Our Elusive Coyote Neighbors

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The Basics: Coyote, Canis latrans Order: Carnivora (carnivores) Family: Canidae (dogs, wolves, foxes)

Name: The word “coyote” comes from the Aztec word coyotl, meaning “barking dog.”

Identification: Resembling a small German shepherd on first sight, adult coyotes typically weigh between 20 to 35 pounds, with a bushy tail and narrow muzzle. Color is often a blend of black, gray and rust produced by hairs that are individually banded. Often leaves its scat directly on trails.

Local Habits: Diet, pack and litter size vary. One study found that the most common foods in the diets of Western Washington coyotes are voles, apples, cherries, house cats and squirrels, though in mixed forest-residential areas like the Peninsula diets seem to be more diverse.

Relationship with People: Coyotes generally are not dangerous to humans. Research shows that they may become more aggressive when they learn to directly associate people with food. Keep poultry fenced, pets indoors at night, and pet and bird feeding areas clean. Prevent access to garbage, compost and livestock carcasses. Teach kids to shout “Go away coyote!” during an encounter.

More information on living with coyotes and other wildlife is available at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats