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How to Deter Coyotes Aggression in Urban Areas

Just one person intentionally feeding coyotes within a neighborhood can put everyone's pets and children at risk.

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Monitoring Coyote Behavior May Deter Attacks on Pets and Children

Coyote sightings in San Francisco are becoming a regular occurrence. At Lake Tahoe, a dog was recently killed by a pack of coyotes while being taken for a walk by its owner. Long Beach officials are urging residents to begin to form "Wildlife Watch" groups in their neighborhoods. In May, in two separate incidents, coyotes tried to drag away toddlers in Lake Arrowhead and Chino Hills.

"Most coyotes are timid animals that don't suddenly start biting people," said Robert Timm, UC Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist. "When living around humans, who provide them ample food resources, either intentionally or unintentionally, they can exhibit a gradual escalation of aggressive or predatory behaviors prior, which can lead to attacks or pets and on people."

Urbanization Encroaches on Wildlife Habitat

Coyotes are living in increasingly close proximity to humans and losing their fear. The wild animals may even regard small children as potential prey, as demonstrated by their stalking and attack behaviors.

Timm and colleague Robert Schmidt, a Utah State University professor in the Department of Environment and Society, recently coauthored a paper titled, "Bad Dogs: Why Do Coyotes and Other Canids Become Unruly?" It lists the seven behavioral stages coyotes undergo as they become more brazen around humans. The paper can be downloaded at , under "Coyote Information: Urban Coyote Symposium Papers."

In their publication, Timm and Schmidt offer guidelines for monitoring coyote behavior, originally developed by their colleague Rex Baker of California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, to help communities prevent conflicts.

The key for residents and management officials, Schmidt and Timm say, is watching for early indications of behavioral changes and taking action -- such as discouraging feeding, posting warnings and, if necessary, coyote removal -- before their behavior escalates into a human safety problem.

Watching for Early Signs of Coyote Encroachment

Early signs of problem behaviors include increased sightings of coyotes wandering the community's streets and yards at dawn or dusk with an apparent disregard for human presence. This can lead to incidences of coyotes approaching children or adults, or attacking pets. Further concern is warranted when there are increased daytime sightings of bold coyotes, and coyotes chasing joggers or bicyclists.

Call Wildlife Officials About Aggressive Coyotes

"When you see bold or aggressive coyotes during the day, wildlife officials should be notified," Timm said. "At this point, the animals are more likely to attack pets and even children."

He recommends, "If you encounter a coyote, act aggressively by yelling, waving your arms, throwing stones, or squirting the animal with a high-pressure garden hose to let coyotes know they're unwelcome."

Teach Children to Recognize Coyotes and Defensive Behaviors

For some people, especially children, it can be difficult to distinguish a coyote from a strange dog. Unfortunately, the opposite reaction is recommended when encountering a strange dog.

The experts encourage parents living in coyote-prone areas to show their children photos of coyotes to help them recognize the animals.

Timm's Web site,, provides information about coyotes in urban and suburban environments, giving specific management recommendations.

Report Coyotes Online in LA, Orange and San Diego Counties

Residents of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties can also report coyote attacks or encounters via the Web site. A map shows where reported attacks occurred in those counties. Timm and his colleagues analyze this information to better define the scope of the coyote problem in these counties, and to improve recommendations for preventing and solving future coyote conflicts.

Don't Feed Predatory Wildlife

Timm recommends that neighbors agree to create an inhospitable environment for coyotes by not feeding them or allowing access to pet food left outside, compost piles, or household refuse. "It works best if everyone in the neighborhood is of the same mind," he said. "Unfortunately, just one person intentionally feeding coyotes within a neighborhood can put everyone's pets and children at risk."

Contact: UC Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist,

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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