Coyote Breeding Season in California has Begun -- Keep Your Pets Safe

Tracy Stengel
Photo byPriss Enri/Unsplash

Many Californians are more ‘coyote conscious’ after a coyote grabbed a two-year-old girl in broad daylight outside her Los Ángeles home last month and tried to drag her off. Her father had just released her from her car seat and set her outside the car while he turned around to gather her toys. 

It happened that fast. Luckily, her father was able to chase off the coyote. The little girl had to receive a rabies vaccine and suffered from a bruised face and multiple scratches.

The California coyote’s breeding season runs from mid-January to March. During this time, coyotes may become emboldened and more aggressive.

Since coyotes and people have expanded their range of habitation over time, humans and coyotes encounter each other more often than ever. But coexisting has its challenges. 

Last year, during breeding season, Sandy Bank wrote an article for the L. A. Times chronicling the struggle she had comingling with coyotes. After trying without success to scare a coyote off in front of her house, neighbors joined in, and the coyote was just stared at them, unconcerned. Bank realized coyotes are losing their instinctual fear of humans — and that’s concerning.

Bank said, since then, “. . . hardly a day has gone by when I didn’t see a coyote — scaling a fence to scour backyards, trotting down the street with a cat in its mouth or eyeballing us when I’m in my front yard with the dogs.”

Bank added, “I have always loved my corner of the suburbs, with its mix of canyon trails and shopping malls. But now it feels like I’m living in a war zone. The coyotes are an invading force and at the moment, they are calling the shots."

Coyotes are showing up in the oddest of places. In early October 2022, a coyote estimated to be about 9 months old sauntered into Mission Middle School in Jurupa Valley shortly before school was about to start. Staff tried to shoo it away, but it high-tailed it into an open bathroom. Staff members were able to close off that bathroom until Office Will Luna arrived. He used a lasso to lead the frightened coyote out of the school and released him in a rural area miles away.

To avoid an unpleasant coyote encounter, don’t encourage them. Bird feeders can attract coyotes who prey upon birds and rodents. Bowls of pet food outside is like an invitation for coyotes to come over and dine. Keep a secure lid on your garbage cans. Coyotes eat just about anything and aren’t above rooting through trash.

Your pets are not safe around coyotes. Small cats and dogs may be considered prey, and large dogs may be viewed as a threat. A coyote will protect his mate if he feels like there’s about to be trouble. Don’t let your pets roam free and keep them supervised when they are outside.

If you encounter a coyote, keep your distance, and allow the coyote to walk by. If you are walking your dog, keep your dog on a leash and under control. If your dog is small, pick it up. If it is tiny, hide it under your coat or shirt. Yell and wave your arms at the coyote and try to make yourself appear as big as possible. Back away slowly. Never turn your back on a coyote.

If you come across a coyote unfazed by humans or exhibiting aggressive behavior such as stalking, growling, or chasing, report it to your local authorities. Remember, a coyote is wild and can be unpredictable. Treat those you encounter with caution and respect.

If you have tips to deter coyotes from getting too close to you or your pets, I’d love to read your advice in the comments!

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI

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