Is Shooting Coyotes Really the Answer?


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Q: I don’t know what to do about the coyotes who live in our area. I’m worried about out small dogs in the yard and our cats. I guess shooting them is the only way. —R. A., Cyberspace

A: Do nothing about the coyotes—let ’em be. You’re the problem, not the wildlife. Although, you’re not alone in your opinion of coyotes. According to a National Geographic story, coyotes are the most hated animal in America.

Shoot coyotes? First, it’s likely illegal where you live (at least I hope it is). If you have children, you’re effectively teaching them that guns are a way out of any problem. I believe many are supporting that notion these days. However, I’m unsure how evolved we are if weapons that can kill another are the appropriate first response. 

Obviously, if you shoot at a coyote, you might not kill it, and the injured animal could be left to suffer for days or weeks before dying. What if your aim isn’t as precise as you’d like it to be? Human bystanders do get shot every year when neighbors are aiming at a raccoon or coyote. Shooting them is not only inhumane, in my opinion it’s also immoral unnecessary.

So many are quick to judge people who live in places like east Africa, where a herd of elephant may trample on your crops or even your home. Can you imagine? And here you are complaining about coyotes, which aren’t going to hurt you. I get it: Pets are family members, and harming them is harming a member of our family. But it’s easy enough to protect them.

I’ve never heard of a coyote with house keys. If the cats are indoors, they’re safe. And coyotes don’t attack dogs if there’s an adult supervising at the end of a six-foot leash.

I understand cats who have been outdoors their entire lives may not be so eager about moving inside. But, by creating a more stimulating environment indoors, many cats adjust. And sometimes older cats appear grateful for the opportunity to “cat-tire.”

As for the dogs, I understand that it’s easier to allow them to roam your yard. But, especially since you have small dogs, when coyotes are around, you’re subjecting your dog to possible attack. And I honestly don’t blame the wildlife, I blame the people who take the lazy way out.

Coyotes aren’t typically brazen enough to threaten human adults. If one doesn’t scamper off as you approach with a pup on leash, holler “Go Away!” Employ a technique called hazing. Where there many coyotes, concerned citizens might blow a whistle, or toot a bicycle horn or anything that can make a loud noise.

And, you can protect your yard against coyotes. Coyote-proof fences are either at least eight feet tall and made of a material that coyotes cannot climb or at least six feet tall with a protective device on top, such as a coyote roller, that rolls off any coyotes that try to scramble over the fence. Do-it-yourself piping or chicken wire to the top of your fence also can prevent coyotes from getting the foothold they need to make it over. To prevent coyotes from digging under a fence, make sure the fence extends at least 12 inches underground.

Coyote roller

Understand coyotes won’t be as motivated to enter our yards if people in the neighborhood (not only you) don’t feed them, and when a potential dinner from our trash cans becomes unavailable by using tight-fitting, coyote-poof lids, and don’t allow pets in yards unsupervised.

Wolf urine may further deter coyotes. Just spray the wolf urine around the perimeter of the yard.

Of course, the coyotes are only trying to survive. They don’t get up in the morning thinking, “How can I make humans hate me?”

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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