Coyote sightings are on the rise in our neighborhoods at this time of year: The long daylight hours make the animals more visible, and there is more activity with new cubs needing to be fed. While coyotes can present a threat to small pets that roam outside, pet owners can decrease the risk by following the advice of various city and nonprofit organizations.
Tips and Tools for Keeping Coyotes Wild
Project Coyote, a California-based organization that promotes peaceful coexistence with coyotes, and the Humane Society of the United States offer this advice on how to discourage coyotes from coming into urban areas:
1. Do not feed coyotes.
2. Keep your pet on a leash.
3. Supervise small pets and children, and keep your cats indoors.
4. If you have dogs that spend time in your fenced yard, you may want to invest in a Coyote Roller, a device that attaches to the top of a fence to stop coyote paws from getting a grip. Also, adding 6 inches of wire mesh to the bottom of your fence should deter coyotes from digging underneath.
5. Keep garbage, compost and pet food out of reach. Make sure your garbage can lids are on tight, and feed your cats and dogs indoors.
6. If faced with a coyote, act big and loud—shake a can of pennies, blow a whistle, wave your arms above your head. Such actions will reinforce their fear of humans, which is good for us and them.
7. Ask your neighbors to follow the above tips, too.
For more from Project Coyote's newsletter and fact sheet, click here.
A Coyote's Eye View
As human populations have grown and wild lands have been converted to human use, there has been increased pressure on wildlife to adapt or die.
Gina Farr, communications director of Project Coyote, said the coyote is one of the few species that have adapted. And that, she said, has not necessarily been a bad thing.
“Their primary food source is rodents, so they’re beneficial for our urban systems,” Farr said.
Coyotes help keep skunk, possum and raccoon populations under control, which, in turn, helps songbirds thrive. The problems arise when they are encouraged to venture into people's yards and gardens.
“We get into trouble in urban environments when we have attractants that really shouldn’t be in our yards,” Farr said. “In Los Angeles, we have a lot of canyon country, a lot of open space. There are people in that area, and it’s also open to animals that can adapt. Take personal responsibility for your part of that corridor.”
The knee-jerk reaction—seeking to have them killed—isn't the best solution, Farr said.
“[Coyotes] have something called compensatory reproduction,” Farr said. “Normally, it’s only the alpha male and female in any family group that would reproduce, once a year." But with coyotes, she said, "Kill the alphas, and the betas will simply take over.”
Similarly, taking coyotes from urban environments and resettling them elsewhere is not an option, according to Farr.
“It’s illegal in most states,” she said, “and the animal that’s been relocated in someone else’s territory doesn’t know where to find food or water. It will try and find its way back, but with all the pressures it experiences, it will probably die within two weeks.”
Lynsey White Dasher, an urban wildlife specialist at the Humane Society of the United States, said she was reluctant to believe reports that increased rainfall in Southern California this spring had led to more coyotes than in previous years entering residential areas in search of food, or that the rain had led to a lengthening of the mating season.
“It's more likely that coyotes in urban landscapes have no predators, so they increase more quickly,” White Dasher said. “They come into our neighborhoods to eat, and it’s easier for them to eat pet food. We’ve created this free buffet for them.”
How City Organizations Can Help
Residents often call Los Angeles Animal Services when they spot a coyote in their neighborhood and are concerned about its behavior. Capt. Wendell Bowers, the city agency's wildlife program coordinator, recommends that residents have relevant information on hand when they call in. ( for the checklist.)
"We're big on education and on keeping the fear of man in the coyotes," Bowers said. "We want them to run when we come out the door. Run them off every chance you get. They should be afraid of us."
Andrew Hughan, public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Game, said that for a warden to be sent out to investigate and assess any potential danger from a coyote, there needs to be "a credible sighting" and evidence "that a person has been impacted," he said. "If necessary, and under extreme and special circumstances, we can find and kill [the coyote], or hire a trapping service," Hughan said.
Although injuries to humans from coyotes are rare—there's been only one confirmed human death by a coyote in the United States in the last several years—small animals and pets are a different matter, Hughan said.
"Keep a close eye on your dogs," he warned. "A chihuahua is a small meal for a coyote.”
“I've named our neighborhood coyote Skippy," DeBlasio said. "I went down my driveway to pick up my newspapers ... and sure enough there he was—standing in the middle of the street watching me in my nightgown. I said, ‘Morning, Skippy.’ He just stood there and watched as I slowly walked back up my driveway, shaking all the way. Another close encounter."
Victoria Miller, an Encino resident who lost her cat Kobe to a coyote, offered up what she called "a cautionary tale" and urged others to keep their pets safe. Miller and her husband, who own several cats, had kept them all secure for years. On June 10, 3-year-old Kobe fell prey to a coyote that must have navigated their 6-foot-high fence to get into the yard, Miller said.
"Kobe was in the backyard, which is completely fenced in, although coyotes will definitely scale a wall,” Miller said. “In the wee small hours [Kobe] went outside. ... He was found on the next-door neighbor's front yard. That neighbor didn't know [we were missing a cat] and called Animal Services."
Miller said that the sanitation department then came and removed the cat's remains. By the time her husband tracked down what had happened to Kobe, its body had been cremated. Miller's neighbor said that the sanitation worker who picked up Kobe's remains said the wounds indicated that a coyote had been the culprit.