What To Do if You See Coyotes While Walking Your Dog
Tips on avoiding confrontations with coyotes.
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Have you ever seen what you thought was a lost dog but, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a coyote? Coyotes are often encountered by those near wildlife reserves, forests, or farms—but that’s now changing. Now that more people work from home, wildlife spottings in urban areas are pretty common.
But what do you do when it happens? Your dog will probably notice first. If spotted in the distance, dogs will naturally raise their hackles and may show distressing body language when confronted with a coyote. Most dogs will bark and enter a sort of protective mode, letting the coyote know to keep their distance. Then what?
Let’s start with coyote basics.
Coyotes are incredibly beneficial to the natural ecosystem. As omnivores, coyotes are the cities’ top predators, also known as “nature’s clean-up crew,” reducing the population of rodents and scavenging on dead animals.
The Eastern Coyote, North America’s “Song Dog,” shares common DNA with the Algonquin Wolf. When left unhindered to thrive on their own, coyotes mate for life and have significant family bonds. Each family of coyotes maintains and defends a territory or home range that averages between 5 and 28 square kilometers (3 to 18 square miles), depending on food availability. They are skillful foragers who make use of a range of natural and human discarded food and waste.
Should you be scared if your dog barks at a coyote?
Dogs can smell and communicate with wildlife, including coyotes, via howling, barking, whimpering, sniffing, eye contact, and body language. Barking can pique a coyote’s interest, though the sound is more likely to scare a coyote away after they notice a human presence.
In one study, researchers found that around 25% of coyote and dog interactions were positive, almost downright playful, but they also found just as many coyote interactions that were predatory or involved lunging or biting. So, why take the risk? If your dog is eager to meet it, try to distract with treats or change direction to reduce interaction and communication, preventing further escalation.
It is super important that you make sure your dog does not chase a coyote — these canines see chasing differently. Keeping a large distance between you, your dog, and the coyote helps minimize the potential for confrontation and makes negative interactions more difficult.
If you notice coyotes in your neighborhood:
Reach out to your local fish and wildlife department for assistance if you notice an uptick in coyotes in your neighborhood. Depending on the family of coyotes, intensive and consistent action may be required to encourage them to move entirely. With that being said, the high-intensity hazing of a coyote family should only be conducted by trained professionals with first-hand experience in advanced techniques.
What to do if a coyote is approaching you and your dog?
First and foremost, remain calm, keep eye contact, and slowly back away while leaving the area. Never run from a coyote, as you may trigger its predatory response and give it a reason to chase you. If you have any personal alarm devices, such as a whistle, bell, or phone alarm, use them to scare the coyote.
Stop and stand still
Make yourself big
Be loud and assertive
Slowly back away
NEVER turn your back and run
Your goal is to deter the coyote from approaching.
If you see a coyote on your walk, there are some things you can do to help discourage coyotes from hanging around. Aversive training is something you should avoid when training your dog, but when it comes to coyotes, aversion conditioning is a must. Aversion conditioning is the process by which an unpleasant stimulus is paired with undesirable behavior. Using aversive techniques can restore a coyote’s natural avoidance of humans and minimize direct interactions.
Think about how you can appear larger than life.
Standing tall, making yourself look big, waving your arms, and shouting but not screaming while walking in the direction of the coyote until they run away. Use a noisemaker such as your voice, a whistle, an air horn, banging pots and pans, filling a pop can with rocks, and shaking it, or snapping a large garbage bag, jingling keys, etc. These can all be very effective.
Always keep a safe distance.
With coyotes that are accustomed to these aversive techniques, it may take more than one of the above deterrents. If the coyote continues to approach, back away while facing the coyote and maintaining eye contact. If the coyote displays aggressive behavior, remember to make yourself look big by raising your hands, stomping your feet, shaking your jacket, and making noise while shouting, “Go Away!”
In the rare case that the coyote decides to continue to approach you, throw rocks or sticks in its direction but try not to hit the coyote. Your goal isn’t to injure them, simply to scare them. Sticks, clumps of dirt, or tennis balls work well. Keep in mind that if you are walking with a small dog or your child, pick them up in your arms, giving the coyote less reason to continue to approach.
How to Prevent Encounters With Coyotes
Clean up attractants
Bird feeders around the house attract rodents and small mammals, thus attracting coyotes, foxes, and birds of prey. Be sure to clean any fallen food or fruit from fruit trees. Do not leave pet food outside as it will attract unwanted wildlife. If you feed feral cats, leave food out for 30 minutes, then remove it. Keep all garbage in secured compost bins.
No unsupervised roaming
Resist the urge to let your pets roam without supervision. Be sure to go outside with your dog at night to supervise them while they do their business. Coyotes and other wildlife can sneak into backyards for a meal.
Keep all farm animals enclosed
If you keep chickens in your backyard, be sure to keep them enclosed at night to protect them from visitors like coyotes who like to dig under fences.
Give wildlife their deserved space
When you are out and about with your pup, or even at home, remember to give animals their space. Whether it is a squirrel, rabbit, or coyote, teach your dog to respect and not harass or chase wildlife.
Keep your property clean
Remove big brush piles as they provide a perfect hiding spot for predators. Scoop your pup’s poop as pet feces attract rodents, which attract larger wildlife. Keep all outdoor cooking areas clean.
Avoid certain walking hours
Coyotes are most active during the hours of sunrise and sunset; be sure to keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings.
Remember that each animal on this earth plays a big role in the healthy maintenance of the natural ecosystems and the circle of life everyone depends on; we need them as much as they need us. Coyotes are a part of your urban community and will probably remain that way, so keep your eye out and give them plenty of space.
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Nicholas Mozas, M.Sc.
Nicholas Mozas is a graduate of the University of Guelph in Biological Science and holds an M.Sc. in Neutragenomics. Nicholas managed an Animal Hospital after graduation, gaining a better understanding of pets’ and owners’ needs. He is also the founder and CEO of DOGORA.