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Reducing Coyote Encounters- Colorado DNR


Hunting- The chances of people and pets encountering a coyote will increase over the summer as young coyote pups begin exploring and more people are outside enjoying warmer weather, cautions the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW.)

Coyotes have litters during April and May, delivering an average of five or six pups. Adult coyotes will need to travel farther and forage more to feed their young. This can lead to increased aggressiveness, said DOW officers, who have seen an upswing in reported coyote encounters.

"Although coyotes are active year-round, we have entered the season of increased contact between people and coyotes," said Jerrie McKee, district wildlife manager. "The Division wants to caution people about encounters with coyotes. These are not pets. They are wild animals that are predators, and they should be treated with caution and respect." The coyote (Canis latrans) is a member of the dog family. It resembles a small German shepherd with the exception of the long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail. Coyotes are extremely adaptable and resourceful, and can survive on whatever food is available. They prey on rabbits, mice, birds and other small animals, as well as young deer and sheep. In urban areas, coyotes have attacked people's small pets - cats and dogs included – particularly when pets are allowed to roam free or walked off-leash. A typical coyote weighs about 50 lbs., and can easily outmatch a smaller pet.

"This is the time of year when we've seen coyotes become more territorial," McKee said. "We've had calls of people walking their dogs when coyotes have become aggressive." One woman in Lakewood reported in May that a coyote attacked her small dog – while she was walking it on a leash – and she was slightly bitten and scratched defending her pet.

Coyotes are adaptable predators, found in most open habitats, including city neighborhoods, open space, parks and trails. They are tolerant of human activities, and adapt and adjust rapidly to changes in their environment. As coyote pups grow older and there is more competition for food, a coyote's behavior can change. The biggest problems occur when people feed coyotes -- either deliberately or inadvertently.

"Urban coyote conflicts often center on feeding issues," said McKee. "We've had complaints about a coyote approaching people and learned that it was regularly being fed by restaurant workers. People will leave food along a trail. It doesn't take long to teach a wild animal to associate people with food, but it’s very difficult to convince a habituated coyote to return to wild ways." A simple understanding of ‘habituated’ means that the coyote has changed its behavior in response to previous human interaction. It has learned behavior to get what it wants – food.

Coyotes that appear friendly may be mimicking behavior that has been rewarded with food in the past: Remember that all wildlife is unpredictable. Do not get close or encourage interaction with wild animals. When it becomes apparent that no food is forthcoming, the coyote’s behavior can change abruptly.

A common chorus that wildlife officers hear is: "Why doesn't somebody come and move these coyotes somewhere else?" With coyote-human conflicts found throughout the state, there is no "somewhere else." According to state policy, coyotes are not relocated. And, even if it were allowed, there is no community asking to receive coyotes that have been habituated and lost fear of humans, and different conflicts where there are coyotes and livestock or agriculture.

Removing coyotes simply because they've been seen near residences is usually unwarranted. Urban coyotes, foxes and other omnivores can co-exist with humans in urban areas, often keeping rodent and small mammal populations in check. However, if a coyote displays aggression toward humans, it may be destroyed.

“Removing habituated coyotes does not solve the problem. There will always be coyotes, foxes, and other mammals living among humans and if an individual animal is removed, another will soon take its place,” McKee said. Solving the problem begins with altering our behavior: not feeding wild animals, not approaching wild animals, and helping to re-instill an animal’s natural wariness of people by scaring the animal away if it is seen approaching people.”

Remind children not to approach or feed any wildlife. If children feel threatened by the presence of coyotes or other wildlife, they should stay in a group and walk slowly to an area where adults are present. Make sure your child understands that a coyote is a wild dog and should be treated with caution.

For more information, please ask for a copy of “Living with Wildlife in Coyote Country” at your local Division of Wildlife office or on the web at


Discouraging Coyotes near Homes -Frighten coyotes with loud noises; use unnatural odors (such as ammonia) to clean trash cans.

-Remove food attractants such as pet food, table scraps on compost piles, fallen fruit, and spilled seed beneath birdfeeders.

-Remove vegetation and brush that provides cover for prey and hiding cover for coyotes; trim lower limbs of shrubs and conifer trees.

-Use yard lights with motion detectors, appearance of the sudden light may frighten coyotes away.

Protecting Pets and Children

-Keep pets in fenced areas or kennels; remember split rail fences and invisible fences will not keep your pet safe from predators. Pet kennels and runs should have a fully-enclosed roof.

-Provide human supervision while outdoors, even in your own backyard.

-Do not allow pets (or children) to run loose in areas where there is coyote activity. Keep pets on leash or leave the area when you see a coyote. Most urban areas have leash laws requiring dogs to be under control. Coyotes and foxes have been known to be responsible for many cat disappearances in residential neighborhoods.

-Although rare, coyotes have been known to injure people. Most of these incidents involved people feeding coyotes. Teach your family not to approach wildlife and never feed wildlife. -Treat the presence of a coyote as an unfamiliar and potentially threatening dog.

Coyote Encounters

-Coyotes are usually wary of humans and will avoid people whenever possible. Aggressive behavior toward people is not normal and is often a result of habituation due to feeding by humans. -Never feed or attempt to "tame" a coyote. -Do not turn your back or run from a coyote.

-If approached or followed by a coyote, make loud noises, yell and make yourself look big.

-If the coyote approaches to an uncomfortably close distance, throw rocks or other objects at the coyote.

-Adults should keep themselves between the coyote and small children.

Source: Colorado DNR


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