Urban Coyotes

Coyotes can be found throughout Iowa's landscape, including urban areas. They are a highly adaptable species that can survive in close proximity to humans and utilize the urban environment. They are often attracted to urban areas due to the availability of food such as fruits, birdseed, pet food, and garbage, as well as prey like rabbits, squirrels, and mice. As we approach the coyote mating season (January-February), they may become more aggressive in defending their territory, mates, and den sites. However, this aggression is typically directed towards other coyotes.

Coyotes will continue to exist in urban areas and utilize river systems, greenways, parks, and ditches. To reduce the risk of conflict with coyotes, there are several techniques that anyone can use in areas where coyotes are present.

Coyote

Urban Coyote Actions Steps

  • Removal of food handouts or food opportunities
    • Do not directly feed coyotes or any wildlife
    • Do not feed pets outside or immediately cleanup any leftover or spilled food
    • Contain garbage in a closed receptacle
    • Dispose of uneaten food from outdoor gatherings in the garbage
    • Do not dump food in backyards
    • Composting care:
      • Do not compost meat, poultry, fish, or dairy
      • Turn compost often to speed up the breakdown of food materials
      • Contain compost in a container that is not accessible to wildlife
  • Cleanup spilled bird feed
  • Cleanup any unused fruit from the ground from fruit trees

Keeping pets safe

  • Do not leave pets unattended outside
    • Outdoor cats and small dogs are potential prey items for coyotes and are detrimental to the environment
    • If pets are in a fenced in yard, be sure the fence is appropriate for keeping coyotes out
      • 5 to 6-foot fence with a ‘coyote roller’ type structure on top or 8 8-foot fence of material that is not climbable
  • Particularly in late winter, during the breeding season, and in spring, during the pup rearing season, coyotes will be more aggressive towards dogs. Keep dogs on a leash.
  • If a coyote is encountered while walking a dog, do the following:
    • Do not let the dog engage with the coyote
    • Keep the dog nearby or if it is a small dog pick it up
    • Haze the coyote according to the steps below

Hazing

  • Loud noises such as yelling, shaking a can of coins, whistles, pots and pans clanging, air horns, etc… directed specifically at the coyote from you
  • Make yourself look big by raising your arms in the air or waving an object in your hands
  • Throw objects toward the coyote such as sticks or balls
  • Use a garden house or squirt gun to spray water at the coyote
  • Haze loudly and aggressively. Do not chase the coyote, but let it know that you are serious
    • As with training dogs: Don’t ask it, tell it!  
  • Do not hide behind something when hazing: make sure the coyote knows it is a human that is hazing
  • Do not run away
  • Continue to haze until the coyote leaves
  • Haze anytime a coyote is seen in an area that it should not be
  • Do NOT haze a coyote if it appears sick/injured, is cornered, or is with pups

Report aggressive behavior to the local entity, Johnston Parks Department, John Schmitz at 515-727-8091.

  • A sighting of a coyote by itself is not reason for alarm: coyotes do live in cities
  • Sightings near dawn or dusk are to be expected and do not need to be reported
  • Frequent sightings during the day can be a sign of a more habituated coyote and should be reported
  • A coyote approaching people or pets should be reported
  • Report any sick or injured coyotes

For more information about coyotes or techniques to reduce negative interactions with coyotes, please reach out to Iowa DNR Biologist Andy Kellner at 515-975-8318, or Vince Evelsizer at 641-231-1522.