Human Interference/Interactions with Coyotes

The Moraga/Lafayette coyote (or see PDF) we’ve all heard about and which is still on many people’s minds, should be seen as a strange anomaly: a single coyote apparently inflicting five bites over an 8 month period — something of this dimension has has not been heard of before. More than likely, there was human involvement in the way of hand-feeding and friendly interactions which may be at the core of what went on. A handful of innocent coyotes were put down before the “culprit” was identified. In other words, innocent animals were condemned. But also, even the “culprit” was simply following through on a trajectory initiated by humans.

I was sent the photographs below, along with a note from the photographer, in February of 2009 but I never published them because I found them very disturbing. Now might be the time to finally get them out there. And here is a video of a human playfully taunting and encouraging interaction with a coyote — the author calls it, “Coyote Attack: Best Footage Ever,” — he obviously published this video for its effect. You just have to look at it to see the coyote isn’t attacking at all so much as being incited by the human doing the videoing — the coyote is not snarling nor in attack mode. The videoer is almost playing tug-of-war-with the coyote as he extends out his foot. When I recently heard of a coyote going up, grabbing and then pulling on an individual’s pant leg, these are the things I thought about. You have to ask yourself, why ever would a coyote do that unless he had been incited by someone to do that?

Interactions with humans are what may lead to what happened at Moraga/Lafayette. This along with an innate higher feistiness of a particular coyote. Please don’t hand-feed or interact with coyotes for their sake as well as for ours. Although it might seem as though these interactions are benign, and most of the time they are innocent, there’s a lot more going on than that initial interaction, and in the end, it’s not good for anyone involved: coyote or human.

click on the photos to enlarge them and scroll through them

Coyotes in Whistler, BC
I happened onto your site. I have had a few interactions with the critters and have a series of photos of one of them. Here is a description of the episode.
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Coyotes at pit. My hand was attached to the fingers in the pic. This process took about 4 meetings. Only one was curious enough to get close, the other would only take a biscuit if I tossed it 30 feet from me. The curious one would come up (I had to be crouched, otherwise it would not come close) get close, sniff me and walk right around me.
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Hi ‘Coyotes in Whistler, BC’ —

Thanks for sharing your photos with me.

You know, I’m an advocate of coyotes and want people to know how to get along with them. One of the issues which comes up is feeding coyotes — especially hand-feeding them. This may cause them to eventually approach other people who are actually afraid of them. It could cause demand behavior.” Those people end up reporting “aggressive” and “dangerous” coyotes to the authorities, who then go out with guns to shoot them. So in fact, this kind of activity is discouraged by those of us who really like the animals.

I would love to post your photos and story on the blog, but it would be with the above advice, and that it is at the expense of the coyote that a person might engage in feeding them.

Please let me know if you would allow this. Thanks!! Janet

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Hi Janet —

I appreciate your advice and admonition.If you want to publish them as a bad example and it helps you get your point across, go ahead, it is a good cause.

Be An Ambassador for Proper Stewardship of Our Urban Coyotes


You’ll see coyotes on trails in parks and sometimes even on sidewalks in neighborhoods. These are normal urban coyote behaviors and don’t mean the coyote is sick or out to get you.

Guidelines are really simple: just keep your distance and move away, and KEEP MOVING AWAY from the coyote, especially if you have a dog (which more often than not needs to be leashed), but even if you don’t have a dog. Please don’t feed or try to befriend or try to interact with them.

These guidelines are not simply for your own safety — though they are for that too — they are also for the well-being and healthy stewardship of our urban coyotes who otherwise could be (and have been) turned into “stray dogs” who hang around, beg, and chase cars. They need to be kept and valued as the wild and wily critters they were born to be.

Note that too much human “love” is just as harmful to their well-being as a human culture of fear. In some pockets of San Francisco, the pendulum has swung from fear to too much love for coyotes, usually through feeding, coupled with befriending, trying to get near, attempting to communicate, or even prolonged mutual visual contact. This human behavior, over time, can ATTRACT coyotes and break down existing natural and healthy safety barriers, causing a coyote to hang around listlessly, chase cars, approach, and beg — instead of hunt.  It’s best to, ”love their wildness at a distance and maybe just out of the corner of your eye”.

Please be an ambassador for our urban coyotes and invite others into the fold. For further explanations about how human misguided friendliness can impact coyotes negatively, please see: Food: The Behavior Shaper, and  Demand Behavior.

Handling A Coyote Encounter: A Review

If you know this information, great! If you don’t, please review it. Also, help get it out there: no dog-owner should be without it. The chief issue folks have with coyotes is encounters with pets. These can be easily averted by walking away from them always, especially if you have a dog.

Here’s a flyer that I first designed and put out in 2014 as “How to Shoo Off A Coyote”. It has since morphed and been refined into its present form through watching hundreds and hundreds of coyote/pet/human encounters and observing what works best. I continue to subtly revise it to give you the guidelines that have proven to be the safest and most effective for avoiding incidents with pets. Please share this far and wide! “Leave no dog or dog-owner behind!” Pressing on the images below will enlarge them for better reading, or press the link below the images to read or download the pdf.  Janet

Here is a link for downloading the two sided PDF: Encounter GUIDELINES 2018