Saturday, April 13, 2019

Of Pears and Coyotes

Elvis, a male coyote, looking at the camera with his ears partway back.
Elvis, a GPS collared coyote.
Photo credit: Numi Mitchell, The Conservation Agency

One pleasant day in 2015, I found myself in a suburban yard, looking high and low for road kill, compost, dog food, and other common coyote attractants. I was with Dr. Numi Mitchell of the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study (NBCS) and we were tracking a coyote named Elvis; data from his GPS collar indicated he liked to visit this yard in particular. Neither one of us could figure out why Elvis was so interested in the yard; there was no large dumpster, no bowl of kibble, not even a compost pile! We were totally stumped – until we noticed the pears. There, scattered across the yard, were freshly fallen pears – each with a single coyote sized bite missing. We looked up, and lo, there was a pear tree, source of this bountiful harvest.

The thing about coyotes is, sometimes it’s hard to predict what they’ll eat. Their natural diet is mostly rodents, rabbits, and other small critters, but given the chance, they’re more than happy to eat delicious human food, pears included. And when they know such-and-such human house has food, they’re going to come back.

Nothing good comes of coyotes associating humans with food; inevitably it leads to aggressive, over-familiar coyotes creating problems throughout the neighborhood. There are no good endings for problem coyotes; for their sake as much as your own, it’s best to ensure you aren’t accidentally feeding coyotes.

So how do you keep coyotes out of your yard? Fear not, for there are a lot of simple steps you can take to keep food locked up and coyotes away! (CoyoteSmarts has additional tips and tricks here.)

Compost, Recycling, and Dumpsters
  • Make sure all dumpsters and garbage bins have a securely closed lid (use clips or bungee cords where appropriate)
  • Rinse cans and bottles before adding them to your recycling or use a covered recycling container
  • Use a compost bin with a secure lid

Fruit Trees
  • It’s rare, but there have been some cases of coyotes climbing trees
  • Promptly collect and dispose of any fruit that fall off the tree
  • If you think coyotes are climbing your trees, harvest them early

Pets and Pet Food
  • Cats and small dogs are the most vulnerable to coyotes, although even large dogs may be attacked if coyotes are in a territorial mood
  • Fences should be at least four feet tall and extend at least six inches below ground
  • Don’t leave pets alone outside, especially after dark
  • Catios and harness training are two great ways to let cats enjoy time outdoors without compromising their safety
  • Kibble is delicious! Don’t leave pet food outdoors where coyotes can reach; if you must feed your pets outdoors, make sure the food is elevated and hard to access (you may still run in to problem with raccoons, however)

  • Make sure chickens and other small animals have a secure enclosure
  • Guardian animals like llamas and livestock guardian dogs are a great deterrent 
  • Carefully dispose of carcasses where coyotes can’t access them

Want to know more? Visit CoyoteSmarts!
Learn more the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study here.

I wrote this post as part of my final project for a public engagement class. If you have a spare moment, I’d greatly appreciate it if you filled out an anonymous survey to help me improve my writing and outreach. Thank you!


  1. Thanks for all the work you guys do in your coyote study and research. Numi is the bomb.

  2. Remember now within 25 yards use a shotgun but if 100 yards use a .223