How to Coyote-Proof Your Dog

Illustration by: Mark Matcho

As stars like Jessica Simpson and Sylvester Stallone can attest, coyotes pose a real threat to pets in L.A. THR spoke to animal experts on how to protect your pooch.

Coyotes are more than mere nuisance to many Los Angeles homeowners. For households with pets, they represent a real danger — just ask Jessica Simpson, who watched in horror as a coyote snatched away her malti-poo Daisy in 2009. The same year, Ozzy Osbourne's Pomeranian Little Bit was killed in a coyote attack outside his house. Sylvester Stallone, Miley Cyrus, Demi Moore and Katherine Heigl have all reportedly had scary — and sometimes tragic — run-ins with the wild canines. To avoid the same fate, heed these tips from the experts:

Do be mindful of water sources around the outside of your house. "Desperation for water, especially during a drought, can be the driving factor that initially puts a coyote over your fence," celebrity pet expert Harrison Forbes explains. "But if there's a meal sitting there in the form of your pup, then he's going to grab that, too." One of Forbes' friends, a YouTube executive, has had a coyote jump his fence on multiple occasions; he's the owner of a big pool and a small dog. "Luckily, what's happened in his case is that the coyote will look at the dog but end up running over to the side of the pool, taking a big gulp, and scurrying off."

 

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Do be especially cautious from January to June. "Male coyotes, with their hormones raging like a teenager's, are willing to step outside of their normal pattern and normal area to look for a mate during mating season, from January to March," Forbes says. Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, a veterinary behaviorist based in Southern California, adds that past March, "coyotes will hunt more actively in order to feed their litters, from April to June."

Do make sure your house is properly protected. Janice Mackey, an information officer from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, advises trimming ground-level shrubbery to reduce coyote hiding places; she also recommends installing motion-sensitive lighting and sprinklers, which can be very useful for coyotes breaking in at night. And fence height is especially important. "To protect your property from a coyote, your fence should be more than 5-and-a-half feet tall," says Schwartz. You can also use galvanized wire mesh to keep coyotes from digging under the fence and from climbing over the fence. 

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Do team up with neighbors. "Ask your neighbors to make sure that their property is coyote-resistant, too," Mackey says. "All it takes is one person to neglect taking these precautions and you could start having coyote problems." Forbes also suggests teaming up with a neighbor who has a big dog. "Walk your dogs together. A group of dogs is going to be more intimidating than a single dog. Coyotes are predators of opportunity, so you have to minimize their opportunity."

Don't walk your dog at dawn or at dusk. "If you have a tiny dog, don't walk them at dawn or at dusk; don't keep them on a long leash and let them run up underneath bushes on the hills, because a coyote might be lying there in wait," Forbes warns. Mackey says she receives a lot of calls reporting coyote sightings around 8 p.m.: "They're a bit nocturnal, and they seem to be most active at night, in the evening hours and early morning."

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Don't leave pet food, trash or fallen fruit on your property. Schwartz even cautions against bird-feeders, since they might attract rodents or other wildlife that coyotes hunt. Adds Mackey: "You may be inadvertently attracting coyotes by feeding rodents or wild rabbits. Access to food is a huge factor. Make sure your garbage is in tightly-fitted containers."

Don't attempt to tame coyotes. "Never, ever attempt to feed or to domesticate coyotes. They're very adaptable creatures — they don't need our help," Mackey says. In fact, do the opposite: Forbes notes that coyotes have become desensitized to humans, which is (in large part) why they're able to comfortably walk among us. If you see a coyote: "Yell, move forward and make a lot of noise to try and intimidate them," he says. "No coyote is going to stand up and attack a grown person who's moving towards them unless it's backed into a corner."

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