How to coexist with this wild member of the dog family
I recently encountered a coyote while walking my dogs in the afternoon in a park in downtown Toronto. I had previously seen two coyotes about a year ago while I was at the gym as one of the club’s huge windows look out to a set of train tracks. At first, I figured they had somehow got lost (jumped onto a car while a train was it was stopped looking for food and ended up in the big city).
As I speak to more and more dog owners living in the downtown core, I have realized that coyotes are an issue for all of us as they are not merely passing by, but are leaving the rural wilderness and coming to live amongst us in our urban neighbourhoods.
The attraction to urban areas is simple – we have food. With food comes scraps and garbage, and tons of rodents for cayotes as well. Coyotes are found throughout North America and seeing a coyote is not necessarily cause for alarm for us as they are not considered a significant risk to humans. Coyotes are usually wary of humans and avoid us whenever possible, however, they are wild animals and we should avoid contact. Coyotes do, however, present a danger to our dogs.
The good news is that the majority of negative coyote interactions are preventable. When we are aware and knowledgeable about wildlife, act responsibly and respectfully, it becomes easier for us to coexist.
Understanding the Coyote
The coyote (scientific name: Canis latrans
) is one of the world’s most adaptable animals. The coyote is a native species that has increased its range as a result of human alteration of the landscape and human’s intolerance of wolves, the coyote’s natural enemy. At one time, coyotes were confined to the Great Plains region, they can now be found throughout many parts of North and Central America.Coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem as they help to control the rodent population.
When coyotes began to expand their range, they also expanded their menu. Coyotes were once limited to rabbits, mice and insects, but they will now opportunistically eat everything from birds and small mammals to livestock, fruits, vegetables and even garbage. They now make their habitat in a variety of spaces including forests, fields, wetlands, parks, golf courses, backyards and construction zones.
Coyotes are usually monogamous and remain bonded for years. Mating season runs from the end of December through to March, with pups being born in the early spring with litter size ranging from four to seven. Pup care is a family affair with both parents as well as older siblings sharing the care duties. Coyotes make their dens in rocky crevices and sometimes use the dens of other animals. The den is abandoned once the pups are weaned. Coyotes reach adult size at around nine months of age. Some stay with the pack and some leave.
The pack is run by an alpha male and female who form a breeding pair. The pack can also include pups from both the current litter and previous litters, along with other individuals the pack has accepted. The size of the pack depends greatly on the amount of food available. Packs who rely on a natural diet are smaller than those packs who have their diet subsidized by humans (whether intentionally or not) are considerably larger.
Coyotes tend to be nocturnal, but may be active at dusk and dawn as well. When a litter of pups must be fed, hunting takes place at all hours. Coyotes generally hunt alone or in pairs and only rarely hunt as a pack (an example would be to take down large prey like a deer).
Like dogs, the pack’s territory is marked by the coyotes with urine, but unlike dogs they also use scat to mark their core area. As to the size of the pack, the size of the territory depends on the amount of food available to them with those relying on a natural diet needing a larger territory than a pack relying on humans would require.
Not all coyotes belong to a pack. Transient coyotes are commonly yearlings that have recently left their family pack and occasionally old or sick coyotes that were forced to leave their pack. Transient coyotes are not territorial as they have a huge home range that spans many territories.
Coyotes make a wide range of sounds from howling to report location, short barks to warn of danger, growls to establish dominance, yips when reuniting with their pack and high-pitched barked to call pups.
Discouraging Coyotes from your Property
We can all work together to discourage coyotes from our neighbourhoods. It starts by implementing some rules and habits at home.
Never leave food out for a coyote or feed them. This will teach them that coming close to humans equals an easy meal. Remove food sources from your yard, including fruit that has fallen to the ground. Birdseed must also be cleaned up from the garden’s floor as it attracts rodents. Store all garbage, compost and animal feed in containers that coyotes cannot access.
Always supervise your dogs while out in the yard. Small dogs especially should not be allowed to roam freely. Be sure to clean up after your dogs as coyotes are attracted to dog feces. Be very careful letting your dogs out at night and if you must, keep them leashed. Male coyotes are attracted to female dogs in heat and can mate with domestic dogs so be incredibly watchful of your female when she is in season.
Remove dead brush and wood piles. Cut long grass as well as these conditions provide potential den sites. They also attract rodents which coyotes eat.
Use wire screening to close gaps under decks as well as sheds. Using motion sensor lights and sprinklers can be effective in scaring the coyotes away. That being said, coyotes are very bright and may figure the sensor spooks out quickly.
If you encounter a Coyote:
If you are walking with your dogs in an area known for coyote encounters, keep them leashed at all times. If you do see a coyote, you must appear aggressive. Stand as tall as you can, wave your arms over your head to appear larger, shout, clap and make tons of noise. If you have a walking stick, wave it and use it to hit the ground. Throw objects like rocks near the coyote to scare them. Keep your dogs leashed as allowing them to chase the coyote could result in injury. If you have a small child or small dog with you, pick them up. Do not stop with the loud hazing until you see the coyote leave the area.
Do not turn your back on the coyote at any time as this may trigger their prey drive. Never run from a coyote.
If you see pups or suspect pups in the area, or if the coyote isn’t frightened, back away from the area while still facing the coyote. Change your walking route for a few weeks is the coyote is likely to move on from the area in a little bit of time.
If you encounter a pack of coyotes, focus your hazing techniques on the dominant one who is closest to you as the pack is most likely following their lead.
Smell has long been used to try to keep coyotes away. The most common scents used are wolf urine, moth balls and rags soaked in ammonia. These odour deterrents should be place around your property to keep coyotes from entering. You can also place them around your trash bins to mask the odour of food. You will have to continuously reapply these odours in order for them to be effective and they can be expensive to maintain.
A coyote’s front paws allows them to climb while their back legs let them push up the rest of the way, so tall fencing over 6 feet is needed to keep them out. And if that’s not enough, they are also strong diggers so your fence must be at least 8 inches under the ground as well.
Electric fences don’t have to be as high to keep coyotes out, but keep in mind that this jolt will also be felt by any pets or humans who touch the fence as well.
You can add coyote rollers to a wire fence as this will stop a coyote from getting the grip they need to climb over the fence. These rollers are designed with a coyote’s jump in mind which is why they are generally quite effective. Although they can be expensive, many find rollers work well in keeping coyotes out.
Livestock Guardian Breeds
One way of protecting your farm and livestock from coyotes is to invest in a livestock guardian breed. These are breeds that were developed to watch the flock, be on guard for predators and fight fiercely and fearlessly to protect your animals. These breeds include, but are not limited to the Komondor, the Great Pyrenees, the Tibetan Mastiff and the Anatolian Shepherd. Buying any dog requires very careful consideration and planning and these powerful breeds are, of course, no exception.
By making it difficult to get food from us or our homes, scaring them when they get close to us and supervising our dogs while outdoors, we can coexist with these wild dogs.
If you live in a rural area and despite your best efforts the coyote situation becomes unbearable, contact your local authorities and your region’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation act before shooting or trapping any coyotes as it may not be permitted in your area or you may have to file a report.
“Preventing and managing conflicts with coyotes, wolves and foxes”. Ontario.ca. Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, 27 Mar. 2018. Web.
“Coyote Prevention & Repellent Review”. Wildlife-removal. Nuisance Wildlife Trappers, 2018. Web.
“Coyotes 101”.CoyoteSmarts.org. Coyote Smarts. N.d. Web.