By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Eliminating access to food, water and shelter are key to discouraging coyotes from Rancho Bernardo neighborhoods, according to wildlife officials.
To do this, do not leave pet food outside, remove bird feeders, pick up fruit from the ground, empty pet water bowls and cover other water sources since coyotes will even drink chlorinated water. Also, thin shrubbery and landscaping so they cannot create dens, seal off access under patios and porches, secure trash cans to fences so they cannot be tipped over and install motion lights.
If an encounter occurs, blow on a metal or brass whistle — but not a plastic whistle, blow a party horn, clap hands, shout loudly, throw a can containing marbles in the coyote’s direction or squirt it in the chest with a Super Soaker-style water gun filled with a half-cup of ammonia — but not bleach, said Kim Maskalenko, a natural resource volunteer with the California Department of Fish and Game.
Maskalenko, CDFG Warden Lance Weihe and Natural Resource Volunteer Ro Rozinka plus USDA Wildlife Service Specialist Terry Cox told more than 100 Rancho Bernardans how they can coexist with coyotes during the Aug. 22 Rancho Bernardo Community Council meeting.
The speakers were invited in response to some residents’ growing concerns about dangers posed to their pets by coyotes. An increasing number of sightings and encounters have occurred in recent months, according to some residents.
Weihe said if a coyote is encountered while walking a small dog, pick the dog up and “take a stand. Don’t just walk away.” He said people must break the coyote’s focus, since it will be zeroed in the pet.
He said leashes should not be long enough to allow dogs to walk several feet ahead and advised carrying a long flashlight that if needed can be used as a weapon if the coyote attacks.
“We are taking over their territory, they are not taking over ours,” Rozinka said before explaining the physical traits of a coyote that help it be among the most adaptable and smartest wild animals.
“They will push the envelope to see what they can get away with and have been conditioned to not fear you,” Cox said.
Outrunning a coyote is not likely Rozinka said since they can run at 25 miles per hour all day while hunting and at 45 miles per hour in short spurts if being hunted due to their long, spindly, very fast legs.
Rozinka said Native Americans called coyotes “the most confident walker in the wilderness” for good reason. Unlike other animals that primarily count on one sense, he said coyotes can hear, see and smell everything. “They are the smartest animal you will meet because they think, reason and figure things out.”
Urban coyotes have successfully adapted to residential life, unlike their kin in the wild that run if they encounter a human, Cox said. “The coyote in town is nothing like those out at a ranch, who want no part of us,” he said. “But you can change that behavior by letting them know they are not welcome here.”
Rozinka said coyotes hunt to eat, and if only partially eaten remains are found the culprit is more likely a male dog than a coyote that leaves nothing of its prey behind, with the exception of a pet’s collar.
With an estimated 250,000 to 750,000 coyotes in California, Rozinka said there is no way to eliminate them and it is illegal for individuals to kill via poison or other method. Wildlife officials can eliminate a coyote that has attacked. In addition, coyotes serve a purpose in the ecosystem since they eat rats, mice, squirrels, rabbits and skunks — keeping these populations under control. Coyotes also eat insects, amphibians, reptiles, berries and small domestic pets.
“They are everywhere in this county,” Rozinka said. “If you got rid of every one, coyotes from other states would come in to fill their place.”
For more tips, go to
- If a coyote is encountered or there is an attack, call 858-467-4257.