Living With Coyotes

Biology

Coyotes are 20 to 40 pound doglike mammals that entered Gloucester County and are now found basically throughout Virginia. They breed annually in the January and February time frame. Prior to giving birth the adults will prepare a den occasionally expanding the den of other animals. Their pups are born in March and April. 

The litter size can vary and average from 4 to 7 pups. If they are disturbed they may move to another den area. The pups will emerge from the den at approximately 3 weeks of age. The parents will supply them with food for the first few months. The pups will remain with the parents for approximately 6 months.

Diets

Coyotes are opportunistic feeders. They do not rely any one particular type of food. They will eat whatever is available including:

  • Birds
  • Frogs
  • Fruits
  • Insects
  • Rabbits
  • Small Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Vegetables
  • Anything Else They Can Scavenge

They may even kill and consume house cats and small dogs. The coyote will not pass up a free meal.

Behavior

Coyotes are normally very elusive. They will typically have a natural fear of humans. If they lose this natural fear of people they can become a serious threat. They are protective of their dens which means if a larger dog comes near it they may perceive this as a threat and attack the dog. 

Coyotes have been known to attack and kill free roaming small domestic dogs and cats that live within the coyote families territory. Coyotes are mammals that can carry disease, parasites, and rabies.

How Do We Live With Coyotes

If we follow some basic guidelines we can live with coyotes and minimize problems.

Do

  • Supervise small children when they are outside.
  • Consider making your dog or cat an indoor pet if you live in an area that is 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 yard clear of overgrown brush to discourage rodents
  • 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.
  • Use a tightly secured garbage container
  • Clean spilled birdseed, fruits and vegetables in gardens

Don't

  • Never feed coyotes or any 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 attempt to contact or "tame" coyotes.

How to Deter Coyotes

Motion sensitive lights placed on houses or other out buildings can help deter coyotes from coming close to your home. Radios or other motion activated noise may also help. Livestock owners may also consider certain breeds of dogs as well as llamas and donkeys. Fencing at least 6 foot high slanted outward may also help to keep coyotes out. 

Pick up and dispose of common fruits and vegetables left laying on the ground. Compost piles should be placed in sealed containers so they do not attract rodents which in turn attract the coyote.

When You See a Coyote

Remember, do not panic! Coyotes are normally afraid of humans. It will usually run off when it sees or smells you. If the coyote does not run off start waiving your arms and make allot of noise. If it still does not leave throw rocks or sticks at it. If this fails contact Animal Control to get additional advice.

Contact With a Coyote

If you are bitten or scratched by a coyote or any other wild animal washed the affected area with soap and water. Seek medical help immediately. Report the exposure to Animal Control and the Health Department. Most coyotes are healthy however there is always the possibility that the animal may have rabies. 

Rabies infections in humans is nearly always fatal. Medical authorities routinely recommend post-exposure immunization when a person comes in contact with a coyote or other wild animal.

Resources