A member of the canine family, the first coyotes were recorded in Rock Creek Park in 2004. A natural predator of birds, small mammals, small reptiles and amphibians, and berries and other plant materials, coyotes have expanded their range over the past few centuries in part due to the extirpation of wolves.
Frequently asked questions
1. Are there coyotes in Rock Creek Park?
Yes. The first recorded sighting in the park was in May 2004; they were confirmed by park staff in September 2004. Sightings have been recorded continuously since 2004. Most of the sightings have been in the upper section of the park between Military and Wise Roads. Several sightings have been reported in the neighborhoods adjacent to the park as well. Presently, there is no estimate of the population size in the park but the number is believed to be small.
2. What do coyotes look like?
Coyotes are canines with gray to tan with long snouts, large erect ears and a bushy tail with a black tip. They stand about 2 feet high at the shoulder. Their front legs have a dark vertical stripe on the shin, which may be hard to see. When running, coyotes hold their tail down almost between their legs. They look similar to a German shepherd dog, but coyotes have longer legs, longer snouts and bushier tails.
3. What do coyotes eat?
Coyotes eat carrion (dead animals), berries and other vegetation. They also hunt small animals such as mice, amphibians, snakes, and birds. They hunt alone or in small family groups.
4. Are coyotes dangerous to people?
Coyotes prefer to avoid people and are usually not aggressive toward humans. They can be seen during the day, but they are most active in the evening and at night when the park is closed to pedestrian visitors.
5. Are coyotes dangerous to pets?
Coyotes hunt small animals, but avoid people. If your pet is leashed and you and your pet are on a trail, a coyote will likely avoid you.
6. What should I do if I see a coyote?
You can stop and watch, but do not approach it. As with any wild animal, if it feels threatened by someone coming toward it or chasing it, it may feel the need to protect itself. Do not feed or attempt to feed coyotes or any wildlife in the park. Once a wild animal gets accustomed to being fed by humans there is much more likelihood that an individual will get bitten by an animal looking for food.
If you see a coyote in the Washington, DC, portion of Rock Creek Park, please contact us.
7. What can neighbors do to prevent any unwanted contact and protect their pets and the coyotes?
While in the park, keep your pet on a leash no longer than six feet.
At home, keep pet food indoors. Food left outside can attract coyotes and other wildlife.
At home, keep all trash well contained in tightly closed garbage cans.
8. What is the park going to do about coyotes?
Coyotes have entered the park naturally and are subject to the same protection as other park wildlife under park regulations. Coyotes do not present a problem or a threat to public safety. The park will continue to monitor the situation and manage accordingly.