Is There a Coyote in Your Neighborhood?

Here is what you need to know about the curious and ever-common coyote.

Coyote walking down the street in Aurora, Colorado. David C. Stephens/Getty Images

Looking somewhat like a cross between a dog and a wolf, coyotes can be spotted all over the U.S. - in grasslands, in the mountains, or even just running down your neighborhood street. If you do spot a coyote in your community, you don't need to be afraid. By taking a few simple precautions, you can keep your family and pets safe from this curious and adaptable predator.

Here is what you need to know about the ever-common coyote.

Coyotes can live almost anywhere

At one time, coyotes were found only in open prairies. But now these adaptable animals have found their way to almost every ecosystem in the U.S. From forests to grasslands to urban city streets, coyotes are found in almost every corner of the country. And unlike many species whose numbers are threatened, the coyote's numbers are likely at an all-time high.

They can eat almost anything

Any sign of the coyote's amazing ability to adapt is the animal's wide and varied diet. Coyotes eat rabbits, rodents, fish, frogs, and deer as well as insects, snakes, fruit, and grass. They have also been known to scavenger on dead animals and to eat farm animals such as sheep, cows or chickens or even family pets such as cats and small dogs. 

Coyotes are fast

Coyotes are formidable hunters. At top speed, they can run almost 40 miles per hour. That speed, combined with their excellent vision and strong sense of smell make coyotes a force to be reckoned with in the ecosystem.

Coyotes and badgers are best buds

Coyotes and American badgers have a mutualistic relationship that is well documented in ecological research. The two species often pair up to hunt - and they are usually much more successful hunting together than when either species hunts alone.

They are social - especially when hunting

Coyotes form strong family bonds.

In the spring, when the female has her pups (anywhere from three to twelve per litter,) it is both parents that care for and protect their pups. In the fall and winter, these family units may merge with other families to form packs that make them more effective for hunting. 

They are very vocal

Chances are, if there is a coyote in your neighborhood, you have heard him more often than seen him. Coyotes are known for their distinctive nightly calls which may turn into a raucous symphony when more than one animal is present. Coyotes use all sorts of vocalizations such as woofs, growls, huffs, barks, bark howls, yelps and high frequency whines to communicate everything from danger to hello.

If you do see - or hear - a coyote in your neighborhood, it makes sense to take a few precautions to protect your family and pets.

  1. Keep small pets indoors, especially at night.
  2. Feed your pets indoors and take special care never to leave pet food outdoors overnight. 
  3. Store your trash in sturdy cans with locking lids.
  4. Cover your compost pile.
  5. Keep bird feeders well out of reach of coyotes
  6. Never feed coyotes.
  7. Keep your pets on a leash when you are at a park or on a trail. 

It is very unlikely for a coyote to attack a human, but it has happened.

It's best to keep small children within sight at all times outdoors - a precaution that can prevent any number of disastrous outcomes. If you do see a coyote lurking close by, scare him away by making loud noises, waving your arms in the air, clapping your hands, or making other loud noises.