North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Coyote

Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Classification: Nongame
Abundance: Common throughout state

Species Profile(PDF)

Coexisting with Coyotes (PDF)

 

 

   
 

Coyote Additional Information

The coyote is native only in North America and, of all wild canine species, the coyote has the widest range in this country. This predator is arguably the hardiest and most adaptable species on this continent.

Coyotes in North Carolina look similar to red wolves, but coyotes are smaller, have pointed and erect ears, and long slender snouts. The tail is long, bushy and black-tipped and is usually carried pointing down.

Color is typically dark gray but can range from blonde, red, and even black. Size is also variable, but averages about 2 feet tall at the shoulder and 4 feet in length.

Adults are about the size of a medium-sized dog and weigh between 20 and 45 pounds.

The coyote is classified as a carnivore, but it is an opportunistic feeder, meaning it will feed on a variety of food sources, depending on what is most readily available and easy to obtain.

Primary foods include fruit, berries, rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They will scavenge on animal remains, including road-kill, as well as garbage and pet food left outdoors. Like many wild animals, the coyote’s diet varies with seasonal changes.

Coyotes survive anywhere there are abundant food sources. Their habitat can range from agricultural fields to forested regions and suburban neighborhoods.

Coyotes, like other wildlife, are adapting to the urban-suburban environment and are opportunistic in finding food and resources available in these places.

Learn more by reading the Coyote species profile.

Final Coyote Management Plan March 1, 2018 (PDF)

If you live in North Carolina, you’ve probably seen a coyote or know someone who has. Coyotes are an adaptive animal that first appeared in NC in 1980s.
The animals’ ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats, including suburban environments, along with human population growth across the state, has led to an increase in sightings.
While in most cases coyotes are harmless, people can take steps to prevent conflicts with these animals.


 

 

Photo by Melissa McGaw

 

Facts About Coyotes

  • Coyotes are monogamous, meaning they mate for life.
  • Sometimes one pup from the previous year’s litter will stay behind as a “helper” to help raise next year’s litter.
  • Female coyotes can adjust their litter size depending on the availability of resources in their territory. If there is an abundance of food and/or little competition from other coyotes in the area, they will have a larger litter of pups, and more pups will survive to independence.
  • To date, there have been no documented attacks on humans by non-rabid coyotes in North Carolina.
  • In a recent review of coyote attacks on humans from 1970-2015, Baker and Timm (2017) documented 367 attacks by non-rabid coyotes in the United States and Canada, two of which were fatal. In comparison, 4.5 million dog bites occur nationwide annually; in 2016 alone, 31 dog bites resulted in fatalities (Bennett 2017).

     

Baker, R. O., and R. M. Timm. 2017. Coyote attacks on humans, 1970-2015: implications for reducing the risks. HumanWildlife Interactions 11(2):120-132.

Bennett, A. 2017. State Farm: North Carolina ranks 14 for dog bites. The News and Observer. 10 April 2017

Preventing Conflicts With Coyotes

  • Secure garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids and take them out in the morning of pick up, not the night before. Coyotes and other wildlife will scavenge trash when it is available to them.
  • Don’t feed or try to pet coyotes. Feeding a coyote rewards that animal for coming in close proximity to people. Once a coyote becomes habituated, it loses its natural wariness of people and may become bold or aggressive.
  • Protect your pets by keeping them inside, leashed, or inside a fenced area.
  • Install coyote-proof fencing around your home to protect unsupervised pets. Fencing should be at least 6 feet tall and provide a full barrier along the ground that prevents animals from digging under. 
  • Feed pets indoors or remove uneaten food and bowls when your pet is finished eating. Coyotes and other wildlife are attracted to pet food left outdoors.
  • Keep bird-feeder areas clean. Use bird feeders that keep seed off the ground. Coyotes are attracted to the small animals that congregating to eat fallen seed, and may eat the bird seed directly. If coyotes are frequently seen in the area, remove all feeders.
  • Close off crawl spaces under sheds and porches. Coyotes and other wildlife may use these spaces for resting and raising young.
  • Cut back brushy edges in your yard, which provide cover for coyotes.
  • Don’t be intimidated by a coyote. Maintain its natural wariness of people by throwing a small object such as a tennis ball toward it, making loud noises, or spraying it with a water hose. Let coyotes know they are unwelcome near your home.
  • Clear fallen fruit from around fruit trees. Coyotes are omnivorous and regularly consume fruit as part of their diet.
  • Educate your neighbors. Your efforts to prevent coyote conflicts will be less effective if some neighbors are still providing foods.

 

What To Do If You Encounter A Coyote

  • Stand tall and be assertive.
  • Haze the coyote until it leaves the area. Hazing can be done by waving your arms, making loud noises and/or throwing small objects in a coyote’s direction. To learn more about hazing, watch this “How to Haze a Coyote” video by Wisconsin Public Health.
  • Do not run away. Running away from a coyote could trigger its instinct to chase.
  • Report overly aggressive coyotes. If a coyote fails to respond to direct hazing or acts aggressively for no reason, report this to your local animal control. Animal control cannot remove coyotes for being in the area, but may respond if a wild animal is posing an immediate threat to human safety.

 

What You Need To Know During Pup-Rearing Season

Coyotes mate around February-March and give birth between April-May. While raising young, coyotes are more active and will protect their den from potential predators. Coyotes that usually avoid confrontation with humans or dogs may display more territorial behaviors by vocalizing or even “escorting” people or pets out of their territory. An example of escorting would be if a coyote is walking along a wood line and watching from a distance until you leave the area.

 

  • Hazing during pup-rearing season is not always productive. While hazing usually works to scare a coyote away, this does not always work if a coyote is defending its den or young. If you come across a coyote between February -June that seems intent on defending a specific area, there could be a den nearby. In this situation, it is best to leave the area calmly.
  • Pay attention to coyote sightings in local media and on neighborhood message boards. Keep an eye (and ear) out for coyote activity in your area. If there is a specific area where a coyote has frequently been sighted, avoid the area if possible until pup-rearing season is over.
  • Remove outdoor food sources such as unsecured garbage, food scraps, compost piles, and pet food. Coyotes and other wildlife will be attracted to these food sources if available.
 

 

Safety Tips For Pet Owners

Coyotes are rarely interested in humans, but pets can draw their attention. Large dogs can be viewed as a threat or competition, while smaller dogs and cats may be viewed as a potential food source.

  • Never leave pets outside and unattended.
  • Keep your dog on a 6-foot leash. This length is long enough to let your dog have some freedom but not so long that you can’t easily control it should the need arise.
  • Avoid walking your dog in areas known to have coyote activity, especially during breeding and pup-rearing season (February - May).
  • Be alert when walking your dog near sunrise and sunset. This is the time of day when coyotes are most active.
  • Stick to trails and open paths and avoid areas with thick brush. Staying on the trail in open areas gives you plenty of time to spot and react to a coyote.
  • Avoid feeding pets outside.
  • House backyard livestock in secure and protected coops/pens.
  • Consider installing a coyote-proof fence (at least six feet tall with an outward extension or a “coyote roller ” bar at the top).

 

How To Help Your Neighbors Become Coyote Smart

  • Hang coyote awareness flyers in your neighborhood:
  • Share information directly with your neighbors.
  • Host a coyote awareness workshop for your neighbors and friends. Working together as a community is a powerful way to prevent conflicts with coyotes.
  • Take part in neighborhood message boards and provide links to useful information about coyotes.
 

 

What To Do If A Coyote Has Caused Property Damage Or Not Responding To Hazing

Eradicating coyotes from an area is not a practical or effective long-term solution. However,  there are options to remove individual animals that are causing problems. Trapping and hunting can be an effective tool to remove a coyote that has become habituated to humans or when non-lethal techniques have failed to work. If you are unable to trap or hunt yourself, here are some options/resources.

 

 

 

Want To Learn More About Coyotes?

North Carolina Coyote Management Plan (PDF)

Coyote Smarts

Urban Coyote Initiative

What To Do If You See A Coyote (Video)

Information on Coyote Workshops for 2017

For additional questions about coyotes, contact the NC Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401.