Living with Coyotes
The coyote weighs 20 to 30 pounds and stands 23 to 26 inches at the shoulder. In appearance, the coyote looks similar to a tan colored shepherd type dog with long pointed muzzle, large ears and long legs. The coyote is an extremely intelligent predator that has adapted to living in close proximity to humans. Coyotes, whose natural habitat is the Los Angeles basin, have adjusted to the shrinking habitat by living closer to humans, sometimes in residential areas, parks, and on the landscaped areas of the freeway system. Coyote use the flood control channels, freeways, hillside erosion gutters, city streets, and sidewalks as convenient means of travel. They find an abundant source of water from swimming pools, gutters, leaking hose faucets, and sprinkler heads, bird baths and pet water dishes in residential areas.
Although the coyote is an excellent hunter, feeding primarily on rats, mice, ground squirrels, rabbits, insects, carrion and fruit, it will not hesitate to kill cats, small dogs, poultry, sheep or goats, given the opportunity. They learn that domestic animals are easier to catch than wild prey and will prowl neighborhoods in search of unattended domestic animals.
Protecting Your Family and Pets
Coyotes are capable of scaling fences up to six feet high. They will also dig under fences. They can be deterred by solid fence with no visibility to inside, increasing the height of fencing and facing it outward at a 45 degree angle. Bury the bottom of the fence at least six to twelve inches underground to prevent the coyote from digging underneath. A covered enclosure set up with a pet door will permit your pet to go safely outdoors.
Coyotes are wild animals and should be treated as such. No attempt should be made to pet or otherwise make contact with them.
Small animals often kept outside should be kept in well-protected areas and in sturdy cages at night. Cages made of chicken wire will not keep desperate coyotes or other predators from entering. Stronger gauge wiring is a necessity in protecting small animals. City residents are advised to give attention to the following Do's and Don'ts:
- Keep your cat or small dog indoors at night or any other time when a coyote is known to be in the area
- Accompany your small dog in a well lighted area at night for comfort walks
- Walk your dog on a leash whenever you take it off your property
- Confine poultry and rabbits in covered enclosures constructed with heavy mesh wire. Coyotes can break through ordinary chicken wire
- Keep all outdoor trash can lids securely fastened to trash containers
- Pick backyard fruit as soon as it ripens and keep rotten fruit off the ground
- Don't feed wild animals
- Don't leave pet food outside, particularly at night
- Don't allow pets to roam from home, especially at night
- Don't leave water bowls for pets outdoors
- Don't leave garbage containers open
- Don't leave water in birdbaths or bird seed outdoors for songbirds
This is not a quick, short term process. Relate this to never saying no to a child. The first time they hear it, they won't understand or believe it. Consistency over time is the most effective means.
Here are the steps you can take:
- Never ignore or turn your back on a coyote.
- Never allow a coyote between you and a pet or child. A coyote will not want to get involved with a person.
- Remove all human sources of food. Keep trash and compost inaccessible. Pick up fallen fruit in yards. Clean out under bird feeders.
- Report any sightings of wild animals feeding from dumpsters.
- Do not let cats run freely in neighborhoods. Keep small dogs in close proximity when outside. Keep all pets inside at night (or in a completely enclosed kennel) when coyotes are most active.
- Maintain fences so coyotes cannot slip underneath. Add deterrents to the tops of fences that reduce a coyote's ability to grab on and pull themselves up and over. Coyote rollers and wire extensions can discourage animals attempting to breach fences.
- Install motion activated lights in backyard. Keep lights on when dogs are outside.
- Visually inspect yard before allowing any pet outside.
- Report the following (include the date and location of incident): Coyote biting or attacking dogs; Coyote killing cat or dog; Coyote biting a person; Person feeding Coyote, either accidentally or purposefully; Open trash cans and dumpsters at local businesses.
Remember, as with many wild animals, the coyote, when left alone, will regulate its own numbers. If coyotes in a certain area are killed, die, or are relocated, the remaining members will fill the vacancies, either with larger litters or by allowing outsiders to move into the area. Coyotes and all other predatory mammals are considered "opportunistic" hunters. It is your responsibility to afford fundamental protection for all of your domestic and companion animals.