Tips for keeping dogs safe during coyote mating season

Jan 20, 2024

It’s that time of year when coyotes are searching for mates and laying claim to the territories where they’ll be raising their pups in the spring. As coyotes become more territorial, wildlife experts caution people to keep a closer eye on their dogs. 

The coyote mating season lasts from late January through March. During this time, coyotes can be more aggressive and may attack any dog that strays through their territory. Most of these attacks involve dogs that are either off leash or loose in backyards, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. 

Dartmouth Animal Control Officer Sandy Gosselin said that people need to keep their dogs close.

“Keep your dogs on a leash unless they have great recall,” Gosselin said. 

Coyotes are on high alert, and they’re more likely to see a large dog as a threat to their territory. Coyotes see small dogs as prey, Gosselin said, so don’t let them out into fenced yards unsupervised. 

Though coyotes are “bolder” during their mating season, she said coyote reports are no higher now than at any other time of the year. 

“We learn to live with ‘em,” she said. 

Even still, there are some things people can do to keep coyotes away from their homes and pets. People should avoid stacking brush or grass clippings near their home, she said, as coyotes may use this as a den to raise their litters. Crawl spaces and the space under decks also make attractive dens, so MassWildlife recommends closing those areas off. 

One way to keep the coyotes away is to avoid feeding them. People can accidentally make their properties attractive to coyotes by leaving their garbage out or throwing tasty nuggets of food in unsecured compost piles. Coyotes are opportunists, she said, and they’ll go wherever they can find food and shelter. To keep this from happening, she said that people should scare coyotes off of their properties.

Coyotes are naturally afraid of humans, but that fear diminishes as coyotes spend more time around people. Without that fear of humans, coyotes are more likely to rely on human food sources like garbage and to boldly approach people and their pets. 

To reinstill that fear, wildlife biologists recommend “hazing” or scaring away the coyotes. This can involve yelling at the coyotes, blowing air horns, banging pots and pans, spraying them with a hose, or chasing them off the property. The intent is to scare the coyotes, never to injure them. MassWildlife recommends throwing something harmless like a tennis ball.  

Coyote litters are born in the spring around April and May, a time when coyote females are fiercely protective of their pups. If ever someone encounters a coyote den at this time, Gosselin simply recommends turning around and going the other way. 

“Those coyote mamas are going to do whatever it takes to protect their young,” she said.