Coyotes here to stay, but you can take steps to deter them

The sight of a coyote in Johnson City may be unusual for some, but the animals are a constant presence all across North America.

For many folks, the sight of a coyote loping across a Johnson City street or through their backyard might be unusual, but in truth, coyotes are very common in our area.

In fact, this is true anywhere you go in North America, from Alaska all the way down to Central America. If you view coyotes as a problem, Matthew Cameron – a wildlife information specialist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency – said you need to come to terms with the fact it is a problem that isn’t going away.

“Probably the most important things for people to remember is that coyotes are here to stay,” Cameron said in an email to the News & Neighbor. “They do really well in an urban environment, and we must learn to coexist with them.”

Humans generate a lot of garbage.  We throw away a lot of food in our trash, which draws in rats, raccoons, opossums, and other scavengers.  This in turn draws in predators, including coyotes.  

A good example of their prevalence is that New York City is home to a large population of coyotes, and the city limits of Chicago has an estimated 2,000 coyotes living there.  They are known to come into the city streets at night and prey on rats. 

If they are going to survive in the nation’s largest cities, then Tennessee’s cities should expect to live alongside them as well.  In the words of Frank Sinatra, “If they can make it there, they’ll make it anywhere…New York, New York.”

Cameron offers some helpful tips for folks who discover coyotes on their private property.

• Do not feed coyotes! When coyotes begin associating humans with food they lose their natural fear and may become dangerous.   

• Eliminate water sources.  These areas attract rodents, birds, and snakes, which the coyote will prey upon. 

• Position bird feeders so coyotes cannot get to the feed.  Coyotes may also be attracted to birds and small mammals that have been lured in by the feeder. 

• Do not discard edible garbage. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat any table scraps.  

• Secure garbage containers.  Use trash barrels with lids that clamp down tight even when tipped over. 

• Do not place traashcans out the night before scheduled pick-up.  Placing cans out in the morning before pick-up will give coyotes less time to scavenge. They will not have the cover of darkness. 

• Do not leave barbecue grills outside and uncovered. The smell of the grill and the contents of the grill’s drip pan attracts coyotes. 
• Feed pets indoors whenever possible.  Remove any leftovers if feeding outdoors.   Store pet food in areas not accessible to other animals. 

• Clear brush and weeds from around your property.  This deprives the coyotes’ prey (small mammals and birds) of the protective cover and deters coyotes from hunting around your property. 

• A fenced yard may deter coyotes.  The fence must be at least 6 feet high.  Preferably the bottom of the fence should extend 6 inches below ground level.

• Do not allow pets to run free.  Provide secure housing especially at night.  Small pets (cats, rabbits, small dogs) may be preyed on by coyotes. 

• Discourage coyotes from frequenting your area.  Harass them by throwing rocks, shouting, and making loud noises when one is seen. 

TWRA laws offer very little protection for coyotes.  The hunting and trapping seasons are open year-round with no limit on coyotes and interestingly enough, coyote and other predator hunting is seeing an increase in participation.  

Many call manufacturers are marketing electronic and mouth calls for coyotes.  Coyotes, however, are very intelligent animals and learn quickly from a hunter’s mistakes, making them harder to kill after getting educated.  Also, for coyote problems on private property, there are several licensed wildlife damage control agents that can trap and remove nuisance animals for a fee.  See for more info

The heart of the matter is, in general, coyote population control throughout the range of the species has been ineffective.  Also bear in mind that even if a problem coyote is removed from a population, another one is ready to take its place.  It then stands to reason that we, as responsible citizens, must change our behavior by reducing coyotes’ access to food sources (remove attractants like food scraps or leftover pet foods, build better domestic animal cages to exclude coyotes access). 


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