Pet owners: Watch out for coyotes this spring |

Pet owners: Watch out for coyotes this spring

Julie Sutor
summit daily news
Vail, CO Colorado
Colorado Division of Wildlife

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is asking people to take precautions when living or recreating in coyote country – including Eagle and Summit counties.

From coyote attacks on pets to aggressive coyotes approaching people, the Division is receiving increasing calls about coyote activity.

“Spring is denning season for coyotes, and with new pups in the dens, coyotes will behave more aggressively,” said John Broderick, terrestrial program manager for the Division of Wildlife. “When you put defensive coyotes trying to feed their young into the mix with lots of people heading outdoors to enjoy the warming weather, you get the right mix for potential problems.”

According to Division spokesman Randy Hampton, three dogs in the Keystone area have been attacked by coyotes recently.

“The DOW wants to caution people about encounters with coyotes,” Hampton said. “These are not pets. They are wild animals that are predators, and they should be treated with caution and respect.”

The coyote (Canis latrans) is a member of the dog family. It resembles a small German shepherd with a long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail. A typical coyote weighs about 30 pounds. Coyotes are extremely adaptable and resourceful, and can survive on whatever food is available. They prey on rabbits, mice, birds and other small animals, as well as young deer and sheep. Coyotes can attack small pets, both dogs and cats, particularly when pets are allowed to roam free or are left out in yards overnight.

Coyote home ranges even include urban areas such as the downtown Denver corridor.

Many urban coyote conflicts often center on feeding issues. When people feed wildlife, it doesn’t take long to teach a wild animal to associate people with food, but it’s very difficult to convince a habituated coyote to return to wild ways. Coyotes that appear friendly may be mimicking behavior that has been rewarded with food in the past. When it becomes apparent that no food is forthcoming, the coyote’s behavior can change abruptly.

People with pets need to keep them on a leash when walking them. While at home, pets should not be allowed to roam freely. Even pets in enclosed yards run the risk of predation, especially at night. People should also feed their pets inside in an effort to keep pet food from attracting coyotes and other wildlife.

Encounters with aggressive coyotes should be reported to the nearest Colorado Division of Wildlife office.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or

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