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The coyote weighs 20 to 30 pounds and stands 23 to 25 inches at the shoulder. In appearance, the coyote looks similar to a tan-colored Shepherd-type dog with a long-pointed muzzle, large ears, long legs, and a bushy, black-tipped tail.

The coyote is an extremely intelligent predator that has adapted to living in close proximity to humans. The coyote whose natural habitat has decreased as the human population has expanded, has adjusted very successfully to living closer to humans, sometimes in parks, open space lands, and along freeways.

Coyotes may use trails, roads, creek beds, flood control channels, and highways as convenient routes for travel. In addition to natural sources of water, they have been known to drink from swimming pools, street gutters, leaking hose faucets, sprinkler heads, birdbaths, and pet dishes.

Although the coyote is an excellent hunter, feeding primarily on rats, mice, ground squirrels, rabbits, insects, carrion and fruit, they will not hesitate to kill cats, small dogs, poultry, sheep, or goats if given the opportunity. They can learn that domestic animals are easier or more available prey than wild animals.

Domestic animals such as chickens, rabbits, and other small animals often kept outdoors should be kept in well-protected areas and in sturdy cages. Cages constructed of chicken wire may not be strong enough to deter a determined coyote. Stronger gauge wire is recommended. Yard fencing should be at least 5- to 5-1/2 feet high, angled outward, and with the bottom of the fencing buried underground.

Coyotes are wild animals and should be treated as such. No attempt should be made to pet or feed or otherwise make contact with them. The coyote's natural fear of humans should not be compromised. This is the most effective way to prevent confrontations.

Relocating an animal miles away from its - your - home is akin to you being transported to Chicago with no food, no money, and only the clothes on your back. They have a slim chance of survival against the other animals who already have established territories, who know where to find food, and where to hide from predators.

Moving an animal can also spread disease, not just between the old community and the new, but also between species. Viruses such as distemper and parvo thrive in new hosts. The practice of trapping and relocating animals risks separating mothers from their young and leaving the babies behind to die, or to be raised by financially-strapped rehabilitation centers.

Residents, especially those living near open space or wild lands, are advised to give special attention to the following DO's and DON'Ts to safely and peacefully co-exist with the coyote.

  • Consider making your dog or cat an indoor pet when living in an area that is known to be occupied by coyotes.
  • Accompany your dog in well-lighted areas at night for comfort walks.
  • Keep your dog on a leash whenever you take him/her off your own property.
  • Keep all outdoor trashcan lids securely fastened to the trashcan receptacle.
  • Improve yard fencing to coyote resistant standards.
  • Pick fruit when it ripens, and don't leave rotting fruit on the ground.
  • Eliminate ivy and other thick ground covers, which may attract rats, which can attract coyotes.
  • Don't feed wild animals.
  • Don't leave pet food outdoors, especially at night.
  • Don't allow pets to roam from home unaccompanied.
  • Don't leave water bowls for pets outdoors.
  • Don't leave garbage containers open.
  • Don't leave water in birdbaths, or birdseed outdoors for songbirds.
  • Don't attempt to contact or "tame" coyotes.

As with many wild animals, coyotes will regulate their own numbers if left alone. If coyotes in a certain area are removed, the remaining individual will fill the area, either with larger litters, or by allowing outsider coyotes to move into an area. For this reason, trapping or other forms of abatement normally have no long-term impact.

Flashing lights, tape-recorded human noises, scattered mothballs, and ammonia soaked rags placed strategically may deter coyotes from entering an area.

Coyotes and other predatory animals are opportunistic hunters. While the coyotes' natural diet may be small rodents and fruit, they will not hesitate to prey on small domestic animals, or human refuse, if the opportunity exists. Consequently, if you live in an area within the range of coyotes, it is your responsibility to afford protection to your domestic animals and to store your trash in a sound and secure manner.

Although rare, coyote attacks have seriously injured young children. Never leave small children unattended in areas known to be frequented by coyotes, even in your yard.

Recognize that the coyote is indigenous to North America. We are living in the coyote's backyard, and the coyote has adapted well to our proximity. We have an obligation to adapt to the coyote.