Protecting your pet from coyotes

Gloria J. Towle, Special to The County
6 years ago

This scary post was recently on Facebook: “Ashland Animal Control has received two reports of coyote attacks on dogs in the past week on the North side of town. We strongly encourage pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash when out for walks, monitor pets when they are outside (even if they’re inside a fenced yard), and to keep cats inside.” 

This has become a common and serious problem in our area.  Our board member Gail had a scary episode several weeks ago at her home in Presque Isle.  Her husband took their three dogs out at 3 a.m.  They always stay out with them and have a big high-powered flashlight.  They have two small dogs and one larger dog.  

While he was watching them, a coyote jumped up on the plowed bank, 20 feet from the small dog, looking down at her. Her husband hollered for the dogs, who thankfully came running to the house.  The coyote stood there looking at him, then took off, across the snow on the lawn to the brook. When he went to look at the prints, there were three sets of tracks.  Such a scary thought. 

Are coyotes a danger to pets?  While coyotes once lived on untouched lands, the species has spread into heavily populated areas. And this is ultimately why we are hearing more about their growing urban presence today.

“Coyotes are found pretty much everywhere now, including urban centers,” says Dr. Shari Rodriguez, assistant professor of human dimensions of wildlife at Clemson University, noting that she has seen “an incredible photo of a coyote that got onto a subway car in Portland and curled up and went to sleep on a seat.”

Coyotes live off natural prey (smaller mammals like rabbits, squirrels, and even deer fawn, as well as insects, fruits, birds, amphibians, and reptiles), but they can also do fine preying on domestic pets and small livestock, human refuse, and agricultural crops,  Rodriguez says, adding coyotes have been found “everywhere from Central America to the Arctic.”

 The key to ensuring pet safety is for owners to adjust to their behavior and to take extra steps to keep their animals out of harm’s way. “Humans need to avoid risky behaviors if we are to avoid interactions and conflict with coyotes,” she explains.

Rodriguez offers these precautions:

Be aware that some dogs may be drawn to coyotes. To ensure your dog’s safety in a coyote-ridden area, be aware that coyotes and dogs can be attracted to one another.

“A dog and a coyote are genetically similar enough where they can interbreed, though interbreeding is not very common. There is an attraction often between dogs and coyotes and it’s often the dog that starts the chase behavior. But if an incident occurs, then the coyote gets blamed.”

 Do not feed wildlife.  “One of the biggest reasons that coyotes are infiltrating neighborhoods is the attraction of people food. We encourage people to not intentionally or unintentionally feed animals if they are trying to deter them from their yards and neighborhoods.”

 Do not leave your pet unattended. Keep an eye on your pet when you open the back door to let him out and do not let him stray too far away from you. Whenever possible, take your dog out on a leash. “You should use a 6-foot leash, not a retractable leash, those give little to no control if your pet encounters a coyote. Carry a headlamp or flashlight when walking your dog at night.”

Do not feed your pet outside: As food can be a big attractor of coyotes, giving your pet his dinner indoors is always a good idea.

Be extra mindful during coyote breeding season: April is when coyotes have their young and April through August is when they are more protective of their young. Be extra careful during this time. Walk a dog on leash and be cognizant of coyotes in the area.   

“If you see a coyote in your yard, stand tall and maintain eye contact with the coyote,” Rodriguez said. “You should haze the coyote by yelling, clapping your hands loudly, making loud noises, flashing a flashlight, tossing rocks or sticks near the coyote, and anything else that will frighten it off. If you see a coyote while walking your dog, maintain eye contact with it and back up until you and your pet are a safe distance from it.”

If your pet has been bitten by a coyote, it requires immediate veterinary attention. See your veterinarian to have the wounds cleaned, get some antibiotics started, and booster the rabies vaccine if indicated by vaccine records.

Any attacks should be reported to your state’s wildlife agency as soon as possible.  

Let’s keep our four-legged furry family members as safe as possible.

Please be responsible pet owners: spay and neuter.

“Clearly, animals know more than we think, and think a great deal more than we know” (Irene M. Pepperberg).

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.