Life With Coyotes

The Humane Society of Huron Valley is offering a free lecture titled "Coexisting with Coyotes," 5:30-7 p.m. Sunday, March 29. RSVP required. Click here for more information.


Coyote sightings may be on the rise all over metro Detroit, but that doesn't surprise Dave Weber, Southfield Township's Animal Control Officer. The township provides animal control services to the villages of Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms and Franklin.

More sightings doesn't necessarily mean more coyotes, according to Weber.

"Every year at this time, with less foliage, coyotes are spotted more often as they move around," he said. "Winter limits the food source, and that makes coyotes more active and visible."

And while there may not be more of them, those coyotes that are here will likely stay for the foreseeable future. The same can be said for wild animals in general.

"We have waterways, vast properties and not much fencing," Weber said. "We offer the perfect ecosystem for all wildlife. It's just ideal for them. We have high traffic on Thirteen Mile, Fourteen Mile and Telegraph, but within those boundaries, we have the perfect environment for animals."
Food source
Coyotes are the region's top predator. Some species that are considered coyotes' natural prey hibernate through winter, and others -- field mice, for example -- move closer to buildings that are typically warmer. Coyotes follow the food, which brings them closer to homes, sheds and garages. Backyard feeders attract small mammals as well as birds, and the rodents lure the coyotes.

Weber recommended not feeding wildlife and not feeding pets outside. Not only does the latter put pets at risk -- any animal under 40 pounds is probably fair game -- but dog and cat food will attract omnivorous coyotes. Their natural diet consists of rodents (mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, shrews, voles, etc.)  opossums, rabbits, insects, reptiles, fruits and vegetables. Like raccoons, coyotes will rummage through garbage cans seeking meals. They're also scavengers, which means they eat dead meat (i.e. road kill).

Weber also advises against brush piles and firewood stacked outdoors, especially on the ground. "You're basically creating a spot for coyotes' food to stay," Weber said. "You're providing lodging for the animals that coyotes eat. It's like creating a grocery store for them."

The presence of coyotes actually has some benefits as well. "They help us," Weber said. "They eat a lot of rodents. They eat a bunch of mice that therefore don't go into your house." They provide an ecological service by helping to keep our communities clean of carrion.

Avoiding coyote encounters
In addition to not feeding wildlife or pets, the Urban Coyote Initiative offers the following tips to keep coyotes out of your yard:
  • Pick up fallen fruit from trees.
  • Clean the barbeque grill.
  • Secure trash can lids.
  • Cover compost piles.
According to experts, coyotes have a natural fear of humans. But those that are fed, intentionally or not, can become more accustomed to human contact.

"Coyotes will go after bigger prey this time of year because the smaller prey is scarce," Weber said. "But coyotes are smart. If they see a big dog, they'll go around it. Coyotes also prefer to stay away from humans. Children should be reminded to keep away from any animal running free, either coyote or dog." 

As a general safety rule, don't allow pets to roam free in your yard and always walk dogs on a leash.

The Urban Coyote Initiative offers a series of recommendations for "hazing" -- its term for keeping coyotes at a safe distance. Read the "Coyote Hazing Field Guide."