Will a Coyote Attack a Human?!?

October 29, 2013 — 8 Comments

Photo by Justin Johnsen.

We experienced another first this weekend at the Ant Farm. We’ve been camping on the weekends in our motor home, and this weekend we invited the neighbors to join us for a campfire. The children roasted hot dogs, ate smores, and we all exchanged stories about our lives. It was the kind of campfire experience you might expect… right up until the howling began.

I’ve heard wild coyotes howling before, but never like this. It began north of our property with a handful of animals, and after a few minutes, another group joined in to the west of us. At first we weren’t sure of what was happening, but we quickly figured it out. As if the coyotes weren’t enough, a crazy bird we affectionately call “the cuckoo bird” joined in the chorus. Add the donkey braying and the hoot owl that joined in, and it was a disturbing cacophony worthy of a high-dollar horror flick.

The neighbor’s kids bailed on us, but I was pretty proud of our young ants. While they initially showed a little concern, Edie and Roark both seemed satisfied that they were safe once I explained that coyotes were afraid of fire and humans. Of course, I knew I’d heard that somewhere, but to be honest, I was probably a little less sure than I sounded in the moment. I did spend the rest of the evening engaging in periodic flashlight sweeps of the perimeter just in case…

Will a coyote attack a human?

When we got home I did a little research on the subject, and it turns out that wild coyotes in Alabama aren’t as much of a threat to humans as I would have guessed. While there is no short supply of them, they’re still quite scared of humans and will typically do everything in their power to vacate the premises when they’re approached. However, coyote sightings have become more common in recent years, and they do still present a significant threat to small pets and livestock if not managed properly.

After looking around a little, I discovered that there have only been two known human deaths attributable to coyote attacks. One was in 1981 when a small child was abducted in California, and the other was, of all things, a Canadian singer who was attacked in 2009 while hiking a trail in Nova Scotia. From 1976-2006 there were a total of 160 coyote attacks in the US, and the vast majority of them were in California.

I found it interesting that coyotes tend to hunt as individuals and not in packs, which probably explains their tendency to avoid humans when possible. Apparently, many of the reported coyote attacks are attributable to people feeding them, sometimes without even realizing it. Coyotes are opportunity feeders that consume pretty much what any dog will eat. By leaving trash cans uncovered and food opportunities around, the coyotes become braver and less concerned with the presence of humans. That’s when things can get dangerous.

How to deter coyotes?

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers these recommendations for discouraging wild coyotes from hanging around:

  • Secure pet food (including bird feeders).
  • Keep small pets indoors or in some kind of enclosure at night.
  • Make sure trashcans are inaccessible.
  • Keep the BBQ grill clean.
  • NEVER feed a coyote

Hunting coyotes in Alabama

In Alabama, coyotes have become a significant enough problem that it’s pretty much open season on them all of the time. In fact, by filling out a few forms with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources they can be hunted at night. You can even hunt them directly over bait, which is not legal for most wild game in our state.

The bottom line on coyotes

Later on in the evening, after the kids were sound asleep, Leigh mentioned that she thought it was kind of neat hearing the coyotes howling in the distance. It was just another reminder of how alive our little patch of heaven really is.

Like with most aspects of living in the country, a little awareness goes a long way. I don’t make a habit of walking around the property without my pistol, and that behavior was definitely re-enforced Friday night.

“Will a coyote attack a human?”

Not on my watch.




8 responses to Will a Coyote Attack a Human?!?

  1. This info is not correct! I am not sure where you are getting your information from however it is not from the state of Alabama!!! You must be sitting up North and just applying the information you think people want to hear! You should be telling the truth so more people are not hurt!!!

    • Wendy, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. For the record, I’m not up North (unless you consider Northern Alabama “up north” 😉 ), and a good bit of the information in my article was taken directly from the Alabama Cooperative Extension publication entitled “The Coyote: Facts and Myths About Living with This Wild Canid“. I’m not sure what motivated such an aggressive and accusative comment, but I have no agenda other than to pass on what I learn while developing our property.

      I’d like to address your concerns (and maybe learn something in the process), however, all you did was lob accusations at me and question my intentions in posting the article. Take a look at the ACES article, and feel free to post any contradictory studies you can find. Everything I’ve read on the topic seems consistently clear that coyotes in Alabama are responsible for only a handful of non-fatal attacks in a given year. If that’s not the case, then I would definitely be interested in learning more about it and passing it along on the blog.

      • My son was attacked by a pack of coyotes while deer hunting in Winston county Alabama!! He dropped 4 of them and another hunter dropped 4 before the rest of the pack fled!! Willie estimated the pack at about 30 coyotes!! They would circle him and then one would charge at him!! I have no doubt if my son didn’t have a rifle with him, he would not be here today!! The only good yote is a dead yote!!

    • Wendy, I think it is you that need to do a little research before you post. There has never been a documented coyote attack in
      Alabama. Oh, I’m sure you’ve heard about an attack from someone who knew someone that heard such a thing. But, Ken’s information is quite accurate. My father has been a game warden my entire life, and I’m 40. We are avid naturalists, and animal research is my passion. Especially researching Alabama’s natural predators. So, in the name of education, why don’t you post the source of your information regarding, dangerous coyotes that attack humans in Alabama? I always willing to be educated further.

  2. I agree that cayotes could attack but I have come in contact with them on several occasions and they would stop and run.
    They will attack other animals because of survival instincts the majority of animals have including wild and pets.
    I have also had camp fires and camped out and hear them a lot at night. It a beautiful nature sound but also a little scary to listen. Owls can also make really scary noises other than hoo hoo.

  3. Johanna Stollings October 5, 2016 at 7:04 am

    I am backed up against a 140 acre tract of land in Calhoun county. Every year we have a coyote problem and have to hunt them, especially in the late winter /early spring due to lambing and kidding season. We’ve lost dozens of babies to them and they do not always hint alone. I have seen several take a 7 month old lamb down together and drag it under the back fence toward the pines. The landowner refuses to let anyone in there to thin them out and on any given evening you can hear them. There are several packs on this one tract. One year we lost 27 sheep to them even with cattle fence and electric fencing. They are fearless I’m assuming because there are so many and will come right up in my back yard.. I’ve opened my back door to see them skirt across my yad on more than one occasion and there are some that are as big as a German Shepherd. We eventually stop raising sheep because we couldn’t take the loss year after year.. I know they are a part of the Alabama ecosystem and that they serve a purpose butt I wish there was more being done as far as population control because they are devastating to many of us small farmers who Ray’s livestock for consumption and small scale sales. It’s very frustrating when your hands are tied as2 what your neighbors can be forced to do and the only thing you are told by the county is to trap them on your land. They are not as timid and fearful of humans as everyone would like to believe. I have lived in the same place for almost 20 years and the population each spring with the birth of new litters is alarming. There are nights that you can hear them through the open windows communicating with each other from three and four different areas and it sounds like hundreds of them. I know that seems a little far-fetched butt with no one keeping them in check in this area they are breeding like crazy. I am fearful that it is only a matter of time before there is an attack on a human in this area. All of my neighbors have seen them and are aware that there is a huge population of them where we are and we would really like to have some input as to what we are supposed to do

    • My personal opinion I would go put out about 10 or more Duke #3 foot hold traps with some raw chicken as bait and next morning go see what you have carry a gun with you to dispatch them

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