sticks or other objects to throw toward (not at) the coyote
In Your Yard
Remember, keeping pets and pet food inside is the best way to keep coyotes out of your yard. If you do encounter coyotes, all of the above methods can be used in your yard at home. First, try the, “Go away coyote,” method (yell and wave your arms as you approach the coyote). Here are some additional methods you can use as well:
- Squirt the coyote with your garden hose
- Spray the coyote with vinegar water
- Bang pots and pans together
If a coyote needs to be evicted from one of these areas, use harassment strategies such as sweaty socks sprinkled with vinegar in the den entrance along with a blaring radio. This will take time and patience as coyotes can be resistant and will also need time to find or create a new den.
One of the most effective ways to keep coyotes out of your yard is to keep it clean and to build a fence to keep them out. For example, you must keep your garbage cans secured inside, you need to keep your pets’ food inside, and you need to pick up any fallen or rotting food off the ground. To make this strategy even more effective, build a fence around your property.
Fencing can be used to keep coyotes out of residential yards, but it must be at least 6feet tall and should extend underground at least 6 inches or be parallel to the ground at least 12 inches and secured with landscaping staples. Devices such as the “coyote roller,” which “rolls off” coyotes that try to scramble over the fence, can enhance the effectiveness of a fence. Do-it-yourself options also include adding PVC piping or chicken wire to the top of your fence to prevent coyotes from jumping over and retrofitting a mesh apron to the bottom of the fence (extending at least 12 inches out and secured with landscaping staples) to keep coyotes from digging under.
Public Health Concerns
Coyotes, like all warm-blooded animals, may contract rabies. Their close kinship to dogs places coyotes at a greater risk where there are populations of unvaccinated domestic dogs. Recent advances in rabies control using oral bait to immunize wild animals without having to capture them have made controlling the spread of rabies in coyotes much more effective.
Other Tips for Your Property
If you have a coyote in your shed, open the door and stand away from the entrance. Never try to remove a coyote yourself since it may carry rabies and could defensively attack you. Once the coyote exits, make sure all entrances to the shed have been securely closed.
If you have a chicken coop, and there are coyotes in your neighborhood, you can bet one will come to investigate. In that case, install a tall fence (the taller the better!), to keep your chickens safe.
Install motion-sensor lights outside of your home, garage, chicken coop, and sheds. When the lights turn on, the coyotes will be alarmed and run off. A motion sensor that triggers a sprinkler system is also a good idea.
What Attracts Coyotes to Cities and Suburbs
Coyotes generally avoid humans, even when their home range encompasses largely urban or suburban habitat.
However, the presence of a free buffet in the form of pet food or garbage can lure coyotes into suburban yards and create the impression that backyards are bountiful feeding areas.
Without the lure of food or other attractants, their visits will be brief and rare, but a coyote who finds food in one yard may learn to search for food in others.
Deliberately feeding coyotes is a mistake. You may enjoy hand-feeding animals, but this is a surefire way to get them accustomed to people and will ultimately lead to their demise. Here are some other general rules about feeding:
- Avoid feeding pets outside. If you must, feed them only for a set time during the day (for no more than an hour) and remove the food bowl as soon as your pet has finished their meal.
- In dry conditions, water can be as alluring as food, so remove water bowls set outside for pets and make watering cans unavailable.
- If you compost, use enclosed bins and never compost meat or fish scraps.
- Good housekeeping, such as regularly raking areas around bird feeders, can also help discourage coyote activity near residences.
- Remove fallen fruit from the ground.
- Keep trash in high-quality containers with tight-fitting lids. Only place the bins curbside the morning of collection. If you leave them out overnight, they are more likely to be tipped and broken in to.
- Bag especially attractive food waste such as meat scraps or leftover pet food. If it is several days before garbage will be picked up, freeze temporarily or take to a dumpster or other secure storage container.
Coyotes are secretive animals, and studies have shown they can live for a long time in close proximity to dense human settlements without ever being noticed. Such coyotes are “abiding by the rules” and should be left alone.
In the spring, when coyotes give birth and begin to raise young, they concentrate their activity around dens or burrows in which their young are sheltered. At these times, the parents may become highly defensive and territorial, and challenge any other coyote or dog that comes close to the pups. People walking their dogs in parks or wooded areas may run into these coyotes and even be challenged by them to back off.
Rarely, fights occur, probably most often when a dog is off its leash and chases a coyote. It’s important to recognize such incidents for what they are: Defense of space and young, not random attacks. If you encounter a coyote when walking your pet, do not run away; scare off the coyote with hazing techniques.
Free-roaming pets, especially cats and sometimes small dogs, may attract coyotes into certain neighborhoods. The best way to minimize risk to your pets is to not leave them outside unattended.
Other domestic animals kept outside, such as chickens and rabbits, may also be viewed as prey by coyotes. Protect chicken or other outdoor animals from coyotes (and other predators) with protective fencing (both structural and electrical) and by ensuring they are confined in sturdy cages or pens every evening.
Coyotes typically hunt small mammals such as mice, voles, and rabbits. If given the opportunity, they will also make a meal of a cat, tame or feral.
Dogs, especially smaller breeds, are also at risk, although attacks on them are rarer.
The best way to protect your pets is to only let them outside when you are with them- especially at night- and to keep pet food and water inside.
Protecting Feral Cat Colonies
People who feed feral cats are often concerned that coyotes might prey on the cats. These concerns are well founded, as coyotes will be attracted to both the outdoor pet food and the cats themselves as prey. Here are some general suggestions for keeping cats safer:
- Feed cats only during the day and at a set time- and pick up any leftovers immediately.
- Provide escape routes for cats.
- In treeless or open areas, erect “cat posts”- long pieces of wood (four inches by four inches or corner posts) that stand out of the ground at least ten or twelve feet. These can be climbed by cats but not by coyotes.
- Elevate feeding stations beyond the coyotes’- but not the cats’- reach.
- Discourage/harass coyotes seen on the property. Go after them aggressively, using hazing techniques. Making them uncomfortable will encourage them to stay out of the area.
Important Things to Remember
- Never run away from a coyote!
- The coyote may not leave at first, but if you approach them closer and/or increase the intensity of your hazing, they will run away.
- If the coyote runs away a short distance and then stops and looks at you, continue hazing until he leaves the area entirely.
- After you have successfully hazed a coyote, they may return. Continue to haze the coyote as you did before; it usually only takes one or two times to haze a coyote away for good.
- Contact authorities and do not interact with a coyote whom you suspect of being sick or injured. Although coyotes are skittish by nature and generally aren’t aggressive towards people, engaging animals who are sick or injured can result in unpredictable behavior.
Tips for Success
- Hazing is most successful when an individual coyote is hazed by a variety of people using a variety of tools and techniques.
- A coyote who is being hazed must be able to recognize that the potential threat is coming from a person. Therefore, hiding behind a bush and throwing rocks or hazing from inside your car isn’t effective.
- You can use hazing techniques or tools for one animal or multiple animals. There is usually a dominant animal in the group who will respond, and others will follow their lead.
- Don’t stop hazing after it’s successful. Coyotes or their pups could return to their unacceptable habits or behaviors if you stop.
- Share this information by teaching your family, friends, and neighbors how to haze coyotes too. The more people that get involved in hazing, the more quickly you will see results.
Please note, Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) is not a wildlife rescue and is unable to address concerns or assist with wildlife emergencies. Please utilize the resources on our website to find the appropriate organization to contact. Submissions to HAP through our contact form or email will not be able to be addressed.