Are Coyotes Dangerous to Humans?


With more and more coyotes venturing into urban and suburban areas, I have recently received quite a few emails about whether coyotes are dangerous to humans.

Although attacks on people are rare, they are becoming increasingly common as coyotes are more frequently found in urban areas. Coyotes are wild animals, and there have been approximately 350 attacks on people since records began. Children are more at risk than adults due to their size. 

I wanted to find out how dangerous coyotes can be to humans and how we can minimize any danger from them. I also wanted to provide some information on what to do if we come across them in the wild.

Did you know that deer are one of the deadliest animals in North America?  Find out what the other 9 are here

How Dangerous Are Coyotes To Humans?

Although coyote attacks are rare on humans, they do happen and are becoming more frequent. 

Between 1976 and 2006, there were at least 160 attacks on adults and children.  To give some insight as to the increase of aggression, in the five years between 1998 and 2003, there were as many attacks as there had been in the previous nine years between 1988 and 1997. 

Due to the small size of coyotes compared to most adult humans, they rarely cause severe injuries to adults.  Coyotes generally do not hunt in packs large enough to injure a full-grown adult seriously.

Because of the child’s size, many attacks have taken place on children. There were 83 attacks between 1978 and 2018.  Between 1978 and 2003, there were 35 attacks on children that would have been likely serious or fatal if the child had not been rescued from the coyote attack.

There have been approximately 130 attacks on adults since records began in 1978 with very few serious injuries.  A lot of these attacks happened to pet owners where a coyote had attacked the dog.  The owners then tried to defend their dog, causing the coyote to attack them as well.

Although these statistics show that coyotes’ attacks do happen, they are very uncommon in North America, with just over one attack a month.

If you want to know if a coyote has been in your yard, I have written an article on how to check here. It also has helpful hints on how to get rid of them safely

Where Do Most Coyote Attacks Happen?

Most coyote attacks happen in California. There have been attacks in New York, Colorado, Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Texas, and throughout the U.S.

In Canada, most coyote attacks have taken place in British Colombia and Ontario but have also occurred in Nova Scotia, Alberta, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

Coyotes are now found across much of North America and have slowly expanded into urban and metropolitan areas.  Although the public has expressed concern about this increasing interaction, we can see from the above statistics that the threat is negligible.

However, fear is still warranted, and there are several things that we can do to make sure that we reduce our risk of attack.

Do you know if coyotes can swim? Find out here

How To Minimize Risk Of A Coyote Attack?

Coyotes live throughout most of North America from Texas up to New York, but there are places such as California where they are more prevalent.

When walking pets, do not let them run loose

Many attacks on humans have happened while owners have protected their pets that have been attacked while off the leash.

Keeping your dog on a 6-foot leash not only protects them from any harm before you can get to them but also harm to yourself by attempting to get the pet back from the jaws of a wild coyote.  A 6-foot leash gives the dog plenty of space to enjoy their walk while allowing you to keep an eye on them.

Do not run from a coyote

If you encounter a coyote, the worst decision you can make is to run away from it.  A coyote is a prey animal and will likely see you as their next meal.

The best way to deal with a coyote is to stand tall and to scare it away.  This can be done by stamping your feet, using a noise shaker, opening an umbrella, or even shouting at it. If the coyote runs away but then turns around and stands its ground, do the same thing until it eventually leaves.

Although this may seem unkind, a coyote that gets too bold around humans is likely to cause trouble and may eventually be destroyed by the authorities.  If the month is between February and July, the coyote may be defending their den site.  In these months, it may be better to back up while keeping eye contact with them.

Do not feed coyotes

Coyotes that are being fed lose their fear of humans and will get bolder around humans.  A coyote without fear may go on to see a human as prey. 

Bird feeders can bring coyotes to the neighborhood. Although they will generally not eat the bird food, they will eat other animals and birds that these bring to the area.  By keeping coyotes away from your land, you are effectively keeping larger predators away as well.

Garbage and pet food should also be kept away from the outside of the property to minimize the risk of bringing large animals and coyotes to the area. 

Make sure to report any aggressive or unintimidated coyotes immediately

Most towns and cities have a procedure in place for residents to report coyote behavior. The coyote should be reported to the officials as soon as possible to ensure that there are no attacks that could have been avoided.  If a coyote shows signs of aggression such as growling, snarling, lunging, or agitated barking, the authorities should be notified immediately. 

Have There Been Any Recorded Deaths From A Coyote Attack?

There have been two recorded instances in Canada and the United States of a coyote killing a human.  In 2009 in Nova Scotia, Canada, a 19-year-old woman was attacked by a coyote while hiking. 

As this was such a rare occurrence, experts initially believed that the coyotes might have been rabid or crossed with wolves.  Other reasons put forward for the attack were that she had tried to feed them or had disturbed a den with young coyotes. 

Later that day, a warden on duty killed a female coyote that acted aggressively.  Four other coyotes were killed, with three of the animals trapped within 1 km of the trail the hiker was on.  5 Kms away, a 19kg (42 pounds) coyote was killed a few days later. 

Forensic investigation of these five bodies showed blood on their coats and other evidence linking them to the hiker.  The large coyote was found standing over the body when others found the hiker.

The only other confirmed killing was of a three-year-old girl from Glendale, California, in 1981.  The young girl was in her driveway when the coyote struck and dragged her across the street.  She was taken to the local medical center but died later from her wounds.

How do coyotes protect themselves from predators? Find out here

Are Coyotes Friendly To Humans?

A coyote named Cliff in Newport, Rhode Island was made a celebrity by residents after walking around the town.  The residents’ kindness had turned Cliff into a potential danger to the locals and tourists to the town. 

Neighbors had been feeding the coyote, which was encouraging him to live in the urban area.  The coyote had lost all of his fear of people and approached people in the streets.  Although coyotes do not normally prefer human food, Cliff had worked out how to open a dumpster behind the local restaurant to get the leftover food.

Due to this, the residents of Middletown, Newport, decided that he needed to be removed from the area.  The residents realized that he had become an unpredictable threat as they understood that he could harm people. 

Cliff was given his name after being caught near Newport’s Cliff Walk.  Authorities moved the coyote to another part of Rhode Island, but due to his interactions with humans, it was unknown whether he would survive in the wild.

Are Coyotes More Dangerous Than Wolves?

There have been two verified documented deaths from healthy wolves, but many more unverified deaths.  Wolves are more likely to shy away from an encounter with a person, but they can quite easily kill if hungry. 

Coyotes do not see humans as prey as they are too small to kill an adult.  Thus, coyotes are not as dangerous as wolves, even though coyotes are common in suburban areas and rural areas.  This places the coyote in more direct contact with humans than the wolf. 

As coyotes see humans more, they do not get scared when they do, whereas a wolf may attack when it gets scared.

If you would like to know the difference between a coyote and a wolf, I have written an article which you can find here

Are Coyotes Dangerous To Dogs And Cats?

Coyotes are dangerous to small dogs and cats.  Coyotes will not normally attack large dogs but have been known to.  As well as bites that can hurt your pet, coyotes can also transmit infectious diseases. 

Rabies is just one of many on the list, along with parvovirus, hepatitis, and others. 

How To Keep Your Dog Safe From Coyotes While Walking Them

  • Keep your pet on a 6-foot leash.  Please do not use a retractable leash as they can stray out of sight.
  • Coyotes are most active between sunset and sunrise so try to walk your dog outside of these times.
  • Do not let your dog into the yard between sunset and sunrise without supervision.
  • If you have to let your dog off the leash, make sure they have good recall and come back when you call them.

If you would like to know what coyotes eat, I have written an article here.

I hope that this information has given you more of an insight into coyotes.  They are not overly dangerous to an adult human, but you have to remember they are wild animals.  With more and more sighted in suburban areas, the information given above will hopefully keep you and your pets safe.

For more information on coyotes, I have written a complete guide, which you can find here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Nature.

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