Living With Coyotes
Coyotes are common in rural and urban areas throughout Arizona. Coyotes tend to travel and hunt alone or in pairs, but they can form groups where food is abundant.
Description and Habits
- Usually gray with a rusty color on neck and flanks
- Black patches on base and tip of tail help distinguish from dogs
- 20-30 pounds
- 18-21 inches tall
- 42-50 inches long
- Average litter of 4 to 5 pups
- Run as fast as 40 miles per hour
- Diet includes fruits and vegetables, pet food, small wild and domestic animals, snakes and lizards, and garbage
Possible Conflicts with Humans and Pets
Coyotes are curious, clever, and adaptable. They quickly learn to take advantage of any newly discovered food source, and are often attracted to yards with abundant fruit and wildlife to eat. Coyotes will eat pet food and knock over unsecured garbage cans, or may walk along the tops of walls around homes in search of unattended dogs and cats to eat. Coyotes may consider large or loud dogs to be a threat to their territory and become aggressive toward those dogs. Coyotes have lured free-roaming dogs away from their owners to attack, and bold coyotes may attack small dogs on retractable leashes.
What Attracts Them?
Coyotes may visit a home if they find food, water, or shelter there.
- Food can include unattended pets, birds or rodents attracted to bird feeders, pet food, garbage, or fallen fruit.
- Water sources can include a pet’s water bowl or a swimming pool.
- Shelter can include a storm drain or any cave-like area beneath a shed or unused building.
What Should I Do?
If you see a coyote near your home, don’t ignore it. This may cause it to lose its natural fear of people, which can eventually lead to aggressive behavior.
To discourage a coyote, immediately
- Make loud noises.
- Shout and bang pots and pans or rattle empty soda cans with pebbles in it (coyote shaker).
- Wave your hands or objects like sticks and brooms.
- Throw small stones or cans.
- Spray the coyote with a hose.
- Use a commercial repellent like Mace, if necessary, on bold animals that refuse to leave.
In an emergency
If a coyote is aggressive, approaching a person, biting, or growling and snarling unprovoked, then:
- Continue and exaggerate the above actions.
- Don’t turn away or run because the animal may view it as an opportunity to chase.
- Keep eye contact.
- Move toward other people, a building, or an area of activity.
- Call your local Arizona Game and Fish Department office (8 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon. -Fri. excluding holidays). Also, call Game and Fish if severe property damage has occurred or if there is possession of a live coyote. After hours and weekends, a radio dispatcher is available at (623) 236-7201.
Remember, removal is usually a last resort
Coyotes will keep coming back to the same area if attractants are not removed. Coyotes do not usually become a problem where the guidelines listed below are followed. Homeowners may trap and relocate coyotes, but must contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department for an appropriate release location before transporting the animal. Homeowners can also hire a wildlife control business to capture and remove coyotes for a fee.
To prevent further problems
- Remove anything outside your home that may be attracting coyotes. This includes garbage, pet food, water sources, and bird feeders that can attract rodents and birds for coyotes to eat.
- Never feed coyotes.
- Encourage your neighbors not to feed coyotes or leave anything out that might attract the animals.
- Feed your pets inside, and never leave them unattended, especially at dusk and dawn when coyotes are most active. If it's necessary to leave a small pet outside unattended, keep it in a sturdy enclosure with a roof.
- Keep poultry, rabbits, and rodents in secure enclosures.
- Trim and remove any ground-level shrubs and branches that provide hiding places or den sites for coyotes or their prey.
- Secure garbage containers and eliminate odors by cleaning trashcans with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution. Put out trash containers on the morning of pickup, not the night before.
- Look for products that can be used as helpful animal deterrents.
Possible Health Concerns
Rabies – Symptoms of this disease include foaming at the mouth, erratic or hyperactive behavior, and/or fearful, paralyzed, or lethargic behavior. Call 911 or your closest Arizona Game and Fish Department office immediately if you see any animal with rabies symptoms.
Anyone bitten by a coyote must immediately seek medical attention from a qualified health care provider. Whenever possible, the animal should be captured or killed and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing.
Canine distemper – This viral disease consists of fever, eye and nose discharge, loss of appetite, and coughing. It can be transmitted to and from dogs through bodily fluids. Symptoms can appear similar to those of rabies.
Canine heartworm – Coyotes can serve as carriers of this type of heartworm, which is spread among dogs by mosquitoes.
Mange mite – Coyotes may be a host for the itch or mange mite. Female mites can burrow into the skin. Coyotes with mange can lose their hair, which can make it difficult for them to control their body temperatures. Mange must be extremely severe before it disables a coyote. Most coyotes can survive with the disease for a long time.
Tapeworm – Coyotes can carry dog tapeworm, which can cause hydatid cyst disease in humans.
Laws and Policies
- Coyotes are classified as predators and have an open, year-round hunting season. A valid license is required, except in a case where livestock has been killed. See Arizona Game and Fish Department Hunting Regulations.
- State law bans firing a gun within a quarter-mile of an occupied residence or building while taking wildlife, unless you have the owner's permission.
- Check your local city ordinances, but most ban shooting firearms within city limits. Some cities ban using slingshots, BB guns, air guns or bows.
- Refer to ARS-17-239 on wildlife depredation and Arizona Game and Fish Department Hunting Regulations for more information.