Total Avoidance!

When this dog owner became aware of the coyote she distanced herself -- this is the right thing to do: walk away with your leashed dog.

When this dog owner became aware of the coyote she distanced herself — this is the right thing to do: walk away with your leashed dog.

We want to emphasize and clarify guidelines for dog walkers. A dog walkers’ first line of safety in dealing with a coyote always should be vigilance and awareness.

Then, whether a coyote has been spotted in the distance, is approaching, or suddenly appears right next to you, the *first line of action* for a dog walker should be total avoidance — not hazing, which is engagement. Avoidance means tightening your leash and walking away from the coyote, while keeping your eyes on it. This is an easy protocol to follow, especially for dog-walkers with little or no coyote knowledge or experience, and those who are fearful. A person needs simply to get their dog away from that coyote — disengage and move away. TOTAL AVOIDANCE.

The coyote ignored her and went about his own business.

The coyote ignored her and went about his own business.

This protocol was formulated by Mary Paglieri, Behavioral Ecologist and Wildlife-Human Conflict Expert with 17 years of experience working with urban coyotes. It’s really not practical or fair to ask elderly people or those who are afraid of coyotes to “haze”/harass them. Walking away accomplishes what is needed: the coyote’s entire intention in approaching is to move your dog and you away. So, do it! 

Vulnerable smaller dogs which might be viewed as prey should be picked up immediately. If the dog is small enough, tuck it under your shirt or jacket to remove it from view as you are walking away from the coyote. The point is to be pro-active, not reactive, where dogs are concerned. If a coyote were to come close enough, you would be creating the circumstances under which a coyote might try nipping your dog or even grabbing a smaller dog, and then you’d have to fight back. By preventing proximity, you can prevent the situation from ever reaching this point.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Judy Paulsen
    Aug 06, 2016 @ 15:09:46

    Last year as I walked/jogged with my dog on leash one coyote appeared in front of us on the trail – standing still and looking at us at first. I stopped and waited to see what he/she would do. My dog is very well trained and sat by my side – no barking or any aggressive behavior. The coyote finally moved off to the side, which is what they usually do,however this time, as I walked on, I heard rustling behind me and turned to see two coyotes following us. I stopped and faced them, my dog sitting calmly by my side. It was clear these two coyotes were not going to stand down. I started hazing, and they appeared to go away, only to reappear soon afterward behind me. This time they were crouched and growling – this is a first for me as I have had many encounters with coyotes over my lifetime. I know where the den is – we were walking away from it – not toward it. I finally picked up a stick and was swatting the trees and branches around me, which finally drove the coyotes away.

    I am a coyote advocate, and not afraid of them, however, after that incident, I realized every situation must be dealt with in a way that effectively shoos the coyotes away. No one approach works best in every situation. My dog is too big to be picked up – she’s about 50 pounds, but very calm and obedient, so she was demonstrating no aggression toward the coyotes.

    Reply

    • yipps
      Aug 07, 2016 @ 13:12:12

      Hi Judy — Thank you for your comment. I agree that every situation is different, but yours certainly is one, I’m sure, that others have come across.

      Several points I’d like to make. A coyote doesn’t care if your dog is aggressive or not — all the coyote cares about is that the dog has come within its space. In fact, it is often the calmer dogs that coyotes attempt to *message* simply because they are able to do so — it’s easier — whereas it is more dangerous, in their eyes, to message an aggressive dog. So your dog’s calmness was not a factor — whether calm or barking aggressively and lunging at them, coyotes see all intruders — what they consider intruders — in the same way and they want to move them away. Remember that they would do the same for intruder coyotes or even raccoons or foxes. It might be a good idea to think of a coyote as something like a skunk — do its bidding and get away from it rather than confront it.

      Another point, your dog sat down and watched the coyote. Again, try to think of the coyotes as seeing your dog as aggressively intruding in their space — and now holding its ground by sitting. I counsel everyone always to *move on*. Stopping to watch a coyote is the first in a sequence of predictable steps leading to a negative encounter. No matter how benign you think your dog is, this allowed for communication between the canines. Your dog obeyed you, not the coyote.

      Turning and going the other way quickly and decisively may not have allowed time for the other two coyotes to appear. Their growl was clearly an emphasis of their message to you: “leave!” If you had turned quickly and the two other coyotes were already there, I would have taken an intermediary path out of the area, but maybe that was not possible if you were by then “cornered”. The point is that your main goal should be to get away. Attempting to “haze” is just not in the cards for some people, and coyotes do acclimate to it so that they begin to ignore it. Some folks consider an acclimated coyote to be bold or aggressive and they want it killed. In the end, harassing should be strictly a personal choice as an option, but it’s not something to promote to the public.

      Reply

    • yipps
      Aug 07, 2016 @ 15:11:10

      Hi Judy —

      I should add that a growl is most often used to warn off danger from their young. You said the growl came from in back of you, which suggests the coyote you first encountered in front of you was a youngster which was being protected by a parent. That there were three coyotes indicates that one was a youngster. Also everyone should be aware that, very often when there is one coyote, another may very well be lingering close by, and that coyotes watch out for each other.

      Reply

  2. Mary Paglieri
    Aug 07, 2016 @ 21:31:02

    Hi Judy,

    Mary Paglieri here. People can do whatever they feel they need to do during an encounter with coyotes, but always keeping in mind that they need to be moving AWAY from the area. If you can avoid an encounter, by all means do it, by moving away. Creating distance will immediately diffuse any potentially difficult situation.

    You state: The coyote finally moved off to the side, which is what they usually do,however this time, as I walked on, I heard rustling behind me and turned to see two coyotes following us.

    My comment: The pair was “escorting” you and also assessing the situation to determine whether dog was a threat or not.

    You state: I stopped and faced them, my dog sitting calmly by my side. It was clear these two coyotes were not going to stand down. I started hazing, and they appeared to go away, only to reappear soon afterward behind me. This time they were crouched and growling – this is a first for me as I have had many encounters with coyotes over my lifetime.

    My comment: If you had continued walking without hazing, the coyotes would have stopped following when your dog was an acceptable distance away. Your hazing escalated the encounter, and this time the coyotes perceived your dog as a threat and growled and displayed threatening body language. They were no longer observing or assessing the situation – they were intent on driving your dog from the area.

    Dogs are highly social, pack animals with strong emotional connections to their humans and most likely, your dog mirrored your aggression towards the coyotes (could have been a slight change in your dog’s posture, or the position of the tail or ears, etc. something that is not detectable to humans, but speaks volumes to other canids), and that is what the coyotes picked up on.

    You state: I know where the den is – we were walking away from it – not toward it. I finally picked up a stick and was swatting the trees and branches around me, which finally drove the coyotes away.

    My comment: The fact that you were continuing to walk away from the den helped deescalate the encounter. The coyotes stopped following because they determined your dog was far enough away from the den to no longer be a threat. The beating of the branches/rustling of the leaves was just coincidental.

    It’s really important to read the situation from a canid point of view, not a human one.

    Hope this emphasizes the importance of avoidance.

    Best,
    Mary Paglieri
    Behavioral Ecologist
    Human-Animal Conflict Consultant
    http://www.littlebluesociety.org
    Behavioral Ecologist
    Human-Animal Conflict Consultant
    http://www.littlebluesociety.org

    Reply

  3. Mary Paglieri
    Aug 18, 2016 @ 02:00:34

    Hi Judy,

    It was brought to my attention that you are a representative of Project Coyote. I also understand that they encourage “hazing” coyotes until they leave an area. This is not appropriate advice, as you have seen from your own experience.

    People can and have (inadvertently) escalated encounters and created dangerous situations for their dogs and themselves by “hazing”.

    I first started applying scare tactics (now called “hazing”) to coyotes in 1999, it was specifically to be used when approached by a coyote (a frontal advance), and for it to be used sparingly, only in emergencies. However, “hazing” in the last few years has become a fad – it has been overused, and used incorrectly without a thorough understanding of coyote behavior, so that coyotes have habituated to it, and it doesn’t work in most situations depending on season and social status of the coyote, etc.

    I certainly hope Project Coyote will change their advice on hazing. Avoidance is the best policy for all the reasons I state here and in my prior post (above). Further, organizations can be sued if they instruct a person to haze, and the person incurs an injury while hazing a coyote. This was made really clear by presenters at the last Urban Coyote Symposium held on March 9, 2016.

    In addition, if a coyote does not respond to “hazing” (which is normal behavior), people are left with the wrong impression that the coyote is “really bold” and or “aggressive” – putting the coyote at risk for management action because of the false perception that was created about hazing being a “cure-all”. There has been a considerable backlash on hazing, not only in San Francisco, but in other areas as well:

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/sep/28/suburbs-clash-over-solutions-residents-battle-coyo/

    It’s time to change the hazing protocol for the safety of dogs, their owners and the coyotes.

    Mary Paglieri
    Behavioural Ecologist
    http://www.littlebluesociety.org

    Reply

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