We understand how upsetting having coyotes in your backyard can be. And your concerns are valid, given the figures on human-coyote encounters. There were 367 reported attacks on humans between 1977 and 2015 with two fatalities. That’s not even including the number of cats and dogs taken by these predators. This is why, in this article, we’ve made it our mission to teach you how to get rid of coyotes in your backyard.
The western states are the primary hotbed for encounters, with California accounting for over 40 percent of them. Most incidents occurred when people were enjoying the outdoors. Seeing one in the wild is one thing. But if you’ve spotted one in your yard, that’s another story worth investigating.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Verify That it’s a Coyote
Coyotes are intelligent animals. They will quickly learn the patterns of people living in an area to avoid them, not to mention, they are nocturnal.
A coyote is about the size and build of a border collie, weighing up to 50 pounds. Their coat is a mottled mixture of brown, white, gray, and black, which provides excellent camouflage whether they live in forests or prairies.
Their tracks are like dogs with four clawed pads. You can distinguish them from the family pet by looking at the pattern of their steps. Coyotes walk in what is called “perfect step”, putting their back paws into the footprints of their front ones. The track looks like a single line.
A domesticated dog, on the other hand, is two lines with the prints often showing drag marks. The claws are evident, too, whereas you may not see the claws of a coyote because they’re likely worn down by all the running they do.
You may also see scat often with features or other remnants of their prey. You may also find other signs like tipped garbage cans or litter strewn around the area.
Most coyotes are elusive. They’ll avoid people at all costs. If one is in the neighborhood, he’s just doing his job as a predator to keep the rabbits and other prey species under control. While seeing signs can raise your hackles, the primary concern with coyotes is seeing them during the day. That means that the resident animal has lost its fear of humans and can represent a real threat to the safety of you and your family.
That’s when you need to take action.
Step 2: Contact the Office of Your State’s DNR or Conservation Department
The primary obstacle with taking matters in your own hands is that coyotes are game animals in most states. That means you need a permit or license to hunt or trap them. Some areas allow property owners to dispatch nuisance wildlife. A resident coyote would qualify on that score.
However, there are often conditions for this provision. You may have limitations on how you can get rid of them with some states prohibiting the use of snares or poison. Then, there is always the risk of killing a non-targeted animal.
If you live in an urban area, firearms are out as an option. Even if you’re in the country, most states forbid using a gun within a certain distance of a highway. Live trapping them is also problematic because you can’t just set them loose anywhere. Besides, coyotes carry parasites and diseases that you or your pet can get, making any contact with them risky. That list includes rabies.
The DNR will likely put you in touch with a professional service that can handle your coyote issue. They will have the necessary permits to take care of the interloper. However, the work of a wildlife control service is useless unless you find out what attracted them to your backyard in the first place.
Step 3: Preventing Future Encounters
Coyotes have a lot going for them, which explains why their number and, hence, the number of attacks is increasing. They aren’t picky eaters by any stretch of the imagination. They are also opportunistic.
Their natural wariness of people is also another point in their favor. Adult coyotes usually don’t have any enemies in the wild — other than humans.
So, now you’re probably wondering how to get rid of coyotes in your backyard for good. We have several recommendations to help restore your peace of mind. They involve keeping the animals from getting what they need to survive.
Eliminate Food and Water Sources
That simple statement covers a lot of ground because of the nature of the animal. There are obvious ones like keeping the garbage cans in the garage.
It helps to think like a coyote that is desperate for something to eat. Most attacks occur when prey and other foods are getting harder to find in the late fall into early spring.
Possible food sources include:
- Pet food and water bowls
- Bird feeders
- Odors from a grill
- Vegetable gardens
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Don’t Give Them Shelter
Coyotes are no different from any other animals trying to stay warm during the cooler months of the year. However, let’s not make it easy for them.
Thick vegetation can provide the ideal cover for both predator and prey. Likewise, a woodpile is an ideal place for squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents to hole up with the coyote not far behind them.
Your mission, therefore, is to deter both of them.
Make Your Yard Inhospitable
Not only do you not want to provide them shelter, but you also don’t want them to even think about setting down stakes on your turf. These measures play on the opportunistic nature of coyotes.
If you put up enough barriers or obstacles, the predators will move onto better hunting grounds. Getting enough food to meet their needs while not exerting too much effort is a balancing act all wild animals face. The deterrents you put in place are ways to make going on your property not worth it for coyotes.
Fences make good neighbors and unhappy coyotes — as long as it’s at least 6 feet high. These animals can scale shorter fences, so that height is necessary for it to be effective.
Don’t forget the underground space, too. Like dogs, they can dig their way underneath.
Depending on where you live, you could try some other deterrents to keep the beasts at bay. Motion-sensor lights that trigger a strobe or an alarm are an excellent way to frighten them off your property. Remember, coyotes are smart. They’ll soon figure out that these devices aren’t a threat. That’s why we suggest moving their location once in a while to mix things up and throw them a curveball.
Another option that makes more of a point is an electric fence. Of course, it’s only an alternative if you don’t have pets outdoors.
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We must touch on this sobering aspect of having a coyote problem, your kids and pets. Never leave either your children or pets in your backyard unattended. Period.
Data gathered by the Cook County Urban Coyote Research Project provides some grim details about the nature of human attacks. The primary category of encounters was predatory in nature, meaning that the animal deliberately went after a person.
Coyotes are quick and able to run 40 mph. Try as you might, you’re not going to outrun one.
Contrary to what you may think, trying to defend themselves or their pups wasn’t a significant cause of a coyote’s aggression. However, that’s no reason to get close to an adult and their pups. The fact remains that coyotes are likely here to stay no matter how much grief they cause. Enough pups survive each year that hunters and trappers would have to take 75 percent of them to even make a dent in their numbers.
So, what’s the solution?
The answer is not to be a victim. Don’t let your backyard be an invitation for marauding coyotes to make it part of their stomping ground. Take away the easy sources of food, water, and shelter that will make your yard seem like less of a home to a hungry coyote. Make it as difficult and inhospitable as possible to get them to move on to someplace else.
And if you should encounter one during the day, play it smart. Don’t run. Make yourself seem as large as possible while waving your hands and shouting. Throw things at it, whatever you can find on the ground around you. When you act this way, you’re signaling to the coyote that you’d put up a fight that he would best avoid.
Make sure to contact your local extension or DNR office to report the encounter, if you ever have one.
Coyotes are a natural success story. They have managed to increase their range and numbers despite pressure from a growing human population. The predators now inhabit almost every major city in the country with no end in sight of their ever-increasing numbers. The wily coyote has made its mark in a big way.
However, nature also provides the answers for deterring these predators. With some simple measures to make your home less inviting, you’ll never again have to ask how to get rid of coyotes in your backyard.