A guide to living with Urban Coyotes
Living with coyotes
Coyotes are found throughout Florida. This adaptable animal belongs to the dog family and resembles a small German shepherd. In Florida, coyotes typically weigh between 15-30 pounds. They have pointed ears, a narrow muzzle and a bushy tail. Males tend to be larger than females. Coyote fur is usually grayish-brown but occasionally is black. When running, the coyote usually holds its tail at “half-mast” or straight out behind it, unlike most domestic dogs.
The scientific name of the coyote, Canis latrans, literally means “barking dog.” Coyotes use a variety of vocalizations such as barking like dogs, but most often they are heard making shrill yips and howls. Howling is often a group effort that begins as a simple howl, but quickly increases into a series of group howls and high-pitched barks.
Coyotes typically are shy and elusive, but they occasionally can be spotted either alone, in pairs or in small groups where food is readily available. Coyotes remain active year-round. Coyotes do play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to keep rodent populations under control.
Keep your pets safe
Coyotes can and do prey on domestic cats and small dogs. To protect your pets, don’t allow them to roam freely. Most coyote attacks on pets occur either at night or at dusk or dawn. During these times especially, be careful if you’re walking your pet in wooded areas or in heavily foliaged areas where coyotes could hide. Keep your dog close, on a short leash. Keep cats indoors. When cats wander freely, there’s an increased risk of them being attacked by coyotes. Coyotes are also attracted by garbage. Problems can be significantly reduced if residents remove attractants and secure trash.
NEVER feed coyotes! Don’t place food outdoors that will attract wild animals. Clean up pet food, fallen fruit, and seed around bird feeders. Secure garbage cans and compost in animal-proof containers. Don’t try to pet a coyote and teach children not to approach any unfamiliar animal.
Don’t let coyotes intimidate you. Frighten away coyotes by making loud noises and acting aggressively, such as waving your arms in the air, throwing sticks at it or spraying it with a hose. Don’t attempt to hurt it because injured animals are more likely to attack.
Be aware of unusual coyote behavior. Examples of unusual coyote behavior include coyotes approaching people, stalking pets, chasing joggers or bikers or attacking leashed pets. Close off crawl spaces under porches and sheds. Coyotes and other animals use such areas for resting and raising young. Teach children to recognize and not to run from coyotes. If children are approached, have them move slowly into a house or climb up on a swing, tree or deck and yell.
Educate your neighbors. Ask them to follow these same steps.
Co-existing with coyotes
Coyotes can be curious but are also timid and generally run away if challenged. Just remember that any wild animal will protect itself or its young. Never initiate a close encounter with a coyote.
If a coyote approaches too closely, immediately act aggressively toward the coyote. Wave your arms, throw things like stones and shout at the coyote. If necessary, make yourself appear larger by standing up or stepping onto a rock, stump or stair. Convince the coyote you are a potential danger to be avoided.
Where coyote encounters occur regularly, walk pets at other times besides nighttime hours, dusk and dawn. Carry something that will make noise or scare the animal, such as a small air horn, big water pistol, solid walking stick, golf club or paintball gun. These things may deter the coyote at close range. Make a “coyote shaker” by putting a few washers, pebbles or pennies into an empty soft drink can. Wrap the can in foil and tape closed. Continue “hazing” the coyote until the animal leaves; otherwise the coyote will learn to wait to leave until the activity stops.
Coyote fast facts
Coyotes live throughout Florida and in every state but Hawaii. They weigh 15-30 pounds. The males are slightly larger than the females. Coyotes eat whatever is available, including fruits, nuts, seeds, dead animals, rodents, garbage, pet food, domestic cats and small dogs. They breed every year with 2 to 12 pups per litter. Pups are raised in a den. n Removing coyotes from one area can result in other coyotes moving in from surrounding areas and producing more pups per litter.
Coyote tracks (left) are narrower and more elongated than dog tracks (right). F: Front track / H: Hind track
This information has been produced by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) for the people of the state of Florida. FWC and UF/IFAS permit free reproduction by all agents and offices of the Cooperative Extension Service, the FWC, and the people of Florida. Permission is granted to others to use these materials in part or full for educational purposes, provided that full credit is given to the FWC and U