9 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Keep Coyotes As Pets

Portrait of Coyote in the meadow

Springtime is the perfect opportunity to spot baby wildlife and ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ at their adorableness. Even the wily coyote can be cute as a puppy. It might even make you think about having one as a pet. However, there are several reasons why you shouldn’t keep coyotes as pets.

Coyotes should not be considered for a house pet for several reasons. They are illegal to own as a pet in over half the states in the U.S. They require special fencing and a special diet. If they’re not well-fed, coyotes will turn to small pets, livestock, or chickens/ducks for food.

If you’re considering getting a coyote as a pet, we’ll go over the 9 reasons why it might not be such a good idea.We’ll also talk about the best ways to raise a coyote as a pet.

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Can Coyotes Be Domesticated?

A coyote in British Columbia Canada

Before we get into all the reasons why you shouldn’t get a pet coyote, let’s talk about if it’s even possible to own a coyote pet.

Coyotes can be domesticated, but there are specific ways you should go about obtaining one. It’s not recommended to trap an adult coyote and try to domesticate it. It will not work.

As a quick disclaimer, I don’t advocate for anyone getting a coyote as a pet. That being said – If you want a coyote as a pet, you should obtain one while it is a puppy. Tons of available websites sell coyote puppies online. However, there are a few things you want to look for when purchasing a coyote:

  • Make sure it is a certified breeder and they can provide all the necessary paperwork and vaccination status.
  • Check out the health of the breeding pair – are they in good condition? How is their behavior? A sick/mistreated breeding pair makes for sick puppies.
  • Ask the breeder what kind of pups they are. They may be coydogs (coyotes bred with dogs) or coywolves (coyotes bred with wolves). Understand exactly what you’re purchasing.
  • Do not purchase cheap puppies. The price for a coyote puppy ranges from $400-$800. If you see puppies for sale for $50 or some other low number, there’s most likely something wrong with them.

If you decide to purchase a puppy, prepare for a life with an adult coyote. You must teach the puppy proper behavior and you must show the coyote you are the alpha.

With proper care and training, as well as providing the necessary food, water, and shelter, a coyote puppy can grow into a loyal friend that can live for up to 15 years.

That being said, if you purchase a coyote and find it too much to handle as an adult, do not abandon it. You can contact a professional to remove it from the property, or you can contact zoos and educational organizations who can take care of it.

9 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Keep Coyotes As Pets

A Coyote in British Columbia Canada

Now that we’ve covered some of the best-case scenarios for keeping a coyote as a pet, let’s discuss all the reasons why you shouldn’t keep a coyote as a pet.

Coyotes are, of course, wild animals. It’s never recommended to catch a wild adult coyote and keep it as a pet. But there are other factors you should consider if you’re thinking about purchasing a coyote. 

Domesticated Coyotes Are Illegal In Most States

It’s no surprise that some states make it illegal to have certain exotic pets. There are many different reasons to ban exotic pets – they can disrupt the ecosystem if they escape, they are dangerous, or they are invasive.

In the case of the coyote, most states deem them “dangerous wild animals” and put them in categories similar to lions, cheetahs, jaguars, tigers, and wolves.

If you’re wondering if your state allows coyote pets, you can cross reference it with this list here. If your state is listed, it means keeping coyotes as pets is illegal in your state.

Coyotes Will Have Conflicts With Other Pets

The clever coyote has been around for a long time. These wild canines originated in the western U.S. but have since expanded their territory to practically every state.

The cause for their expansion was due to human behavior. We eliminated all the predators that kept coyotes in check: wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, bears. 

These apex predators are no longer around in their original territories, and because of that, coyotes have started strutting around in areas they never were before. And in those areas, they are the top predator!

Being the top dog for a few decades will ingrain a sense of authority in these wily animals. If you raise a coyote as a pet and have other dogs, coyotes will automatically demand to be alpha in the household.

And don’t get me started on cats…having cats is not ideal if you want a pet coyote.

Coyotes should be the only pet in your household. Even having two coyotes can cause chaos as both will be vying for the top dog position.

You can learn more about that in our article: 9 Simple Ways To Keep Coyotes Away From Your Cat.

Walking Coyotes Like A Dog Is Out Of The Question

A Coyote searches for a meal in the snowy mountains of Montana.

Having a coyote as a pet can be an alluring thought. Walking beside a big bad predator in the park might seem like a cool idea, but it’s not likely to happen.

The reality is if you take your coyote on a walk and it’s not used to being around other dogs, or people, it will be aggressive. This can lead to serious consequences especially if a dog or person is injured.

The reason for this aggression is not due to the coyote wanting to eat other dogs or people, it’s a threat response or a competition reaction according to a 2017 study

The coyote views other dogs and people as competitors for the same food group and thus will react as if their food is at risk of being taken. And coyotes don’t like to share…

It’s better to keep coyotes in a securely fenced area and let them roam there rather than at the local dog park. Even a well-trained coyote can regress into its natural behaviors.

You Must Keep The Coyote Well-Fed

In the wild, coyotes are used to eating just about every day. Their incredibly wide palette gives them ample opportunity to catch anything that crosses their path. 

Captive coyotes aren’t too different. They need food daily, preferably 2 times a day or more. There is a wide variety of foods you can give to a coyote, but more on that later…

The important thing to take away from this is that coyotes should be fed a healthy diet. Do not malnourish a pet coyote – they will turn to other available items. This can mean your pet cat, your small dog, your chickens, ducks, or other small animals.

If a disaster happens and one of your other pets goes missing, it’s not the coyote’s fault. They are simply not being fed well enough. A malnourished coyote pet can also turn aggressive.

According to the University of New Hampshire, coyotes will leave signs of attacking chickens. This can go for any small animal as well. 

You’ll want to look for coyote tracks and scat near the scene of the crime. If none are available, know that coyotes do not usually eat their food where they find it. They’ll take it back to an area they deem safe and consume it there.

The best way to combat this is to always keep your pets separated from the coyote or to provide quality fencing for your livestock and chickens.

Coyotes Can Be Rambunctious Around Unfamiliar Friends & Family

And by rambunctious we mean terrifying…

When caring for a coyote pup, if you fail to familiarize them with your friends and family, they are likely to be defensive and possibly aggressive towards them during an initial encounter. 

Coyotes aren’t used to being approached or handled by people. It’s no surprise that their reactions are not exactly what you’re looking for in a pet.

The best way to combat this is to expose a coyote puppy early and often to all your family members and friends. This will let the puppy acknowledge that “these specific humans are safe.”

Coyotes Need Lots of Space

A Coyote in British Columbia Canada

It is not possible to have a pet coyote if you do not own a large plot of land. And we mean large! You can’t keep a coyote in an apartment or a suburban housing plant.

It’s not fair to the coyote to live in such small quarters and can end up causing behavioral problems.

According to the Virginia DWR, coyotes have a home range of about 6 miles in diameter. Male coyotes can range even further, especially if they are looking for a female or trying to start their pack.

Now, 6 miles is A LOT of property to own. You don’t necessarily need that much space to keep a pet coyote. However, you need some acreage. 

Having a half-acre fenced-in backyard won’t cut it…

So, how much space do coyotes need? At the least, you need 1.5 acres of land to house a pet coyote. These are the standard dimensions of coyote enclosures for studies and research done on captive coyotes.

You want the enclosure to be big enough for the coyote but not so big that it loses its sense of domestication. You can refer to our article: 5 Places Where Coyotes Sleep at Night to learn more about their homing habits.

Coyotes Need A Secure Fence

Coyotes aren’t like dogs. They can’t be kept in an enclosure by chainlink fence or a simple wooden fence. 

Jumpingclimbing, and digging are just some of the tools that coyotes use to get around, over, or under fencing. To keep your pet coyote in, you’ll need to build a pretty extravagant fence around their enclosure.

In general, the fence will need to be 5-6 feet high. It must be solid with no footholds that coyotes can find purchase on. And the fence doesn’t stop at the surface: you’ll need to bury a metal apron at least 12 inches and bend it outward so the coyote can not dig beneath the fence.

You can use something like PS Direct Hardware Cloth to bury beneath the fence. If you’re concerned about your coyote climbing the fence, you can top the fence with something like Ultimation Roller and Bracket Set

To get more details about how to build a coyote-proof fence, check out our article Building The Best Coyote Proof Fence In 4 Simple Steps.

Loose Coyotes Can Become Targets

A coyote relaxing on a rock.

As we mentioned earlier, pet coyotes need a well-built fence to truly stay in your yard. They’re rascally and love to climb and dig, so if your fence isn’t built well, they can escape.

This wouldn’t be a huge deal for a domestic dog. People will recognize Fido as a type of dog and probably try to read the tags on the collar to return your beloved pet to you.

Coyotes are a different story…

Can you imagine seeing a coyote with a collar or harness running down the road? Would you stop to check the tags? Heck no! You’d probably hit the gas and get as far away as possible. Understandably.

Not to mention a lot of states deem coyotes as pests and allow people to eliminate them without a license or permit. This puts any escaped coyote pet at risk.

Pet Coyotes Require Special Diets

Dogs, no problem. You buy kibble that’s pre-made in a bag and you read the instructions on the back for how much to give them. Boom, done. But what about a coyote?

You can feed coyotes dog kibble, but it’s recommended to supplement their food with some natural sources. Similar to having a pet snake, you’ll want to feed your coyote mice or rats. You can feed them vegetables and fruits as well.

The average wild coyote eats about 1.3 pounds of food each day. A normal diet is about 80-90% meat and 10-20% plants, fruits, and vegetables.

For a more complete idea of what foods coyotes eat, check out our article 23 Animals That Coyotes Eat: A Coyote Meal Guide.

That’s All For Now!

Coyotes are clever, wily, playful animals that look cute and cuddly as puppies. But what they grow into can be too much to handle for most people.

If you’re considering raising a coyote as a pet, be sure to do some in-depth research and keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Coyotes are illegal in most states
  • Coyotes will have conflicts with your other pets
  • Coyotes cannot be walked like regular dogs
  • Coyotes may eat other pets if not well-fed
  • Coyotes can be aggressive toward unfamiliar friends & family
  • Coyotes require a lot of space in the yard
  • Coyotes require extravagant fencing to keep them contained
  • Coyotes that get loose can become targets
  • Coyotes will require special diets

Having a pet coyote isn’t impossible, but you may find it more difficult than you anticipated. Remember, if your coyote is ever too much to handle, consider contacting a professional to remove it from the property.

References

Litvaitis, J. A., & Mautz, W. W. (1980). Food and Energy Use by Captive Coyotes. Journal of Wildlife Management44(1), 56-61. esf.edu/EFB/faculty/documents/LivaitisandMautz1980Coyoteenergyuse.pdf

Poessel, S. A., Breck, S. W., Teel, T. L., Shwiff, S., Crooks, K. R., & Angeloni, L. (2012, August 23). Patterns of human-coyote conflicts in the Denver Metropolitan Area. Journal of Wildlife Management77(2), 297-305. https://wildlife.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jwmg.454

Poessel, S. A., Mock, E. C., & Breck, W. W. (2017, February 26). Coyote (Canis latrans) diet in an urban environment: variation relative to pet conflicts, housing density, and season. Canadian Journal of Zoology95(4), 287-297. https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/abs/10.1139/cjz-2016-0029

Schmidt, R. H., & Timm, R. M. (2007). Bad Dogs: Why Do Coyotes and Other Canids Become Unruly? Proceedings of the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference

Vaske, J. J., & Needham, M. D. (2007, Winter). Segmenting Public Beliefs about Conflict with Coyotes in an Urban Recreation Setting. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration25(4), 79-98. 

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