Lots of people think of coyotes as creatures who live on the prairies, and they remember them as part of wild west tales. Maybe you think of coyotes as desert-dwellers because you remember the coyote who never quite caught the road runner in the cartoons. That used to be true.
Since the 1700s, coyotes have expanded their range first to the west and then eastward until they are found in all of the continental United States from eastern Alaska through New England and all the way south into Mexico and Panama. Coyotes aren’t confined to rural areas any more, either. We live close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks at night, but we have had coyotes kill cats within a few hundred yards of our house.
Coyotes eat nearly anything. They will hunt rabbits, mice, or livestock. Coyotes are opportunistic hunters, and will kill cats, small dogs, and other pets. They will also eat fruit and berries. This makes them hardy survivors, and difficult to eradicate.
Since coyotes have established themselves in areas through natural range expansion rather than being introduced the way that dumped exotic pet animals are, they aren’t considered non-native introduced species. However, they travel long distances and don’t have any natural predators, which means that they colonize new areas quickly. Coyotes are more aggressive in January during mating season and in late April and early May, when most litters are born.
- Keep your cat indoors from dusk until dawn.
- If your cat demands access to the outdoors at night, consider a sturdy, coyote-proof catio.
- Feed your cat indoors, or feed outdoors during the day so that food isn’t left out at night. This may be an important consideration for the timing of feedings for TNR colonies.
- In treeless or open areas, you can provide “cat posts” which are 4×4 posts at least ten or twelve feet high with a platform on top which a cat can scale but a coyote can’t.
- Never feed coyotes, and cut off food sources to make your neighborhood less attractive to them. This includes:
- Securing your trash containers from being tipped over or opened
- Picking up fruit or berries that fall on the ground
- Covering compost
- Hanging bird feeders out of reach of coyotes and not overfilling them to prevent spills
Only you can decide whether visits to the outdoors are worth the risk to your cat, but take the threat of coyotes seriously if they are preying in your area.