Kevin Brennan, DFG Inland Deserts Region, (951) 659-2468
Kyle Orr, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8958
If you’re in the outdoors anywhere in California this spring, you might cross paths with one of the state’s most common predators – the coyote. Clever, nimble and quick, the coyote may at first glance appear to be more of a nuisance than a direct threat. But don’t let your guard down, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) warns.
Coyotes – especially those who live in urban settings and have grown accustomed to humans – can become emboldened to the point where they become a public safety threat.
“Once coyotes become habituated to people, they begin to exhibit increased levels of aggression, which can lead to biting incidents,” explained Kevin Brennan, a DFG biologist who works out of Idyllwild (Riverside County). Brennan has responded to hundreds of coyote incidents and is familiar with the inevitably unhappy result when coyotes become accustomed to humans.
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a member of the dog family and is native to California. It closely resembles a small German shepherd with the exception of the long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail. Because they are tolerant of human activities and rapidly adjust to changes in their environment, the highly adaptable coyote populates virtually the entire state.
Brennan notes that coyotes are actually the most populous in suburban neighborhoods, in part because there are so many food sources available to them in addition to their usual diet of rabbits, mice, birds and other small animals, young deer and sheep. Those additional food sources include left-out pet food and left-out pets, as well as unsecured garbage in neighborhoods and the rodents such garbage attracts. When coyotes are allowed access to human food and garbage, either deliberately or inadvertently, they can lose their fear of people and become a real danger.
The key to minimizing coyote-human contact is based on educating the public about coyote behavior and taking sensible precautions, Brennan said.
“Never allow coyotes to become accustomed to your surroundings, because familiarity can lead to contempt,” Brennan said.
While DFG does not collect statistics on coyote attacks, Brennan said, “There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t receive calls concerning nuisance coyotes.”
To avoid problems with coyotes, people should follow these guidelines:
- Never feed or attempt to tame coyotes. The result may be deadly conflicts or serious injuries to pets, livestock and even small children.
- Do not leave small children or pets outside unattended.
- Be aware that coyotes are more active in the spring, when feeding and protecting their young.
- If followed by a coyote, make loud noises. If this fails, throw rocks in the animal’s direction.
- Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
Most coyote sightings should be reported to local animal control districts. However, if a coyote acts aggressively or attacks people, call 911. For more information, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/.