Are coyotes dangerous to humans? How to deal with them?

Are coyotes dangerous to humans? How to deal with them?

Coyotes are an interesting bunch. Coyote-related fatalities on hiking, rock climbing, or any other outdoor trip for that matter are practically negligible.

I’ve been an adventurer for over two decades now, and I’m yet to encounter an aggressive and dangerous wild coyote myself. Yet, there’s still a stigma about them. So, what’s everyone scared about?

For starters, coyotes are crafty and unpredictable. Coyote sightings in urban and suburban areas started not too long ago, so we don’t have much experience in “dealing” with the animal. They’re also potentially dangerous even when they don’t pose immediate harm.

In this guide, I’ll tell you all the methods and techniques I’ve learned over the years about dealing with a coyote (or a pack of coyotes) and how to protect children, pets, and yourself. 

Are coyotes dangerous to humans?

Coyotes are dangerous animals from the wilderness. They’re hunters but for the smaller animals like rabbits and pets. Coyotes aren’t particularly life-threatening to humans, and a coyote attack wouldn’t cause more than a few mild injuries.

Even the rare attacks that do happen are minor. There have been around 200-300 coyote attacks on humans since we first started recording them in 1978. Out of which, only two unfortunate victims have died so far, and the rest got away without a single severe injury.

This is because coyotes aren’t individually strong enough to mortally injure an adult. They’re also primarily scared of us.

The common issue in housing areas is wild coyotes attacking dogs (and other pets) and children. In fact, most of the human-coyote attacks started out with the animal attacking dogs, and the fight was then taken over by the human victims.

These coyote attacks are also relatively more frequent in South America compared to North America. This is because coyote habituation is a bigger issue in the South. The final part of this will-they-won’t-they situation comes down to habituation of that certain area – be it residential or mountains.

According to, coyotes generally have a flight response when they see adult humans. And if they choose to stay, it’s a sign of habituation, which is quite bad.

The article further explains that habituation is mainly caused by residents feeding the coyotes directly or indirectly through handouts or undisposed garbage (aka leftovers) respectively.

Such coyotes might seem harmless, but they’re the most unpredictable. With the flight response gone, coyotes getting aggressive can quickly lead to multiple injuries. The Humane Society suggests the use of coyote hazing to get rid of the wild animals.

Let’s have a look at some of the methods of dealing with coyotes and hazing processes.

What should you do if you encounter a coyote?

Accept the fact that you’re scared before the hike begins. It’ll keep you vigilant and ensure that you don’t get rattled when encountering a coyote. Because giving them an upper hand in the tug-of-war of domination or choosing to run away are two of the worst possible decisions you can make.

So, if you can’t run, what exactly can you do?

1. Doing Nothing Is Also An Option

Fight or flight aren’t your only options when encountering a coyote. How do you even know that they’re aggressive or showcasing abnormal behavior? They’re supposedly afraid of humans, after all.

So, your first step should be to observe things carefully, especially if it’s a pack of coyotes. Most of your encounters in January – March (mating season) and in September – November will actually be peaceful ones.

Even if the coyotes are dashing past you instead of casually strolling around, don’t do anything. As long as they don’t surround you or give some sort of indication that they’re gonna attack, assume the best and let the pack (or individual) get out of your way at their own speed.

Are coyotes dangerous to humans? How to deal with them?

2. Confront Them Through Coyote Hazing

Hazing has been used to tame animals (or wild beasts) for a very long time. The idea is to install fear among coyotes and discourage undesirable behaviors (or habits). Coyote hazing is basically just an assertion of dominance over the animal.

If a pack of coyotes starts to surround you, there’s no better time to assert your dominance. Wave your arms vigorously in the air, and shout, “COYOTES! GO BACK!”

I’m not advocating for this idea, but I’ve heard that filling a sack with pennies and quarters was often used for beating and hazing coyotes back in the day.

My personal go-to deterrents are projectiles and noisemakers. I always keep whistles and other noise-making tools with me for mountain or forest hikes. You can also use repellents like pepper spray.

3. Follow Through With Your Hazing

Yes, you read that right. Hazing is not a one-step process. First, you have to be assertive against the wild coyotes, and second, be sure to follow through properly. 

I’m saying this because sometimes the hazing doesn’t do the job 100%, and coyotes just go a couple of meters away only to come back. After you’re done with hazing to make them sort of “back off,” check if you can still see them near your vantage point.

If you can see them, bring it home by taking a couple steps towards the coyotes and use your voice to shout even louder or a “scare weapon” from your backpack. You can use a whistle, water guns, pepper spray, or anything that might scare them away.

4. Build Trust Through Mutual Respect

This one technically comes under “doing nothing,” but I wanted to share it explicitly. Coyotes may be wild animals, but they have their own “code of conduct.”

And mutual respect will go a long way in determining whether the coyotes attack you seriously or not. Bears have always been a tough spot for hikers over the years, and now coyotes have become part of the problem too. Luckily, you’ll have a similar solution in both those regards.

As I said, they’re not necessarily there to hurt you. Don’t agitate them by “trying to feed the wild animals” or taking photos. Just show your respect to the wild coyotes, calm down and wait for a bit. Let them do their thing and get out.

How to deal with a pack of coyotes?

Dealing with a pack of coyotes, albeit difficult, is similar to dealing with individual ones. You should be vigilant and observant at all times. Don’t jump the gun and run away or make a rash decision.

A pack of coyotes is obviously less afraid and will try to surround you, but you have to stop their advancements by flapping your arms and shouting from the top of your lungs.

Are coyotes aggressive animals? How to prevent a bad situation?

It’s good to know how to deal with these animals if and when they get aggressive, but that’s not the only thing you should do. You can also prepare beforehand by taking preventive measures.

Sometimes, these can make all the difference between coyotes just passing by or having to fight a pack of them.

Are coyotes dangerous to humans? How to deal with them?
Dispose of Snacks After Hiking

1. Keep the Pets Away

Full disclosure, I have a dog, and I love to take him with me on hikes. It’s fun and all, but coyotes coming and attacking him is a very likely scenario. So, I always keep him leashed and near me whenever we’re hiking in the mountains.

Pets, especially dogs and cats, become the biggest attraction for wild coyotes when they’re running around alone. So keeping them leashed may not be the best “hiding” option, but it’s still better than letting them run around only to lose them later.

2. No Undisposed Food

You cannot have undisposed food at any cost. This is kinda similar to what we just discussed about pets. Because undisposed food will not only attract coyotes but other unwanted animals as well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are coyotes nocturnal?

Coyotes are nocturnal animals. They’re mostly out at night, pillaging backyards or finding prey either in suburban areas or mountains. Coyotes become inhabited to particular areas because they’re nocturnal and can move around without being seen.

2. Are coyotes dangerous to dogs and other pets?

Coyotes are extremely dangerous to dogs, cats, and other pets. Coyotes think of pets as prey and will attack them every chance they get. You can do coyote hazing, clean any undisposed garbage, and ensure no one feeds relatively smaller wild animals.

Well, that was everything you needed to know about dealing with wild coyotes. I suggest that you not spend your trip worrying because encountering an aggressive coyote is very rare. And even if you do encounter one, be smart about it.

Haze them into leaving and take quick and assertive decisions instead of choosing to flee and getting chased by the angry predators.

Jonathan Spaeth

I got into extreme sports about 20 years ago and am a die-hard adrenaline junkie. Just like in business, I choose my outdoor adventures based on how much they scare me. My goal is to share the lessons I've learned over the past couple of decades braving the unknown to encourage you to do the same.