How to Survive an Encounter With a Coyote


The best way to escape a coyote encounter unscathed is by adopting an aggressive posture and frightening the animal off. Coyote attacks are rare, and deaths resulting from coyote attacks are rarer still -- only two deaths have been documented in the United States and Canada -- your chances of surviving such encounters are good. Nevertheless, it is best to discourage the presence of coyotes and prepare yourself for potential encounters.

Be an Inhospitable Host

  • Modern coyotes have lost much of their fear of humans and learned to capitalize on the resources available in suburban and urban areas. Accordingly, it is important to avoid providing food -- a common factor involved in many attacks -- for the animals, and to reduce their comfort level around human habitations. Keep your shrubs and trees trimmed to eliminate hiding places, install coyote-proof fences, secure your garbage cans and collect fallen fruit and spilled birdseed promptly. If you see coyotes near your home, try to frighten them away by yelling, squirting them with a hose or throwing rocks. Commercial motion-triggered deterrents are a great option.

Measure Your Response

  • While you should defend your home and try to scare off any trespassing coyotes, avoid turning a harmless coyote sighting into a dangerous encounter by provoking those in wilderness areas. Do not approach or attempt to frighten coyotes who keep their distance -- coyotes commonly “shadow” humans passing through their territory. Only escalate your behavior if a coyote begins approaching you. Barring exceptional cases -- such as those involving diseased, injured or starving animals -- coyotes prefer to stay a safe distance from large predators, such as yourself.

Be Big and Bold if Necessary

  • Respond aggressively if a coyote approaches you. Raise your hands over your head, stomp the ground and yell loudly to frighten the animal away. Do not turn your back or run, which the coyote will interpret as submissive. If your initial efforts do not dissuade the coyote, move away slowly while continuing to face the animal and maintaining a dominant posture. If the coyote attacks, fight back by kicking, throwing rocks or using whatever is within arm’s reach.

Helpful Tools

  • If you frequent areas where coyotes proliferate, prepare for encounters by carrying a suitable deterrent. A large stick, golf club or umbrella can help you fend off an attacking coyote. Loud noisemakers, such as air horns and whistles, often frighten coyotes; while chemical countermeasures, such as pepper spray or vinegar-water solutions, are also effective.

Protect Smaller Members of the Pack

  • Just as coyotes may become aggressive defending the young members of their pack, you must protect the vulnerable members of yours: small children and pets. Pick up pets and small children, or shield them with your body, anytime you encounter a coyote. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends teaching children about coyotes and instructing them to throw rocks and sticks if they are cornered by a coyote. Keep your pets on a leash whenever outdoors, and feed them inside to avoid creating an attractive food source.

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