Coyotes are elusive animals that are well-known for living close to people, even in large cities and suburban neighborhoods. It can be unsettling to have a coyote as a neighbor, but how can you tell whether or not you have coyotes nearby?
There are signs you can look for to tell you whether or not a coyote is nearby. Scat, tracks, howls, barks, yips, tufts of fur left in fences, damage to irrigation lines, missing or injured livestock and poultry can all indicate that a coyote is nearby.
Below, we’ll go over all the signs that indicate you have a coyote close by. We’ll also go over what is attracting them and what you can do to keep them away. Let’s get to it!
What Attracts Coyotes To Your Neighborhood?
We’ve all heard about how coyotes are now living in cities and dumpster diving to stay fed, but this isn’t exactly true and isn’t the reason why coyotes are in your neighborhood.
Coyotes do not eat garbage as much as we’re made to think. According to Rutgers University, human garbage typically makes up only 1% of an urban coyote’s diet.
So, if they’re not here for the dumpsters, just what the heck are coyotes doing in our neighborhoods?
Coyotes Are Attracted To Easy Food Sources
Coyotes might not enjoy digging through our garbage, but there are plenty of other food sources surrounding our homes and neighborhoods.
- Small rodents: Rats, mice, voles, and moles are all attracted to our homes. They may be attracted to our garden, our flowerbed, our homes, or our bird feeders. Either way, coyotes feed heavily on small rodents and are attracted to areas where rodent densities are high.
- Livestock/poultry: Coyotes may target young livestock, chickens, and ducks on farms. Chickens are even becoming popular in suburban settings, which attracts coyotes.
- Carrion: Where there are people, there are cars, and where there are cars there are animal collisions. Coyotes are scavengers and will feed on carrion which happens more often around people.
- Pet food: Sometimes, coyotes will feed on pet food that has been left out overnight. If a coyote keeps getting fed pet food, it will continue to return to the same house or neighborhood.
- Landscape plants: Coyotes are omnivores that will eat both animals and plants for food. Certain landscape plants like fig, strawberry, avocado, and berry bushes are highly attractive to coyotes.
For a more in-depth look, you can read our article about why coyotes keep coming back to your yard.
Coyotes Are Top Dog In Certain Neighborhoods
If you live in a suburban or even urban neighborhood, you may be surprised to learn that coyotes are living nearby.
In wild and rural environments, coyotes have to be wary of not only people but also of wolves, mountain lions, and other large predators. They may also compete with foxes and bobcats for the same food source.
Coyotes might be attracted to your neck of the woods because there are no other large predators to compete with.
Coyotes are also more protected in certain neighborhoods where laws prohibit activities that eliminate coyotes.
Coyotes Can Find Shelter Easily
Coyotes may inhabit densely forested areas, but they much prefer a mix of open area and cover.
Human habitats tend to be fragmented with small forest patches dotted with backyards, streams, and rivers. These types of habitats allow coyotes to thrive as they can find plenty of food in these habitats when compared to dense forests.
There are also many manmade structures that coyotes have started using for covers such as culverts and the space underneath buildings and sheds.
You can read our article about how coyotes end up in cities to find out more information. And get this – one of the reasons they end up in cities since there’s less wildlife completion there!
7 Signs That Coyotes Are Nearby
Now, let’s get to the good part. How can you tell if you have a coyote nearby?
Some signs are obvious while others are more subtle. Chances are, you will hear a coyote far more often than see one. These nighttime prowlers are smart, quick, and elusive!
That being said, there are some ways to tell if a coyote is nearby. Let’s get to it!
Coyotes Are Loud And You Can Hear Them Communicating
One surefire way to tell if you have coyotes nearby is if you hear them communicating with each other.
Coyotes are one of the most vocal animals on the planet. They can use 11 different sounds to communicate with other coyotes, and it is one of the telltale signs that you have coyotes nearby.
Each sound a coyote makes has a different meaning:
- Howl: Howling is often used to reunite coyotes after a food run or to bring a pack back together. This can also signal to outside coyotes where a pack’s territory is.
- Barks & yips: Barks and yips are meant for short-distance communication. A study reported in the Journal of Bioacoustics found that barks are used most often for attracting attention or to judge distance from one coyote to another.
Howls and barks are the two most common noises that coyotes make, but they can also whine and growl and have many different variations of each vocalization.
Hearing a ‘pack’ of coyotes howling doesn’t always mean there are a lot of coyotes around. Two individuals can sound like an entire pack due to the variations in the sound they can make back and forth.
Coyote Scat Is A Sign They Are Nearby
Scat is a great way to tell what kind of animals have been physically visiting your yard. Coyote scat, in particular, is easy to identify and distinguish from other animals.
Coyotes usually do not leave scat all willy-nilly. They use it as a means to communicate with other coyotes and other animals and place it so that it can be seen and smelled!
Coyote scat can typically be found at the edges of a coyote’s territory or in the middle of well-traveled trails they use on nightly prowls. The scat will look ropey and usually contains hair and bones. Gross!
Coyote Tracks Are A Sign That They Are Near
Some tracks are easier than others to identify. Most people can tell if a deer has been through the yard as they leave distinct hoof prints in the mud and snow.
Coyote tracks can be a little difficult to tell from dog tracks, which makes them hard to identify in suburban and urban environments that are packed with domestic dogs.
- Size: Coyote tracks will be equivalent to a medium-sized dog. If the tracks appear smaller, it may be a fox. If they appear larger, it could be a large dog or a wolf if they are also in the area.
- Claws: Both coyotes and dogs will leave nail prints, but coyotes will have sharper points on the tips of their nails compared to dog tracks. Dog nails are blunter due to walking on the hardwood of our homes or concrete pavement.
- Shape: Coyote tracks are more oval while dog tracks are rounded.
- Space between pads: Dog prints will typically look ‘fuller’ while coyote prints will have lots of space between the pads, referred to as ‘negative space.’
We’re certainly not expecting you to bust out the magnifying glass and look at every single track in the neighborhood, but this is just one more tool you can use to identify if a coyote is nearby!
Check Your Fence For Coyote Slides And Fur
Fencing is one of the most effective ways to keep coyotes (and other pesky critters) out of your yard or garden.
Unfortunately, coyotes are pretty sneaky and athletic. They will climb over, dig under, and jump fences unless the fences are properly constructed.
You can check your fencing to figure out if you have coyotes nearby. Coyotes will create ‘slides’ so that they can wriggle their bodies underneath fences. Here are a few common signs of a coyote slide:
- Freshly dug dirt
- Holes beneath the fence that are large enough for a medium-sized dog
- Presence of other signs of a coyote (tracks, fur, droppings)
Fur is another indicator that a coyote has been using your fence while prowling the neighborhood. According to the University of California, coyote hair will usually be black on the tip and band below.
If you’d like to build fence to keep out wildlife, take a peak at our guide on building the best coyote proof fence!
Coyote Fur Is Another Indicator
Other animals will dig beneath fences, so try to use a combination of clues to determine if a coyote was present.
Coyotes are quite large compared to opossums, rabbits, raccoons, and skunks, so you can use the size of the slide as a clue!
You May Have Coyotes If You Find Missing/Injured Livestock And Poultry
If you live in a more rural area and have goats, sheep, or chickens, you might be worried about coyotes seeking out your livestock.
When calves, goats, and lambs go missing, coyotes could be the culprit, but not always.
A good indicator is if your livestock show signs of injury from a coyote. Look for marks on the head as this is the area that coyotes are most likely to go after.
Coyotes will also go after chickens, especially if they are not protected by a proper chicken coop. Look for signs of digging beneath the coop or hair caught in the chicken wire fence to confirm a coyote was present.
In general, coyotes will go after more than they could consume.
Damage To Irrigation Lines
Irrigation lines are often used in arid environments to provide landscapes, trees, and plants with water throughout the dry, hot summer.
These lines are attractive to a variety of animals as a source of water. Coyotes are not exempt and can cause damage to irrigation lines through chewing.
Since there are a few other animals that will chew on irrigation lines, it’s important to differentiate between coyote chewing and rabbit or mouse chewing.
- Coyote: If a coyote has chewed on your irrigation line it will appear flattened and may even be shredded from its sharp teeth.
- Other critters: rodents and rabbits tend to leave gnaw marks instead of completely shredding the line. They also do not have the strength to flatten out the line as a coyote can.
Use Technology To See If A Coyote Is Nearby
The future is here! Technology has improved our lives in so many ways and it can now help you figure out if a coyote is nearby too!
The app ‘Coyote Cacher’ is an interactive application that can be downloaded and used to report coyote sightings, interactions, and aggressions. It also comes with a map you can use to see reports of coyotes in your area using your zip code.
The application was created by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources but can work for any area in the United States.
The idea behind the app is not only to inform you about when coyotes are nearby, but it can also help park managers and wildlife researchers understand the movements of coyotes and how they interact with people.
Three different reports can be sent and viewed on the app:
- Green – indicates a sighting
- Yellow – indicates a coyote has interacted with a pet or person
- Red – indicates a confrontation
Technology like this can’t be relied on to tell if a coyote is nearby or not, but it can be helpful when combined with some of the other techniques discussed above.
What To Do If Coyotes Are Nearby
Maybe you’ve seen some scat near the edge of your yard or heard howling and barking in the middle of the night. One way or another, you’ve realized that you have a coyote nearby.
There are a few things you can do to keep coyotes away from your yard and to deter them from your neighborhood.
Don’t Feed Coyotes
You may not mean to, but many people attract coyotes and other wildlife to their yards by inadvertently feeding them.
- Bird feeders: fallen seeds from bird feeders attract squirrels, mice, and rats, all of which coyotes feed on. Try using a catcher tray such as Songbird Essentials Seed Hoop which can be attached to your existing feeder and catches falling seeds.
- Pet food: Coyotes aren’t dying to eat your pet’s food, but if it’s available, these lazy omnivores will take advantage of it and scarf it down!
- Garbage cans: Keep your garbage cans secure with a lid lock or bungee cords so that even if it gets knocked over, the trash stays secure.
- Unsecured chicken coops: Make sure your chicken coop is secured on all sides, including the top. Bury fencing at least 6 inches into the ground and extend it 8 inches away in an ‘L’ shape so that coyotes cannot dig underneath.
- Fallen fruit: If you have a fruit tree in your yard, harvest the fruit when it is ripe, and do not allow fallen fruit to sit on the ground. Coyotes are omnivores and will be attracted to fallen fruit.
- Unprotected livestock: Coyotes may not be able to take on a full-grown cow, but they will target smaller livestock. Use guardian dogs, secure fences, or other means to keep your livestock protected.
If coyotes find food on your property, they are likely to keep returning to your yard until you remove the food source.
Scare Tactics Can Be Used
Coyotes that live near people are a little bolder and riskier than coyotes that live in rural or wild areas.
When you spot a coyote, scaring them can be an excellent tool to keep coyotes wary of people. The aim of scaring is never to injure the coyote, but more to show that humans should be feared.
According to a study in the Journal of Human-Wildlife Interactions, hazing will often lead to the coyote fleeing the area.
To haze a coyote, you can use a couple of different techniques:
- Yell loudly
- Clap your hands
- Stand up tall and wave your arms
- Throw rocks, sticks, or other objects at the ground near the coyote
- Use your garden hose to spray water at them
You can over to our article about what to do if you find a coyote in your yard for more tips and tricks – and our number one tip – call a professional immediately if you’re having a coyote problem!
Talk To Your Neighbors
If you think you have a couple of coyotes nearby, it might be a good idea to talk to your neighbors.
Make sure your neighbors aren’t accidentally providing food to coyotes or otherwise attracting them with shelter, safety, or water.
Education is super important when it comes to having coyotes nearby. If people know about the signs to look for and what to do if they spot a coyote, you might be able to make a group effort to keep coyotes out of your neighborhood or at the very least at a more comfortable distance.
Deterrents are a great way to keep coyotes away from your yard without causing any serious harm to the animal.
You can use scent deterrents and scare tactics to make coyotes think twice about getting comfortable in your yard.
Besides actively scaring a coyote, you can scare them with other loud noises, bright motion-activated lights and sprinklers, and even scents!
Take a look at our list of the best coyote repellents for some more options.
Coyotes Dislike Certain Scents
Coyotes can also be deterred from your yard with scent deterrents. Some of the scents that coyotes can’t stand include:
- White vinegar
- Cayenne pepper
- Strong-scented essential oils
You can read more about why coyotes hate certain scents, but the main gist is that these scents proactively block other scents that would otherwise attract coyotes, causing them to not be attracted to an area in the first place.
Identify Why They’re around
One of the best possible things to do if you know coyotes are nearby is to figure out why they’re here.
Did they suddenly appear or have they always been around? Did someone new move into the neighborhood that might accidentally be feeding them? What has changed to cause coyotes to suddenly prowl around your home and neighborhood?
Some of the obvious reasons why coyotes nearby include:
- Lack of fear
Lack of fear is a big one and can have unwanted consequences. It’s important to keep coyotes wary of humans to keep them (and us!) from harm.
Remember, coyotes are not inherently aggressive and will typically flee from people as soon as they see us. However, coyotes that have become used to humans may need a gentle reminder that we are not prey and that they are not welcome in our yards.
You can read more about the steps you can take to scare coyotes away for good! From scaring, to using sounds and scents, to using decoys – we got it all covered for you in this article!
Wrapping Things Up!
Hearing or seeing signs of a coyote can be unsettling. These medium-sized canines are adapted to night and are known to be quite elusive.
Since coyotes are most active when people are asleep, it can be difficult to tell whether or not you have a coyote nearby.
There are a few signs that a coyote is getting too close for comfort:
- Howls, barks, and yips
- Slides and fur in fences
- Injured or missing livestock/poultry
- Damage to irrigation lines
- Technology – Coyote Cacher app
If you see or hear some of these signs and know that a coyote is close by, you can take steps to make sure coyotes don’t get too comfortable near your home.
If all else fails, you can reach out to a wildlife professional near you to get advice on those pesky coyotes or to handle situations where coyotes become too bold around people.
Bonnell, Mary Ann and Breck, Stewart W. (2017) “Using Resident-Based Hazing Programs to Reduce Human-Coyote Conflicts in Urban Environments,” Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 11: Iss. 2, Article 5.
Brian R. Mitchell, Maja M. Makagon, Michael M. Jaeger & Reginald H. Barrett (2006) Information Content of Coyote Barks and Howls, Bioacoustics, 15:3, 289-314, DOI: 10.1080/09524622.2006.9753555
Poessel, S.A., Breck, S.W., Teel, T.L., Shwiff, S., Crooks, K.R. and Angeloni, L. (2013), Patterns of human–coyote conflicts in the Denver Metropolitan Area. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 77: 297-305. https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.454
Shannon E. Grubbs and Paul R. Krausman “Use of Urban Landscape by Coyotes,” The Southwestern Naturalist 54(1), 1-12, (1 March 2009). https://doi.org/10.1894/MLK-05.1
Sugden, S., Sanderson, D., Ford, K. et al. An altered microbiome in urban coyotes mediates relationships between anthropogenic diet and poor health. Sci Rep 10, 22207 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-78891-1
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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