Coyotes in urban environments
Like opossums and raccoons, coyotes have adapted over the years to suburban life throughout California and the nation. Coyotes in the wild are by nature fearful of humans. However, they are highly adaptive and can lose their fear of humans when we provide them with food, shelter or water sources.
While Lakewood doesn't have the level of coyote problems of many communities near foothills or large open spaces, coyotes can venture into residential areas in our city and become problematic, especially if people are feeding them (intentionally or unintentionally) by leaving pet food out overnight, tree fruit on the ground, or trash unsecured.
These coyote attractants create a threat to pets, as coyotes coming into neighborhoods see them as potential prey. Coyotes will kill cats and small dogs who are left unattended or who stray off your property.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has jurisdiction over urban wildlife in our state, provides helpful tips for communities and asks for our cooperation. The City of Lakewood recommends that residents follow these guidelines to discourage coyotes from coming into our community.
Tips to safeguard your pets
- Feed pets inside. Don’t feed feral cats, ducks or pigeons. They attract coyotes to your neighborhood, putting pets at risk.
- Never feed coyotes! (When humans have been bitten by coyotes it is often because someone nearby is feeding them and it breaks down their natural fear of humans.)
- Pick up fallen fruit (another food source for coyotes and for animals and rodents that attract coyotes).
- Keep trash lids securely closed. Don’t overfill trash cans so they can’t close fully. Coyotes can reach in and get food. This teaches them to come to your home.
- If you compost, use enclosed bins. Do not compost meat, dairy or egg products.
- The safest place for cats and small dogs is inside. Coyotes can jump over fences 6-10 feet high. While coyotes generally hunt between sunset and sunrise, they have been sighted at all hours of the day.
- While walking dogs, keep them on a leash 6’ or shorter. If you encounter a coyote while walking your dog, remain calm, take control of your dog by picking it up if possible and back away slowly, keeping your eyes on the coyote. Look for another pedestrian to assist you.
- Use negative reinforcement ("hazing") to train coyotes to stay away. If you see a coyote, let it know it’s not welcome in your neighborhood by making loud noises to frighten it away. You’re helping the coyote by keeping it wild…and you’re helping protect your neighborhood.
- Don’t ignore or run away from a coyote. You need to scare it away, but don’t injure it or it could become unpredictable.
Government agencies generally limit the trapping and euthanizing of coyotes to certain narrow situations, such as when coyotes have attacked people. The best way to prevent problems in the first place is to remove coyote attractants, haze and train any coyotes you see to stay away from humans, and safeguard your pets.
You may also want to report sightings or concerns to the Department of Fish and Wildlife as they oversee wildlife regulations in California. Call 562-342-7100 during business hours, or call 888-334-2258 after 4:30 p.m.