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Urban Coyotes

Urban coyote found near Nashville, TN

Coyotes are highly adaptable and can survive in urban areas as long as food and shelter requirements are met.  In urban areas coyotes will feed on almost anything including garbage, pet food, small cats and dogs, and other wild animals such as rodents, skunks, raccoons and birds.  Coyotes typically hunt alone, however they may hunt in groups when food is abundant.

Coyote pups are born in dens.  In urban environments, dens can be storm drains, culverts, under storage sheds, under porches, holes in vacant lots, parks, golf courses, or any dry area.

Coyotes are sighted more often these days due to several factors.  The human population has increased greatly over the past few years combined with a decrease in open farmlands (natural coyote habitat).  Many well meaning residents have promoted an unnatural boldness in coyotes by intentionally or unintentionally feeding them.  This has encouraged coyotes to become accustomed to the sights, sounds, and scents of humans.

In areas where they are hunted and trapped, coyotes are extremely wary of humans.  However, in urban areas where they are less likely to be harmed and more likely to associate people with an easy and dependable source of food, they lose the fear of humans.  Coyotes will come up on porches and decks if food is regularly present.  Animals that have lost their natural fear of humans (associating humans with food) become dangerous to humans and that animal's lifespan is shortened.

Coyote attacks are extremely rare.  In recorded history only 30 coyote attacks on humans have been recorded.  Three million children are bitten by dogs each year. A child is millions of times more likely to get attacked by the family pet than a coyote.

The vast majority of coyote attacks in the United States are the result of a coyote attacking a small dog or cat and the pet’s owner trying to stop the attack by getting between the animals.  When the pet’s owner gets between the animals, the coyote will bite the pet’s owner.  Many attacks occur when coyotes become comfortable around humans, often a result of people feeding them.

If a wild coyote bites you, seek medical attention immediately.  Notify the state health department as soon as possible.

Dealing With Urban Coyotes

  • Do not feed coyotes!!  When coyotes begin associating humans with food they loose their natural fears and may become dangerous. 
  • Eliminate water sources.  These areas attract rodents, birds, and snakes which the coyote will prey upon.
  • Position bird feeders so coyotes can not get to the feed.  Coyotes may also be attracted to birds and small mammals that have been lured in by the feeder.
  • Do not discard edible garbage. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat any table scraps. 
  • Secure garbage containers.  Use trash barrels with lids that clamp down tight even when tipped over.
  • Do not place trash cans out the night before scheduled pick-up.  Placing cans out in the morning before pick-up will give coyotes less time to scavenge. They will not have cover of darkness.
  • Do not leave barbecue grill outside and uncovered. The smell of the grill and the contents of the grills drip pan attracts coyotes.
  • Feed pets indoors whenever possible.  Remove any leftovers if feeding outdoors.   Store pet food in areas not accessible to other animals.
  • Clear brush and weeds from around property.  This deprives the coyote's prey (small mammals and birds) of protective cover and deters coyote from hunting around your property.
  • A fenced yard may deter coyotes.  The fence must be at least 6 feet high.  Preferably the bottom of the fence should extend 6 inches below ground level.
  • Do not leave small children outside alone if coyotes have been frequenting the area.
  • Do not allow pets to run free.  Provide secure housing especially at night.  Small pets (cats, rabbits, small dogs) are favorite prey of coyotes.
  • Discourage coyotes from frequenting your area.  Harass them by throwing rocks, shouting, and making loud noises when one is seen.