Trickster, creator, messenger and symbol of death, the coyote appears often in the tales and traditions of Native Americans. Most stories focus on the coyotes’ cleverness in achieving victory. These mythological portrayals have seeped into our perception of who the coyote is, for better or worse.
Modern coyotes do display an impressive level of cleverness, continually adapting to the changing American landscape. These members of the dog family once lived primarily in open prairies and deserts. Now they are found across North America, including densely populated, urban areas. You might spot one running across a golf course or city park or in a culvert alongside a busy road.
Urban areas offer a steady supply of food for these opportunistic eaters. With plenty of rodents, rabbits, deer and vegetation cover around our community, it’s no wonder that coyotes have chosen to call The Woodlands home.
Largely nocturnal hunters, seeing a coyote is rare, however it is possible that you may cross paths one day. Unexpected encounters with wildlife can cause confusion and invoke fear for both you and the animal! Familiarize yourself with the following responses and be prepared to act calmly and responsibly if you find yourself in one of these situations.
If you hear or see a coyote, follow these best practices:
Pathways, Parks, Forested Areas, Open Spaces: Slowly and calmly walk away. If approached, DON’T RUN. Wave arms, make noise and walk toward the coyote until it retreats. Thrown rocks and sticks can be effective. The goal is not to hit the animal, but to scare it away. Be “Big, Bad and Loud.”
At Home: Do not approach animal. Wave arms and make loud noise (air horns, car horns, banging pots and pans, whistles). Throw rocks and sticks toward the animal. Water hoses can be effective.
Though naturally timid, a coyote may see your pet as a threat, especially during breeding season, when pups are nearby, or when defending a source of food. Coyotes will try to intimidate your dog by baring their teeth and hunching their backs. This threat display is an attempt to scare your dog away without making any physical contact. If your dog does not move on, the possibility of a physical conflict is more likely.
Ensure your pet’s safety and follow these guidelines:
- Never let your dog chase or play with a coyote.
- In an area where coyotes have been seen, keep your dog under full control at all times.
- To protect your small dog in coyote areas:
- Avoid using a flexi-leash
- Avoid walking near bushy areas
- Stand or walk with other people or larger dogs
- Avoid walking small dogs at dawn
- If a coyote gets too close for your comfort make eye contact with
it. Leash larger dogs and pick up small dogs. Haze the coyote (see above).
- If the coyote doesn’t leave, it’s likely there’s a den, pups, or food source nearby. Don’t run. Leave the area calmly. Change your routine to avoid this area for a while.
- If a coyote performs a threat display, or two or more coyotes charge your larger dog(s), leash up, leave the area calmly, and report it to 3-1-1.
At home, reduce the chances of a coyote encounter by doing this simple yard audit:
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Coyotes are clever. They have managed to adapt to an evolving landscape, raise their young in densely populated areas and find food and shelter in unexpected places. Understanding how to live with our wild neighbors creates a safe home for all of us. There’s much to appreciate and learn from coyotes on how to adapt to an ever-changing world.