The Washington Fish & Wildlife Department has some great tips on keeping safe with coyotes in the neighborhood.
- Don’t leave small children unattended where coyotes are frequently seen or heard. If there are coyote sightings in your area, prepare your children for a possible encounter. Explain the reasons why coyotes live there (habitat/food source/ species adaptability) and what they should do if one approaches them (don’t run, be as big, mean, and loud as possible). By shouting a set phrase such as “go away coyote” when they encounter one, children will inform nearby adults of the coyote’s presence as opposed to a general scream. Demonstrate and rehearse encounter behavior with the children.
- Never feed coyotes. Coyotes that are fed by people often lose their fear of humans and develop a territorial attitude that may lead to aggressive behavior. Try to educate your friends and neighbors about the problems associated with feeding coyotes. If you belong to a homeowner’s association or neighborhood watch, bring up the subject during one of the meetings.
- Don’t give coyotes access to garbage. Keep garbage can lids on tight by securing them with rope, chain, bungee cords, or weights. Better yet, buy quality garbage cans with clamps or other mechanisms that hold lids on. To prevent tipping, secure the side handles to metal or wooden stakes driven into the ground. Or keep your cans in tight-fitting bins, a shed, or a garage.
- Prevent access to fruit and compost. Keep fruit trees fenced, or pick up fruit that falls to the ground. Keep compost piles within a fenced area or securely covered. Cover new compost material with soil or lime to prevent it from smelling. Never include animal matter in your compost; it attracts coyotes. If burying food scraps, cover them with at least 12 inches of soil, and don’t leave any garbage above ground in the area—including the stinky shovel.
- Feed dogs and cats indoors. If you must feed your pets outside, do so in the morning or at midday, and pick up food, water bowls, leftovers, and spilled food well before dark every day.
- Don’t feed feral cats (domestic cats gone wild). Coyotes prey on these cats as well as any feed you leave out for the feral cats.
- Prevent the buildup of feeder foods under bird feeders. Coyotes will eat bird food and are attracted to the many birds and rodents that come to feeders. (See the handout, “Preventing Problems at Bird Feeders” for information on feeder management.)
- Keep dogs and cats indoors, especially from dusk to dawn. If left outside at night in an unprotected area, cats and small to mid-size dogs may be killed by coyotes. Pets can be easy prey for coyotes. Being raised by humans leaves them unsuspecting once they leave the safety of your home. If you suspect losing a dog or cat to a coyote, notify your neighbors. Once a coyote finds easy prey it will continually hunt in the area.
- Modify the landscape around children’s play areas. Shrubs and trees should be pruned several feet above ground level so coyotes can’t hide in them. Keep deterrents nearby in times of increased sightings. An old hockey stick, broom, or a pile of stones near the play area can help prepare children for an encounter and will remind them of effective encounter behavior.
- Build a coyote-proof fence. Coyotes don’t leap fences in a single bound but, like domestic dogs, they grip the top with their front paws and kick themselves upward and over with the back legs. Their tendency to climb will depend on the individual animal and its motivation. A 5-foot woven-wire fence with extenders facing outward at the top of each post should prevent coyotes from climbing over (Fig. 6). However, all coyotes are excellent diggers, and an effective fence needs to extend at least 8 inches below the surface, or have a galvanized-wire apron that extends out from the fence at least 15 inches (Fig. 6). Electric fences can also keep coyotes out of an enclosed area (Figs. 7 and 8). Such a fence doesn’t need to be as high as a woven-wire fence because a coyote’s first instinct will be to pass through the wires instead of jumping over them. Digging under electric fences usually doesn’t occur if the bottom wire is electrified.
For more information, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.