- Coyotes look like a cross between a fox and a small collie or German shepherd and weigh between 9 and 14 kilograms.
- They have a narrow nose, large ears and a bushy tail they hold low when running.
- Coyotes are highly curious, intelligent and adaptable.
- Coyotes primarily feed on rabbits, mice and squirrels.
- Because coyotes feed heavily on abundant rodent species, they provide a valuable pest-control service to their human neighbours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Coyotes in urban areas
Why do we see coyotes in the city?
- Coyote populations have increased in urban areas in recent years with individual coyotes showing modifications of typical behaviour in order to take advantage of available food and shelter while generally avoiding people.
- Many urban areas in Alberta have abundant natural areas and lie immediately adjacent to productive agricultural or other natural landscapes. Additionally, many urban areas contain river valleys that act as natural travel corridors for coyotes and other wildlife species.
- Coyotes readily access human food sources and these foods may make up to 30% of the coyote's diet. Coyotes typically access human foods at night and in areas with suitable cover to minimize the risk of encountering people.
- Some coyotes carry high parasite loads such as infection from sarcoptic mange and these individuals are more likely to utilize urban areas and consume human foods, risking human encounters in order to use less energy to forage and find shelter.
Why not remove coyotes from cities?
- Previous efforts to remove coyotes in other North American cities have failed.
- Conventional lethal control measures used to remove coyotes from cities have included live trapping and euthanasia, neck and leg snaring, poisoning, and shooting.
- These measures can pose serious health and safety risks when used in proximity to people and their pets. Additionally, coyotes are clever and perceptive and very quickly learn to avoid traps and snares.
- Removing individual coyotes or groups of coyotes only leaves a vacancy for others to fill.
What is being done about coyotes in the city?
- Since removing coyotes from urban areas involves techniques that can pose serious health and safety risks to people and their pets, modern wildlife management focuses on "aversive conditioning", which is a non-lethal control method.
- This practice attempts to change an animal's behaviour by making all human-coyote encounter unpleasant for the animal. This method only works if we all respond to coyote encounters aggressively.
Reducing conflicts with coyotes in urban areas
How can I reduce the chances of coyotes returning to my neighbourhood?
- If a coyote is returning to your neighbourhood, it is because shelter or easy meals are available there. Speak with your neighbours about prevention actions and work together to reduce attractants.
- Never feed coyotes. Feeding coyotes inevitably leads to unsafe situations that result in human injury or the death of the animal.
- Never unintentionally feed coyotes. Pet food, garbage and fruit fallen from trees might also be available. Reduce your chances of attracting coyotes by removing these items from your yard.
- Remove low branches on trees that can provide hiding places for coyotes or attract small animals, particularly near children's play areas.
- Keep a clean backyard by removing seeds, meat, suet for birds and fallen fruit. These attract mice and squirrels, which are prey for coyotes.
- Install motion-activated lights in your yard.
- Keep your cats indoors and don't let your dog play outside unsupervised.
- Always be sure to clean up dog feces as it attracts coyotes.
- Use a durable wire mesh to close off spaces under decks, patios and outbuildings. Keep all spaces that may be used as a shelter closed off and inaccessible to coyotes.
- Make sure your fence is in good repair. Holes in fences may attract curious coyotes into your backyard.
- Take your garbage out only on the morning of collection.
- Talk to your neighbours about following the same preventative measures.
What to do in a coyote encounter
What should I do if I see a coyote?
- If you encounter a coyote, make the experience unpleasant for the animal. Make it feel unwelcome in your neighbourhood. Even if you are not concerned about problems with coyotes, they should not feel comfortable around us or our homes.
- Respond to their presence aggressively by making yourself appear larger. Wave your arms overhead, or thrust long objects like a walking stick toward the coyote.
- Throw rocks, sticks or other objects toward the animal.
- Shout in a deep voice and maintain eye contact.
- If the coyote continues to approach, back away slowly and move toward buildings or human activity if the coyote continues to approach.
- Do not turn away or run. This will encourage the coyote to chase you.
- For situations involving aggressive encounters, phone the Report-A-Poacher number at 1-800-642-3800 and report the details.
Coyotes and children
What should I teach my child about coyotes?
- If you see a coyote, never run, even if you're scared.
- Yell at the coyote in an angry voice and make yourself look bigger by putting your arms in the air.
- Never approach coyotes or any other wildlife.
- Do not leave food for the coyotes.
- Never litter. Keep your home yard, school yards and parks clean.
- When walking the dog, always keep it on a leash. Pick up the dog feces to throw away in a garbage can.
- Make sure that you don't let the cat out.
Why do coyotes visit schoolyards?
- Coyotes visit schoolyards for the same reason they investigate backyards and laneways; they are searching for food, such as leftover lunches and food wrappers.
- Children should place litter in schoolyard garbage cans that have secure lids, or put all their litter in garbage cans indoors. Garbage containers should be cleaned out daily to reduce odours.
Is it normal to see coyotes in packs?
- In January and February, coyotes may gather in groups, looking for mates.
- They tend to be more territorial and aggressive toward dogs at this time of year. Coyotes may try to entice your dog away and attack it to eliminate the threat. Keeping your dog leashed at all times is the best way to keep it safe.
- In summer and fall, coyote families travel together in search of food.
- Coyote sightings may be more common in summer and fall as young animals explore their surroundings. People make more frequent use of urban parks and green belt areas during this time, which also increases the possibility of encounters.
Is it typical to see coyotes during the day?
- Coyotes tend to be most active between dusk and dawn. They usually spend the day resting in their dens, under low branches of trees or any other sheltered area.
- You may see coyotes at any time of the day as they can adapt their daily routines, especially if they learn to find reliable food sources at a particular time.
Your municipality and/or municipal district is authorized to help with coyote concerns.
To hear recorded information about coyotes on the Coyote Information Line:
Call a Fish and Wildlife officer through the Report-A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800:
- If you see a coyote that is so sick or injured it can't move
- If a coyote is behaving aggressively toward people, such as nipping or biting
To find contact information for a Fish and Wildlife office near you, see:
To download the Urban Coyote brochure, go to:
Additional information about the coyote species in Alberta.
- Coyote (Canis latrans)
To download in-depth information about coyote control from The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, published by the University of Nebraska, see:
Predator damage prevention information for agricultural producers, with a focus on coyote predation.