MDC warns pet owners that encounters with coyotes are possible this time of year

The breeding season for coyotes begins in February, making them more active at this time of year. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says it’s important to be vigilant with pets during this time in areas where coyotes are known to live.

Unlike many other types of wild animals, coyotes adapt particularly well to human development and coexist with humans in many places. These areas can include municipal parks and other urban green spaces, golf courses, cemeteries, suburban wooded common areas, and even within housing estates themselves.

As a result, encounters may occur between these wild dogs and people’s pets. Coyotes have also been known to occasionally attack small dogs. Coyotes may attack pets not as a food source, but rather because they see them as territorial competition.

One of the secrets to the coyote’s survival success is its diet. As scavengers, coyotes will eat just about anything, including foxes, groundhogs, mice, rabbits, squirrels, fruits, vegetables, birds, insects, carrion (dead animals ) and regular household waste.

Coyotes usually breed in February and March. Females give birth to four or five young about 60 days later.

Since food requirements increase dramatically during pup rearing, encounters between humans and urban coyotes are most common from April through May. At this time, coyotes move around more, search for food, and may act more aggressively toward any animal they see as potential competition, such as family dogs.

So how do you minimize encounters between coyotes and humans? These three elements are essential: food, scare tactics and vigilance.

First, make sure your yard or property does not have food sources that are easily accessible to coyotes. If food is deliberately or inadvertently provided by humans, adult coyotes and their young quickly learn not to fear humans and will develop a dependency on these easy food sources. MDC urges dog and cat owners not to leave pet food out, to tightly cover all trash cans, and to consider waiting to take out trash cans as close to pick-up time as possible.

Also consider bird feeders. While coyotes are generally not interested in bird food, bird feeders attract rodents, especially squirrels, which in turn attract coyotes.

MDC recommends the use of scare tactics to instill fear of humans in coyotes. If a coyote approaches or is seen in the yard, owners should do everything possible to make it feel unwelcome. This may include shouting or making other loud, threatening noises, throwing rocks, smashing garden sheds or blowing car horns. If its encounter with humans is unpleasant, a coyote will be less likely to return.

Finally, vigilance regarding pets is extremely important. MDC warns that pet owners should not leave their pets outside unattended, especially during dusk, night and dawn hours. These are the times when coyotes are most active. Owners should be with their pets and have them in view at all times during these times.

Installing a fence around yards can also help. Fences should be at least six feet high and dug into the ground six inches deep, so that nimble and resourceful dogs cannot jump or dig under them.

For more information on managing nuisance coyotes, go to in a free pamphlet which you can obtain by writing to: Controlling Conflicts with Urban Coyotes in Missouri, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102. Or by e-mail This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Coyotes usually breed in February and March. MDC says it’s important to be vigilant with pets
this time of year in areas where coyotes are known to live.

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