Coyotes are curious, smart and adaptable creatures and our urban areas provide the perfect balance of food, shelter and water for them. What you may not know is that even in fragmented and urbanized landscapes, coyotes can play an integral role in their environment by providing ecosystem services and helping to maintain species diversity. Coyotes in urban areas not only provide free rodent control by feeding on mice and rats, but also help to regulate the population size of other species that may cause conflicts with people in urban areas.
- View our comprehensive Coyote Management & Coexistence Plan [PDF]
Generally, coyotes are reclusive animals who avoid human contact. Coyotes in urban and suburban environments, however, may learn that neighborhoods provide easy sources of human-associated food while presenting few real threats. These coyotes, having lost their fear of humans, may visit yards and public areas even when people are present and may cause conflicts with people and pets. Humans have contributed to this habituation of coyotes by not reacting when they see a coyote. We have a tendency to either ignore them due to fear or to be enamored by them because they are wild and it is “cool” to see one. To coexist safely, it’s important to modify this behavior and attitude in resident coyote populations.
Coyotes are drawn to urban and suburban areas for the following reasons:
- Food. Urban areas provide a bounty of natural food choices for coyotes, who primarily eat rodents such as mice and rats. However, coyotes can be further attracted into suburban neighborhoods by human-associated food such as pet food, unsecured compost or trash, and fallen fruit in yards. Intentional and unintentional feeding can lead coyotes to associate humans with sources of food, which can result in negative interactions among coyotes, people and pets. To reduce food attractants in urban and suburban areas:
- Never hand-feed or otherwise deliberately feed a coyote.
- Avoid feeding pets outside. Remove sources of pet food and water. If feeding pets outside is necessary, remove the bowl and any leftover food promptly.
- Never compost any meat or dairy (unless the compost is fully secured).
- Maintain good housekeeping, such as regularly raking areas around bird feeders, to help discourage coyote activity near residences.
- Remove fallen fruit from the ground.
- Keep trash in high-quality containers with tight-fitting lids. Only place the cans curbside the morning of collection. If you leave out overnight, trash cans are more likely to be tipped over and broken into. West Hollywood Coyote Management Plan
- Bag especially attractive food wastes such as meat scraps or leftover pet food. If it is several days before garbage will be picked up, freeze temporarily or take to a dumpster or other secure storage container.
- Water. Urban areas provide a year-round supply of water in the form of storm water impoundments and channels, artificial lakes, irrigation, pet water dishes, etc., which support both coyotes and their prey.
- In dry conditions, water can be as alluring as food, so remove water bowls set outside for pets and make watering cans unavailable.
- Access to shelter. Parks, greenbelts, open spaces, golf courses, buildings, sheds, decks and crawl spaces, etc., increase the amount and variability of cover for coyotes. They allow coyotes to safely and easily remain close to people, pets, homes and businesses without detection.
- In the spring, when coyotes give birth and begin to raise young, they concentrate their activities around dens or burrows in which their young are sheltered. Coyotes may take advantage of available spaces under sheds or decks for use as a den, bringing them into close contact with people and pets.
- Unattended Pets. Pets are a normal part of an urban landscape. Within their territory, coyotes may consider pets as potential prey or potential competitors.
- Free-roaming pets, especially cats and sometimes small dogs, may attract coyotes into neighborhoods. The best way to minimize risk to pets is to not leave them outside unattended.
- Cats. Coyotes primarily eat small mammals such as mice and rats, but will also prey on slightly larger mammals such as rabbits and groundhogs. Approximately the same size as a groundhog or rabbit, free-roaming outdoor cats may also be seen as eligible prey items by coyotes. It is important to note that attacks on cats are normal coyote behavior and do not indicate a danger for people. The only way to protect cats from coyotes (and the other dangers of outdoor life such as cars, disease, dogs and other wildlife) is to keep cats indoors (or only let them outside in a secure enclosure or when accompanied by a person and under the control of a leash and harness).
- Feral cats. People who feed feral cats are often concerned that coyotes might prey on the cats. These concerns are well founded, as coyotes will be attracted to both the outdoor pet food and the cats themselves as prey. Although there is no sure way to protect feral cats from coyotes, the following tips can be helpful:
- Feed cats only during the day and at a set time—and pick up any leftovers immediately.
- Provide escape routes for cats.
- Haze coyotes seen on the property (see below). Making them feel uncomfortable will encourage them to stay out of the area.
- Dogs are also vulnerable to coyote confrontations. These incidents generally involve coyotes who are accustomed or habituated to people (usually due to wildlife feeding), or coyotes who are protecting their territory and pups (usually during breeding season).
- Small, unattended dogs may be seen as potential prey for coyotes. It is important to either keep dogs on a leash six feet long or shorter when outdoors or to stay within six feet of them when outside. (Coyotes may view a dog on a leash longer than six feet as an unattended pet.) Attacks on unattended, small dogs are normal coyote behavior and do not indicate a danger for people.
- Although attacks on larger dogs are rarer, coyotes will sometimes go after a large dog when they feel that their territory is threatened. This generally occurs during the coyote breeding season, which takes place from January through March. During this time, it is West Hollywood Coyote Management Plan especially important not to let dogs outside unattended and to keep them on leashes (six feet long or less) when in public areas.
- Other domestic animals kept outside, such as chickens and rabbits, may also be viewed as prey by coyotes. Protect poultry or other outdoor animals from coyotes (and other predators) with protective fencing, by ensuring that they are confined in sturdy cages or pens each evening.
Basic "hazing", as it is referred to, consists of directly facing the coyote and being “big and loud” by waving your arms over your head, making loud noises or squirting the coyote with water until the coyote(s) chooses to leave. Using a variety of different hazing tools is critical because coyotes can become desensitized to the continued use of just one technique, sound or action. Basic hazing can be performed by anyone and includes the following techniques:
- Yelling and waving your arms while approaching the coyote
- Making loud noises with whistles, air horns, megaphones, soda cans filled with pennies, pots and pans
- Throwing projectiles such as sticks, small rocks, cans, tennis balls or rubber balls at the direction of the coyote
- Squirting water from a hose, water gun or spray bottle (with vinegar water)
High-intensity hazing consists of approaching the animal quickly and aggressively, throwing projectiles, paintballs, pepper balls, slingshots, clay pellets or pepper spray at the coyote. High-intensity hazing should only be carried out by trained professionals such as animal control and police officers. High-intensity hazing should be used in specific areas and only in response to more egregious incidents.
On October 15, 2018, the West Hollywood City Council adopted a Coyote Management and Coexistence Plan. The aim of this plan is to educate community members about coyotes and their behaviors and provide general information about how to respond to coyote sightings to reduce the potential for harm and to provide tips for coexistence.
- View our comprehensive Coyote Management & Coexistence Plan [PDF]
The Los Angeles County Department of Agriculture is the agency with primary jurisdiction over all wildlife in the County. For reports of coyote sightings or encounter, they can be reached at (626) 575-5462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife can also be contacted about coyote concerns at their South Coast Region Office (858) 467-4201
Additionally, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the University of California have reporting tools that help state and local agencies track coyote concerns. These tools can be found below: