Are Coyotes Dangerous to Humans?


Watching a wildlife show about coyotes the other day I noticed that they hadn’t mentioned whether coyotes could be dangerous to humans.  I wanted to do some research into whether coyotes are a danger to humans and if so what we can do to protect ourselves.

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.  Although attacks on people are rare, they are becoming increasingly more common as coyotes are more frequently found in urban areas.

I wanted to find out how dangerous coyotes can be to humans and how we can minimize our encounters with them. I also wanted to provide some information on what to do if we come across them in the wild or an urban environment.

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 attacks, 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 the coyote compared to most adult humans, they rarely cause severe injuries to adults.  Coyotes generally do not hunt in packs large enough to seriously injure a full-grown adult but can be very dangerous to children. 

Because of their small size, a lot of attacks have taken place on children with 83 attacks between1978 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 the coyote had attacked the pet.  The owners then tried to defend their dog causing the coyote to attack them as well.

These statistics show that although 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 the United States with the majority occurring in the Western state of California, but there have been attacks all over the United States in New York, Colorado, Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Texas, and most other states.

In Canada, the majority of coyote attacks have taken place in British Colombia and Ontario but have also happened in Nova Scotia, Alberta, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

Coyotes are now found across much of North America and have slowly been expanding 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 they risk to humans is small.

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

How To Minimize Risk Of A Coyote Attack?

As we have discovered coyotes are over most of North America from the Southernmost state of Texas up to New York, but there are places such as California where they are more prevalent, and there have been more attacks on humans and pets. 

When walking pets do not let them run loose

A lot of the attacks on humans have been caused while protecting 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 and possibly rabbit coyote.  The 6-foot leash gives the dog plenty of space to enjoy their walk whilst the owner can keep eye contact with 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 goes away. 

Although this may seem unkind, a coyote that gets too bold around humans is likely to cause trouble and eventually be killed by the authorities.  If the month is between February and July it is possible that the coyote will be defending their den site.  In these months it is better to back up without losing sight of them.

Do not feed coyotes

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

Bird feeders can bring coyotes to the neighborhood as although they will generally not eat the bird food; they will eat the rodents such as squirrels that these bring to the area.  By keeping coyotes away from your land, you are effectively keeping the predators of the coyote such as bears 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 will have a procedure in place for residents to report coyote behavior that is out of the ordinary. 

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, agitated barking then these 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 Taylor Mitchell was attacked by a coyote while hiking. 

As this was such a rare occurrence expert originally believed that the coyotes might have been rabid or crossed with wolves.  Other reasons for the attack were that she had maybe 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) was killed a few days later. 

Forensic investigation of these five bodies showed blood on their coats and other evidence linking them to the killing of Taylor Mitchell.  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, Kelly Keen from Glendale, California in 1981.  Kelly was in the driveway of her parent’s home when the coyote struck and dragged her across the street.  She was taken to the local medical center but died from blood loss and a broken neck.

Are Coyotes Friendly To Humans?

A coyote who the residents named Cliff in Newport, Rhode Island was made a celebrity by residents after being seen walking around the town.  The kindness of the residents had turned Cliff into a potential danger to the locals and for 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.  The coyote was moved by authorities 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?

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

Coyotes do not see humans as prey as they are too small to kill an adult.  Because of this coyotes are not as dangerous as wolves even though coyotes are more common in suburban areas as well as 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 will 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 in the past.  As well as the actual bites that can hurt your pet, coyotes can also transmit infectious diseases that can be passed to your pet. 

Rabies is just one of many on the list which also included parvovirus, hepatitis, and others. 

How To Keep Your Dog Safe From Coyotes While Walking Them

  • Keep your pet on a 6-foot leash.  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 are a wild animal.  With more and more spotted 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 Mammals.

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