Coyotes in Milwaukee

Dealing with Coyotes in an Urban Environment

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My husband and I recently moved to a new neighborhood in the Milwaukee area that is very wooded. It's close to the Milwaukee River, which is a relatively safe corridor for all sorts of wildlife you might not usually find in the city. This is really cool -- usually. The only time it's not cool, is when you realize this wildlife has big teeth and is following you. Case in point, our new neighborhood coyotes, and their penchant to hanging out on our street, and even following residents on their nighttime dog walks.

Surely the coyotes are attracted to our 15-lb. terrier. To a coyote, this dog surely looks like a tasty morsel. We've taken to carrying a big stick and are investing in some pepper spray, and unfortunately for the dog, he'll never get to go outside unattended. And while it may take some getting used to, I guess we can't ask to live in a wonderfully wooded area without taking everything that comes with it. But I can say that I'm also prepared to throw down on any coyote that comes within striking distance of me or my dog.

Wisconsin Coyote Population

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, coyotes are present in every county in Wisconsin. They prefer to live in areas where food and shelter are plentiful, and especially like areas that have plenty of tangled woodland edges, brush thickets or other tall vegetation where they can rest and hide. Also, unlike other mammalian predators, the coyote's range has not decreased as human settlement has spread. Instead, the coyote's habitat has actually increased, because these animals are remarkably adaptable, and have no issues living in urban or agricultural areas.

In Wisconsin, coyote home ranges reach 8 to 10 miles, but normally are more limited to within three miles of the home den site.

While coyotes may be the predators that most easily adapt to urban life, they certainly aren't the only ones. In the past few years, the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources has confirmed the presence of cougars in Wisconsin, including one cougar that eventually made its way to the north side of Chicago where it was ultimately shot by the Chicago police.

How to Deal with Urban Coyotes

Do everyone a favor and leave coyotes "wild." In a wild state, coyotes fear humans, but as soon as they begin to associate humans with food, a coyote loses its fear. This is a bad thing.

  • Never feed or attempt to "tame" or feed a coyote -- they will lose their instinct to be wary of people if they begin to associate food with a human presence.
  • If you see a coyote, talk loudly to warn/scare it off. Make loud noises and make yourself look big. If this fails, throw rocks or sticks or spray them with a garden hose. Do not turn your back or run. Coyotes can run up to 35 miles per hour. You are much better off scaring it.
  • Feed your pet indoors – or if you do feed your pet outdoors, promptly remove the food dish after the feeding.
  • Store pet food indoors.
  • Put trash in barrels with tightly fitting lids, or store it indoors. Coyotes will eat any edible scraps.
  • Accompany your pet outside and speak loudly to warn/scare off coyotes. Be extra watchful between dusk and dawn. This includes when you let your pet out first thing in the morning.
  • Provide secure shelters for outside pets such as poultry and rabbits.
  • Do not provide food and water for birds or other wildlife – coyotes will prey upon them in your yard.
  • Do not let your pet run free outside – coyotes may view cats as prey, and dogs as a threat to their food base.
  • Clear brush, dense weeds and undergrowth from your property. This deprives rodents of shelter and reduces protective cover for coyotes.
  • Educate your neighbors. If there are coyotes in your neighborhood, you need everyone to practice these safety measures.

Tips from the Wisconsin Humane Society and Milwaukee County