Coyotes are native to the Midwestern prairies and have always been found in Colorado's Front Range. They are highly intelligent, adaptable animals and are therefore one of the few species of that has been able to expand its range, even as natural areas and other species decline in numbers.
After decades of development, coyotes have become more urban as multiple generations of offspring have been born in cities. People, houses, pets, and cars are a normal part of their lives. An urban coyote has a completely different lifestyle than a coyote living in a rural area and has been raised by its family to survive in cities.
Feeding coyotes, either on purpose or accidentally, is the biggest culprit in creating problems. Coyotes in our urban environment have become used to living in close proximity to humans and associate people with food, reducing their natural wariness in interactions with people and pets. Every time a coyote sees a person and nothing happens, it increases their boldness and comfort in closer interactions.
Coyotes are naturally curious but timid and will normally run away if confronted, making attacks on humans are rare. In most cases, these attacks occur as a result of people feeding coyotes or habituating them in some manner. A coyote that associates humans with food may become demanding and aggressive. By feeding coyotes you put yourself, your neighborhood and the animals at risk. It is unlawful to feed or intentionally attract coyotes in most urban areas.
Make sure you can identify a coyote: they are brownish-gray with light gray to reddish cream-colored belly. Look for long legs, pointed nose and ears, and a bushy tail with black tip.
Discourage a coyote from approaching:
- Make yourself big and loud
- Wave your arms, clap your hands and throw objects (if available) at the coyote
- Shout with a loud and authoritative voice
- Do not run or turn your back on a coyote, face the coyote and back away slowly
- Teach children not to approach or feed any unknown animals
- Pick up small children if a coyote is nearby
While people are rarely in danger, coyotes can and do target pets as both competition and potential food sources. Human pets are often not adapted to protect themselves from wild animals and can be much easier targets than normal prey. Making educated coyote-management decisions regarding your pets is the best way to protect them.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has the final say on the lethal action regarding coyotes. It's been proven to be a short-term solution with long-term problems. When territory is vacated, coyotes are attracted to it, and coyote litters will increase in size to fill the territory (a single coyote can have up to 12 pups). Removing the pack leaders can lead to multiple packs forming with more females able to breed. There are often increases in the overall size of a local population, leading to increased fighting for territory and greater numbers of young animals causing problems for the community.
Relocating coyotes has been proven to be completely unsuccessful. They are notoriously difficult to trap and will travel huge distances to return to the area. Additionally, it is illegal in the state of Colorado to relocate urban coyotes.
Exclusion techniques --techniques to both remove attractants to coyotes and to discourage coyotes from entering unsuitable locations-- are currently the most successful tool in reducing coyote problems and populations in cities. It must be conducted on a community-wide level to see large improvements but even individual efforts can “teach” local coyotes which yards, parks, and people to avoid. Long term reduction in food sources for coyotes is the most effective means to reduce population size.
Hazing coyotes has proven to be the most effective method for instilling the healthy and natural fear of humans back into the coyotes. Coyotes are quick learners and consistent negative experiences can teach them to avoid people.
The Parks and Recreation Department/Natural Resources, in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourage residents and city staff to use exclusion techniques on coyotes.
Exclusion techniques are not a quick fix. Relate this to never saying no to a child. The first time they hear it they won’t understand or believe it. Use the below techniques consistently over time as the most effective means to establishing appropriate human/coyote interactions:
- Individuals and groups of people responding and hazing whenever they see a coyote. Yelling, waving arms, acting aggressively, spraying with hoses, using noisemakers, vinegar water squirt guns will all make a coyote uncomfortable around people. Haze UNTIL THE ANIMAL LEAVES.
- Remove all human sources of food:
- Keep trash and compost inaccessible
- Pick up fallen fruit in yards
- Clean under bird feeders
Protecting your Family
- Never allow a coyote between you and a pet or child. A coyote will not want to get involved with a person
- Do not let cats run freely in neighborhoods
- Supervise small dogs and children when outside
- Keep all pets inside at night or in a completely enclosed kennel, as this is when coyotes are most active
- Maintain fences so coyotes cannot slip underneath. Add deterrents to the tops of fences that reduce a coyote’s ability to grab on and pull themselves up and over; coyote rollers and wire extensions can discourage animals attempting to breach fences
- Install motion activated lights in back yard. Keep lights on when dogs are outside
- Visually inspect yard before allowing any pet outside
Download the full Urban Coyote Information Sheet(PDF, 625KB)
Download the Urban Coyote FAQ(PDF, 433KB)
Learn about DPR's Coyote Volunteer Program(PDF, 121KB)