Living in the woods, suburbs, or even the city provides residents with a trove of natural treasures: wooded lots, gorgeous landscaping, beautiful birds, bounding deer, and diverse flora and fauna among them. But like any beautiful rose, there are hidden thorns, and this includes coyotes. Last night, coyotes prowled near my house. I heard them when I let my dogs out and was reminded of my friend’s close encounter last summer, when coyotes were hiding behind a tree and watching her daughter play in the driveway. Luckily, her large Labrador Retriever alerted her of the danger to her child and they went inside.
Being a board-certified veterinary surgeon at MedVet, a specialty and emergency hospital, we see many coyote attacks. You might think our patients only live in wooded areas, such as Mason, West Chester, Anderson, Indian Hill, Mt. Airy, and Milford. But that’s not the case. They also live in Oakley, Hyde Park, and Colerain. Small dogs come in through our emergency department and are transferred quickly to surgery for wound care. I know there are many more dogs that are attacked that never make it home and just go “missing.” So, what can we do to keep our pets and families safe?
First, it’s important to understand a little about the coyote’s lifestyle, habits, and behavior. Coyotes are usually grayish brown to yellowish gray and often have a white or buff-colored chest. They can vary dramatically in size from twenty to fifty pounds. Coyotes often travel in packs of around six but hunt in pairs. They live in burrows and are primarily nocturnal; however, they can be spotted occasionally during daytime hours.
Coyotes are opportunistic, versatile feeders. While they are omnivorous, they are mostly carnivorous. They are wild creatures that feed primarily on small mammals (mice, rabbits, and squirrels), lizards, deer, insects, and birds. They are also known to eat fruits, vegetables, and human trash. Small dogs and cats are often targeted in more urban areas, and coyotes have been known to shadow human joggers or larger dogs. Coyotes will shift their hunting techniques depending on the prey they are hunting. Their techniques primarily include stalking and pouncing or running their prey into another pack member. Attacks on humans are uncommon and rarely cause serious injury, but small children are at significantly greater risk.
Adopt ten best practices to protect your pets and family.
- Always accompany your small dog outside to use the restroom, especially at dusk, dawn, and night. Do not assume that a fence will keep a coyote out of your backyard.
- Avoid walking near the edge of the woods at night and keep your pet on a short leash.
- Carry a flashlight if you are walking at night.
- Clean your grill to avoid attracting them to your yard.
- Do not leave pet food sitting outside in bags or leave food in pet bowls.
- If your yard is amenable, consider a six-foot fence, as coyotes will be slowed by needing to climb it. Dog doors and electric fences are wonderful but offer no protection from predators.
- Keep your cats inside at night.
- Secure garbage cans with locking lids or store in a garage or shed. Never feed coyotes.
- Supervise small children while they are outside.
- Turn the lights on. Ensure the area where you walk your dog is well lit.
Know what to do if you’re approached by a single coyote.
- Do not let a coyote get in between you and your pet or child. Keep children close to you at all times.
- Do not look afraid or scared. Coyotes can read your body language indicating you are being submissive.
- If you are with a small child, place them behind you as you back away and do not allow them to run away from you.
- Know there is likely a second coyote lurking nearby and be wary.
- Maintain eye contact while slowly backing away. Never turn your back on the coyote.
- Make yourself look as large and imposing as possible and raise your arms or backpack above your head.
- Shine the flashlight in their eyes if it is nighttime.
- Shout or yell, clap your hands or blow a whistle to frighten the coyote and make yourself look larger.
- Throw sticks or rocks to scare away a coyote.
Be prepared should you be approached by a pack of coyotes.
- Do not act in a threatening manner or stare into their eyes. This is different than if approached by a single coyote.
- Do not approach a pack of coyotes.
- Shout or yell to frighten the coyotes.
- Throw sticks or rocks to scare them away.
We hope these tips help keep you, your family and your pets safe. If your dog or cat is attacked by a coyote and your family veterinarian is not available, you can bring your pet to MedVet Cincinnati, located at 3964 Red Bank Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227, for care. Our team of highly trained, compassionate experts are available 24 hours a day, every day. For more information, call our hospital directly at (513) 561-0069 or visit medvet.com.
ABOUT SUSANNA HINKLE SCHWARTZ, DVM, DIPLOMATE, ACVS-SA: Susanna Hinkle Schwartz, DVM, Diplomate, ACVS-SA, is a board-certified Veterinary Surgeon at MedVet Cincinnati, where she has been part of the medical team since 2011. Dr. Schwartz maintains an interest in all aspects of small animal surgery, with particular interests in spinal surgeries and fractures, complicated soft tissue surgeries, and arthroscopy. She is devoted to ensuring each patient receives the best care possible for the ideal long-term outcome.
In addition to her work at MedVet, Dr. Schwartz volunteers her time organizing and participating in the Annual Cincinnati Veterinary Medical Association Canine Corps Event to examine police and search-and-rescue dogs. She also participates in the Annual Guide Dog Clinic that performs ocular exams on service and guide dogs. She is on the board of many local veterinary organizations dedicated to the local community and veterinary care. When not treating patients, Dr. Schwartz plays several sports and enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.