As our community grows, there is increased opportunity for interactions with all kinds of wildlife – including coyotes. Coyotes are found in all 48 continental states in the United States and are firmly established in most major metropolitan areas including Austin and Travis County.
Their adaptability and opportunistic diet make them well suited to urban and suburban landscapes where food sources are plentiful. Coyotes primarily hunt small animals such as mice, rats and rabbits; scavenge for human and pet food left outdoors, garbage and carrion; and eat fruits, berries and other plants. Coyotes may also prey upon other small mammals such as house pets if they are easy to access. (Read “What to Do Around Your Home and Neighborhood” below for tips on keeping small pets and other animals safe.) If food sources are plentiful, a coyote’s home territory may be less than one square mile in an urban setting. In the wild, territories are many times larger.
Coyotes are typically most active at dawn and dusk, though may be seen hunting or traveling during daytime hours, and use a variety of vocalizations to communicate. Coyotes range in size from about 25 – 40 pounds, though they may be mistaken as larger because of their thick coat. Coyotes are naturally wary of humans, but living and finding easy food sources in close proximity to humans with few negative consequences can cause coyotes to become bolder and create potentially unsafe situations.
With a little knowledge of coyote biology and best practices in managing interactions with coyotes, we can keep communities safe for people, pets and wildlife. These best practices include reducing or removing possible food and water sources, maintaining properties to reduce places to shelter and hazing coyotes when appropriate, which helps reshape their behavior and discourage them from frequenting the area.
What to Do Around Your Home and Neighborhood
- Keep wildlife wild – don’t feed them!
- Do not feed pets outside or leave pet food outside
Check your property for and eliminate potential sources of food and water
- Clean up bird seed on the ground
- Keep barbecue grills clean
- Tightly cover and secure garbage cans and compost bins
- Clean up under fruit and nut trees
- Eliminate artificial water sources
- Trim brush and shrubbery near ground level
- Make sure fences are secure and close off crawl spaces under porches, decks and sheds
- Keep small pets inside if possible and monitor them when outside
- Provide secure shelters for poultry or other animals living outside
- Always follow leash laws and walk dogs on leashes 6’ or less in length
- Be aware of possible coyote den sites when in parks or other natural areas. Coyotes are protective of pups and may view people or dogs (even larger dogs) as interlopers. Coyotes den, mate and birth pups generally from January to June and are most territorial then.
- Install motion activated sprinklers or outdoor lighting around your property
Hazing: How to Scare a Coyote Away to Minimize Future Interactions
Hazing, also sometimes called vexing, is a process that helps reshape coyote behavior and encourages coyotes to avoid contact with people and pets. It reinforces coyotes’ natural wariness without harming them. The more an individual coyote is hazed using a variety of tools and techniques by a variety of people, the more effective it will be for the entire community. Hazing should be exaggerated, assertive and consistent. It is a common technique used in communities around the country.
- Make eye contact, yell and wave your arms. You want the coyote to know the behavior is directed at it. Waving your arms will make you seem bigger.
- Use noisemakers such as whistles, air horns, a “shaker” can full of small rocks (or something similar), or bang something like pots and pans together.
- If the coyote does not leave immediately, throw non-edible objects near it. You can use something like small rocks, sticks or tennis balls. Remember, the goal is not to hurt the coyote, you’re trying to get it to leave and associate humans with unpredictable, “scary” behavior.
- Spray the coyote with a water hose, water guns or spray bottles. You can also use a mixture of water and vinegar, pepper spray or bear repellant.
- If the coyote does not leave after escalating hazing efforts, maintain eye contact and back away slowly. Notify 311 immediately.
Don’t haze if a coyote appears sick or injured, is cornered or displaying acceptable coyote behavior. Please call 311 to report sick or injured animals.
Coyote Management in the City of Austin
In November 2014, the City Council approved a Coyote Management Policy through a resolution for the City of Austin. The policy balances public safety concerns by providing criteria for determining public safety threats and humane treatment for all animals.
If you would like complementary, city informational brochures about coyotes or a free, one-hour presentation for your neighborhood association, informal group of neighbors or any other civic group, please contact 512-978-0514.