What would you do if you saw a coyote in your neighborhood? Or your yard? Maybe you already have. A close encounter with a coyote might shock any of us because they typically keep their distance. As coyotes become more common in urban areas, there are things we can do to ensure sightings of these beautiful canines do not become conflicts. Follow the tips below to prevent human-coyote conflicts and maintain a respectful distance.
Keep coyotes on a wild diet.
The presence of coyotes can be beneficial in many ways, one of which is to help keep other wildlife populations, such as rabbits, rodents, deer, and geese, healthy and under control. It is our responsibility to help make sure the coyote diet remains focused on wildlife, and not human or pet foods.
You may have heard about what happened in our National Parks when people began feeding bears. The bears became increasingly aggressive, leading to conflicts, and ultimately dangerous situations. As a result bears were (and sometimes still are) exterminated. We can prevent this situation with coyotes if we do not feed them or allow access to human food waste. Coyote expert Stanley Gehrt reports researchers in Southern California found nuisance coyotes had a higher amount of human-related food in their feces when compared with the general population of coyotes. (Cook County, Illinois research). The only recorded cases of coyote bites against humans have been by those animals conditioned by human contact, such as when humans feed coyotes, even if unintentional.
Other ways to prevent human-coyote conflict:
- Make sure there is no access to food items in your yard. Do not leave out pet food, secure trash and compost bins, and NEVER directly offer food to a coyote- not even a coyote pup.
- If you have bird feeders, make sure the feed stays in the feeders as best as possible. Clean up around your feeders periodically to keep your yard free of seed waste.
- A secure fence could help deter coyotes from entering your yard. Motion-sensor security lights have worked as a deterrent as well, but they may learn the light is not a threat.
- When you see a coyote, especially in a human-use area, do not encourage a close encounter with the animal. Take on an aggressive, powerful posture. The coyote should run away. If not, try these strategies: yell, look big, and make noises by clapping or hitting objects. You could also throw rocks or sticks in the direction of the animal.
Our goal is to ensure coyotes remain afraid and cautious of us. Coyotes who are afraid of humans will be less likely to enter our areas and create opportunities for conflict. It might not be in your nature to act aggressively towards animals, but your effort will help us all keep our relationship with coyotes safe and beneficial.
What to do if a coyote doesn’t respond to your aggression:
If there is a coyote visiting your yard who does not respond to the actions listed above, it may have become habituated, or lost its fear of humans. In this case, the animal should be reported to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. ODNR: 1-800-WILDLIFE
Coyotes and pets don’t mix.
In addition to reducing human-coyote conflict, we should take steps to protect our pets from conflict with coyotes. Coyotes have been known to prey upon domestic free-ranging outdoor cats, especially feral cats. Coyotes also kill cats to remove them as a competitor, as they are after the same prey animals. Cats who spend time outdoors face many dangers in addition to coyotes. Cars, disease, and other animals can all cause harm or death to our feline friends. Keeping cats indoors will eliminate these dangers and help them live longer, healthier lives.
Dogs should also be kept away from coyotes to prevent conflict. Always use a leash when walking your dog. If possible, remain in the yard with your dog when it is outside. Do not leave small dogs alone in the yard for long periods of time, and never leave them alone outside at night.
Other ways to reduce pet-coyote conflict:
- Do not leave pet food outside. This will discourage coyotes (and other wildlife) from visiting your yard.
- Accompany pets outdoors at night– including your own yard—even if fenced.
- Keep pets on a leash when walking them.
- Keep cats indoors, especially at night.
Finally, spread the word! Share this information with friends and neighbors, especially if they have seen signs of coyotes. Our decisions can prevent conflict and ensure we continue to benefit from having these animals around! — Colleen Sharkey
If you would like to learn more about urban coyotes, check out Stanley Gehrt’s research.
Colleen Sharkey has been an informal educator and nature enthusiast for 10+ years. She lives in Columbus, near a couple of beautiful ravines that offer habitat to everything from nesting barred owls and red foxes to hemlock trees and migrating warblers. Colleen is currently an environmental educator for BrightPath Active Learning in Westerville and a Naturalist with Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks.
Photo Credit: Richard Spencer