9 Ways to Keep Pets Safe from Coyotes
9 Ways to Keep Pets Safe from Coyotes
Here at Sparky Steps, our animal-loving pet care team is out walking dogs all the time. We also offer in-home pet sitting, so we visit all sorts of home environments. And no matter where we go, we often hear stories about coyote sightings. According to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, coyotes are traditionally most active in rural areas during nighttime and early morning hours. But with ongoing development happening across the greater Chicagoland area, coyotes are sometimes displaced from their natural habitat. So you may spot them in lots of unexpected places. And in cooler weather, you could actually see them out roaming at almost any hour of the day. We’ve all heard stories about unattended dogs or cats being injured or killed by a pack of coyotes. But remember that coyotes aren’t inherently fierce or vicious. They’re simply trying to survive – just like any wild animal. That means while you’re out walking or playing with your pet, you might occasionally encounter these critters foraging for food. Want to keep your furry friend safe in all circumstances? Here are a few smart protective measures to bear in mind:
Know What to Look For
The UMD Natural Resources Research Institute explains that the coyote (canis latrans) is itself a member of the canine family. The standard variety tends to be yellowish-brown or grayish in appearance, and stands roughly the same height as a medium shepherd dog. Most coyotes have narrow muzzles and fairly pointed ears. But be aware that coyotes may very occasionally breed with stray feral dogs. So it’s at least theoretically possible to run across “coy-dog” hybrids that can appear larger and huskier than the typical coyote. Likewise, coyote tracks can vary quite a bit in size. For that reason, it can be tough to distinguish them from regular dog tracks.
Understand Typical Conduct
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County assures area residents that, generally speaking, coyotes aren’t overtly aggressive toward people. But attempting to initiate any sort of interaction is always risky. When you see coyotes, they’re normally out scavenging for food — and a hungry coyote can eat all kinds of things. A coyote’s diverse diet might include everything from berries to insects, frogs to small mammals. The Forest Preserve District notes that local coyotes sometimes even consume carrion in the road. And like other wildlife, coyotes are eager to sample easily accessible food you might leave outdoors. That could include bird seed, pet treats, and leftovers in the trash can. So what happens when you leave a fairly compact dog or cat outside unattended? A coyote could easily mistake that small mammal for prey. Remember, these creatures are merely doing their best to stay alive.
Watch What You Leave Outdoors
With that in mind, never leave small pets outside without ongoing supervision — especially in suburban and rural areas. Likewise, don’t establish your property as a dependable food source. Refrain from leaving trash out overnight, and keep your compost bin locked securely. If you feed birds, try to use a feeder with a very wide tray and hang it high. Monitor the ground for seeds and scraps, and clean them up daily.
Scoop the Poop
Remember, coyotes have a great sense of smell, and they track via scent. That means your pet’s waste can lead them straight to your area. Regularly picking up after your furry friend helps avoid this problem. Of course, it’s also the neighborly thing to do.
Think Twice About Off-Leash
Ever stop to consider the fact that walking your dog on-leash can literally save his life? That’s especially true when it comes to coyote encounters. Out in the open, the relative height of humans can make coyotes think twice about venturing near. But if your off-leash pet runs ahead of you, coyotes could easily carry that beloved companion away before you had time to react. So unless you’re in an area with a high fence surrounding the entire perimeter, always leash your pet.
Not Just Any Fence Will Do
Did you know? The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County points out that coyotes are decent climbers. That means only specific types of fencing will keep your furry friend safe. Always look for fencing that’s at least eight feet high. Ask your contractor to recommend a material that coyotes can’t easily scale. Also ask your provider to extend that fence at least 12 inches underground during installation. This helps prevent coyotes from tunneling underneath. Think your invisible fence is an adequate deterrent? Think again. Your dog may resist leaving a secured area that hungry coyotes can easily enter.
Watch Your Behavior on Walks
When you’re outside walking with your animal companion, Dogtales recommends sticking to well-lit areas. These tend to intimidate coyotes, so they’re more likely to stay away. If you’re not near bright street lights, Dogtales suggests carrying a strong flashlight with you. Use that illuminated arc to sweep the area. Concerned you might be looking at a coyote up ahead? If the animal hasn’t noticed you, move calmly in the opposite direction without turning your back.
Don’t forget, coyotes can contract rabies just like any warm-blooded mammal. In the event of a skirmish or minor scratch, dog and coyote populations put one another at risk. Fortunately, Urban Coyote Research indicates that rabid coyotes haven’t been identified in the Chicago area to date. But you should always make sure your pup’s rabies vaccine is current anyway, since raccoons and other wildlife can also carry the deadly virus.
In the Event of an Encounter
If a coyote begins to approach while you’re out walking your dog, you can definitely avert an attack. According to Dogtales, the key is remaining calm. Resist the urge to retreat hastily, because running could prompt the coyote to pursue you. Instead, pull your dog close and stand your ground. Wave your arms, stomp your feet, and shout “GO AWAY” aggressively. You want to make yourself look large and intimidating. If there’s a sizeable object in the near vicinity, toss it in the coyote’s general direction. Dogtales also recommends carrying an air horn or whistle in low-visibility conditions. Noises like this are often loud enough to frighten a coyote away.
Practice these measures to help keep your four-legged companion safe and secure. You can also help fellow pet owners by passing along the information. Just a few strategic precautions can help us all co-exist peacefully with regional coyotes.
Written by Marybeth Bittel
Sources: http://icwdm.org/handbook/carnivor/Coyotes.asp https://urbancoyoteresearch.com/faq/do-coyotes-and-dogs-interbreed https://www.dogtales.ca/10-ways-to-protect-your-dog-from-coyotes/ https://animals.mom.me/how-to-identify-coyote-tracks-8459430.html http://people.westminstercollege.edu/faculty/tharrison/citycreek/coyotes/diet.htm http://www.rain.org/campinternet/backcountry/science/zoology/coyote/coyote.html https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/coyotes-people-encounters https://urbancoyoteresearch.com/coyote-info/disease https://www.nrri.umn.edu/carnivores-minnesota/species/coyote https://www.dupageforest.org/plants-wildlife/wildlife/mammals/coyotes-foxes https://www.dupageforest.org/plants-wildlife/wildlife/living-with-wildlife/coyotes