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Coyotes in an urban environment



For more information

How to respond to the presence of coyotes

Keeping pets safe

Can’t the coyotes just be relocated?

Coyote facts 

How do I report a coyote sighting?

If you encounter a coyote, call Lakewood’s Customer Service Team at 562-866-9771, extension 2140,
or use the online form at

Coyotes in an urban environment

Occasional sightings of coyotes on city streets and river beds aren’t new. Like possums and raccoons, the animals have learned to adapt to life throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The state Department of Fish and Game is responsible for coyote management. But the department, by state law, can take action only if there is “an imminent threat to public safety.” Sightings, encounters with aggressive coyotes, and even pet deaths are not sufficient to trigger the department to act.

Animal control experts say most urban coyotes are the offspring of generations of coyotes who have lived and flourished in the region. Experts recommend two pieces of advice to make the animals feel as “unwelcome” as possible around people and residential areas. The first step involves “hazing” any coyote sighted by shouting at it, spraying it with a hose or banging pots and pans. The other is to remove things that attract coyotes like pet food and outdoor pets.

How to respond to the presence of coyotes

Never let a coyote go by without trying to scare it.

If a coyote approaches you:

• Appear to be as mean and loud as possible.
• Make yourself appear larger (stand up if sitting).
• Wave your arms; throw objects (not food) at the coyote.
• Shout in a deep, loud and aggressive voice.
If the coyote continues to approach, do not run or turn your back on the coyote. Continue to exaggerate the above gestures and move toward an area of human activity.

Teach children never to approach coyotes just as you would warn them about stray dogs.

Remove coyote attractants in your area

Coyotes should not feel comfortable around people or their homes. If you see a coyote in your neighborhood, you should do your best to make it feel unwelcome. You can discourage coyotes from hanging around your home by scaring coyotes off your property and by removing coyote attractants.

Take the following steps to prevent coyotes from being attracted to your home:
• Spray a little ammonia in your trash can several times a week to cut the odor of food.
• If you have fruit trees, pick the ripe fruit and keep fallen fruit off the ground.
• Clear away bushes and dense weeds near your home where coyotes find cover.
• Do not leave pet food in dishes outside your house.

Do not feed coyotes

By feeding coyotes (even indirectly from trash or pet food dishes), you put yourself, your neighborhood and even the coyote at risk. To discourage coyotes from coming to your area, do not leave pet food dishes outdoors.

Be prepared

Coyotes are stealthy and smart, so always look far ahead of you and glance back often if you walk where coyotes have been seen.

Keeping pets safe

If you own a small dog:
You can greatly reduce the risk of conflict with your pet if you:
• Keep your dog on a short leash while outside and avoid extension leashes.
• Walk your dog at times and places that coincide with high pedestrian traffic.
• Keep your dog close to you and always be aware of your surroundings.
• If your dog stops, keep an eye on it.

If you own a large dog:
Coyotes pose less risk to medium-to large-sized dogs. Keep large dogs on leash and discourage your dog from feeling comfortable with coyotes by preventing it from “playing” or interacting with a coyote.

If you own a cat:
The only way to guarantee your cat’s safety is to keep it indoors.

Can’t the coyotes just be relocated?

The state Department of Fish and Game is responsible for coyote management. But the department, by state law, can take action only if there is “an imminent threat to public safety.” Sightings, encounters with aggressive coyotes, and even pet deaths are not sufficient to trigger the department’s response.

Coyote facts

Where do coyotes come from?

Coyotes are native to California’s hills and valleys, but they have adjusted quickly to other habitats. The California Department of Fish and Game estimates of population range from 250,000 to 750,000 coyotes throughout all of California.

Coyotes are flexible, cooperative with other coyotes, opportunistic by nature, deft at observational learning, suspicious, and tough.

Why are coyotes here?

Blaming drought or the expansion of development into wildlife areas are common misconceptions. Actually, humans have created urban habitats for coyotes. Coyotes have adapted to urban lifestyles because city environments support them.

Unsecured garbage, pet food, free-roaming cats, and the fruit trees prevalent in urban settings are attractive to coyotes. Often food is far more abundant and easier to obtain in these areas than in the coyotes’ natural habitat, creating an incentive for coyotes to stay..Also, the high density of food sources allows coyotes, which normally have home ranges averaging 3-to-5 square miles, to fulfill their nutritional requirements from areas as small as 100 acres, allowing more coyotes to occupy an area.

Feeding coyotes and allowing them to feel comfortable around homes and pets will create “problem” coyotes. Read the California "Keep me wild" page on this animal.

Aren’t coyotes dangerous?

Coyotes differ from other wildlife species because they are regarded as a nuisance simply by being seen. Perhaps because of their role as a predator, people are sensitive to the real and perceived threat to pets or children. Most coyote injuries to humans that involve a bite are caused by attempting to feed a coyote You can discourage coyotes from feeling comfortable around you by responding to their presence and eliminating coyote attractants from your yard.

Coyotes are not considered a disease threat. Outbreaks of rabies in coyotes are rare and not commonly implicated in the transmission of the disease to humans or domestic animals.

What do coyotes look like?

The coyote is a medium-sized member of the dog family that also includes wolves and foxes. With its pointed ears, slender muzzle, and drooping, bushy tail, the coyote often resembles a German shepherd. Coyotes are usually a grayish brown with reddish tinges behind the ears and around the face, but coloration can vary from a silver-gray to black. The tail usually has a black tip. Eyes are a striking yellow, with large dark pupils, rather than brown like many dogs.

Most adults weigh between 25 and 35 lbs., although their heavy coats often make them appear larger.

Characteristics of a mature coyote:

• Large erect ears, narrow muzzles and golden brown eyes
• Bushy tails held down when in motion
• Reddish-yellow, tan or gray general appearance
• Bib-like patch of white fur around lower jaw and neck
• Darker gray and black hairs on upper body and lighter cream-colored undersides

What do coyotes eat?

In wild environments, up to 70 percent of a coyote’s diet consists of small mammals (mice, rabbits, etc.). The remaining 30 percent is a combination of fruits, vegetables, insects, fish, birds, eggs and other available items.
In urban areas, coyotes also prey on rats, squirrels and garbage. Coyotes also eat berries, grapes, soft fruits, and avocados.

When are coyotes most active?

Coyotes can be active any time of day or night.

When do coyotes have their young?

In most years, coyotes typically mate in February. In April, after a 62- to 65-day gestation period, the female will begin looking for existing dens or dig one herself. This is the only time coyotes will voluntarily use a den (they usually sleep above ground in the open or in cover).

It is not uncommon for mothers to move their young from den to den to keep them protected, or to re-use the same den in multiple years. Some coyotes select secluded areas for their dens, whereas others in more urbanized areas have less selection and may use dens near buildings or roads. They usually prefer some protective cover at the den, such as bushes or trees and some type of slope for drainage.

Litter sizes often range from four to seven pups, depending on food availability and the density of the surrounding coyote population. Coyotes have the ability to adjust their litter sizes based on food abundance and population density.

Pups stay in the den for about six weeks, and then begin traveling short distances with adults. By the end of summer, pups are spending some time away from parents and attempting to hunt on their own or with siblings.