Coyotes in Cities and Suburbs

In the city or in the country, coyotes roam throughout the United States, Canada and into Latin America. Only Hawaii is excluded from their range.

Find them lurking from Washington state to Washington, D.C., from Vermont to Las Vegas. Coyotes are a wild dog the size of a German Shepard. They are native to North America.

Coyotes are despised by some for taking small pets as food.  Greenwood Village, Colo., hired a hunter to kill coyotes based on pet predation. 

In the last 30 years, coyotes were blamed for at least 160 attacks on people, most of whom were protecting pets.  The majority of incidents were in Los Angeles County.  One attack, of a 3-year-old playing in her front yard in Glendale, Calif., was fatal.

Coyotes might be innocent of other acts of predation. “The livestock-coyote myth is way overblown, “ said Wild Earth Guardians.  For Louisiana-based Landowners for Wildlife, wildlife biologist Travis Dufour wrote, “In areas where livestock is common today, coyotes usually get the blame for the majority of predation cases. However, domestic free-roaming dogs are much more likely the culprits, particularly in areas of human population.”

“A delicate balance definitely exists between good and bad when coyotes come to town,” said Dr. Stan Gehrt, a wildlife biologist and Ohio State University professor.  “There’s no way to minimize how people feel when the family cat doesn’t come home.”

Coyotes pose little threat to humans, said Gehrt. By nature, they avoid people. But the potential continues to grow as the animals get comfortable around humans, said Jennifer Churchill, spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.  The number of coyote bites reported in Colorado grew from one human bite a year to 10-15 human bites recently.

They are a predator with points in their favor.  In city parks, coyotes keep down the burgeoning population of Canada geese along with mice, voles and other pests.  They help maintain deer populations. “Some golf course managers are glad to see coyotes because the feed on rodents that damage wiring and dig holes,” said Gehrt.

He was part of a six-year study in the Chicago area.  Thirty years ago, coyotes were rare in Illinois. Studies now estimate between 200 and 2,000 coyotes living in and around Chicago.

Coyotes are now a top dog, moving into a niche opened by the eradication of the wolf.  Human settlements made movement more inviting, with the enticement of garbage dumps and gardens.

In states like Louisiana, coyotes were brought in as a sport animal to “chase pens” and later escaped.

In Colorado, coyotes are considered small game and can be hunted year-round with a proper license.  Most cities don’t allow discharge of firearms in city limits. Denver promotes a hazing program to co-exist with coyotes from a distance. Lakewood, Colo., cops use paintballs to discourage them.

Colorado Wildlife only steps in when a coyote poses a threat to humans.  They killed nine animals near  Broomfield, Colo., in summer 2011 after  children were bitten.

By making coyotes less comfortable around humans, individuals may go a long way in easing conflicts with coyotes. Churchill recommends:

Protect your pets.  Coyotes will attack and kill cats and dogs.  Don’t allow your animals to roam particularly at night.  Have appropriate fencing. Better yet, keep your dog in a completely enclosed kennel.  Don’t allow your dogs to run with coyotes.  The coyotes may turn on them to defend their territory.  Don’t leave pet food or water outside.  Protect your livestock, especially chickens, young calves and sheep. Contact your extension office on appropriate ways to prevent predation.
Keep your garbage in a storage facility or tightly sealed container.