In many corners of the country, wolves are rarely glimpsed threats hovering about in the depths of the wild. Their smaller cousin the coyote is far more commonplace and in many areas these wily creatures are increasing rapidly in population as they adapt to urban and suburban environments. Like raccoons they dig through trash searching for food, eat various small animals and generally integrate themselves into human-population areas quite well. Unfortunately this has brought the negative side of coyote activity from the rural countryside (where they are often shot on sight as livestock killing and disease spreading vermin) into areas where pets, children and adults may encounter them. As such, it is very much necessary for everyone to know how these creatures behave and how to protect themselves in case an encounter with a coyote goes sour.
How to Deter Coyote Attacks?
The best way to deter coyote attacks without any weapon, by travelling in a group. Coyotes will not attack if you are imitating a herd of sheep or cattle. Non-firearms deterrants as chemical sprays can potentially be effective, but the most successful way is with firearms if your local laws allow it.
The Wily Coyote
Coyotes are basically wolves in miniature, and although they’ve been allowed to remain closer to people owing to the small size and shy nature they are still very dangerous. Coyotes generally hunt alone or in pairs though in some cases they will work together in packs as large as 10 individuals to kill prey up to the size of an adult elk. Thankfully, their social structure is less stable which means that packs aren’t as likely to form or to stay together past a specific need for food unlike wolves which routinely pack hunt regardless of the situation.
Ask any rural farmer about coyotes and you may be treated to stories of hunts or examples of pelts, but you’re far more likely to receive a string of curses and stories of slaughtered chickens, savaged calves or lambs, and a scarred farmdog. Of course coyotes serve their purpose in nature in curbing the burgeoning population of rabbits, birds, and other small animals and many people will permit them to live in their wild habitat, but like any predator the temptation of plump, defenseless farm animals can be too tempting to pass up. Oddly although coyotes kill thousands of livestock per year and are much hated in rural areas, the constant discouragement from farmers generally means that rural coyotes are very shy around adults.
The biggest danger therefore is actually within towns, suburbs and urban areas where they are typically permitted to live since there is no livestock to defend and much stricter laws concerning the use of firearms to deal with them. This allows coyotes to become accustomed to the presence of humans and their smells and noises, making them more bold. Even so, they tend to leave people and their pets and children alone so long as more natural prey such as rabbits or mice are available. Unfortunately, pest extermination such as rat poisons often eliminate these populations while leaving the hungry coyote with a need for food, driving them to desperation.
Coyotes can jump tall fences or dig under them, and when hungry pets and small children tend to look quite tasty. In larger numbers or times of extreme desperation, coyotes may even pack together and stalk joggers or other solitary people, waiting for a chance to strike. This presents a danger to people now, as a personal crap hits the fan moment, and in a future disaster when they may well be a major threat to survivors of disaster.
To Deter The Coyote Attacks On Humans
First off, understand that coyotes are entirely undomesticated. They understand fear and can be frightened off, but do not think for a second that they are going to obey a command to “Go!” like your trained pooch will. They are also driven primarily by the desire to find food, meaning that in some cases they may be willing to flee if a minor morsel is all they’re looking for while in others desperation may send them attacking you even if their situation is hopeless.
Unfortunately, some locales simply do not allow you to handle coyotes as they need to be when they threaten human populations which leaves you with non-lethal methods of surviving an encounter.
First off you should do your best to deter a potential encounter in the single best way possible, by travelling in a group. Coyotes, even the boldest, will rarely even show themselves to a “herd” of people. There simply isn’t an opportunity to feed there, so there is no point in stalking a group of people walking about. This is particularly important if you’re travelling with a child or a pet like a dog or cat, since a coyote (or more likely a group of them) may well decide to chance your wrath and dive for the defenseless smaller creature if you’re the only guardian around. A group of adults deters them from making an obvious appearance, though you should always have someone nearby and ready to intervene just in case a child or animal wanders a little too far away from the main group.
The best way to think of grouping up is imitating a herd of cattle or sheep. Your goal is to have so many individual adults around that even if you have vulnerable members of your group with you the coyote can’t see an opening to attack. However, just like in a herd if a child falls behind or a pet wanders off to sniff the separated member of the “herd” may become a tempting target for a hungry pack.
Non-firearms Deterrants If Pressed
Of course a time may come when you’re faced with a coyote that must be confronted but where lethal force is not possible. In this case, you want to drive him off with minimal hurt to you or to anyone you’re protecting. You should fan out your coat, wave your arms, and generally try to make yourself look as big and intimidating as possible as a final attempt to drive the beast off without actually trying to attack it. If even after all that the animal is still threatening, you will need to resort to active non-lethal measures.
Assuming the coyote is merely threatening and not actually actively attacking you, chemical sprays like mace or bear spray can potentially be effective assuming you are able to use it properly without accidentally getting hit with your own cloud of choking spray. Be aware that a truly desperate animal may flee or it may not depending on the situation, so never let your guard down even if the spray is taking effect (i.e. the coyote starts whining, shaking its head etc).
If the coyote actually starts attacking you, your best bet (assuming a lack of a firearm or suitable weapon) is to do as much damage to it as quickly as possible. If you can get a good kick into the beasts ribs you may be able to break a few and cause it to retreat. If the animal is truly enraged and refuses to give up, use your fists and legs to break as much as possible in order to disable or kill the coyote. Protect your face, neck, and other vulnerable parts from snapping jaws and always be aware that there could be 2-8 more animals sneaking up behind you.
I have heard reports of air horns being used to frighten away coyotes who were intent on hunting a person, but the results seem mixed. In some cases even several coyotes were scared away by the sudden loud noise, while in others it just annoyed them and they just kept following.
When You Have Access To A Firearm For Defense
Assuming a confrontation cannot be avoided this is my personal best choice for dealing with a harmful animal. Be sure to take careful aim and know where your shots will go if the bullets miss or penetrate all the way through the animal! Defend your life and avoid harm to yourself and your loved ones if at all possible, but use your head and don’t hurt anyone else by accident. As always, know your local laws regarding the circumstances when a coyote can be killed and what you may need to do regarding reporting it. In rural areas reporting a coyote kill might be met with a shrug, while in some urban areas it may require a small-scale investigation. Know your local laws!
As with any natural predator, knowledge of coyotes can and should promote proper behavior towards them. Be aware, keep an eye on small children and pets, and know how to deal with one if things get dicey.