Are coyotes dangerous?

Wesley Harris
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"I am frightened to death to walk alone in the community now that there are so many coyotes around," said Mary Simms of Hermitage-Sandyville. Mrs. Simms, who often walked alone from Hermitage to Sandyville, sometimes after dark, is extra cautious these days: her walks are in the community of Hermitage only and during the daylight hours only.

Coyote sightings are more frequent now, and people remember the incident in Cape Breton in October 2009, when two coyotes attacked a 19-year old hiker walking alone on a trail. The young lady died the next day in a Halifax hospital. Wildlife experts in Nova Scotia said that such an incident was extremely rare because normally coyotes are shy animals that tend to avoid contact with humans. It is understandable, therefore, that people are cautious.

Nikki Willmott photo

"I am frightened to death to walk alone in the community now that there are so many coyotes around," said Mary Simms of Hermitage-Sandyville. Mrs. Simms, who often walked alone from Hermitage to Sandyville, sometimes after dark, is extra cautious these days: her walks are in the community of Hermitage only and during the daylight hours only.

Coyote sightings are more frequent now, and people remember the incident in Cape Breton in October 2009, when two coyotes attacked a 19-year old hiker walking alone on a trail. The young lady died the next day in a Halifax hospital. Wildlife experts in Nova Scotia said that such an incident was extremely rare because normally coyotes are shy animals that tend to avoid contact with humans. It is understandable, therefore, that people are cautious.

But how dangerous are coyotes to humans? The answer is they are not "usually" dangerous to people. "Coyotes have a natural fears of humans and are not interested in confronting people", the online research says. "They are not aggressive towards humans unless humans attempt to feed or interact with them."

However, they are predators that feed on rabbits, mice, shrews and birds (to name a few items), and when that becomes scarce, they are likely to move towards a town to look for messy garbage, dog food left out, and cats.

So what should you do if you encounter a coyote? If you see it in the wild, watch it from a distance; the coyote normally will try to avoid you. If you see it in your town, don't approach it or feed it, and keep your dog away from it.

Should you have a close encounter (in your yard, for example,) stand tall, wave your hands over your head, and shout at it; then their natural fears of humans should send them scurrying. Some people suggest that a coyote that approaches people either is starving or following its predatory instinct or has been fed by people and thereby has lost its fear of humans.

And as much as the human instinct is to run when you encounter a coyote up close, it is best not to run. Once a coyote sees you running, the predator instinct tells them to give chase.

The best advice for people like Mary Simms is to walk with a friend or two and to be ever on the alert for an aggressive coyote. Most reported coyote attacks on humans, it seems, occur when the coyotes are in a pack (two or more) as happened in Cape Breton.

Organizations: Halifax hospital

Geographic location: Hermitage, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Pete
    June 06, 2013 - 02:36

    I just saw some jackrabbits playing in my front garden when out of a spruce grove came a large coyote. I have seen them in my neighbourhood before and they are quite brazen. I immediately checked the safety of my pet cat, Max, who was curled up in an armchair asleep in my den. I highly recommend you keep your cats inside when coyotes are hunting after sundown for their safety and your peace of mind. Manage your pets like you would guard your children and you and the coyotes will live in harmony.

  • komradjabroni
    February 08, 2013 - 16:46

    Obviously many people here don't spend much time in the woods with nature. DO NOT listen to Trevor's advice. Just because we are afraid of a certain animal, as Trevor clearly is, and do not understand it, does not mean we should shoot it. I understand farmer's shooting coyotes to protect their animal herds or trappers hunting them for a living, but to simply shoot an animal because it's "scary" is so ignorant and stupid. And come on, a coyote is really just a wild dog. Give these beautiful animals a break! But, by the same token, you should also not feed them either. They're wild animals, and should not become to familiar with people.

  • animal lover
    February 06, 2013 - 15:43

    i think that if you ever do see a coyote, give it food. they need to eat too. dont give too much but you cant go wrong with a peice of bread. my point is that coyotes are animals and they deserve love and care too. no animal on the face of the earth should be treated badly.

  • David
    July 06, 2010 - 13:10

    Hi,

    I have spent a lot of time in the woods here in Alberta and have encountered many Coyotes.

    Every encounter the Coyote always runs away. Some are curious, but will not stay around for long.

    David

  • Trevor
    July 06, 2010 - 13:10

    I think these animals need to be shot when spotted. There are plenty of people with the talent & ability to shoot these animals when they are seen...even, dare I say, especially when they're seen within city limits.
    Of course they're dangerous, if they weren't we wouldn't even be having this discussion...afterall there's plenty of squirrels in the woods too....we don't see many Are squirrels dangerous? headlines...
    People going out for walks should at least carry a hunting knife in case one of these predators decides to get too close...I'd fancy that over trying to bare knuckle one of these things to death...

  • Trevor
    July 06, 2010 - 13:10

    These animals may never attack anyone BUT that doesn't mean they absolutely never will. I certainly hope it doesn't get to the point where someone is attacked or killed by one of these animals...people need to be pro-active & take care of them when spotted.