You may hear a coyote before seeing one. They howl, yelp and even bark, sounding just like a dog. Some think they imitate a dog bark to entice a dog to come and check them out, and then they attack.
A Coyote vs a Fox
In appearance, coyotes are mainly variations of gray in color, but their coats can have some tan mixed in. At a glance, it can be difficult to discern a coyote from a gray fox. A red fox is easier to distinguish due to its red-tan fur coloration.
A coyote is longer legged and is larger, bulkier and taller than a gray fox. Its tail is most often seen hanging straight down. A gray fox is smaller with shorter legs and has a black stripe down its back and tail. The gray fox has a more cat-like face, whereas the coyote is more dog-like.
We have had plenty of interactions between our dogs and foxes and have never experienced a problem. The foxes seem to feed on smaller animals like chipmunks and rabbits and aren’t typically interested in dogs.
Coyotes are a whole different problem than foxes, as they will attack a smaller dog. They will go for almost anything living or dead that they can master. They attack and eat rabbits, poultry, carrion, (dead animals) and dogs. They can hunt alone, in pairs or even a larger group, so if you spot one, assume there may be more. They are as clever and wily as their reputation that precedes them.
Coyotes are active during the day and especially active at twilight hours. If you are walking your dog during sunrise or sunset, be aware that it increases your chances of an interaction with a coyote if they are in the area.
What to Do When You See a Coyote
As with other wild animals, calmly and slowly back away. Maintain eye contact; don’t turn your back or run. If you have a dog off leash, get the leash on immediately, and if it is a Flexi-leash, shorten it to bring your dog right at your side. If you have a small dog with you, pick it up. I have heard a story locally of a coyote that grabbed a small dog that was leashed, but the leash got pulled right out of the owner’s hand.
Throw stones, sticks, dog toys or anything you can lay your hands on. The intent is to scare the coyote. When you are not throwing things, make yourself look bigger: raise your arms in the air with your hiking poles, or raise your backpack.
It is not likely a coyote will attack an adult human, but there are stories of attacks on small children. Do not think you can pet them like a dog. They are a wild animal and a predator.