Coyotes are highly adaptable predators that are learning how to cope within our ‘human’ world. People are moving into their natural habitat, whether choosing a rural area or nestled among the urban hillsides. Either way, it’s important to understand how to best keep your children and pets safe when living next to coyotes. And this includes when you are visiting RV Parks.
Currently, we are staying at the Glen Ivy RV Park, in Corona, California. It is situated near the mouth of Cold Water Canyon at the baseline of the rural mountain range. With this beautiful location it’s no surprise that coyotes are common. I’m no longer surprised when I hear a pack of coyotes yipping nearby, sometimes sounding as if they were just across the street.
(Hippies' Note: If you enjoy reading our articles, you'll love our newsletter. Receive updates directly to your inbox. Subscribe now!)[5/28 Update: We’ve seen 3 coyotes so far, at all hours. One walking along the street in the middle of day, another at dusk just outside the pool fence while swimming, and Branndon saw one in early morning on the way to work.]
Luckily I grew up in an area where coyotes were extremely common, even showing up on our front lawn. This meant we always brought our cats inside, every night. That was just a given. I remember getting mail notices talking about the coyote population having grown and tactics to stay safe. From memory this included coyotes venturing farther into the city neighborhoods (even a couple miles away from the nearest access point), just to show you they can be courageous enough to enter areas of larger human populations. They also learned a few new tricks. But if you don’t have experience with coyotes, then how do you know the best ways to protect your family (and yes, this includes pets)?
I thought it would be a good idea to share my experience and knowledge (I even did a little research for you) with you to help you when living in close proximity to coyotes, an animal Mark Twain called “the most friendless of God’s creatures”.
The cayote [coyote] is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck and friendless. (Mark Twain)
Even though coyotes are naturally weary our growing closeness to coyotes is creating a boldness in them as they are being more easily fed, intentionally or not. We are teaching coyotes to not fear us. This is the problem.
Thankfully coyotes still rarely attack humans. Lynsey White Dasher, an urban wildlife specialist with the Humane Society of the United States, says, “you’re more likely to be killed by a champagne cork or a golf ball then you are to be bitten by a coyote.”
Here is a brief overview on coyotes for your own knowledge. (Or you can skip right to the tips.)
What Does A Coyote Look Like?
As coyotes are members of the dog family, they will obviously resemble dogs. Picture a medium-sized German shepherd with a bushy tail and large ears. Their snouts are also a little more elongated.
Typical weight for a coyote is between 20 to 50 pounds. Coyotes living in Northern regions are typically larger than their Southern counterparts, with the largest recorded weight of 74.75 pounds (that animal was 5.7 feet in length). Their size also depends on their food source(s). The more food readily available, the larger they can get.
Their fur is typically a grayish-brown, some are more yellowish-gray, with black tipping. The coloring typically relates to the environment. For coyotes living in mountain regions their fur is darker, while coyotes living in dessert areas have a lighter sandy brown color.
(In the graphic you’ll see the size of a coyote in relation to a 6 foot tall man.)
Coyote Hybridization With Domestic Dogs
Coyotes have been known to mate with dogs creating coyote hybrids, known as coydogs. This has been seen commonly in Texas and Oklahoma as the warm weather encourages longer breeding seasons. With the hybridization people are finding the coydogs to “maintain the coyote’s predatory nature, along with the dog’s lack of timidity toward humans” (Wikipedia). Also coydogs are known to breed year-round creating more pups that add to the overall populations.
I’ve seen a coyote-dog hybrid when Branndon and I stopped one evening to catch what we thought was a stray dog. (We keep a spare leash in the car for these situations as we have found, and returned, numerous dogs who got out of their backyard. We would hope someone would return Tobey if he was lost.) However, this didn’t really look like a dog. It definitely didn’t look like a coyote either, but something felt wrong about the way it moved… and the eyes. It came closer, lowered it’s head and stared, then ran away, which was pretty creepy. I was glad it ran away as I was going to ask Branndon to forget about trying to catch that one. I think his large 6 foot 3 inch stature scared it away. 😉
What Does A Coyote Sound Like?
Remember that yipping sound I mentioned earlier? It’s a high-pitched yipping and yapping, somewhat similar to a hyena. And don’t worry you are not hearing animals being killed when you hear this. It is actually how the coyotes communicate with each other.
As coyotes live in family groups, or packs, they have larger territories surrounding the den. The high-pitched noises allow them to talk with each other at larger distances. Typically coyotes are heard at dusk or dawn, or during the night. Some will hear them during the daylight hours, but this is less common. The calls become more common during the Spring when the coyotes mate for the year.
What Do Coyotes Eat?
Coyotes are natural scavengers. They will actively hunt for small prey, such as rabbits, mice, snakes, but they would prefer to simply find their food. When hunting they tend to travel in pairs. Their diet also changes with the season, eating more fruits and vegetables during the autumn and winter months. Coyotes are helpful in eating carrion (the decaying flesh of a dead animal).
When scavenging coyotes will eat from garbage cans and any pet food left outside. Sometimes people will even offer them handouts, keeping them coming back.
Animals coyotes hunt include:
- rodents (rats and mice)
- fish (I learned they are good swimmers, too.)
- deer (!)
- pets; rabbits, cats, and dogs
- livestock; lambs, calves, and others
Being a scavenger helps coyotes survive even when their prey populations decrease. They can live on eating insects and fruit, or small family pets (see tips on protecting pets from coyotes below).
When I was in high school our poor little cat was snatched by a coyote before everyone’s eyes. She was just called in as it was nearing dusk and a coyote ran up and grabbed her. It must have been within 10 feet of our front door, less than 5 feet away from my 6 foot dad and two brothers. That’s pretty bold. (My dad ran after it, but it was too fast.) That coyote was the size of a Germany Shepard, completely black.
When (And Where) Are Coyotes Active?
Active typically at twilight and night, coyotes use the darkness to scavenge for food. Being highly adaptable creatures they are living in natural environments across North America.
Please read the following safety tips as their populations are currently at an all-time high.
Coyote Safety Tips
Hopefully the following safety tips will help keep you, your family, and your pets safe when you are living near coyotes. This is not meaning to scare you, but coyotes have been reported to shadow human joggers or even larger breeds of dogs. Some of the more bold packs will even snatch a small dog during walks, while still on leash!
- General Coyote Safety Guidelines
- Protecting Children from Coyotes
- Protecting Pets from Coyotes
- Backyard Fence Construction
General Coyote Safety Guidelines
Do not run from a coyote. They are natural hunters and this can trigger a predatory response. As coyotes can run up to 43 miles per hour, you will not outrun them anyways. Plus coyotes are very persistent and have been reported having hunts lasting upwards of 21 hours.
Tip: Make yourself appear larger waving your arms over your head and yell loudly to scare it away.
Use and cover all trash cans. Avoid simply using trash bags outside to hold your trash. It is extremely easy for a coyote to rip them open and cause a big mess. Use a trash can. You’ll also want to keep tightly fitting lids, preferably the kind with clamping lids, on your trash cans. This will help avoid trash spilling if a large animal knocks them over.
Stop feeding the wildlife. When you provide food and/or water to the local wildlife you are encouraging the coyotes to come closer. This also will promote an increase in rodent, bird, and snake populations as coyotes avoid the more difficult task of catching their prey. (FYI: It is actually illegal to feed coyotes in some areas.)
Protecting Children from Coyotes
Never allow small children to be unattended. (This even is true in your backyard if you have a house.) There have been rare occasions documented where coyotes have attacked small children.
Protecting Pets from Coyotes
Feed your pets inside. This will avoid food scraps to lure coyotes nearby. You’ll also want to store pet food bags indoors.
Bring your pets inside after dark. Small dogs and cats should be brought inside the RV at night, maybe even around twilight would be best. Larger dogs should even be brought inside at night as coyotes live in family groups.
Use 6 feet (or less) leashes. By keeping your
dog pet close the coyote will see that it is actually “with” you and not on its own. (You are helping to protect your animal as you are considered “big” to the coyote.)
Did you know? Coyote females have be known to lure male dogs into waiting ambushes. (Scary how clever they are, huh?) This is why even larger breeds aren’t completely safe.
Don’t let your pets play with coyotes. I have no idea who would allow this to happen in the first place, but during my research I found it as a tip. I figured I’d include it (just in case).
Backyard Fence Construction
Coyotes can jump very high, easily reaching 6 feet at times. This is why you’ll need to build a backyard fence that is at least 6 feet high. At the top of the fence you’ll want to install ‘extenders’ (check a local home improvement store) that face away from your yard. Basically these are just a fence extension, usually 14 inches, with two or three wire strands. The extensions should be placed along the entire fence surrounding your yard to prevent the coyotes from jumping or climbing over your fence.
Once at a sleepover my friends and I were awakened by coyotes yipping around 5 am. We found 5 coyotes outside her fence and her little dog cowering in her doghouse. The right fence will help keep coyotes out. (Her father went out and scared them away, bringing the dog safely inside.)
In addition to the extenders you’ll want to bury a galvanized wire netting, or apron, along the fence line. Attach it to the fence securely. Coyotes are also good diggers and this measure will help prevent that.
Conclusion: Be Prepared, Stay Aware
In conclusion, coyotes are formidable predators and foragers. As we (humans) continue to move into their natural habitats we need to learn how to live with them. The easiest way to do this is to scare them whenever you see them. Coyotes are incredibly intelligent (not like Coyote character from Warner Bros ‘Looney Tunes’) and will usually remember to fear humans after only a few encounters. Follow the safety tips above and you will help protect your loved ones and pets.