How to coexist with coyotes

We’re all just trying to live our best life

Coyotes are one of the most maligned animals in Illinois and across much of their range, but they are a normal and even beneficial part of the habitat.

Coyotes live in all parts of Illinois, including rural, suburban and urban areas, so seeing them near your home is not unusual or cause for concern, according to Wildlife Illinois. Coyotes who are given their space and are not injured or being fed by people are not a threat to humans.

Coyotes are most active at night, but it’s not unusual to see them during the day. It’s also not unusual to see coyotes lying down or resting out in the open, such as in a park or cemetery, during the day.

The No. 1 way to prevent coyote attacks is to not feed wildlife, the Urban Coyote Research Project reports. Coyotes that are being fed will become less and less afraid of humans and may eventually test people — and their pets — as potential prey. Feeding coyotes does not include only intentional feeding by using bait stands or stations but also inadvertent feeding by leaving pet food and garbage unsecured in your yard.

If a coyote approaches you, do not run away from it, Wildlife Illinois advises. Instead, yell, stand up straight and wave your arms in the air, which give you the appearance of being bigger than you are. If something is close by, throw it near the coyote with the intent of scaring it, not actually hitting or injuring it.

Ecological effects

A coyote walking through snow.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Coyotes are an apex predator, at the top of the food chain in Illinois and with no natural predators of their own, according to Wildlife Illinois. Coyotes are omnivores, but their main ecological role is controlling the population of the small animals they hunt, including mice, voles and rabbits. The consumption of rodents also helps control the transmission of diseases carried by rats and mice.

The presence of coyotes in an area can also lead to greater bird diversity and higher bird populations, according to Project Coyote. This occurs because coyotes limit the population of mesocarnivores like raccoons, skunks, foxes and feral cats through competitive exclusion, which is the elimination of a species from a habitat area because two or more species have similar or identical needs for resources. When coyotes limit the population of other mesocarnivores, it has a positive effect on songbirds and other ground-nesting birds in the area.

Mating and reproduction

A coyote touching noses with its pup.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Coyotes typically mate in the winter, with peak breeding season in late February or early March, according to Wildlife Illinois. Pups are usually born in late April or May. Litters can range in size from as few as two pups to as many as 19, but female coyotes usually have between six and seven pups.

Babies begin leaving their dens for short periods after three or four weeks, at first playing near the entrance and then venturing farther away. They are weaned after about two months, and they learn to hunt when they are 2 or 3 months old. Coyote pups typically stay with their parents until late summer or early fall, but some will stay until the next year and help raise the next group of pups.

Health risks

A coyote with mange.

(Photo courtesy of Eileen Capodice)

Coyotes are not a public health threat in Illinois, although they can be carriers of canine distemper, parvovirus and mange, Wildlife Illinois reports. Coyotes can develop sarcoptic mange, a condition caused by mites, and it can be transmitted to domestic animals, like our cats and dogs, as well as to humans. The condition causes severe itching in the animals and is often marked by hair loss. It is not fatal, but coyotes with mange do often die because it makes them more susceptible to other diseases and conditions. Mange is treatable in coyotes, although it usually requires that they are taken into captivity while being treated. It is also treatable in pets and in humans.


Coyotes can also carry rabies, and it can be transmitted to humans, pets and livestock, according to Wildlife Illinois. Rabies is fatal in humans and animals if not treated promptly. If you see a coyote with neurological impairment, including lack of coordination, paralysis, tremors or convulsions, contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources via its online contact form.

Problems and solutions

A coyote standing in a field looking off into the distance.

(Photo courtesy of Bertrand Leclercq)

Despite their reputation, most coyotes do not cause problems for humans. In rare cases, they may kill livestock, poultry or small dogs and cats, but they are also often blamed for problems caused by other animals, Wildlife Illinois reports.

Coyotes are acclimated to living around people, so they may get closer to us and our homes than we are comfortable with. If coyotes are present in your neighborhood, keep close watch on your cats and small dogs.

If coyotes are a problem around your house, you may want to take corrective action to keep them away. Coyotes are easily attracted to areas where mice and other rodents are, so make sure to keep your garbage tightly secured and clean up the area under and around bird feeders, Wildlife Illinois advises. It’s also a good idea to make sure to feed your pets indoors only or carefully clean up after they’ve eaten outside.

Fences can also be an effective means of keeping coyotes off your property, but they must be at least 4 feet tall. Because coyotes are good at both jumping and digging, reinforcing the fence with a roll bar or installing a fence taller than 4 feet can be useful, Wildlife Illinois reports. If you keep livestock or poultry, make sure their enclosures are secure and that the animals have access to a secure shelter.

If animals on your property continue to cause damage after corrective measures have been taken, humanely trapping them may be necessary as a last report. Trapping a coyote to remove it from your property requires a permit from IDNR or a conservation police officer. When trying to trap a coyote, it is best to contract the services of a nuisance wildlife control operator who has experience with coyotes.

All wildlife in Illinois are under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Forest Preserve District of Will County does not treat, rescue or remove wildlife from public or private property. Both the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Wildlife Illinois maintain lists of wildlife rehabilitators you can contact for assistance with injured wildlife.

(Lead image via Shutterstock)

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