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March 23, 2011

Why Is There a Coyote in My Yard? Food Lures and Other Answers

What attracts coyotes to cities and suburbs

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • This coyote took a ride on the light rail at Portland International Airport. Most coyotes in urban areas are never seen by humans. Port of Portland

  • This coyote wandered into a Quiznos in downtown Chicago. Chicago has a large population of coyotes, yet most residents are unaware of their presence. AP/Chicago Sun-Times 

Coyotes generally avoid humans, even when their home range encompasses largely urban or suburban habitat. 

However, the presence of a free buffet in the form of pet food or garbage can lure coyotes into suburban yards and create the impression that backyards are bountiful feeding areas.

Without the lure of food or other attractants, their visits will be brief and rare.

But a coyote who finds food in one yard may learn to search for food in others. 

Food

Deliberately feeding coyotes is a mistake. You may enjoy hand-feeding animals, but this is a surefire way to get them accustomed to people and will ultimately lead to their demise. Here are some other general rules about feeding:

  • Avoid feeding pets outside. If you must, feed them only for a set time during the day (for no more than one hour) and remove the food bowl as soon as your pet has finished her meal. 
  • In dry conditions, water can be as alluring as food, so remove water bowls set outside for pets and make watering cans unavailable. 
  • If you compost, use enclosed bins and never compost meat or fish scraps. 
  • Good housekeeping, such as regularly raking areas around bird feeders, can also help discourage coyote activity near residences. 
  • Remove fallen fruit from the ground.
  • Keep trash in high-quality containers with tight-fitting lids. Only place the cans curbside the morning of collection. If you leave them out overnight, they are more likely to be tipped and broken into.
  • Bag especially attractive food wastes such as meat scraps or leftover pet food. If it is several days before garbage will be picked up, freeze temporarily or take to a dumpster or other secure storage container.

Shelter

Coyotes are secretive animals, and studies have shown they can live for a long time in close proximity to dense human settlements without ever being noticed. Such coyotes are “abiding by the rules” and should be left alone.

In the spring, when coyotes give birth and begin to raise young, they concentrate their activities around dens or burrows in which their young are sheltered. At these times, the parents may become highly defensive and territorial, and challenge any other coyote or dog that comes close to the pups. People walking their dogs in parks and wooded areas may run in to these coyotes and even be challenged by them to back off.

Rarely, fights occur, probably most often when a dog is off its leash and chases a coyote.  It’s important to recognize such incidents for what they are: defense of space and young, not random attacks.  If you encounter a coyote when walking your pet, do not run away; scare off the coyote with the techniques described in our coyote hazing guidelines.

Free-roaming pets

Free-roaming pets, especially cats and sometimes small dogs, may attract coyotes into certain neighborhoods.  The best way to minimize risk to your pets is to not leave them outside unattended.

Other domestic animals kept outside, such as chickens and rabbits, may also be viewed as prey by coyotes.  Protect poultry or other outdoor animals from coyotes (and other predators) with protective fencing (both structural and electric) and by ensuring that they are confined in sturdy cages or pens each evening.

Resources

» Schedule a Coyote Hazing Training workshop in your community.
» Living with Wild Neighbors in Urban and Suburban Communities: A Guide for Local Leaders gives elected officials and other decision-makers the tools to implement long-lasting, nonlethal solutions to community wildlife conflicts.
» Visit Project Coyote: promoting an educated coexistence between people and coyotes. 

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