Why Hazing Is Good (For Coyotes)
An expert in urban wildlife explains why residents are seeing so many coyotes and shares tips on how to keep them from becoming a nuisance.
Coyotes have been spotted all across the west metro—and have even reportedly killed a handful of dogs.
With so much concern about coyotes, St. Louis Park hosted a talk Thursday by Lynsey White Dasher—a Washington, DC-based urban wildlife specialist with The Humane Society of the United States. Dasher explained why coyotes are so visible in the metro and what residents can do to ensure they are good neighbors.
See the PDFs to the right for a more-detailed look at how to deal with coyotes. Watch the video for an example of how to haze a coyote.
Coyotes have always been among us.
- Coyotes probably aren’t increasing their numbers. They’ve long lived in urban environments but usually aren’t seen because of their natural fear of humans. Coyotes love urban environments because they don’t have any of the natural predators, such as bears or wolves, that they have in natural environments. “They are literally top dog—and they love it,” Dasher said. Instead, the increased number of sightings and reports of aggressive behavior probably means that they are becoming accustomed to humans—perhaps through human behavior that unintentionally reinforces bad behavior. “It’s safe to say that coyotes are everywhere,” Dasher said.
Coyotes aren’t that big.
- Although coyotes can look intimidating, they actually weigh about as much as a medium-sized dog, typically weighing 25 to 35 pounds. But they have bushy coats and long legs that make them the third-fastest land mammal in North America. “Those long legs make them look a lot bigger than they are,” Dasher said.
Coyotes aren’t out to eat your pets or your children.
- The Cook County Coyote Project, an 11-year study of coyotes around Chicago that’s the largest study of its kind, found that small rodents made up 42 percent of the coyotes’ diet. Fruit was next at 23 percent followed by white tail deer at 22 percent. Human-associated food, including pet food, made up just 2 percent of the coyotes’ diet, and domestic cats were 1 percent. “By and large, most coyotes are not doing that sort of thing,” Dasher said. “They’re eating those natural sources of food—and doing us a favor in doing that.”
But coyotes can still prey on pets.
- Coyotes don’t know that pets that aren’t with their owners have anything to do with humans. “These don’t look any different to a coyote than an animal it would normally be eating,” Dasher said. So residents should keep their pets leashed, preferably on a leash that is six feet long or less. Pets are even vulnerable in backyards since Coyotes can easily jump over fences up to six feet high.
Coyote bites are rare.
- There are fewer than 10 coyote bites per year on average, Dasher said. That’s less than the 24 people killed each year by champagne corks—and many of the coyote bites resulted from someone feeding the coyotes. Meanwhile, the United States, alone, has 4.7 million dog bites per year.
Coyotes can still cause problems if they get used to humans.
- Although coyotes are naturally wary of humans, they can become bolder if they learn that humans don’t pose any threat. Leaving out pet food or scraps that they can eat and allowing them to roam around freely can teach them that humans aren’t dangerous. Dasher compared coyotes to a smart dog or child. “They are constantly testing their environment and testing us,” she said. “Every time we see a coyote and we don’t react—or worse yet, we run away—we are teaching them that humans are not scary.”
Killing or relocating coyotes doesn’t work.
- Studies have shown that coyote populations can bounce back in just eight months after as many as three-quarters of the coyotes are killed. When coyote populations drop, coyote litter sizes increase and roaming coyotes looking for new territories move in. Meanwhile, the human behaviors that led to problem coyotes are still unresolved. “Any time we have a problem coyote, there’s always a reason why,” Dasher said.
“Hazing” can teach problem coyotes to avoid humans.
- Instead of killing or relocating coyotes, experts recommend that humans harass the coyotes they see until they run away. This teaches them that humans are a threat and creates a population of coyotes that knows to avoid humans—instead of simply killing local coyotes and replacing them with roaming coyotes that don’t know the rules. “We’re marking our territory in a way that they understand,” Dasher said.
Hazing coyotes is easy.
- The most important point is to be loud and large—stand up, wave your arms, yell and approach the coyote, if necessary. Residents can use whistles, air horns, bells, pots and pans and soda cans to increase the noise. They can also throw items at the coyote or squirt hoses, water guns, pepper spray or bear repellent at the coyote. This must be done until the coyote runs away or it will learn the wrong lesson. The coyote must also be able to connect the hazing to a human, so hazing can’t be done from a vehicle, inside a home or hidden behind bushes. “Anyone in this room could haze a coyote, and anyone in this room should haze a coyote,” Dasher said. (The exception is that people shouldn’t haze sick or injured coyotes or haze a cornered coyote that doesn’t have an escape route.)