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Pest of the Month: Coyote

by Shawn Weeks

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Wild animals are part of what makes nature so magical, and watching them can be highly enjoyable. While it’s important to coexist with animals in relative peace, they can cause countless problems when they take up residence in our homes or gardens. In this series, our Wildlife Management Specialist, Shawn Weeks, will educate us about some common household pests, and share some strategies for keeping them under control without dangerous chemicals or poisons.

This month, Canis latrans, the coyote.

Habitat and History:
Originally, the coyote inhabited the western plains of the United States. The coyote now occurs throughout all of North America, one of only a few species of wildlife to do so. They are a member of the dog family of mammals, along with the fox and the wolf. The coyote is very adaptable, thriving in most habitats including grasslands and fields, forests, wetlands and suburbia.

Coyotes resemble German Shepherds, although, they have bushy tails, smaller feet, a long, tapered muzzle, and yellow eyes. They also appear to be more slender than a German Shepherd and they have large, pointed ears. Most coyotes weigh from 25 to 40 pounds, with adults male being generally larger than adult females.

Their fur is usually grayish in color with some variations of red, black, or blonde, depending on each individual animal. They all have a white or cream-colored underside. Most coyotes also have dark hairs on their back a black tipped tail.

Coyotes use a variety of vocalizations to communicate. They howl, yelp, growl, bark, wail, and squeal. They are probably best known for their high-pitched cry. Coyotes are most commonly heard at dusk and dawn. They have also been heard responding to sirens. Coyotes do not form packs, with the exception of mated pairs and their young. Mated pairs maintain their territories by scent marking and will defend that territory from other coyotes, as well as from fox.

Coyotes can run anywhere from twenty five to forty miles an hour. They are also excellent swimmers. Their sight, hearing, and sense of smell are very well developed.

Coyotes are opportunistic feeders that can survive on a variety of foods. They feed on rabbits, mice, voles, woodchucks, and on young livestock. They will also eat carrion, berries, fruits, vegetables, birds and insects.

Coyotes do not normally mate for life. Some pairs may however, stay together for a few years. Coyotes breed from January to March, and they give birth in approximately 63 days, anywhere from April to mid-May. The size of their litter depends on the age of the female and their environmental conditions. Generally speaking, they will give birth to between two and twelve pups. Both adults will care for the young and will relocate them if disturbed. The pups are weaned anywhere from six to eight weeks of age, and begin foraging and hunting with the adults between eight and thirteen weeks old.

The young generally disperse in the fall to mid-winter. Young coyotes can and will travel far distances to find their own territories. Most eastern coyotes will not breed until their second year, while western coyotes will breed in their first year.

Adults can dig their own den, or they will enlarge the den of another animal such as a woodchuck or a fox. The female prepares and maintains the den.

Problems, Solutions and Health Concerns:
Being that coyotes are members of the dog family, they are susceptible to rabies, mange, distemper, and parasitic diseases in heavily populated areas.

The biggest problem with coyotes for humans is predation of livestock. Coyotes will attack a variety of livestock, with sheep and fowl being at the greatest risk. The other two problems of most concern are the predation of pets and the concerns for human safety.

Coyotes pose little threat to horses and cattle. It’s a good idea to install fencing and maintain it to keep coyotes at bay. Also keeping susceptible livestock and poultry penned and secured at night is your best defense. Guard dogs can also be used to keep coyotes at bay.

You should always remove and dispose of dead livestock and poultry promptly and properly. Leaving it out will attract coyotes. Remember, coyotes eat carrion, the dead carcass of an animal.

Some parts of the country allow the trapping and/or shooting of coyotes if they are killing your livestock. Be sure to always seek proper permits and follow state and local regulations in regards to this method of defense.

Coyotes often attack and kill pets, such as cats and small dogs. The best policy to prevent this is to always keep your pets in a fenced in area or under your direct supervision at all times. Homeowners should also always keep pet food and food scraps eliminated from their property, or at least properly disposed of.

Coyotes are abundant across North America and, in a lot of places, have become accustomed to humans. People with small children should never leave them unattended in the yard or on the property where coyotes are common. Teach your children how to identify coyotes and to walk away (never run) into the house, or climb up a swing or deck if a coyote is approaching them. With that being said, it is rare for coyotes to attack humans.

As with many other wild animals, coyotes are opportunistic. We should always be on the offensive, and use common sense when managing our properties. Preventive measures are always our best solution for dealing with our wild neighbors.

For further information, or advice in dealing with coyotes on your property, leave a comment below, e-mail me at, or go to my website at

30 Responses

  1. hi, their is a pack of coyotes roaming my deer hunting land In new York, will these coyotes scare away the deer from my property?

    by adam lobur on Oct 9, 2014 at 8:46 am Reply

  2. Hello, I would love to have some direction and information on what to do with our coyote population (8) adults (4) young that lives in the area around the Prison where I work in California. The main issue is they are coming down from the foothills above us and walking around the parking lot without fear of the employees. The staff here has kept strict TN&R program with the Feral Kitty population and are proud of the dozen or so we have that we treat like family we don’t take home. The Executive Deputy Warden was pretty pissed when she saw a couple small kittens being carried off last Friday 6/21/13 and asked me if I could research some ideas we could take to keep the coyotes up in the hills before they are shot for coming down near the prison. We don’t want them to be killed and we surely don’t want our Feral Kitten population under attack by coyotes. Please Help!!! Thank You, Richard

    by Richard Valentine on Jun 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm Reply

  3. Hello Shawn….I came across your site and was reading some interesting things from you and your readers. I live in Central Florida and yes we have coyotes. I am disabled and am not able to walk good and the new house we moved into the neighbors say to be careful because of the coyotes, Well, it has scared me and I fear for my pets. I have small dogs and cats. Opened the door this morning and could hear a bunch of them howling. It is not far away from the house unless the sound carries. My husband and I love the country life. Quiet and peaceful and just beautiful. But I do fear the coyotes. We have 25 acres and it is chain linked completely in. But as I read hear they can jump it. I am going to try the wolf urine and see how I do with that. Keep up the good work and will visit your site again.

    by Marlene T. on Apr 7, 2013 at 7:48 am Reply

  4. we live in south Texas and have a BAD coyote problem…. every year, we lose all our baby animals to coyotes, and no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get rid of them. we have shot and snared a few over the past 4 years, but it obviously hasn’t helped at all… we own a 60 acre ranch will all kinds of livestock in different areas of the property. we have gotten guard llamas and donkeys, but they have turned out to be hay burners… we are considering a Great Pyrenees, but we are kind of hesitant after our other “””guard””” animals….. PLEASE HELPPPPP!!! thanks so much!

    by Tired and Frustrated... on Mar 17, 2013 at 9:29 pm Reply

  5. We live in Texas in a rural area on about 8 acres. We are surrounded by feral dogs, coyotes, bunnies, rats, etc. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I love living where we are because we are surrounded by wildlife. I guess I’m not the norm bcz I actually love the sound of the coyotes at night. They never get near enough to see and if we turn on a light or make a noise, they completely quiet. The only livestock we have are donkeys and they’ve never attacked any of them, probably bcz they have enough bunnies and rats to keep them fed. The only attacks and deaths we’ve had is feral dogs who hunt in packs and they are the most dangerous of all animals around here because they come out anytime of day to hunt and then back again if you don’t bury the dead deep enough, to finish feeding. I can understand the dismay of all the other commenters who have lost pets or livestock needless to say, but I wouldn’t trade living in the country for anything.

    by Tracy on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:16 pm Reply

  6. Tricia, you should take that deafening silence in response to your post as good evidence that your opinion is a little extreme even for this crowd.

    Of all of the comments that popped into my head while reading your rant, this one seems to be the most relevant (and the most civil):

    During the period from roughly 1980 to present, exactly 2 people have been killed by your unrestricted demons in the US and Canada.

    During the same period, well over 600 people have been killed by domestic dogs.

    And although the data isn’t readily available, it’s guaranteed that the number of cherished pets killed by coyotes is an even paler shadow of those killed by domestic dogs. Seems your Yorkie Poo, if not devil spawn him/herself, is at least closer kin than coyotes.

    Seems that we peoples have really screwed the pooch (pun definitely intended) where this dominion over all the lesser creatures thing is involved. Shocking.

    And just for the record, I’m all for controlling coyotes where we’ve invited them to become problem critters, as much for their sake as ours.

    by Randy Moore on Feb 26, 2013 at 11:38 am Reply

  7. Here is what irks me to no end: We as dog owners are required to have our dogs get rabie shots and village tags, yet there are no “ordinances” when it comes to coyotes. The little bastards are allowed to roam free and if they kill a beloved pet? Oh well……Who makes these laws anyway?? It is infuriating that here in Illinois they are allowed to roam around with no consequences. Just last week (It’s 2013 now) there was a pack of them who jumped a guys fence in Riverside, IL and broke the glass on his patio door trying to get into the guys house – true story. I mean, what the hell? I am so sick and tired of hearing that “we must exist” with them, or “they were here first” Bullcrap. In the time of Adam and Eve man was given domain over everything that creepeth on the earth. How many beloved pets need to be killed or children for that matter before something gets done??? There are no restrictions on them – it is known they are predators, often times rabid have mange, and NOBODY does anything about it. Are you kidding me with this??? I love my dog. I have a small Yorkie poo. But “don’t hurt them” (coyotes)….”leave them alone” …….shooting them is against the law…….WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE???? Something has got to be done about this. I always keep up my dogs shots and such but these demons get to run free without fear of being hurt or trapped??? Really???

    by Tricia on Jan 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm Reply

  8. I live in the Clariemont are of San Diego only 4 miles from the ocean and there are plenty of coyotes here and they do run in packs. The other night I heard something get killed and ripped to shreds with the coyotes yelping and “screaming” all the time, it was really disgusting.
    These coyote packs are more and more common, more and more brave and are killing local cats and small dogs.
    I am all for wildlife but they are only here because of humans who live in the area and have the nerve to have pets and have trash cans.
    I have lost any sympathy I had for these urban moochers. They have become dangerous to pets and children.

    by Mark on Oct 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm Reply

  9. I know that they run in packs. i live on the edge of a wild life reserve. a large creek borders our land but its kinda in a gully. with cliffs and caves and all that. there are several large packs around here. i hear them every night and every morning. like clock work. the creek does a kind of horse shoe around us. they are in several spots surrounding us. and there are a lot of them. the howling starts on one end and works its way around the bend like they are talking to each other every night and morning. and sometimes they come so close that we can hear them in the house with windows and doors shut over the t v

    by Gwen skinner on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm Reply

  10. We had to kill one just last week!! I have 2 sheep and a 8month lamb-they are my babies!!! I bottle fed 2 of them. Anyways, it was about 11pm when I heard my pit/german sheperd dog fly off the porch from his dog house and barking like something was under the scaper (big heavy equipment machine). I went out there and took my flashlight looked and saw legs that looked like dog legs. I ran to get my shovel, and I heard my dog and the coyote going at it. By the time I went to get the shovel they were wrestling and it ran under a flat bed trailer. My dog then tries to get it from under the trailer and started hissing. I jumped up on the top of the trailer screaming at it, pinning it down and hitting with my shovel. My boyfriend who was sleeping at the time comes out and goes to get the gun and shot it.
    Bad thing about my sheep being so domesticated is that they arent afraid of dogs-in fact, they will stomp and hiss while walking slowly towards them. They pal around with myself and my two dogs all day.
    Anyways, I called fish and game-they told me that to make sure that I know I can have fire arms on my property and make sure it’s okay to kill them in my area because i could go to jail for shooting it!!!!!!! But they said that my line of defense would be because the coyote did attack my dog. It blew me away that these people were telling me that I couldn’t kill it because it was walking my property and not attacking my babies YET. Are they out of their minds? .
    sorry this is so long, but I’m terribly upset about this and would like to know other people’s opinion. I LOVE animals and feel really bad I had to kill the poor thing, but I CANNOT lose MY animals over a predator or ANYTHING for that matter. I WILL protect!!

    by Marla on Oct 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm Reply

  11. you now whats weird bout coyotes when it starts getting cold I guess that they are more worried about food because they have finally moved away from my house now my kids can go play out side an shawn I did what you said an it worked thanks for the advice an happy holween πŸ˜‰

    by nicole holcomb on Oct 24, 2011 at 9:17 am Reply

  12. Hi Shawn,
    Yes, we quickly realized that raccoons were digging tunnels under the fence so we installed a 3 ft wide skirting and laid large rocks over it and of course the skirting is attached to the bottom. We added as well 2 strands at the top that are solar power charged. The height is about 6ft in total and because its 4x 2 inch mesh it allows for a clear view on the outside. We also ran the fencing between buildings allowing for a larger area so essentially our farm became a compound. All in all its about 3 acres that we fenced and you will pleased to know the fencing is made in America and its solid.

    by Deb Dolbec-Napthine on Oct 14, 2011 at 8:04 am Reply

  13. Thank you for the information, Shawn. I am now living on Cape Cod and have conservation land behind my land and, yes, we have coyotes. They scare the heck out of me. I have heard that lights will scare them off, or keep them away, what about motion-sensor lights?. I have two cats who go outside, but only go around the open areas of our land, and are always in before dark, or are at least playing just outside the house. The cats sure keep down the small rodent population, and the bunny population too!! I can’t understand why people say these nasty critters are protected when they have no larger predators on the Cape. They can over populate too quickly here.
    Also, I lived in Woburn, and in one of the conservation areas they appeared to run in packs. Granted, there is not much open space in that area for them to wander , so I would imagine a small pack would be more efficient. In that particular space known as Shaker Glen we also have deer.
    Any other suggestions?? Thank you.

    by Judy Woods on Oct 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm Reply

  14. Hi Deb.

    yeah, urine can work for a time. Coyotes just seem soooo adaptable. They are also extremely smart. Fencing is a great option!!! It works so well for species that are not climbers. Just make sure they can’t dig under!!!

    by Shawn on Oct 13, 2011 at 11:34 am Reply

  15. Km.
    My articles are written from years of experience and information from Wildlife Biologists and professionals. Wildlife facts are generally based on observation and history. While there is always “official” information in regards to all wildlife, things change for different species depending on many factors. So with that being said, Coyotes do not form packs traditionally. Even here in my home state, I have personally witnessed coyotes running in packs, and have heard them many, many times. My articles are meant as a general informational series. There are always animals doing things that they arent traditionaly known for. And coyotes are GENERALLY shy, with or without hunting. And the vocalizations they make in the middle of the night is truly un-nerving, isnt it? Try it in a tree stand at 4am. WOW!! Also note, 4 or 5 coyotes can sound like 10 or 12. That’s fact too.
    I don’t blame coyotes either. They only do what nature dictates them to do. Actually, I respect the adaptability of mammals like coyotes to thrive in many habitats and circumstances. But when all is said and done, I believe in managing wildlife populations to achieve balance, according to wildlife management professionals.

    by Shawn on Oct 13, 2011 at 11:31 am Reply

  16. Coyotes are survivalists, can you blame them for their behavior?

    by Allen Dubay on Oct 13, 2011 at 10:11 am Reply

  17. I will say that our 3 pyr dogs keep our local coyotes out of the yard and away from the stock. We haven’t shot a coyote in 3 years, but the nightly chorus tells me that the population is quite healthy.

    by Km Koesler on Oct 13, 2011 at 9:07 am Reply

  18. “Coyotes do not form packs” This is not true. They may not be as cohesive as wolf packs, but they do cooperative hunt. We have seen packs running through town, and were able to count 15 individuals before they hit cover. They were hunting suburban cottontails. Since moving to the country, we have a nightly chorus of at least 20 voices. That’s a heck of a lot of pups! In Maine, the coyotes are running in packs and pulling down healthy deer – something else they supposedly don’t do. They are also only as shy as hunting keeps them. There have been 3 attacks on children in Colorado this year, and one recently in Tx as well.

    by Km Koesler on Oct 13, 2011 at 9:01 am Reply

  19. I LOVE how fish and game around here in NH blamed EVERYTHING on the coyote forever. Even after reports of acctual wolves and mountain lion form tons of local residence. A number of cows brought down and torn to shreds by predators last year….in one field…in one night. It was about two miles down my road. The farmer made the report, they blamed it on coyote. As it turned out…a few months later an employee of Fish and Game was a wittness to the mountain lion. Less attacks are being blamed on the coyote these days πŸ™‚ They stilll need to admit the existance of wolves here.

    by Jenn on Oct 13, 2011 at 8:52 am Reply

  20. I had a book on Wolves and Coyotey’ and I remember reading that coyote’s mated for life and that if you killed the breeding pair then the others would pair off and become breeding pairs and that this was the reason why we have been seeing such a over poputaltion of them. So now I read this and after all these years of telling people this I have know idea what to think. So was this book really that far off?

    by Colette Wilber on Oct 13, 2011 at 8:26 am Reply

  21. Hi Shawn,
    We have a produce farm in Nova Scotia and after several unusual and aggresive coyote encounters right up between the barn and house we installed a farm grade chain link fence around the most used areas. We had been using bobcat urine which works really well in keeping the deer away but the coyotes became accustom to it very quickly.

    by Deb Dolbec-Napthine on Oct 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm Reply

  22. I ment shawn sorry but yea thank you shawn . πŸ™‚

    by nicole holcomb on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:23 am Reply

  23. ok thanks I will try what you said KD I really hope it works cause being a parent is hard enough but having to watch my kids ever second of the day is even harder cause I have to go out side with them cause I’m so scared something bad will happen to them but I will trie what you said an agin thank you . πŸ™‚

    by nicole holcomb on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:21 am Reply

  24. A good donkey will keep them away hehe, that’s what they do here, keep a donkey or 2 in with the cattle to protect the new young uns.

    by yamahawg on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:16 am Reply

  25. Fortunately, they are not so prominant, YET, here in Ohio. How easy is it to trap them? Like in live traps. Are they too smart for those?

    by Ray on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:15 am Reply

  26. We breed cattle and always have a donkey in our pasture to keep coyotes away. A donkey will charge and chase coyotes to keep them out of their pasture. If you have enough room you might keep one on your property.

    by KD on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:14 am Reply

  27. Hi Nicole.
    You might try predator urine such as bear or wolf. Make lots of noise in the yard when the kids are outside playing and you might want to get a couple of LARGE dogs.
    You might end up having to kill them if they become a threat{ stalking the kids, not running away from groups, etc.}.

    by Shawn on Oct 11, 2011 at 9:36 am Reply

  28. coyotes are horable were I live they are ever were they get in the trash an they kill my chickens they are such a hazered they need to have a hunting scencene for them they distroy crops an other things but what I want to now is how do you get read of them an not kill them cause I don’t want my kids outside playing an see one and it attack them I don’t now what I would do then so can someone give me some advices pleaze πŸ™

    by nicole holcomb on Oct 10, 2011 at 9:05 am Reply

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