Wildlife in the City: Coyotes

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Animal Services                      

  • Breed from late January to March: gestation is 60-63 days. Each year they produce one litter of one to 12 young.
  • Venture outside of their den at three to four weeks and begin to explore the world around them. Young stay with their parents until the fall.
  • Have an average life span of six to eight years and weigh between 36-60 lbs.
  • Are active during the day and at night. They do not hibernate, so you may see them in winter.
  • Look for secluded locations along stream banks, ravines or sandy ridges to use as a den.
  • Are very smart and adaptable to their surroundings. They are curious animals who are non-confrontational by nature.
  • Have a blonde, red or brown coat. A pack of coyotes is usually made of a group of siblings. Male and female are the basic social unit.
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Problems and best solutions

Coyote sightings

Just after dawn or before dusk coyotes may be seen hunting in an open area or running along highways or near ravines. The coyote is very alert and has keen senses of smell, hearing and sight.

Coyotes can live close to humans and rarely be seen. Some people may be concerned about the safety of children and pets, and may be afraid that the coyote is sick or has rabies. If you are concerned about the safety of your pets, feed and keep them indoors.

Abnormal behaviour

If your house or apartment is near a ravine, you may see a coyote.

Call 311 if you see a coyote that is:

  • approaching dogs or people
  • exploring a home or building far from a large park or open area
  • entering a barn area where large animals are confined
  • limping or staggering or with paralyzed hind legs
  • acting confused attacking non-living objects
  • fighting or attacking pets

Garbage/composters

Coyotes are intelligent, adaptable and curious creatures. As a rule they are also shy, cautious and non-confrontational. They are drawn to places where they can find “easy pickings”. By using the preventative tips below you can learn how to discourage these animals from backyards and avoid the possibility of a negative interaction or conflict.

  • Never feed coyotes! Do not leave any type of food outdoors for any animal.
  • Make sure you keep your green bin in a secure area until collection day.
  • Bird feeders attract birds, squirrels and rodents, which in turn may attract coyotes.
  • Never compost meat products.
  • Do not house poultry or livestock in close proximity to your home.

Keeping your family and pets safe

Coyotes have adjusted well to living in close proximity to humans and are shy and prefer to avoid confrontations. Make sure you teach your children about animal safety and what to do if they should encounter various types of wildlife.

If you walk in a park with coyote activity, take note of the following safety tips:

  • Carry a personal audible alarm (it will deter a coyote and bring attention to yourself in

case you need help)

  • Carry a bright flashlight (bright light has been known to deter coyotes)
  • Keep your pet leashed
  • Keep an umbrella in close reach (the action of opening/closing will deter a coyote)
  • If you are approached by a coyote
  • Make yourself appear larger and should and/or clap your hands together
  • Stay calm, hold your ground
  • Never run

Attractions to food

Coyotes are omnivores and will eat whatever is available such as small mammals and birds, carrion, fruit and improperly stored garbage. The coyote’s diet will also change depending on its surrounding environment.

Natural Diet Small rodents such as mice, groundhogs and rabbits. Also birds, eggs, snakes, turtles, frogs, fish, fruit, plants, carrion and road kill. They are not known to hunt deer but may try to hunt sheep or young calves if in desperate need.
Urban Diet Garbage that overflows from residential dumpsters or garbage that is carelessly stored outdoors. Garbage often attracts mice and rats, which in turn attracts coyotes and foxes into residential areas.
Outdoor Animals Cats (allowed outdoors)
Rabbits (confined in pens)
Livestock (poultry and other non-pets)

 

Many wild animals, including coyotes, have adapted well to life in the city. Because food and shelter are plentiful, and natural predators are limited, these animals will continue to live near us. If we learn to share the environment with wildlife and reduce problems by getting rid of sources of food and shelter on our properties, we can be entertained by these visitors as they make their way to a more suitable home.

What should I do if I see a coyote?

If the coyote is seen near your house, encourage the coyote to keep moving by shouting and gesturing aggressively at it.  Remove all attractants around your property: accessible garbage and compost, pet food left outside, rat and mice habitat (birdseed fallen from feeders often attracts rodents).

What should I do if a coyote approaches me?

If a coyote approaches, appear as large and threatening as possible.  Make aggressive gestures (moving arms and legs), shout in a low voice, and throw rocks, sticks or objects.  Never run; coyotes, like most canids, like to chase moving objects.  Coyotes are naturally timid animals and will flee when confronted with aggression.

Continue to exaggerate the techniques listed above.  Do not turn away or run.  Maintain eye contact and move slowly toward a building or area of increased activity.

I’ve seen coyotes moving through my yard a lot recently.  Why?

Regular coyote presence in your backyard is a result of a nearby food source.  The coyote may be finding a meal in your yard, your neighbour’s, or at a house down or across the street.  Intentionally or not, someone in your neighbourhood may be feeding coyotes.  Talking with your neighbours about identifying and removing the following coyote attractants will reduce the potential for coyotes to enter your backyard:

  • Pet food stored or fed outside
  • Accessible garbage bins and composts
  • Fruit fallen from trees left to rot on the ground
  • Rat or mouse habitat (wood piles, long grass, birdseed)

Although the majority of a coyote’s diet consists of rodents, they also enjoy fruit, berries, birds, eggs, fish, crustaceans, and small pets.  Even a poorly maintained bird feeder will attract rats, mice, coyotes and foxes.  Never feed coyotes; fed coyotes lose their natural fear of people and can become more aggressive toward people.

How can I discourage coyotes from using my backyard?

It is crucial to understand that if one yard on your block is providing coyotes with a regular food source, there will be coyotes active throughout the neighbourhood.  Get your neighbours on board to remove all attractants for coyotes in the neighbourhood.  Attractants for coyotes include accessible garbage and compost, pet food left outside, rat and mice habitat (birdseed fallen from feeders often attracts rodents).

It is of equal importance to recognize that an indifferent attitude toward coyotes has a similar effect to feeding.  Consider the following from a coyote’s perspective:

  1. Out of 20 visual encounters with people around houses, 1 resulted in a steak supper watched by the resident, 1 resulted in a compost and mouse meal watched by the resident, 16 encounters were met with indifference and 2 encounters were negative experiences in which the residents chased the coyote off the property and down the lane.
  2. Out of 20 visual encounters with people around houses, 1 resulted in a fed roast chicken dinner and 19 experiences resulted in the coyote being scared off the property and block.  Despite the free meal it is not likely that the coyote will return to the hostile area.

If a coyote is in your yard make the animal aware it is not welcome.  Coyotes have been scared off properties by people waving hockey sticks or brooms at them, people throwing stones, balls or tins at them, people clanging pots and pans in their direction, or with home-made coyote deterrents suggested in this package.

A 2 meter fence made from vertical solid wooden slats or one with a climbing barrier on the top will keep a coyote out of your yard. Other options include installing motion-detecting lights or strobe lights.

How can I keep my cat safe?

The only way to ensure your cat is safe from coyotes is to keep it indoors.  The more time your cat spends outdoors the greater the risk it faces, not only from coyotes, but also from raccoons, cars, domestic dogs, leukemia, parasites, feline AIDS, and other diseases.  Indoor cats live longer and healthier lives than outdoor cats.

You can give your cat time outdoors by building an enclosed cat run.

Help prevent coyotes from using your backyards and neighbourhoods by removing attractants: accessible garbage and compost, pet food left outside, and rat and mice habitat.

How can I keep my dog safe?

Coyotes sometimes prey upon small dogs.  Small dogs have even been taken directly off the leash.  You can ensure your pet’s safety by supervising it at all times when outside.  Allow your dog off-leash only in enclosed areas.  If you encounter a coyote while walking your dog, gather your dog in your arms.  If this is not possible, keep it on a short leash as you move toward an area with increased activity.  Shout, wave your arms, or throw objects toward the coyote.

Incidents generally occur during the late winter and early spring when coyotes mate and are more territorial.  Do not let your dog play or interact with coyotes.

Some other precautionary measures that can be taken include:

  1. Keep a whistle handy while walking your dog.  The whistle may not scare the coyote directly (coyotes hear the same sirens, car alarms, and horns as we do), but it will alert other pedestrians in the area of your need for help.
  2. Walk your dog in areas of high pedestrian traffic such as busy streets, jogging and park trails.  Walk during times of increased activity such as during daylight hours, around schools at arrival, dismissal, break or lunch periods, along transit routes as the work day begins or ends, and around parks when sporting events (e.g. soccer practice) are being held.
  3. Walk your dog with friends and family.
  4. Avoid walking along abandoned properties or densely vegetated areas.
  5. Make sure your dog is ahead of you and within sight at all times while walking.

Any dog that is off leash in a leash free zone in Toronto should have an immediate recall response to eliminate potential conflict with coyotes, dogs, and people.

How can I prepare my child for potential coyote encounters?

Education is the key to preparedness.  Children should be taught how to behave around coyotes. Teach children to Be Big (stand up and raise your arms in the air), Be Mean (sound angry, stomp your feet, and throw something at the coyote), Be Loud (yelling “Go Away Coyote” so people nearby will come help), and Never Run.

Why should I not feed coyotes?

A Fed Coyote is a Dead Coyote

Coyotes that are intentionally fed by people invariably lose some or all of their fear of humans and develop aggressive behaviour, having to be destroyed. It is crucial that the coyote in your neighbourhood is prevented from showing aggression towards people. In addition, human food does not meet the animal’s seasonal nutritional needs. There is plenty of natural food around for wildlife in the city.

If you suspect a neighbour is feeding coyotes, please contact 311.

What should I do if I find an injured or sick coyote, or an abandoned pup?

People occasionally see coyote pups alone in the spring.  Before the animal is approached, it should first be observed for at least 24 hours to ensure the parent is not returning to take care of its young. Contact Toronto Animal Services at (416) 338-PAWS (7297) or the nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre, like the Toronto Wildlife Centre (416- 631-0662) for advice.

Do not attempt to handle an adult coyote.  Injured wild animals are frightened and in pain.  In addition, adult coyotes are extremely difficult to catch as long as they have use of all four limbs.  Instead, call Toronto Animal Services or the nearest wildlife centre, like the Toronto Wildlife Centre (416-631-0662).

What You Can Do

Never feed coyotes.  When wild animals are fed they lose their natural fear of people and may become more aggressive.  Feeding wild animals puts the animal, yourself, and your neighbours at risk.

If a coyote approaches you, be as big, mean and loud as you can.

Throw objects toward the coyote.  If the coyote continues to approach, do not run but retain eye contact with the coyote, pick-up small pets or children, and move slowly toward an area of increased activity.

Coyotes have been scared off properties by people waving brooms and hockey sticks, throwing baskets, tennis balls and other objects, spraying vinegar through a super-soaker, clanging pots, pans and garbage lids together, and shouting in a low voice.

Air horns are also very effective in chasing away coyotes. Air horns can be purchased from large hardware/retail stores.

Cleaning up around your house and yard is the best way you can help prevent any human-coyote conflict.

Common attractants for coyotes (and mice, rats, raccoons, skunks, and bears) include: accessible garbage, compost, pet food, and yard fruit.  Coyotes will also prey on cats and small dogs.  To ensure your cats safety keep it indoors or within an enclosed outdoor cat run.  Keep small dogs on a leash and within sight while walking.

Other options include installing motion-detecting lights or strobe lights.