Coyotes on the Prowl: Identification and Control

Coyotes on the Prowl: Identification and Control
  • Opening Intro -

    The coyote is common to North America, its range extending from Alaska through much of Canada, all across the United States and Mexico, and points further south.

    Coyotes are large canines and may breed with wolves and large dogs.


They’re not a problem for most people, but in certain rural communities and suburbs, coyotes are on the prowl and may cause harm to your vegetation, small pets and even to your family.

Coyote Overview

Coyotes are about the size of a German Shepherd, travel in packs and weigh from 20 to 50 pounds according to National Geographic. In the wild, they live to about 14 and are highly adaptable to their environment.

As meat eaters, coyotes will hunt almost anything usually stalking rabbits, fish, rodents and sometimes deer. They’ll eat snakes, bugs and grass, but may also raid farms and ranches to kill livestock. In suburban areas, coyotes have been known to kill pet rabbits, cats and small dogs.

Families and Packs

Both coyote parents care for their young that are typically born in the spring. Female coyotes may give birth from three to as many as 12 pups, youngsters that begin to hunt on their own by the following autumn.

Sometimes confused with wolves, coyotes are smaller and may run in packs when hunting. They are fast runners, with top speeds of 40 mph, possessing excellent vision and a superb sense of smell. Coyotes are often heard well before they are seen, offering a distinctive howl that sends a shudder throughout the animal kingdom.

Human Interaction

Fortunately, coyotes prefer to avoid human contact, but that does not mean that they will avoid human settlements. Most farmers and ranchers in coyote territory consider these animals to be a nuisance, knowing that fences do little to thwart raiders. Indeed, coyotes can dig under, jump over or tear through fencing in a bid to hunt prey, typically animals under the care of the land owner.

Coyotes are intelligent creatures and have learned how to avoid most traps, evade snares and to detect cameras. They have a keen sense of smell and will usually move on when humans are sensed nearby. Still, some coyotes have adapted to human encroachment and have been spotted moving with ease through many a housing development.

Suburban Coyote Control

Setting traps for coyotes is impractical in the typical suburban backyard. Traps may capture and kill invasive coyotes, but they can also put your pets and children at risk. There are some steps every homeowner can take to thwart coyote activity.

First, repair or replace broken fencing. Although coyotes can work their way around most any fence, they’re more likely to enter a yard that is not protected. If you need a new fence, consider vinyl fencing to keep unwanted visitors out. Second, keep a lid on your garbage cans. Coyotes will forage through your garbage and if those cans are conveniently placed, then you can expect some canine company. Consider housing your trash in your garage or garden shed between pickup days. Third, bring all small pets inside. Kitty and Muffy may like to romp in your yard, but they’re a meal ticket just waiting to be punched and consumed by coyotes.

When a coyote pack has been spotted in your area, notify your neighbors and your local animal control. Some communities are lax on coyote control, therefore it may take a concerted community effort to bring renewed enforcement. In the meantime, you can take the steps necessary to protect your home, yard, pets and children, by adding in security lighting and removing sources of coyote temptation from your property.

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About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine", an online publication. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and weblogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".