Urban coyotes are on the rise, particularly in southern California. As development spreads, thousands of coyotes are displaced from their natural homes every year; people and pets are trying to learn to live with their presence. Because they don't have many natural predators, urban coyotes can live upwards of 10-12 years. The longer they stay in close proximity with people, the less afraid and more brazen they become. It's no surprise then that incidents between pets and coyotes are more common in California than they've ever been.
What to Know About California Coyotes
Coyotes are carnivores which means they subsist on meat. They mostly eat small animals like snakes and mice but as they become bolder (and hungrier), they will attempt to eat trash, cats, and even small dogs. While coyotes aren't much bigger than domestic dogs, they can run up to 65 mph over short distances and jump up to 12 feet. They usually live independently from one another but sometimes in small family packs. Mating season lasts from January-March and late summer sees the height of coyote births.
Are There Coyotes in Your Area?
The Department of Agricultural and Natural Resources at the University of California has put together a highly useful map that keeps track of coyote incidents in the state. It's color coded so you can see specifically where coyotes have been spotted, where they've been encountered, and where they've definitively interacted with people or even eaten household pets. Most coyote incidents in California happen in and around the Los Angeles area, although they do occur all over the state, particularly where there are large numbers of people. The sheer number of coyotes in L.A. is surprising, even to experts.
Know Coyote Habits
Coyotes are predators and they like to hunt when they're least easily detected. That means they usually go out in search of food in the early morning or at dusk when visibility is lowest. They live anywhere they can find reliably safe shelter, but their dens are particularly likely to be found near a fresh water source. Coyotes are generally wary of humans - they know we're bigger than them - but urban coyotes are less inclined to be scared of our presence. They've been known to jump over fences and even dart into traffic to find food, and they're fiercely protective of their young.
Protect Your Pet From Coyotes
There are a number of ways you can actively protect your pets against the threat of coyotes. Keep eyes on your pet. Don't let your dog or cat roam free outdoors, even in your own backyard, if you know your area to have coyotes. Don't walk in low-light. Coyotes have been known to grab on-leash pets during morning and twilight walks. Avoid walking during these times of day when the predators are most active. Consider coyote equipment. There are several coyote protection products on the market to consider including a Kevlar protection vest for dogs and a rolling steel fence-topper to keep coyotes out of your yard. Never feed coyotes. Don't think that if you feed coyotes, they'll stay away. Never intentionally feed a coyote or leave out animal food, fallen fruit, or grill refuse. Keep them wary. Teach coyotes to be afraid of you by acting like an apex predator. Wave your arms, be loud, and throw rocks at them to frighten them away. Never turn and run.
It's entirely possible to live in harmony with coyotes as long as you stay vigilant! Do you live in an area with a high coyote population? Talk to your vet about what you can do to protect your pet.