Coyote Behavior

Normal Urban Coyote Behavior

Is a coyote in my neighborhood normal?
Yes, for a coyote the use of urban neighborhoods is normal.

Coyotes are curious animals, they are very active and can travel long distances in search of food and territory. In urban areas natural habitat fragments surrounded by development are often too small to satisfy a coyotes home range needs for food, territory and reproduction. For a coyote to acquire enough territory to survive it is normal for them to use multiple fragmented natural habitats and routinely traverse through urban neighborhoods. Coyotes are opportunistic eaters and while moving through these neighborhoods if they see an easy meal such as, fruit from trees, scrapes in trash cans, rabbits on the lawn or the pet food on the porch, they are likely going to eat whatever they find. If coyotes are successful in finding food resources in your neighborhood it is normal for them to return in search of more food.

Seeing coyotes during the day?
Yes, it is normal to see coyotes during the day. Most people seem to think that coyotes are nocturnal animals, but this is not true. Coyotes can be active anytime, day or night. Coyotes are found to be quite active during the day where human disturbance, including hunting and harassment does not occur. Research has shown that coyotes seem to prefer to visit urban areas at night when human disturbance is low, but it is not unusual to see a coyote during the morning, day or early evening in urban areas or natural habitats.

Chasing dogs and cats?
Normal. Some coyotes may have no response to your pet and there have also been a few documented cases of coyotes playing with domestic dogs. But if a coyote is aggressive toward your pet it could be for one of two main reasons 1). They view your pet as prey 2). Or as a threat to their territory, especially if it is denning season and protecting young pups is a priority. For this reason we always suggest walking your dog on a short leash (no more than 6 feet) keeping them close to you. Coyotes appear to attack small dogs most often, but occasionally larger dogs are attacked too. Unattended neighborhood cats and dogs can appear to be easy prey to coyotes. Protect your pets and bring your dogs and cats in at night even if they are in your fenced yard, coyotes can easily jump over 6 foot fences.

Seeing coyotes in groups?
Normal. Coyotes will live together in family groups of 2 or more, with an alpha male and alpha female, (the parents), and the young from one to two breeding seasons ago (one-two years old) will stay around to help raise the new pups. It is also normal to see one coyote alone; as the pups become adults they leave the family to find their own way in search of territory and mates.

Abnormal Coyote Behavior

Aggressive behavior toward people can be abnormal.

Aggressive coyotes would include individuals that will not run from people and that growl or bark when approached. Coyotes that attack pets, on leash, right next to people can be considered aggressive too.

But…. during denning season, February – June, it is normal for coyotes to become aggressive to protect their territory and young. During this time of year, be mindful of where you hike in natural areas; coyotes may see you or your dog as a threat to their pups and act aggressively to protect them. Choosing to hike in locations where coyotes are not regularly present and away from den sites will help reduce aggressive encounters with coyotes protecting their young.

What can lead to abnormal coyote behaviors?
Most coyotes are nervous and fear humans. Studies have seen that coyotes will naturally avoid humans in urban areas by shifting to nocturnal activity patterns when visiting urban neighborhoods. As coyotes become habituated to humans they tend to loss their fear and desire to avoid people. The draw to food in urban areas due to intentional or even unintentional feeding could lead to habitation and alter coyote behavior. Coyotes will take advantage of food available in urban areas and associate food with neighborhoods and people. The simple act of avoiding or leaving the area when a coyote approaches can lead to the coyote thinking it is dominate, which could eventually lead to habitation and aggression in coyotes.

Last updated: July 12, 2016

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