Coyotes were once a rarely-seen animal. Their elusive nature kept them confined to heavy forest cover and tall, grassy plains. But now, coyotes are spotted all the time in people’s yards. If you spot a coyote in your yard, you may be wondering what you should do?
If you find a coyote in your yard, bring your pets inside and any family members inside. You’ll want to either leave the coyote alone, call a professional, or use scare tactics against the coyote such as banging loud pots and pans. Call a professional if the coyote doesn’t leave or come back.
No two coyote yard encounters are the same. A few of the suggestions below may not apply to your situation, but it’s always good to be prepared. Let’s get to it!
Why Is There A Coyote In My Yard?
Your first instinct upon seeing a coyote in your yard may not be to ask why it’s there, but it’s an important question to ask!
Is it just passing through? Or is there something in your yard that is attracting the coyote? Identifying anything that might be attracting these troublesome visitors can help you minimize sightings and interactions.
The three attractants that will keep coyotes coming back time after time include food, water, and shelter. Let’s check out each one, and see if there’s a reason why coyotes are skulking about your property.
Food Attracts Coyotes
Let’s be honest, food is a good motivator for all of us. And coyotes are no different. You may not be aware that you are feeding coyotes, but these clever animals can sniff out food just about anywhere.
Your garbage cans are an example of inadvertently feeding coyotes. If you put meat or fish scraps in them, coyotes are sure to be attracted to them. To solve this problem, you have a few options:
- Keep garbage indoors until pickup day
- Use something like the Blazer Brand Garbage Can Lid Lock to keep garbage lids secure
- Use bear-proof containers to store garbage in
Compost piles are another popular attractant for coyotes and other critters. In a study published by ECOHealth, coyotes were 8x more likely to visit yards with compost piles than those without. Be sure to use a closed-lid composting system and avoid throwing meat or fish scraps into the compost pile.
Bird Feeders are a surprising coyote attractant. While coyotes don’t eat birdseed, they do eat the animals that bird feeders attract like squirrels, mice, and moles.
Pet food is another big beacon to coyotes. Be sure to pick up all your pet food after each meal, or better yet, feed all your pets indoors.
Water Attracts Coyotes
Water is a necessity for survival for almost all life on the planet. While coyotes need water to survive, the availability of water does not increase the chances of them visiting your yard according to a BYU study.
However, just like the bird feeder, water will attract animals that coyotes feed on such as rats, mice, moles, voles, domestic cats, and domestic dogs.
Bring in your pet’s water bowls at night or give them water indoors only. Place any shallow birdbaths in a protected area if possible.
Coyotes Love Shelter
The reason coyotes are so rarely spotted is that they’re so good at finding cover. They can stay out of sight and be closer than ten feet from you!
Some of the areas in your yard that may be providing shelter to coyotes include:
- Poorly-trimmed bushes
- Beneath porches
- Beneath sheds
- Brush piles
- Wood piles
- Heavily wooded areas
It’s important to keep your lawn and bushes trimmed. Try to keep the bottom 6 inches of bushes trimmed and clear. Close any holes beneath porches and outbuildings, securing with wire mesh that is buried at least 6 inches below the ground to prevent digging.
Now that you know a few reasons why a coyote is in your yard, let’s talk about what you should do about it.
What To Do If You Find A Coyote In Your Yard
Whether a coyote in your yard is a regular sighting or a new observation, you probably do not want these clever carnivores hanging around.
According to a study published in Nature Reports, coyotes that are around humans are more likely to lose their fear of humans and become bolder. They’re also more likely to be exploratory – investigating new situations.
Let’s get to the center of this article and discuss what you should do if there’s a coyote in your yard.
1. Leave The Coyote Alone
The first and easiest suggestion is to do nothing. You can leave the coyote alone and go on your merry way inside your home.
This is a good tactic if the coyote is simply passing through your yard and doesn’t appear to be sticking around for any reason. Unlike what many people think, seeing a coyote during the day isn’t a cause for alarm.
Coyotes that live near humans tend to be more nocturnal, but they will come out in the day if they are disturbed or if an opportunity arises for food. They’ll also become active if they are moving from one coverage area to another.
Leaving a coyote alone is not a good option if the coyote appears to be attracted to something in your yard. Leaving it alone will only encourage it to keep coming back. In instances like this, you may want to employ hazing tactics.
To learn more, you can check out our in-depth guide on why coyotes are attracted to your yard here.
2. Haze The Coyote
Hazing may seem cruel, but if used correctly it can be incredibly useful for keeping coyotes wild. A coyote that is used to humans has a greater chance of being involved in a human-coyote conflict, which typically does not end well for the coyote.
It’s best to keep these elusive creatures wild and fearful.
Hazing involves throwing items such as sticks, rocks, or whatever you can find, at coyotes. The goal isn’t to hurt the animal, but rather to scare it.
When hazing a coyote you want to make sure you are visible to the coyote. Don’t hide behind a wall or bush while hazing. The coyote needs to know it is a human that is throwing the objects so they will remain fearful of us.
Make sure to not go too far from your house or cover so you can easily go back inside if needed.
Hazing is a great option when the coyote is sticking around your property or after multiple sightings. It’s not a great option if the coyote is only passing through. Hazing may cause the coyote to pause on its route, especially if it is a bold urban coyote.
For more hazing tactics and how to scare coyotes, you can read our popular guide: 7 Simple Steps to Scare Coyotes Away for Good
3. Bring Pets Inside To Avoid Coyote Conflicts
Seeing a coyote can mean trouble for your pets. Small dogs and cats are the most targeted domestic pets, but even medium and large dogs have been known to tango with coyotes.
Attacks on pets happen more frequently when pets are left alone outside or when cats are allowed to free-roam around the neighborhood. If your neighbors are starting to report missing cats, it’s an indicator of a coyote problem.
If you see a coyote in your yard you should bring your pets inside immediately. Off-leash dogs can provoke an attack if they run at the coyote. Coyotes consider cats to be competing carnivores and will try to eliminate them if possible.
You can help your pets out by always supervising them while they are outside. Just because you have a fenced yard doesn’t mean a coyote cannot climb over, jump over, or dig under it to get at your pets.
Provide cats with escape routes by installing cat doors or providing something tall and sturdy they can jump to if pursued.
4. Use Frightening Tactics Against Coyotes
For now, most coyotes are still afraid of humans, or at the very least wary of them. Frightening tactics and devices can be used to scare them out of your yard, but they are not a permanent solution.
Frightening devices are great to use at the moment when you see one of those rascally coyotes in your yard. They will likely scare the coyote off for the moment, but the wily animal may return if you are providing food, water, or shelter.
Let’s talk about frightening tactics. What exactly are they?
Below are a few examples of frightening tactics you can use to scare a coyote out of your yard:
- Banging pots and pans together
- Installing a motion-sensor light outside (passive)
- Pinwheels (passive)
- Waving your arms
- Putting up streamers around your yard or in trees (passive)
- Installing a motion-sensor sprinkler like the Orbit Yard Enforcer Motion-Activated Sprinkler
- Using a whistle
- Blowing your car horn
- Blasting a radio
You’ll notice a few items on that list have the word ‘passive’ next to them. While this article is more geared toward what to do if a coyote is in your yard right NOW, it never hurts to be prepared!
Passive items are those you can install in your yard to deter future coyotes. The other ones like clapping, yelling, and banging pots and pans can be used immediately to frighten troublesome coyotes off your property.
If you plan to use, say a motion sensor light, to scare a coyote, you can read more about using lights to deter coyotes here and their long-term effectiveness.
5. Watch Where The Coyote Came From And Where It Goes
If the coyote in your yard seems to be just passing through, an excellent idea is to watch where it came from and where it’s going.
This tactic can give you clues as to why the coyote is coming around in the first place. Is it attracted to something in your neighbor’s yard? Is it coming from a place of cover or is it heading toward cover?
Let’s break it down:
If the coyote is coming from a place of cover: If the coyote is trotting through your yard from the woods, it’s likely on its way to find food. Coyotes like to sleep and eat in cover, so if the coyote is leaving cover, it’s most likely looking for something.
Keep an eye on where the coyote goes: If it’s heading toward your neighbor’s house and all of a sudden stops and sniffs something, your neighbor may be accidentally feeding the coyote.
If the coyote is going toward a place of cover: If the passing coyote is heading in the direction of cover such as a dense thicket of trees, it’s likely on its way home. It has either been successful with a hunt or is returning to its pack to regroup.
This isn’t always the case. The coyote may be living beneath someone’s porch and simply be moving from one area of coverage to another. Getting an idea of whether the coyote is coming or going can be a huge help in figuring out why it’s coming around.
If you’d like to learn more, you can read our article on the most common places that coyotes sleep here.
6. Do Not Run Away From A Coyote
For anyone who’s into outdoor activities, you probably already know running from a predator is a bad idea. Bears, big cats, wolves, and coyotes will all chase you if you start to run.
Running kicks in a predator’s hunting instinct. If they see you running, they will automatically put you in the ‘prey’ category and try to catch you.
A coyote’s vision is poor compared to some other predators. It’s largely based on movement – if a rabbit stood stalk still in front of a tree, the coyote might pass it right by. But as soon as the rabbit moves, the chase is on.
With all of that in mind, if you happen to be outside in your yard when you spot a coyote, do not run away. Instead, stand your ground and apply some scare tactics to try to get the coyote to leave. If you need to leave, make sure you do it slowly and keep your eyes on the coyote.
Wave your hands, try to appear as big as possible, yell, throw things, and don’t back down. Try not to bend down to pick something up if the coyote is facing you, this could appear like a defense maneuver to the coyote and it may try to attack.
7. Alert Any Neighbors That Coyotes Are Near
As funny as this section sounds, a lot of bites and nips happen to people who are napping outdoors in a hammock or lounge chair.
Investigative coyotes will often test to see if a sleeping or resting individual is prey by nipping or biting at hands and feet. They’re trying to determine if the person is still alive or if they can fight back.
Similarly, if someone is jogging, hiking, or participating in other outdoor activities, they’re more likely to have an interaction with a coyote than someone who tends to stay on the main road.
If coyotes are a regular sight in your yard, avoid taking naps outside. If you must, consider playing a radio nearby to deter coyotes from getting too close to your fingers or toes!
Generally speaking, you if you see one coyote, there’s more likely to be other coyotes nearby. Coyotes usually hunt in packs and not alone.
8. Call A Professional
It can be intimidating to see a coyote. They may not be as big as wolves, but they still range between 15 and 45 pounds on average. To see a meat-eater that big in your yard can make you feel frightened, intimidated, and out of control of your own home.
But rest assured, there are people out there that deal with these issues all the time. Coyotes that are particularly bold or investigative may be a problem coyote that needs to be removed from the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, if the coyote is a repeat offender, it may need to be taken care of by a professional. These types of coyotes are more likely to attack if confronted than run away.
To get in touch with your local wildlife professional, you can use our nationwide pest control finder. Just call the number and we’ll help you find one near you!
Pay close attention to how the coyote is acting. The wildlife professional that you contact will probably want to know. If it’s a healthy coyote simply passing through your yard, local authorities may not see a need to do anything about it.
In this case, you can apply some of the tactics described above.
9. Find Out How Coyotes Are Getting Past Your Fence
You may be surprised to find a coyote in your yard when it’s completely fenced in. How the heck did it get in there?
Coyotes use three tactics to get around fences: jumping, climbing, and digging.
Coyotes are amazing climbers. Depending on what type of fence you have, it may be easily climbed by these clever canines. Fences that have good footholds such as chain link fences are easy to conquer for a coyote.
To read more in-depth on coyotes jumping fences, consider reading our article on How Coyotes Really Jump Fences!
If you have a shear fence with no footholds, coyotes can still jump over them if they are not higher than 5 feet. Have a 6-foot shear fence and coyotes are still getting in? They’re likely digging beneath your fence.
Some clues that will help you find out where the weak link in your fence is:
- Look for hair on or near your fence: if there’s hair in the fence, it may be where a coyote is squeezing through.
- Look for holes near the bottom of your fence: This indicates that coyotes are digging in that area.
- Look for scratch marks on the fence: This indicates where the coyote is jumping and climbing up and over your fence.
So, what can you do about coyotes getting around your fence? The first step is to patch any obvious holes. If it’s been on your to-do list for a while, now is the time to get it done.
If you discover that these troublesome critters are digging beneath your fence, you may have to install wire mesh beneath your fence. Something like Ditole’s 24in x 50ft 23 Gauge Galvanized Wire Fence will do the trick.
Bury the mesh at least 6 inches (12 inches is preferred) below the soil and bend the bottom part outward in an ‘L’ shape.
If you find that coyotes are climbing over your fence, you don’t necessarily need to make your fence higher.
You can use Ultimation’s Coyote Rollers, installing them at the top of your fence. When a coyote tries to get a grip at the top of the fence, the rollers will begin spinning, making it impossible for them to climb over.
If you’re interested in learning how to build a coyote-proof fence, check out our article Building The Best Coyote Proof Fence In 4 Simple Steps.
Wrapping Things Up
Coyotes are clever, resourceful, and determined when it comes to survival. While most species’ populations are dwindling, coyotes continue to expand, touching nearly every corner of North America.
If you are interested in learning more about coyotes, read this article on 51 Amazing Coyote Facts.
This is great and all for coyotes, but for us humans it’s not so nice. As we encroach on coyote territory, coyotes don’t seem to be going anywhere. They’re thriving!
Their resourcefulness and wide diet mean they’re pretty chill with hanging around people’s yards, scarfing down pet food, and dumpster diving for meat and fish scraps. When you see a coyote in your yard, it can be unnerving.
To recap, here are the 9 things to do if you find a coyote in your yard:
- Leave the coyote alone
- Call a professional
- Haze the coyote
- Bring pets inside
- Use frightening tactics on the coyote
- See in what direction the coyote comes from & where it goes
- Do not run away
- Warn outdoor nappers
- Fix/improve your coyote fence
Coyotes are here to stay. Understanding them and taking steps to keep their fear of us are two excellent ways to keep coyotes wild and safe.
For more in-depth information about keeping coyotes our of your yard, check out our guide on the 11 Best Ways To Keep Coyotes Away From Your Yard For Good!
Breck, S. W., Poessel, S. A., Mahoney, P., & Young, J. K. (2019). The intrepid urban coyote: a comparison of bold and exploratory behavior in coyotes from urban and rural environments. Scientific Reports, 9. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-38543-5
Murray, M. H., Hill, J., Whyte, P., & St. Clair, C. C. (2016). Urban Compost Attracts Coyotes, Contains Toxins and may Promote Disease in Urban-Adapted Wildlife. EcoHealth, 13, 285-292. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10393-016-1105-0
Murray, M. H., & St. Clair, C. C. (2015, November-December). Individual flexibility in nocturnal activity reduces the risk of road mortality for an urban carnivore. Behavioral Ecology, 26(6), 1520-1527. https://academic.oup.com/beheco/article/26/6/1520/205135?login=true
Smith, J. A., Thomas, A. C., Levi, T., Wang, Y., & Wilmers, C. C. (2018, January 16). Human activity reduces niche partitioning among three widespread mesocarnivores. Oikos, 127(6), 890-901. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/oik.04592
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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