Considering the large number of coyotes living close to people they do not present a great risk to humans. Photo: WildSafeBC

Coyotes: wily and wary, and they like human garbage

Coyotes are more dangerous to pets and livestock than to people

Dave White

The coyote is a species that originally inhabited the vast expanses of the great plains before Europeans arrived. Wolves, the coyote’s arch-nemesis, were reduced in numbers as Europeans spread across the continent, allowing coyotes to flourish. Not only did the destruction of wolves help the coyotes, but the agricultural practices of the Europeans created environments preferred by the coyote.

Unlike the wolf, the coyote is able live close to human and therefore is responsible for more attacks on humans and pets than is the wolf. Most coyote attacks on humans have occurred in California, but attacks have also occurred across Canada as well. As the coyote is not a large animal most attacks cause minor injuries.

There have only been two confirmed human deaths from coyotes, one in California and one in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Considering the large number of coyotes living close to people they do not present a great risk to humans. The greater risk is to livestock and pets, of which they kill hundreds of thousands a year.

Coyotes are usually wary of people, but as with bears, individuals that are conditioned to human food will lose their fear of people and are usually the ones that cause conflict. Ensuring pets, garbage, pet food and other food attractants are inside and secure will reduce the likeliness of attracting a coyote.

Coyotes are common in the Nelson area. Keeping small children and pets well supervised and carrying bear spray while hiking is usually enough to avoid conflict with coyotes. In the rare instance of a coyote approaching you it is likely acting predatory. Don’t run. Instead, stand your ground and make aggressive displays. If it continues to advance on you, use bear spray if you have it, as it works on all aggressive wildlife. If you don’t have bear spray, use a walking stick, rocks, or kick at the animal to defend yourself.

Coyotes receive little positive press but can also be beneficial as they eat species that some people consider pests, such as rodents, skunks, and raccoons. They also eat rabbits, hares, and young deer. Well-managed garbage and good fencing for livestock lowers the risk of conflict with coyotes, forcing them to focus their hunting energy on the wild creatures that can cause damage to crops and gardens.

If you wish to discuss any other issues regarding wildlife, contact the WildSafeBC coordinator, David White by email: or call 250-505-6007.

If you are experiencing a conflict with wildlife please call the Conservation Officer Service, RAPP Line at 1 (877) 952-7277.

WildSafeBC gratefully acknowledges the support of the program by the Ministry of Environment, the Columbia Basin Trust, The City of Nelson, and areas E&F of the Regional District of the Central Kootenay.

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