Keeping Pets Safe from Coyotes

statue_web[1]We used to think that we needed to go to the countryside  to see and interact with wildlife, but that doesn’t seem to hold true any   longer.   Even those of us in decidedly urban areas see rabbits, opossums, skunks, deer, and even coyotes on a somewhat regular basis.  Clearly, wildlife have adapted to our constant infringement on their habitats by learning how to thrive with and around us.

We have treated pet victims of coyote attack here at VMC, and we are frequently asked how to deal with wild animals that enter our yards and potentially threaten our dogs and cats.  With reason, our clients find the threat of coyotes the most troubling.   Like it or not, coyotes are an important part of our natural ecosystem, and are likely to share our environment permanently.  Coyotes have learned that living close to humans frequently provides a more varied food supply (more cats, small dogs, fruit, garbage and pet food)  to complement their naturally opportunistic diet.

Coyote facts: 

  • An adult Eastern Coyote generally 35 to 45 pounds.  Males are usually larger than females.
  • An adult coyote can jump or climb an 8-foot fence. When planning fencing, keep that in mind.
  • Coyotes are diurnal (most active between dusk and dawn), but may be seen at any time of the day.
  • Coyotes play an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and can assist in naturally controlling other species, including rodents.
  • Coyotes are generally quite shy and present a minimal risk to humans, although this may change as they become more acclimated to contact in urban and suburban areas.
  • Coyotes are curious, clever, and adaptable.  They will often observe human activity from what they perceive to be a safe distance.
  • Coyotes quickly learn to take advantage of any newly discovered food source, and are often attracted to yards with abundant fruit and wildlife to eat.
  • Coyotes are very vocal during their January to March breeding season.  Pups are normally born in early May.

Change your environment:

Coyotes are opportunists and prefer “easy prey.”   They are normally reluctant to attack  anything larger or stronger than they are, and simple distractions (noise, spraying water) will generally keep them at bay.  This is not a guarantee in all cases, of course, and coyotes may continue to adapt to life among humans by becoming more and more confident.  In general, however, anything you do to make your pet more difficult to hunt will help increase the odds of your pet’s survival.  Here are some easy tips to make your home less attractive to coyotes:

Eastern Coyote

  • Build a secured outdoor enclosure: Be sure to keep this area completely covered - a coyote can easily clear a standard 8' kennel.
  • Keep food stored indoors and make sure you feed your pets indoors.
  • If you compost, use enclosed bins and avoid meat or fish scraps.
  • Keep trash tightly contained with tight-fitting lids.
  • Utilize hazing techniques:  The Humane Society's tips can be found here

Protect Your Pets:

  • Accompany your pets outside whenever feasible.  Coyotes will be less likely to attack a pet that is with a human.
  • Avoid letting pets out in the yard during early morning and late afternoon, or be extra cautious at these times.  This is the prime hunting time of diurnal animals.
  • Only allow pet doors to open into an enclosed section.
  • Consider incorporating deterrents into your yard, such as motion activated lights or sprinklers.
  • When walking your pets, be sure to carry a loud noisemaker such as a whistle, shaker can or air horn. Loud sound could be enough to frighten off a coyote.
  • Keep collars on your pets: Coyotes frequently attack by seizing an animal’s throat.There is some theorizing that the use of wide, heavy collars and spiked collars can increase the chance of your pets surviving an attack.  Spiked collars have been used for centuries to protect pets from wildlife, in battle, and from theft, so this could be a consideration for some pet owners.

For more information on coyotes: