Tips for Pets
Dr. Schwartz on Coyote Attacks & Safety: Part 2
Tue, February 22nd, 2011


Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, MSc, DACVB

Read Part 1 of Dr. Schwart'z Coyote Safety Series here.

In case you missed it, watch Dr. Schwartz discuss coyote safety on NBC San Diego:

Recommendations for Pet Owners


We can’t change coyote behavior, but we can change our own habits. There are many simple things that we can do to discourage a coyote's approach, and to make their approach less rewarding:


  • Feed your pets indoors.
  • If your pet is fed outdoors, closely supervise during meals and promptly remove food dishes
  • Use refuse containers w/ tight-fitting lids.
  • Eliminate manmade ponds or fountains; these are easy watering holes for all wildlife and are particularly attractive to predators if they contain potential food like koi fish.
  • Keep small pets (all cats, rabbits, small or aging dogs) inside. Never let small or aging dogs out in your yard alone. Coyotes will learn their outing schedule and take advantage of any opportunity of easy prey.
  • If outdoors, keep in enclosed kennels with very high walls and preferably with an enclosed roof as well.
  • Discontinue use of doggy doors, particularly when you are absent and can’t monitor your pet’s whereabouts.
  • Block crawl spaces under homes, porches, decks and garden sheds; these make great places for coyotes to rest or rear their young.


Bring even large dogs inside after dark. Don’t leave them outside and unsupervised during the day time. Coyotes may hunt in pairs or packs and there are reports of group coyote attack large dogs, especially in the suburbs.  


  • Never allow your cats or dogs to run free at any time; they will attract coyotes to your neighborhood and are easy prey. Most outdoor cats simply disappear when coyotes discover them.
  • Leash walk your dog in high pedestrian, populated areas.
  • Bring a walking stick or cane as potential weapons on walks with or without your dog in more remote areas or if coyotes have been spotted in your neighborhood.
  • Avoid walking at dawn or dusk when coyotes are still most active.
  • Avoid walking or running with or without your dog at predictable times or along the same route. Remember, coyotes scope out the area, learn your schedule and wait in ambush.
  • Intentional food/water endangers entire neighborhood’s pets & children (will lose their fear)


Fences Make Good Neighbors


Coyotes are athletic and motivated hunters. They generally prefer to dig under fences or go through fence gaps (e.g. at gates). They can jump or climb fences, particularly at corners or where cross-braces provide a foothold. There is no such thing as a completely coyote-proof fence; however, there are some basic requirements that will help deter coyotes from invading your space:


  • Recommended fence height is a minimum of 5 and 1/2 feet (6 feet would be better)
  • Fences should be built higher on downward sloping terrain that might give them an advantage to clear the height
  • Install nets of  wire-mesh to secure spaces between bars of open fencing
  • Add an apron of galvanized wire-mesh to the bottom of fence 4 – 6 inches below the soil and extending outward at least 15 inches to deter digging.
  • Add a wire-mesh overhang of at least 18 inches slanted outward to the top of the fence to prevent climbing over the top.


Even when fencing fails to keep coyotes out, it will at least give you some idea of the weakness in your perimeter. For example, the coyote may have left evidence of where/ how she or he penetrated the fence (e.g. hair) so that you can fortify the barrier most effectively.


Additional Tips & Considerations


Coyotes are quick to adapt or habituate to sounds, flashing lights, scarecrows, propane cannons; sound or visual stimuli will only be temporarily effective, if at all. Motion-sensitive lights may deter coyotes from approaching initially, but will likely fail over time with sufficient incentive (food sources) to enter your property.


Some dog breeds (such as Great Pyrenees and others), and even llamas and donkeys, effectively defend against coyote predation of herds of sheep, for example. They are most effective when bonded to herd. This is best accomplished by raising the guardian animal with the herd they will eventually defend. Unfortunately, there are reports that coyote packs and mountain lions too may attack the guard animal itself.


Landscaping and greenery surrounding your home and yard provides potential food, water, shelter for coyotes:


  • Clear away thick vegetation:
    • Prune lower limbs branches of shrubs/trees to  2 ft
    • Remove brush to deprive coyotes or their prey of shelter or cover for ambush
  • Avoid plants that produce fruits or seeds; Pick fruit before it ripens and falls to the ground
  • Compost piles may attract rodents and other coyote prey; install a fence to exclude coyotes from foraging for grubs/ worms at your compost location
  • Bird feeders also attract predators; coyotes may prey on songbirds and, in addition, on the rodents or rabbits that come to feast on the spillage


What Do You Do If Approached by A Coyote?


Don’t behave passively, submissively or show your fear. Instead, challenge it and act with more confidence than you might actually feel. Experts advise that you act aggressively and try to frighten it away:


  • Shout in a deep voice and wave your arms
  • Spray w/ water hose, blow air horn
  • Throw rocks and other available objects
  • Carry pepper spray or even travel size hair spray in your pocket
  • Stare the coyote directly in eyes and maintain eye contact
  • If you are sitting, stand up
  • Spread open coat /vest to make yourself appear larger
  • Retreat by walking slowly backwards; DON’T turn your back on coyote


Removal of only a few problem coyotes from a local population may reinforce fear of humans in the remaining population. This can solve coyote problems in that locality for months or even year; BUT…it doesn’t stop other more brazen coyotes from moving in to occupy vacant territories. The best way to deter coyotes from injuring you or your pets or herd is to understand their behaviors and behave proactively. Remember, we can’t keep a coyote from being a coyote, but we can learn to minimize their success or incentives to enter our territories.


What To Do After a Coyote Attack


If you or your pet have been bitten or scratched by a coyote, wash the affected area immediately with soap and water. If the wound is deep, bleeding profusely, or exposes bone or major blood vessels and nerves, proceed immediately to the nearest veterinary or medical emergency center without delay.


Pets may survive the initial attack with minimal veterinary care or following intensive care treatment, depending on the severity of the initial trauma. Unfortunately, even surviving pets may die of infection or complications of their injuries days, weeks or months after the attack. Any coyote inflicted injury should be evaluated right away by an emergency clinician for you or your pet.


Rabies can be transmitted from an infected coyote or by handling your pet following attack by a rabid coyote’s saliva.  Most coyotes are healthy predators, but rabies is always a possibility so make sure that your pet’s rabies vaccine is current, too.


Report any incidents to local authorities (e.g. your local animal control agency or state Department of Fish & Game). They will appreciate your help in collecting data to better follow coyote trends in your area.

Coyote attacks on livestock should be reported to the county agricultural commissioner.


Warm wishes and please keep your friends safe!


Dr. Stefanie Schwartz is the staff veterinary behaviorist for California Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Schwartz sees patients at CVS in Carlsbad Monday through Wednesday. Appointments in Orange County are offered on Thursdays at The Veterinary Neurology Center in Tustin. To make an appointment at either facility, please contact CVS at (760) 431-2273. Read more about veterinary behavior and Dr. Schwartz by clicking here

Read more articles by Dr. Schwartz on her website:



Please note: This site is intended as a general information site only. We cannot offer advice or provide diagnosis or treatment protocols on a pet we've never seen. Our patients are seen by referral only from your primary veterinarian. If you have questions, please call us.