The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued the agency’s annual guidance on preventing conflicts between people and coyotes as spring temperatures approach.
With the onset of warmer weather, many of New York’s resident coyotes set up dens for pups that will arrive this spring. Coyotes are well adapted to suburban and even some urban environments, but for the most part they will avoid contact with people. However, conflicts with people and pets may result as coyotes tend to be territorial around den sites during the spring through mid-summer period as they forage almost constantly to provide food for their young.
There are recommended steps residents and visitors can take to reduce or prevent conflicts:
- Do not feed coyotes and discourage others from doing so.
- Unintentional food sources attract coyotes and other wildlife and increase risks to people and pets.
To reduce risks:
- Do not feed pets outside.
- Make any garbage inaccessible to coyotes and other animals.
- Fence or enclose compost piles so they are not accessible to coyotes.
- Eliminate availability of bird seed. Concentrations of birds and rodents that come to feeders can attract coyotes. If you see a coyote near your birdfeeder, clean up waste seed and spillage to remove the attractant.
- Do not allow coyotes to approach people or pets.
- Teach children to appreciate coyotes from a distance.
- If you see a coyote, be aggressive in your behavior – stand tall and hold arms out to look large. If a coyote lingers for too long, then make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw sticks and stones.
- Do not allow pets to run free. Supervise all outdoor pets to keep them safe from coyotes and other wildlife, especially at sunset and at night. Small dogs and cats are especially vulnerable to coyotes.
- Fenced yards may deter coyotes. The fence should be tight to the ground, preferably extending six inches below ground level and taller than four feet.
- Remove brush and tall grass from around your home to reduce protective cover for coyotes. Coyotes are typically secretive and like areas where they can hide.
- Contact your local police department and DEC regional office for assistance if you notice that coyotes are exhibiting “bold” behaviors and have little or no fear of people. Seeing a coyote occasionally throughout the year is not evidence of bold behavior.
- Ask your neighbors to follow these same steps.
The Eastern coyote can be found in rural farmlands and forests, and occasionally in populated suburban and urban areas. In most cases, coyotes avoid people as much as possible. If coyotes learn to associate people with food (such as, garbage or pet food) however, they may lose their natural fear of humans, and the potential for close encounters or conflicts increases.
It is important to keep pets safe. Cats allowed to roam free are at risk. To protect your cat from coyotes and other hazards keep your cat indoors. Owners of small dogs also have cause for concern. Small dogs are at greatest risk of being harmed or killed when coyotes are being territorial during denning and pup-rearing. Small dogs should not be left unattended in backyards at night and should remain supervised. Owners of large and medium sized dogs have less to worry about, but should still take precautions.
If coyotes are seen repeatedly during the daytime in a human-populated area or in close proximity to residences, follow the above recommendations to reduce or prevent potential problems. If coyote behavior remains unchanged or becomes threatening, please report this to the local DEC office, as this may indicate that some individual coyotes have lost their fear of people and there may be a greater risk that a problem could occur.
For additional information about the Eastern Coyote and preventing conflicts with coyotes, visit these DEC websites: Eastern Coyote; Coyote Conflicts; Feeding Wildlife: A Wrong Choice; Tips to Eliminate Wildlife Conflicts; and Regional DEC Wildlife Offices.
Photo of coyote courtesy of Daniel Bogan, PhD, and Dr. Paul Curtis, DNR.