Coyotes are remarkably adaptable and resourceful animals. They help to maintain the natural balance in landscapes where traditional predators no longer exist. Urban coyotes in particular provide a valuable service to us by helping to control populations of animals that might otherwise become problematic, such as rats and Canada geese. With greater understanding and mutual respect, we can coexist with coyotes.
Conflicts between coyotes and humans often revolve around food. Never feed coyotes! This can cause coyotes to lose their natural fear of humans (a process known as “habituation”), increasing the chance of conflict.
Aggression by coyotes towards humans is extremely rare and almost always involves habituated animals. It is not normal behaviour.
If a coyote approaches you:
- stand tall, wave your arms and shout at it
- do not make direct eye contact, which can be perceived as a threat
- pick up small children (or small pets) to make them appear less vulnerable
- do not turn your back or run – just like dogs, coyotes may chase you if you run
- back away slowly while continuing to shout, wave.
Teach your children to react the same way, and to let you know immediately if they have seen a coyote (keep in mind that small children may not be able to tell the difference between a wild coyote and a neighbourhood dog).
Dealing with coyotes near your home
If you see coyotes near your home, make sure they have no reason to hang around:
- keep pets inside or closely supervised, take down any bird feeders, secure your trash and other attractants (e.g. barbeque)
- let the coyotes know that they’re unwelcome by shouting and waving your arms at them, clanging pots or pans, playing loud music or (if they’re close enough) and spraying them with water from a hose
- homemade rattles made out of empty pop cans and pebbles may also be effective when shaken or tossed towards (not directly at) the coyote
- let your neighbours know what’s going on, so that they can take similar steps
- carry a flashlight when walking at night and avoid wooded areas, especially when there have been coyote sightings.
Coyotes and domestic animals
Coyotes are naturally aggressive towards dogs, which they typically consider either as prey or as competitors. Dogs that are smaller than coyotes are usually seen as prey, and may be attacked at any time of year. Larger dogs are mostly at risk during the coyotes’ breeding season (January-April) due to increased territorialism in defence of mates and pups. Keep dogs on leash when walking them near parks or natural areas, and supervise them closely when letting them out at night.
Who should I call when I see a coyote?
Aggressive behaviour by a coyote towards a human should be reported immediately to the Ottawa Police Service by calling 9-1-1.
If you have been bitten or scratched by a coyote, please call Ottawa Public Health, (or 3-1-1 after hours) to speak with a Public Health Inspector.
All other coyote sightings should be reported to 3-1-1, so the City can track the locations of the animals.
For more information, consult the following links: