Safety Around Coyotes; PLUS Behaviors To Be Aware Of If You Have A Dog

This information was distributed at a health & safety fair here in the city:


~ coyotes are a natural part of this environment ~

~ seldom are they aggressive, but they will protect themselves ~

~ an ounce of prevention works! Protect both your dog and coyotes ~

1) Prevent close coyote encounters in the first place:

  • never feed a coyote or try to tame it
  • never walk towards a coyote – give them space
  • never let your dog chase or play with a coyote
  • leash your dog whenever you see or hear a coyote or know one is in the area

2) Behaviors coyotes use to protect themselves when chased by a dog

  • charge-and-retreat sequence
  • a long barking episode, often rearing up on their hind legs
  • a nipping at the haunches, same as a cattle dog herding, to move the dog away
  • “escorting” or following you out of the park (rarely)

3) If this should happen, you need to scare the coyote off:

  • slap a folder newspaper against your thigh as you challengingly eye and walk towards the coyote
  • yell and clap your hands making a very loud racket, or try carrying a shake can
  • throw stones around the coyote, not at it to harm it, but near it to scare it
  • grab your dog when you can and leave the area, but don’t run which a coyote might read as an invitation to chase you

4) Two coyote behaviors to be aware of — usually between a coyote and a dog who know each other:

  • “Chase-Chase” Behavior: the coyote will be traveling in the same direction as a walker and his/her unleashed dog, and will come in close with a little “darting in”  and “retreat”. The dog will return the behavior. It is almost a “dare” or “oneupmanship” with no other intention than just this — it verges on play. Some dogs can handle this, some need to be leashed.
  • A mother coyote may come to the aid of one of her full-grown pups and the two will work as a team to vex a dog to get it to leave: one coyote will distract the dog, the other will come around to dart in from the other side.
  • In both cases, leashing the dog creates a barrier of sorts: it calms down the dog — and this can be seen by the coyote. But also it keeps the dog next to the owner which serves to deter the coyote from coming in. Coyotes do not care to tangle with humans.

Please read postings on December 12th: “Dog Reactions to Seeing a Coyote”, November 4th: “Some Reactions to Dogs”, November 17th: “ANOTHER Reaction to Dogs”, and December 1: “Significance of a Seemingly Unprovoked Challenge”. “Blatant Visual Message for Newcomer Dog” on 2/8/10. “A short back-and-forth chase: oneupmanship verging on play” 2/4/10.

26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie
    Jun 27, 2010 @ 02:49:38

    We live on the edge of a forest. For the past month, there has been what sounds like a coyote pup that comes within 25 feet of our backyard every evening. He and my chihuahua-terrier mix have a conversation, and my dog is happy and excited. He’s gotten out a couple of times and comes back with the back of his coat “licked” – that’s the best way I know to explain it. Do coyotes “make friends” with dogs? Is this dangerous?


    • janet kessler
      Jun 27, 2010 @ 03:34:10

      Hi Julie —

      I’m glad to try to help. I observe and record the coyote behaviors I see in our San Francisco area parks. I’ve spent hundreds of hours watching them. However, I’m not an expert. My answer is from what I have personally seen AND heard. Most dogs chase coyotes. Dogs, indeed, have made friends with coyotes — coyotes are pretty choosy about who they pick as their “dog” friends — not all dogs are welcome. Your tiny dog must be a very special case, because I’ve only heard of larger dogs playing with coyotes. However, because coyotes are wild animals, you cannot predict with certainty what will come next. My advice to you is to keep your tiny dog away from the coyote — that is what I would do. Possibly nothing bad would happen. But you will be very upset if your little dog does not come back one day. Whatever you do, please do not feed the coyote. Feeding has been linked to them later becoming aggressive towards humans. If they become aggressive towards humans, they will be shot. Feeding is the most unkind thing you can do. We want to keep coyotes wild, and shy of humans. It is best for the coyote and it is best for humans. Hope this helps! Janet =====================


    • jaz
      Apr 04, 2012 @ 07:51:34

      Comment from Jaz: “Coyotes will sometimes ‘play’ with a dog to lead it to its pack then attack it.”

      Reply from Janet at Yipps: Hi Jaz. Have you actually seen this happen? I never have. Generally, dogs should not be allowed to play with coyotes — coyotes are wild and protective of themselves and their territories: this is what drives a lot of their behavior. Keeping a dog leashed is one way of preventing this interaction. However, I have seen a coyote on Bernal Hill in San Francisco play with a dog. The coyote was a loner — there was no “pack” (which translates into “family”) for the coyote to lead the dog to. The coyote played with the dog because it was lonely. The coyote picked two or three dogs to befriend, out of many who walked in that area. It stayed away from the other dogs. Everyone on that hill loved that coyote.

      It’s easy to pick up a rumor and spread it. Rather, it’s best to rely on your own observations. One of the rumors that went around in this area is that “eight coyotes surrounded my car and wouldn’t let me get out.” There are not eight coyotes that live in the area, and coyotes are rather shy of humans, so they wouldn’t do this. It’s as if someone had said that eight chihuahuas surrounded my car and wouldn’t let me get out. Would you believe this?

      Coyotes are often maligned. Their biggest crime, often, is simply to have been seen. And rumors about them grow and spread mercilessly. Janet


      • Jane
        Sep 25, 2012 @ 22:06:13

        I do know of a pack of coyotes sending one of their’s down a hill to attract a domestic dog The dog was taken up (by means of “playing”), to the pack and killed. It happened in Nicasio (West Marin).

      • yipps
        Sep 26, 2012 @ 06:09:08

        It’s an urban legend. It does not occur. We have heard these “stories,” from vertebrate management personnel – the same folks that state, once the coyotes eat all the cats in a neighborhood that they will start eating children. It’s a classic “Big Bad Wolf,” tale.

        What people have been seeing is this:

        1. Coyote comes down a hill to investigate another canid in the neighborhood. There are always one or two coyotes who are more curious than other members of the family.
        2. Dog is curious about the coyote, and follows it as it returns back into the hills.
        3. Dog encounters other family members that are threatened by the dog/intruder.
        4. Dog is attacked.

        People read way too much into animal behavior, and give animals qualities and motivations that are absent in their behaviors.

        This information comes from Mary Paglieri,
        Human-Animal Conflict Consultant
        Little Blue

  2. Trackback: Coyote Careful | Save Mount Sutro Forest
  3. Sharon L Boyd
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 23:46:50

    I’m soon moving into a neighborhood next to walking/hiking trails where coyotes reside. What type of fencing or enclosure will provide safety for my 3 small dogs during the day when I’m not at home and at night?


    • yipps
      Oct 26, 2011 @ 00:53:18

      Hi Sharon —

      I’m not an expert on fences, however, I have heard that coyotes can scale fences that are quite high. Still, in this urban area, I have seen cyclone-type fences over 6 feet high (I would have to check on exact height) which enclose dogs or chickens, and I have never seen or heard that coyotes got inside. In our urban area, I think everyone keeps their pets indoors at night and even during the day when they are not home. This is what we have been told to do by our Animal Care and Control Department, and it is especially true for small dogs. Your presence is the greatest deterrent whenever a pet is out in the open. Also, when you walk your dogs, you should make sure to restrain them — coyotes might not welcome the high activity level of three active little dogs. If they are kept restrained and close to you, you can prevent any coyotes from testing the situation right from the start. Janet


  4. Walter Ballin
    Apr 11, 2012 @ 06:48:52

    Janet, I enjoy your blog. These are beautiful animals. I now live in Chico, but San Francisco is my native city where I lived for most of my life. How did coyotes come to San Francisco? Some years ago, I never thought this could happen.


    • yipps
      Apr 11, 2012 @ 19:38:04

      Hi Walter — Glad you enjoy the blog! There are various theories about how they came and when. One is that a few have always been here. I have been told that a “ranger brought them in” by someone who knows the ranger who did this — he would not divulge the name. And, it has been proposed that coyotes came over Golden Gate bridge — their DNA matches that of the Marin coyotes, and not those from the South. This is not such a far fetched theory, since a deer was videoed crossing the bridge, causing traffic to come to a standstill, and a couple of coyotes have been seen on the lower part of the bridge! The official count of coyotes in San Francisco (not including the Presidio) is ten — not many. Some of those I observe are in the Presidio, but those, apparently don’t count! Janet


  5. Gail Eddy
    May 06, 2012 @ 01:40:08

    I care for and feed a small feral cat colony..We have supplied them with a feeding station and small shelters in a clearing near some woods. Today I had 8 cats feeding. One cat was sitting by my feet..I had my back to the woods. The cat growled..something I have never heard a cat do before. I turned around and saw a coyote, walking about 10 or 15 feet from the woods. He definitely could not miss seeing me or the cats. I walked to the edge of the feeding station because I had previously seen one of the cats there..alone. As I did that, the coyote turned and came closer to me. I knew I should make noise….and walk away, but I froze. I just looked at him. We were looking into each others eyes for at least 10 or 15 seconds. I don’t think I displayed fear..I was really just thinking how beautiful he was..He didn’t seem aggressive..he seemed to be waiting to see what I would do..Then he just turned and walked away. He never seemed to be interested in the cats..perhaps because I was there..Also..I was amazed that none of the cats tried to run.


  6. Alex Grossman
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 18:19:04

    Saw a coyote walking down Cityview Way toward Panorama Blvd this overcast morning (6-22-12) while walking my puppy at 6am. The coyote nosed through some trash spilling from a Recology can on Panorama and then headed south and into the fog shrouded woods across from my house. (These are the Eucalyptus woods that surround the large water tank behind Laguna Honda Hospital.) He didn’t seem fearful or interested in my pup which by now I had in my arms and was slowly walking back to my house. This encounter was both frightening and gloriously magical. I’ve been in the Midtown Terrace neighborhood for under a year and always felt it was a special place, seemingly removed from the usual urban craziness of SF. But had no idea there were coyotes!


  7. Annie
    Aug 01, 2012 @ 17:50:45

    I had a very close encounter with a coyote this morning, and am wondering what to do if ever I am in that kind of situation again. My dog is a yellow lab, golden retriever, and pitbull mix and is about the size as a coyote. I was playing fetch with her in a park that is essentially a grassy area next to woods and a river. Suddenly, she seemed to lose interest in her ball and started to sniff around the edge of the woods. I thought she was ready to “do her business” so I untied a plastic bag from her leash. When I looked up, I was surprised to see her interacting with a juvenile coyote! They sniffed each other and didn’t seem fearful or aggressive at all. They looked just like dogs meeting each other for the first time. I was worried about a mother coyote (I had heard stories of a den in this area) so I shouted and called my dog’s name. She came to my side and the coyote ran into the bushes. As we left the park, I saw that the coyote was following us at a distance, wagging its tail and “bowing down” as I have seen puppies do when they are being playful. I walked out of the park and crossed the busy street that borders it. Did I do the right thing?


    • yipps
      Aug 01, 2012 @ 18:38:04

      Hi Annie —

      Yes, you did exactly the right thing: you grabbed your dog, leashed it and moved on. That it followed you is normal coyote behavior — they are very curious. A juvenile coyote is harmless, but we need to teach them that it’s not okay to interact with pet dogs. And, as you mention, the mom or dad coyote might have considered your dog a threat and then there might have been a negative confrontation. You’ll help this coyote learn by throwing small stones in its direction (not at it) if it approaches you — do this aggressively to show you mean it! Please let me know if this happens again and how you are able to handle it. Janet


  8. Steve
    May 17, 2013 @ 02:47:36

    I live in the country and have a Black and Tan coone hound every night about the same time he goes nuts barking and howling last night about 2 am I looked out the window to see what he was barking at and to my surprise I saw a large coyote . He didnt appear to be bothered by me yelling at my dog to quite down so I grabed a gun and headed out the back door when I reached my dog he was about 20 feet from my dog, I am a large person close to 300 pounds and he didn’t even seem to be bothered by my presence I yelled and he stood there I chambered a round into my 9 mm and it jamed when I looked up he had walked about 50 feet away then he turned and looked at me I could see his eyes I fired a shot wide of him and that’s the only thing that moved him away have you heard of this bold behavior in the past ?


    • yipps
      May 17, 2013 @ 12:36:17

      Hi Steve —

      Thank you for writing about your situation. I would assume that particular coyote has become habituated to people, possibly through feeding. Pointing a gun at the coyote isn’t going to scare him off if he doesn’t know what a gun is.

      Better to toss a pebble in his direction angrily — not at him but towards him. He’ll be able to understand this and he’ll learn that you don’t want him around. Also, yelling at your dog is not the same as yelling at the coyote. You need to fix your gaze on the coyote as you yell viciously at him AND you need to approach him for him to know you are directing your actions towards him.

      Although the coyote might have looked big, they weigh only about 20-40 pounds. Most of their size comes from the fluff of their fur.

      Please let me know if he comes again. The loud noise from your gun may have scared him enough to avoid the same location, at least for a while.


  9. Steve
    May 17, 2013 @ 17:43:02

    Actually no it won’t we have a major coyote problem out here and it’s not the same as living in or near a town. Food sources are growing short for the coyote because of the over population issue we also have had coyotes that have some how bread with other canines and it makes them a little larger but they have become more and more agreasive and have raided (if that’s the right term) chicken coupes in the area. While I am sure u are correct that they are opertunistic when it comes to food they also Atleast around here have shown agreasive behavior when that food sources drys up. Even the sound of the gun didnt scare him enough to chase him clear out of the area as you could hear them cry if in the distance. About 300 yards out there are woods and I am sure that’s where there den is my fear is that as they overpopulated and food source gets less they will become more agreasive plus there have been a few cases where there have had to be put down because they were not acting the way they would usually overly aggressive and approaching farmers out in the field I was told that those few cases were because the animal was sick and that changed thier normal behavior. I would be interested to hear your thoughts


    • yipps
      May 18, 2013 @ 05:18:12

      Hi Steve —

      Since all of my work has been with urban coyotes, I’m going to send your comment and question on to Mary Paglieri, a wildlife-human conflict manager. She’ll be able to answer you more thoroughly. To help her answer you, could you please answer these two questions?
      1) Where in the US are you located
      2) Is the dog loose in the yard? – in a kennel? – tied up?

      Thanks, Steve. I look forward to hearing from you. Janet


  10. Willow
    Nov 24, 2014 @ 02:02:34

    We live on a farm in Canada. Northern Saskatchewan, to be more precise. Anyway we have a lab cross dog who seems to have befriended a coyote a couple of years ago. My husband and I have watched them as they touch noses, chase each other and romp around in general. We have even seen them resting in the field between play sessions. The coyote appears to be a loner now but there was two of them over a year ago. Not sure what happened to the other one. We also don’t know the sex of this coyote. Our dog is fixed. Is it common for coyotes and dogs to become friends?


    • yipps
      Nov 24, 2014 @ 03:31:32

      Hi Willow —

      Nice story! I don’t know how common it is, but lone coyotes indeed have made friends with dogs — and it’s not just any dog. They pick and choose usually only one or two other dogs to play with, and these become their “extended family”! My thought is that your two coyotes could have been young siblings. As far as I have seen, when there is a family of coyotes, as opposed to lone coyotes, they usually do not befriend dogs — this would be much less common.
      PS: I try to get across that most canine interactions are actually not on a friendly level — in urban areas I discourage interactions between dogs and coyotes.


  11. Patricia Ouellet
    Dec 16, 2014 @ 02:20:09

    We live in the country and at the edge of a wooded area. For the past two days a lone coyote has come up close to our house and sniffed around and did his business each day. He is very scruffy and was also eating snow. We have a very small dog and she is a fixed female. She also goes outside to do her business and now we are afraid to let her out on her own in case she encounters this bold lone coyote. We now put her on a lease and go out with her. Is it possible this coyote could have rabies or is sick?


    • yipps
      Dec 16, 2014 @ 03:38:33

      Hi Patricia —

      I don’t know if the coyote might be ill: that it is scruffy is not an indication of illness. The coyote could be coming around simply because he or she is lonely. I’ll be able to tell you much more if you can take some photos and send them. The important thing is that you should continue using your leash on your small dog. Coyotes and dogs can form friendships, but most of the time each has antipathy for the other.


  12. Willow
    Feb 16, 2015 @ 09:11:23

    Hi again! The coyote I told you about seemed to be gone for a week or so but is back. The friendship continues but is getting annoying :) I am glad my dog has a friend even tho I still think this is very strange but… they need to make a racket all night? Sometimes they take off for a bit then they are back barking and yipping right at the house till I get up and yell at them! I even turned the farmyard lights on at night and that didn’t work to deter it from coming here! Do you think it will eventually find a mate and leave? I understand you deal mostly with urban coyotes and where I live is very remote. Shooting is not an option! Rabies and distemper vaccines are up to date. Keeping my dog inside is not an option as he is a large farm dog and hates being kept in at night. Thanks for any insight you have on this as I am at a loss.


    • yipps
      Feb 16, 2015 @ 17:17:48

      Hi Willow — Could you please let me know if your dog is chained or if he’s running loose with the coyotes when you leave him out at night? What happens when you keep him indoors, and why is this not an option? Janet


  13. Willow
    Feb 17, 2015 @ 19:48:21

    Hi again! Chaining a dog where we are puts them at risk to other animals like moose. Our property is over 2000 acres so he can run around if he wants but he always sticks close to the farmyard. He hates being in the house at the best of times and prefers his heated doghouse. As I said, he is a large dog and will practically rip the door off. He is great at keeping the wildlife away and has for eight years! He killed a coyote a few years back so I cannot figure out why he is friends with this one. I really would prefer it gone tho. I would like to see if it can be relocated. Better to be safe than sorry.


    • yipps
      Feb 17, 2015 @ 20:13:37

      Hi Willow —

      You cannot relocate coyotes because they are tied to their territories. If you relocated it, it would probably die trying to return — either killed by a human who doesn’t want it around, of harassed by other coyotes who don’t want it passing through their territories.

      Your dog is big and has “taken care” of other coyotes, so he’s not in danger himself. It is his friendship which is what is attracting the other coyote. I normally suggest getting rid of attractants to discourage coyotes, but you can’t do that! If you really want him gone, I’ll consult with an animal behaviorist and get back to you. Janet


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