About Coyotes

  • Coyotes look like a cross between a fox and a small collie or German shepherd and weigh between 9 and 14 kilograms.
  • They have a narrow nose, large ears and a bushy tail they hold low when running.
  • Coyotes are highly curious, intelligent and adaptable.
  • Coyotes primarily feed on rabbits, mice and squirrels.
  • Because coyotes feed heavily on abundant rodent species, they provide a valuable pest-control service to their human neighbours.

Frequently Asked Questions

Coyotes in urban areas

Why do we see coyotes in the city?

  • With Alberta cities and towns growing rapidly, many suburbs have expanded into formerly undeveloped wildlife habitat. For coyotes, the growth of cities has meant an increase in food sources from humans, such as garbage, pet food and fruit and berries from ornamental landscaping.
  • Coyotes take advantage of carelessly stored garbage, compost, fruit fallen from trees and bird feed.
  • Coyotes typically live in green spaces that provide them with food, water and shelter, such as park areas and river valleys. In some areas, coyotes also make use of back alleys, industrial areas, and other developed areas.
  • Most people seldom see coyotes, though some may hear late-night howling. Some coyotes have become used to people and are not shy about letting themselves be seen.

Why not remove coyotes from cities?

  • Previous efforts to remove coyotes in other North American cities have failed.
  • Conventional lethal control measures used to remove coyotes from cities have included live trapping and euthanasia, neck and leg snaring, poisoning, and shooting.
  • These measures can pose serious health and safety risks when used in proximity to people and their pets. Additionally, coyotes are clever and perceptive and very quickly learn to avoid traps and snares.
  • Removing individual coyotes or groups of coyotes only leaves a vacancy for others to fill.

What is being done about coyotes in the city?

  • Since removing coyotes from urban areas involves techniques that can pose serious health and safety risks to people and their pets, modern wildlife management focuses on "aversive conditioning", which is a non-lethal control method.
  • This practice attempts to change an animal's behaviour by making all human-coyote encounter unpleasant for the animal. This method only works if we all respond to coyote encounters aggressively.

Preventing conflicts with coyotes

How can I prevent coyotes from returning to my neighbourhood?

  • If a coyote is returning to your neighbourhood, it is because shelter or easy meals are available there.
  • Never feed the coyotes. Feeding coyotes inevitably leads to unsafe situations that result in human injury or the death of the animal.
  • Never unintentionally feed coyotes. Pet food, garbage and fruit fallen from trees might also be available. Reduce your chances of attracting coyotes by removing these items from your yard.
  • Remove low branches on trees that can provide hiding places for coyotes or attract small animals, particularly near children's play areas.
  • Keep a clean backyard by removing seeds, meat, suet for birds and fallen fruit. These attract mice and squirrels, which are prey for coyotes.
  • Install motion-activated lights in your yard.
  • Keep your cats indoors and don’t let your dog play outside unsupervised.
  • Always be sure to clean up dog feces as it attracts coyotes.
  • Use a durable wire mesh to close off spaces under decks, patios and outbuildings. Keep all spaces that may be used as a shelter closed off and inaccessible to coyotes.
  • Make sure your fence is in good repair. Holes in fences may attract curious coyotes into your backyard.
  • Take your garbage out only on the morning of collection.
  • Talk to your neighbours about following the same preventative measures.

What to do in a coyote encounter

What should I do if I see a coyote?

  • If you encounter a coyote, make the experience unpleasant for the animal. Make it feel unwelcome in your neighbourhood. Even if you are not concerned about problems with coyotes, they should not feel comfortable around us or our homes.
  • Respond to their presence aggressively by making yourself appear larger. Wave your arms overhead, or thrust long objects like a walking stick toward the coyote.
  • Throw rocks, sticks or other objects toward the animal.
  • Shout in a deep voice and maintain eye contact.
  • If the coyote continues to approach, back away slowly and move toward buildings or human activity if the coyote continues to approach.
  • Do not turn away or run. This will encourage the coyote to chase you.

Coyotes and children

What should I teach my child about coyotes?

  • If you see a coyote, never run, even if you’re scared.
  • Yell at the coyote in an angry voice and make yourself look bigger by putting your arms in the air.
  • Never approach coyotes or any other wildlife.
  • Do not leave food for the coyotes.
  • Never litter. Put all garbage in cans with tight-fitting lids.
  • When walking the dog, always keep it on a leash. Pick up the dog scat to throw away in a garbage can with a tight fitting-lid.
  • Make sure that you don’t let the cat out.
  • Help keep the backyard clean to keep the coyotes out.

Why do coyotes visit schoolyards?

  • Coyotes visit schoolyards for the same reason they investigate backyards and laneways; they are searching for food, such as leftover lunches and food wrappers coming from a schoolyard's garbage container.
  • Children should place litter in schoolyard garbage cans that have secure lids, or put all their litter in garbage cans indoors. Garbage containers should be cleaned out daily to reduce odours.

Coyote behaviour

Is it normal to see coyotes in packs?

  • In January and February, coyotes may gather in groups, looking for mates.
  • They tend to be more territorial and aggressive toward dogs at this time of year. Coyotes may try to entice your dog away and attack it to eliminate the threat. Keeping your dog leashed at all times is the best way to keep it safe.
  • In summer and fall, coyote families travel together in search of food.
  • Coyote sightings may be more common in summer as young animals explore their surroundings. People make more frequent use of urban parks and green belt areas during this time, which also increases the possibility of encounters.

Is it typical to see coyotes during the day?

  • Coyotes tend to be most active between dusk and dawn. They usually spend the day resting in their dens, under low branches of trees or any other sheltered area.
  • You may see coyotes at any time of the day as they can adapt their daily routines, especially if they learn to find reliable food sources at a particular time.


Call a Fish and Wildlife officer

  • If you see a coyote that is so sick or injured it can't move
  • If a coyote is behaving aggressively toward people, such as nipping or biting
  • If you need additional advice on preventing or responding to coyote encounters

To find contact information for a Fish and Wildlife office near you, see:

To hear recorded information about coyotes or to report concerns about the animals in:

  • Calgary and area, call the Coyote Information Line of Fish and Wildlife Division at 403 297-7789
  • Edmonton and area, call the Coyote Information Hotline at 780 644-5744

Related Information

To download the Urban Coyote brochure, go to:

Additional information about the coyote species in Alberta.

To download in-depth information about coyote control from The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, published by the University of Nebraska, see:

Predator damage prevention information for agricultural producers, with a focus on coyote predation.

For information about University of Alberta research into urban coyote behaviour, visit:


Page Information

Updated: Mar 27, 2015