What to do if you see a coyote while hiking? (With Tips)

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There's something about Coyotes that just seems to capture our attention. Perhaps it is their wild and untamed nature of the fact that they are one of the few truly native species left in North America.

Whatever the reason, sightings of Coyotes while hiking always seem to cause a stir. If you happen to come across a Coyote while out on a hike, what should you do? Read on for some tips!

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Coyotes and their habitats

Coyotes are often described as dogs gone wild. And while they do share many characteristics with our domesticated canine companions, coyotes are actually much closer to wolves in terms of behavior and genetics.

coyote close shot with blur background

Male coyotes typically weigh between 35 and 45 pounds, while females tend to be a bit smaller, averaging around 30 pounds.

They can be found in various colors, including brown, gray, black, and tan, but they all have a characteristic bushy tail that is often tipped with black.

If you see a coyote that looks larger than usual, it may be a "coywolf" – a hybrid of a coyote and a wolf.

Coyotes are found throughout North America, and their populations have been steadily increasing over the past few decades. They are now found in every U.S. state except Hawaii, and their range is continuing to expand.

Coyote range expansion by decades
Coyote range expansion by decade, 1900–2016.  Photo by Pensoft Publishers

As the coyote population has increased, sightings of them in urban and suburban areas have become more common.

This is a cause for concern for many people, as they have adapted to living in close proximity to humans; they have become bolder and more aggressive in their behavior.

This has led to increased attacks on both people and pets and complaints of barking and whining noises coming from the property and neighborhoods.

While coyote attacks on humans are still relatively rare, they do happen; so it's important to be aware of the potential danger they pose and know what to do if you come across one on your next hiking or camping trip.

As the saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry!

What to do if you see a coyote while hiking?

1. Don't panic

If you spot a coyote while out on your hike, the first thing that should come to mind is staying calm.

Coyotes are typically shy around humans and will not attack unless they feel threatened themselves- so if we act scared or try running away from them, this could trigger their prey drive, which may lead to an attack!

2. Don't feed the coyote

One of the main reasons that coyotes become bold and aggressive around humans is because they have been fed by them before.

People often think they are helping out these wild animals by giving them food, but in reality, they are doing more harm than good.

Coyotes that become dependent on human handouts often lose their fear of people and become a nuisance in neighborhoods and parks. They may also start to see people as potential prey, which can lead to dangerous and even fatal attacks.

So, if you see a coyote while hiking, resist the urge to feed it!

3. Don't approach the coyote

While it may be tempting to get a closer look or even try to pet the coyote, this is not a good idea.

As mentioned before, coyotes are wild animals and should be treated as such; they can be unpredictable and dangerous. If you approach them, you're essentially putting yourself in harm's way.

Approaching a coyote may also cause the animal to feel threatened and defensive, which could lead to an attack.

So, it's best just to admire them from a distance. If you must take a picture, do so from a safe distance using a zoom lens.

4. Make yourself as big as possible

If a coyote approaches you, the best thing to do is make yourself look as big and intimidating as possible. Stand up straight, wave your arms in the air, and open your jacket or shirt if you have one.

You can also try making loud noises such as clapping your hands, banging on a pot, or shouting.The goal is to make the coyote feel like it's not worth attacking you, that you're not an easy target.

If all else fails, you can try throwing rocks or sticks at the coyote, but only do so as a last resort.

5. Pick up small children and pets

Coyotes are typically drawn to small children and pets because they perceive these animals as easy prey.

If you have a pet on the leash, keep it close by so that there's a better chance for defense if anything should happen since this animal will feel threatened enough before rashly attacking without thinking about consequences first!

And if you have small children with you, pick them up and carry them; this will help to make you appear larger and more intimidating to the coyote.

6. Back away slowly while facing the coyote

If the coyote does not back down after you've made yourself look as big and intimidating as possible, then it's time to start slowly backing away while still facing the animal.

Do not turn your back on the coyote or run away; this will trigger its prey drive and could cause it to attack.

Remember, you want to make the coyote feel like it's not worth attacking you, so act confidently and don't show any fear.

7. Report the coyote sighting to authorities

An agitated, unprovoked coyote may show signs of aggression, such as growling, snarling, and making threatening postures.

If you see a coyote behaving in this way, it's important to report the sighting to authorities right away.

This will help them keep track of the animal and determine if it's a danger to the public. In some cases, aggressive coyotes may need to be removed from the area for the safety of everyone involved.

8. If the coyote attacks, fight back

If the coyote does attack despite all your efforts, fight back! Try to use anything you have as a weapon, such as a stick, bear spray (this stuff really works), rocks, or even your fists, just in case things get testy - which, hopefully, they won't have to!

David Mizejewski of the National Wildlife Federation says, "Coyotes are relatively small animals, and you can fight them off!"

Focus your attention on the coyote's face and eyes, as this is the most vulnerable part of the animal.

And remember, never run away from or turn your back on a coyote; this will only trigger its prey drive and worsen the attack. Instead, stand your ground, be confident, and fight back!

coyote while hiking
coyote while hiking

Songs and Vocalizations you need to know

Coyotes are very vocal animals, and they use a variety of sounds to communicate with one another. Howling is the most well-known coyote vocalization, but they also yip, bark, and whine.

Yipping: This sound is typically used by coyotes as a way to get the attention of other members of the pack. It can also be used as a form of communication between mother and young or as a way to signal excitement or playfulness.

Barking: Barking is usually done in short bursts and is often used as an alarm call to warn others of potential danger. It can also be used as a way to defend territory.

Whining: Whining is a submissive vocalization often used by coyotes trying to appease another animal. It can also be used as a way to beg for food or to express fear or anxiety.

Howling: Howling is the most well-known coyote vocalization, and it serves a variety of purposes. Coyotes may howl to communicate with other pack members, defend their territory, or attract mates. Howling can also be used to locate other coyotes or simply as a form of expression.

Two coyotes are standing on the hiking trail

Do coyotes attack hikers?

Coyotes are generally shy and timid around humans, but there have been a few reports of coyote attacks on people in recent years.

In most cases, these attacks have been attributed to sick or injured coyotes that were acting out of desperation or fear.

However, there have also been a few reports of healthy coyotes attacking humans. In these cases, it is believed that the coyotes were either defending their territory or trying to obtain food.

While Coyote attacks on humans are rare, they do happen from time to time. That's why it's essential to be aware of their dangers and know what to do if you see one while you're out on the trail.

Can a coyote attack your pet?

While coyote attacks on humans are rare, they are more common when it comes to our furry friends. In fact, coyotes are one of the main predators of domestic dogs and cats.

The best way to protect your pet from a coyote attack is to keep them on a leash at all times when you're hiking or camping in areas where these animals are known to live.

This way, if you come across a coyote, you can quickly pull your pet close to you and make yourself look as large and intimidating as possible (as described above).

Coyotes in the wild


Coyotes are a vital part of the ecosystem and should be respected.

While hiking, follow these tips to keep yourself safe if you see a coyote Remember, if you encounter a coyote and feel unsafe, make loud noises and back away slowly.

If you have a pet with you, keep them close by and on a leash. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the different songs and vocalizations that coyotes use so you can identify them if you hear them in your neighborhood or during your next hike.

With a little knowledge and caution, we can all safely enjoy nature's apex predator!

Have you ever found yourself along the trail of a coyote? If so, what observations are you making as you explore the area? Let us know in the comments below!

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