How to Protect Your Pets From Coyotes

How to Protect Your Pets from Coyotes

As we develop on the land that they once occupied, coyotes are getting more and more widespread. We now are dealing with several in our neighborhood. It is so alarming to see neighborhood pets being threatened and to feel apprehension when you walk the dogs.  There are several things that you need to know to keep you and your pet safe from coyotes. Our goal is to just educate people to keep their animals safe.  Similarly, we believe every community should take as many precautions as necessary and trapping and moving coyotes should be considered only after animals and humans have been threatened repeatedly.

Don’t think that your pet is safe just because you have a fence around your yard.  Even an eight foot wall is not a detriment. Coyotes have been known to jump fences. Don’t think your dog is safe just because you are with him while walking through your neighborhood.  Many dogs have been attacked while walking with their owner, especially if the owner is using a retractable leash, since these leashes often extend past the safe six feet distance and make it hard to get your dog in close –fast.

Coyotes are amazingly cunning and clever. In one example, a homeowner returned after a vacation to find their dog was missing from their yard.  They had a video camera in the yard so they watched the video for clues.   They saw that a coyote had been coming in their yard every night and playing with their dog.  The dog would play with the coyote and then gallop back into the house.  On the fourth night, the coyote tricked the dog into going a bit farther and then snatched him.

How To Protect Your Pet -Coyotes are opportunistic – reduce the opportunities.

  • Keep Your Cat Inside. Coyotes prey on cats and catch them too often. We have several heartbreaking stories in our neighborhood.
  • If you have a dog, walk with them close to your side. Do not leave them alone in a fenced backyard, keep them on a leash at night when you go outside. Keep dogs on a leash in front of you at all times.  Coyotes have snatched pets off of leashes following behind.
  • Secure doggy doors: Coyotes have entered garages and homes to attack pets.  Keep doggy doors locked.
  • Don’t use a retractable leash! Your dog can get too far away from you with a retractable leash. We’ve heard many stories of coyotes snatching a dog that strayed too far from its owner on a retractable.
  • Walk in a pack with other people and other dogs, the larger your pack, the less vulnerable you appear to be to an opportunistic coyote. Walk at dusk and dawn with lighted collars and leashes.  Studies of coyote attacks on farm animals shows a decrease in lighted areas.  Our customers tell us they feel safer with products and that the lights improve their night vision.
  • Do Not Leave Food Outside:  Keep all pet food and water bowls indoors.  Remove fallen fruit from trees.  Take your garbage cans out in the morning of garbage day.  Do not leave them outside. 4.  Garbage Cans should be shut tightly to prevent coyotes who have a keen sense of smell from being attracted to your home by smells.
  • Shrubbery:  Coyotes will lay in wait for your pets.  Make sure to trim ground-level shrubbery to avoid hidding places.
  • Bird Feeders:  Do not have bird feeders on your property.  Bird food will attract rats which will attract coyotes to your home.
  • Seal-up any openings under porches, decks and sheds with welded wire that is buried at least 18 inches below the ground.
  • Carry a device that makes noise. Many people carry a bull horn or a coke can filled with pennies that they shake to make noise.  The pet-corrector emits a loud spray that simulates a snake’s hissing, a known predator.
  • Carry citronella spray. Keep it armed in ready position.  We recommend this over pepper spray on the chance that it hits you or your pet.
  • Coyote Approaches You:  NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES,TURN YOUR BACK AND RUN.  Become BIG! Wave your arms, scream, throw rocks!  By running, you are seen as prey by the coyote.  Carry a walking stick or keep a detterent spray handy or noise maker.  Plan outside activities during the day light hours when coyotes are less active.  Avoid potential coyote den sights.


a.  Human scent such as cologne or perfume should be applied especially in your backyard.  Be sure to reapply after any rain.

b.  Ammonia-soaked rags or apply to an area with a squirt bottle.  Must be re-applied after rain.  Other odor deterrents such as cayenne pepper or vinegar in water gusn or ballons, etc. are also useful.

c.  Install motion detector lights around all areas of your property.

Coyotes that are no longer afraid of humans are called “imprinted”.  When coyotes continue to be a problem after non-lethal methods have proven unsuccessful or when human health and safety is jeopardized, it is sometimes necessary to kill one or more animals.

Sources to the above information were obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Fish & Game, Colorado Division of Wildlife and Project Coyote. ROSSMOOR PREDATOR MANAGEMENT TEAM
1100 + RPMT MEMBERS/Constituents
& David & Rebecca Lara- Keeping Kids & Pets Safe

Here’s a well-researched article explaining why we are seeing coyotes more often in the daytime.


Robert M. Timm, Hopland Research & Extension Center, University of California, Hopland, California /Rex O. Baker, California State Polytechnic University-Pomona (retired), Corona, California /Joe R. Bennett, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, Taft, California /Craig C. Coolahan, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, Sacramento, California

The Changing Suburban Environment

Urban sprawl throughout Southern California, now extending across valleys and flat lands adjacent to mountain slopes and arroyos thickly vegetated with chaparral and mountain scrub, provides miles of habitat edge between residential developments and wildlands.  Driven by new landscape ordinances, increased affluence, and desire to create lush and attractive landscapes in new developments, humans have now created within as few as five to six years rich landscapes that are more attractive to rodents, rabbits, and other wildlife (Baker 1984).  These new habitats, as well as landscaped freeway rights-of-way, may develop significant populations of rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.), pocket gophers (Thomomys bottae), ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi), meadow voles (Microtus spp.), and commensal rodents (Rattus spp. and Mus musculus) within only a few years.  Such areas serve as corridors for coyote movement within suburban areas, and they are sufficiently rich in resources to serve as permanent coyote habitat.

Changes in Coyote Behavior

Young and Jackson (1951, p. 69) relate a 1947 report from Yellowstone National Park in which park staff described two coyotes habituated to tourists.  They noted that while in the past park visitors “were lucky to even see a glimpse” of a coyote, now these two animals were extensively observed begging for food and posing for pictures, causing tourist traffic jams along the main park highway… an occurrence “until now unheard of in Yellowstone’s colorful history.”  Parker (1995) describes two instances in which coyotes bit visitors to Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada.  In both cases, he noted that the coyotes responsible had grown accustomed to tourists feeding them, even though such feeding is strictly prohibited.

The typical activity pattern of coyotes in the absence of human harassment seems to be largely crepuscular and diurnal, but when predator control activities are under­taken, coyotes shift their activity mainly to nighttime to avoid humans (Kitchen et al. 2000).  Conversely, a lack of human harassment coupled with a resource-rich environment that encourages coyotes to associate food with humans can result in coyotes losing their “normal” wariness of humans.  Howell (1982) stated that this sort of environment, which had developed in hillside residential areas of Los Angeles County, produced “abnormal numbers of bold coyotes.”  At that time, he noted it was not unusual for joggers, newspaper delivery persons, and other early risers to observe one to six coyotes daily in such residential areas.  By the late 1990s, Baker noted that coyotes in this area commonly could be observed feeding in late mornings and afternoons, and residents saw coyotes in yards, on streets (Figure 2), and on parks and golf courses throughout the day (Baker and Timm 1998).  More recently, coyotes have been observed during mid-day on school grounds.  Such behavioral changes appear to be directly associated with increased attacks on humans.

Based on an analysis of coyote attacks previously described, there is a predictable sequence of observed changes in coyote behavior that indicates an increasing risk to human safety (Baker and Timm 1998).  We now define these changes, in order of their usual pattern of occurrence, as follows:

1)    An increase in observing coyotes on streets and in yards at night

2)    An increase in coyotes approaching adults and/or taking pets at night

3)    Early morning and late afternoon daylight observance of coyotes on streets and in parks and yards

4)    Daylight observance of coyotes chasing or taking pets

5)    Coyotes attacking and taking pets on leash or in close proximity to their owners; coyotes chasing joggers, bicyclists, and other adults

6)    Coyotes seen in and around children’s play areas, school grounds, and parks in mid-day

7)    Coyotes acting aggressively toward adults during mid-day.
Carbyn (1989) analyzed 10 attacks on humans documented in Canadian and U.S. national parks from 1960 through 1988, concluding that they were predatory in nature; that is, the coyotes, having lost their fear of humans, regarded small children as prey.  This opinion has been shared by others who have investigated such attacks (see Baker and Timm 1998).  Carbyn noted that of the four most serious attacks, all were on children and three occurred during the season when pups were whelped or were being fed.  He speculated that the coyotes’ boldness was related to food stress.  He also noted the occurrence of additional aggressive responses to humans, at various seasons, that did not fit this pattern (e.g., chasing cars and biting at tires, slashing tents, and nipping at campers in sleeping bags), concluding that there may not have been a common basis for these additional aberrant behaviors.  The motive for attacks by coyotes is not always hunger (Connolly et al. 1976) or protection of dens.  Movement, particularly escape behavior, is a key stimulus for eliciting orientation and attack (Lehner 1976); children’s play and running behavior, particularly when running away from a coyote, may provide a strong stimulus for attack.

An Increasing Problem


As far as we know, the first reported coyote attacks on humans in California not involving rabies-induced aggression occurred in the late 1970s, and we document a total of 89 attacks in the state between that time and December 2003.  Approximately 79 percent of these have occurred in the last 10 years, indicating that this problem is increasing (Table 1, Figure 3).  Of the persons suffering injury, more than half (55 percent) have been adults.

Of the attacks on children and adults listed in Table 1, 63 percent occurred during the season when adult coyotes would most likely be provisioning pups or experiencing increased food demands because of the female’s gestation (March through August), while 37 percent of attacks occurred during the other six months of the year (September through February).  When only those attacks directed against children (≤10 years of age) are considered, 72 percent occurred during the reproductive season.  This lends support to Carbyn’s (1989) hypothesis that such attacks may be related to food demands.  Alternatively, this seasonality in attacks could be related to other behaviors associated with territoriality, reproduction, and defense of den sites and/or pups.


In addition to the human safety issue, coyotes’ presence in close association with humans can represent a potential health risk to people and their pets.  Rabies, if it were to become established in suburban coyote populations, could easily put humans and domestic animals at risk.  An episode of rabies in 16 dogs in Los Angeles in 1921 was suspected to have originated with coyotes or other wildlife. Another rabies outbreak in 1959 – 60 in the border areas of Mexicali Valley, Baja Calif., and Imperial Valley, California is described by Cocozza and Alba (1962).  Many newborn calves were lost, and there were multiple coyote attacks on humans, cattle, and dogs.  Between 1950 and 1995, 28 coyotes were confirmed positive for rabies in California (Ryan 1997).  Coyotes also carry the dog tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus, which can cause hydatid cyst disease in humans.  Further, coyotes can serve as reservoirs for the canine heartworm Dirofilaria immitis, which is spread to dogs by mosquito vectors (Sacks 1998), as well as serving as hosts for the mite Sarcoptes scabiei that causes sarcoptic mange in canids.

Discussion and Management Implications

Several factors may have led to the recent increases in predator attacks on humans in North America.  Among them are human population growth, suburban sprawl, and protection of predator species that were once harassed and suppressed by hunters, trappers, and landowners.  The number of incidents between humans and coyotes in Southern California seems to be related to the human population (or some function that correlates with human population); counties with larger populations have experienced the greatest number of coyote attacks (Table 2).

Southern California’s residential developments in recent years have extended dramatically into landscapes that provide considerably more “edge” between brushy wildlands and the suburbs.  This habitat change, which can enrich carrying capacity for coyotes, is partly responsible for growing predator populations in close proximity to humans.  One estimate suggests that more than 5,000 coyotes live within the city limits of Los Angeles (Ryan 1997), an area of 469 square miles (1,216 km2), for an average of 10.7 coyotes per square mile (4.1/km2).

Reduced coyote control efforts by federal and/or county agencies, as well as by landowners, may have led to increased coyote attacks in two ways: local coyote numbers are no longer suppressed, and coyotes’ fear of humans is no longer reinforced by lethal control efforts (i.e., shooting and trapping).  Coyote control programs, viewed largely by citizens as agricultural or rural services, have declined as Southern California became increasingly urbanized and political and financial support for control programs waned.  Concurrently, sport hunting and target shooting activities in this region have declined as well, severely restricted by municipal, county, and/or state ordinances.  These factors have further contributed to coyotes’ loss of wariness.