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Urban Coyotes

Published on: 2/17/2015 10:52 AM
Coyote Face

Recommendations to Avoid Conflicts with Coyotes


These are suggestions to help avoid conflicts with coyotes and are based on state and federal wildlife agencies and non-profit organizations’ guidelines.
The Coyote (Canis latrans), a member of the dog family, is native to California. It closely resembles a small German shepherd dog with the exception of the long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail.
• Coyotes are extremely adaptable and can survive on whatever food is available.
• Coyotes are opportunistic feeders that eat a wide variety of plants and animals and are an important part of the natural ecosystem.
• They are critical to controlling rodent populations.  They eat rabbits, mice, birds and other small animals.
• While coyotes are more energetic and hunt more actively at night, it is not unusual to see them in the middle of the day.
Because coyotes are so adaptable, problems may arise if they become comfortable seeking food or living in suburban and urban neighborhoods.  In these areas, coyotes may find it easier to target small domestic pets, such as, cats and dogs, which are often found in yards or allowed to roam free.  Domesticated pets are not accustomed to protecting themselves from predators. Coyotes are very quick learners and will accept "hand-outs" from people in the form of table scraps, pet food, and garbage. Remember: The promise of food is what lures coyotes into neighborhoods and into specific yards. Purposeful or incidental feeding of coyotes (or other wild animals) is a recipe for conflict.
Implementing Some of the Following Measures Could Help Protect Your Pets and Keep Coyotes Out of Your Neighborhood:
• If you allow your pet loose outside (without adequate fencing), doing so ONLY during daylight hours will decrease the risk of it being taken by a coyote, but does not eliminate it.
• Keep your pets on a leash when walking them.  Retractable leashes do NOT afford enough protection, as small dogs can travel an unsafe distance away from people.
• Never leave pet food outside.  Not only does it attract wildlife to your home, wild animals become protective of food sources and may attack pets to protect this new source of food.  Remember, pet food directly attracts coyotes and the rodents and birds that are part of a coyote’s diet.
• Carry a walking stick while walking your dog to intimidate wildlife should you cross paths.
• Intimidate coyotes by making loud noises to scare them away (e.g., air horn, a referee whistle, can with marbles inside).  Tolerating their presence encourages coyotes (and other wildlife) to remain nearby and lose their fear of humans.
• Maintain a property with adequate ‘defensible space’.  Not only does this offer protection from fires, it will reduce your home’s attractiveness to rodents, coyotes, and bobcats who hunt where rodents are most plentiful.  Clear brush and trim dense vegetation from around your house that provides hiding for coyotes and habitat for rodents.
• Pick up fallen fruit.  Coyotes are omnivores and will eat the fruit, and fallen fruit attracts rodents and birds, which will, in turn, attract coyotes.
• Regularly rake areas around bird feeders to remove potential food for rodents and coyotes.
• Secure your garbage and recycle bin lids.  Coyotes have a keen sense of smell.  Strong garbage odors and food left outdoors are an invitation for a hungry coyote, as well as other wildlife.  
• Clean your grill after you use it to eliminate odors.  The grease tray is also an attractant.
• Composting piles attract wildlife, including coyotes; be sure to use enclosed bins and never compost meat or fish scraps.
• Spay and neuter your dog.  Coyotes have been known to lure male dogs into a trap by getting them to chase after a female coyote.
• Do not keep cat litter boxes outside or discard used cat litter on the ground.
• Install motion detector lights outside to deter coyotes from your yard.  They tend to shy away from lighted areas.
• Wooden stockade fencing will NOT keep coyotes out of your yard.  They can climb many fences (similar to a cat) or just leap over them.   Six-foot fencing, secured at ground level, is necessary to prevent coyotes from scaling a fence or digging under it.
• Take note if your pets seem nervous and frightened when outside.  They may have encountered or smelled a coyote nearby.
• Poultry or hobby livestock can be protected from coyotes with fencing (both structural and electric) and by ensuring that the animals are confined in sturdy cages or pens each evening.  Fences should be at least six feet high and secure at ground level because coyotes are good diggers.
• Abandoned animals compete with wildlife for food, and ultimately become food for wildlife.  Contact your local animal control agency if there are stray dogs or cats in the area.
• And, toddlers and small children should not be allowed to play outside unsupervised.
For more information, contact the Santa Clara County Vector Control District at (408) 918-4770 or visit


When Vector Control is asked to capture a coyote, the animal is euthanized by Vector Control in accordance with State law.