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Coyotes and Foxes

Many of the calls we receive regarding coyotes and foxes are not technically help calls.  They are much more like general education calls more than anything else.  When you live in a busy metro area, or a major city, you do not expect to see coyotes/foxes out your back window, but in reality our coyotes/foxes tend to live in more urban areas. They both like to climb up to a high hill or cliff and look down below, and when they do so people notice them and get worried about having them so close by.  It is VERY rare here in the midwest for our coyotes and foxes to cause any conflict with people.  They are extremely shy and cautious around people, and for the most part they avoid us completely.

Coyote Sightings

If you experiencing trouble with a coyote in your area, or just need more information to help you feel more comfortable living so close to these animals, you are always welcome to call the hotline to address your concerns.  We are more than happy to educate people about coyotes habits, behavior, and how to coexist with them as best as possible.  However, if the animal looks healthy, is not suffering, and has not done anything to hurt anyone, there’s not much that we can do.  There are MANY coyote colonies in Missouri & Illinois and these colonies have existed for 20+ years in some areas.  Here are some examples of places that we know have healthy colonies that aren’t causing anyone any trouble, even though they are VERY close to people’s homes, yards, roads, etc.

  • Chesterfield, MO – Hwy 40 & Boone’s Crossing, behind Wal-Mart and other stores in mall
  • Maplewood, MO – Manchester and Hanley behind office park by railroad tracks
  • Ballwin, MO – Near the Ballwin Golf Club off of Claymont Drive
  • Edwardsville, IL – Hwy 157 on East side in fields and woods right next to hwy and neighborhood there
  • Independence, MO – Woodlawn Park & Cemetery
  • Pleasant Hill, MO – Baldwin Park and neighborhood nearby
  • Kirksville, MO – Just North of  Truman State University off of East Normal St.
  • Lake of the Ozarks – banks of the 48 mile marker and nearby homes
  • Joplin, MO – Landreth Park & Ozark Cemetery
  • Cape Girardeau, MO – Off of Hwy K and Edgewood Ave. near a day care facility
These are just a small sampling of areas where we have had reports of coyotes this winter.  We WANT these coyotes to be fearful of man, and run when they see us.  That is what is best for us, and for them.  By all means, hoot, holler, jump around, throw things (not AT the coyote, just in the general direction), spray him with the hose, rattle a large can with pennies or rocks in it, in some cities you can even fire a blank into the air.  (Check with your local police department first)  It is not “mean” to act this way towards them.  It benefits them as much as it does us.
Every once in a while, during a particularly hot summer, you may notice a coyote or fox drinking from your bird bath or pond.  Just as rare is the coyote/fox that gets into a trash can or bird feeding station.  But it does happen, albeit rarely.  They get hungry and thirsty too, and when they are in dire need they will swallow their fear of us and get close in order to get what they need to survive.  If you are seeing a coyote or fox in your area and you want it to keep its distance, make sure you do not leave pet food outside, secure your trash cans, and bring in your bird feeders at night.

Warnings

In our area, it is EXTREMELY uncommon for a coyote to attack a pet, much less a person.  But, if you are noticing a coyote or fox in the area, please make sure that your pets – especially very small toy breed dogs – are not left alone outdoors.  Better safe than sorry.  Coyotes do not see a difference between your Yorkshire Terrier and a wild rabbit – both are food to them.  They will take the path of least resistance, and a fenced in caged dog is a very easily meal for a coyote.  Warn your neighbors as well so that everyone knows to keep an extra careful watch over their pets.

Usually coyotes and foxes come to an area because there is an abundance of food in the area, usually squirrels, bunnies, mice or rats.  They deplete the food source, and then move on to another area that might have a surplus of food.  If you are noticing a lot of rabbits in your area, or a lot of squirrels, mice, etc. you may soon notice a coyote or fox, or both coming around to do population control.  This is the circle of life, and we can only try to be tolerant of it.  Give it a couple of weeks and they will probably move away to a new area.

Coyotes & Foxes with No Hair or Mangy Hair

Coyotes sometimes get a skin disease called mange.  It is actually a parasitic mite that causes hair loss and inflammation.  Mange is a miserable condition that causes itching and pain that eventually will cause the death of wild coyotes and foxes.  If you are witnessing a coyote, or multiple coyotes with this issue, please contact us at 1-855-WILD-HELP to find a local rehab center.

View our gallery to see more photos of coyotes and foxes with mange to help you identify if you are seeing a possible sick animal in your area.

Mange Gallery

There is a coyote/fox den near my property.

People are often surprised to discover a coyote or fox den near their property, with fox dens being the more common of the two.  The presence of a den is nothing to be concerned about.  Coyotes begin looking for a den sometime in March or April, and they do not usually use the den again from year to year. The only conflict you may encounter is the period of several weeks when the kits are old enough to feel adventurous but are left unattended while the parents go off in search of food.  The kits may look and act like puppies, and you may see them tumbling and romping in play throughout your yard.  As cute as the kits are, it is important that you do not feed the kits or initiate contact, or the kits may lose their fear of humans and that will ultimately lead to their demise.  Instead, you should bang metal pot tops together to create a loud noise, which will scare the kits and teach them to associate humans with a negative stimulus.  

If the den absolutely MUST be relocated for the animal’s well-being, you can attempt to deter the den site by placing flood lights so that they are pointed directly at the den opening, or you can play a loud radio pointed at the den site, or both.  These things should make the coyotes decide that a quieter, darker place may be better suited to raise their young.

Coyotes/Foxes keep getting into my chicken coop.

According to studies of coyote and fox stomach contents, livestock only makes up a small percentage of the coyote and fox diet, and are usually only preyed upon when other food sources are scarce.  The only way to protect your chickens is to reinforce your chicken coop so they cannot get access.  Heavy gauge welded wire should be used and another layer of finer mesh put over it to prevent coyotes, foxes, or other animals from being able to reach through.  Although reinforcing a pen may be a temporary inconvenience, once an animal pen is well reinforced and maintained, it is a great long-term solution to the problem.

Coyotes Fears & Fables

Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor local and state health departments have classified coyotes or foxes as a human safety risk.  Coyote attacks on people are extremely rare.  It is essential to put risk in its proper context, which is why, statistically speaking, the risk of coyote harm to humans is practically nil.

Most, if not all, of the few coyote/fox bites that occur nationally each year are directly related to coyotes being fed by humans, whether intentional or not.  As a result, it is important to take proactive measures and ensure that there are no human-produced food sources, such as garbage or pet food, on your property that will entice coyotes with a quick and easy meal.  Although coyotes will occasionally prey on free-roaming cats and small dogs, the fear of coyotes or foxes eating pets is greatly exaggerated.  Many more dogs and cats meet the unfortunate fate of being struck by an automobile.  Coyotes and foxes seek out the type of prey that will give them the greatest reward with minimal risk of injury to themselves.  As a result, their favored prey include small mammals such as rabbits, mice, rats, and squirrels, as well as human-produced food such as garbage, cat or dog food.  Coyotes and foxes also eat insects, fruits (persimmon trees being a favorite) and berries.

If a coyote or fox, or any wild animal, bites you or anyone you know, you should report the bite to your local rabies control office.  Often they will come out and trap the animal in question, then euthanize it and test it for the rabies virus.  Short of being removed due to a bite report, there are no government agencies that will come out and relocate a perfectly healthy coyote just because it scares you.  We must learn to be tolerant and coexist peacefully with these animals.  If you give it some time, we believe that you will find them much less bothersome and scary than you expected them to be.

We found a baby coyote/fox puppy!

Coyotes mate in early spring; litters of usually 5 to 7 pups are typically born in late April or May. Both parents care for the young, which remain with the family as they learn to hunt and behave as adults.  With foxes, mating may occur from late December to March, but January and February are the usual months. Litters generally are born in March or April. Most litters contain 4–7 kits. The kits begin to come out of the nest when they are about a month old, and at about 10 weeks, they leave the den area for the first time to accompany their parents on hunting trips. The family disperses in the fall. Foxes are chiefly nocturnal but may come out during day, especially at dawn and dusk.

If you come across what you think may be a coyote or fox pup be careful to not immediately pick it up.  You don’t know if Mom is nearby.  Just like domestic puppies, wild pups wander too far from the den site sometimes, and get into mischief.  Try to give the pup a safe distance where you can watch to see if he/she goes back to the den or if Mom comes back to scold him for wandering.  When young, fox and coyote pups look a lot alike so it may be difficult to tell which one you have found, but that’s okay.  Once you are satisfied that Mom is not near, or if the animal is injured, or bleeding, you can pick up the pup by wrapping it in a thick towel.  Place the towel and pup inside a pet carrier or other containment area (even an upside down laundry basket works sometimes) and contact your local rehab office or the wildlife hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP.

Can’t I raise the pup myself?

We know, they are very cute and so sweet as little puppies.  However, this is a wild animal, not a domestic pet.  In our view, if you truly love this animal, the best gift you can give him is the proper start to life and release into the wild where he belongs.  Coyotes and foxes are supposed to eat mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, deer, and tree nuts.  Most people do not want to undertake the responsibility of feeding these things to a pet.  It is inhumane to feed them cat or dog food and expect them to give up their desire to run free, catch their prey, mate with others, and live the way they were destined to live.  The more time a coyote or fox pup spends with humans the higher the risk or him not being a good release candidate.   The Missouri Dept. of Conservation does not allow animals to be transferred to a zoo, so if the animal cannot be released back to the wild, Missouri rehabbers are legally required to euthanize the animal.

Rehab centers are extremely careful with foxes and coyotes to ensure that the pups grow up to be afraid of humans and stay as wild as possible.  Our worst fear is that we will raise a pup that gets accustomed to people that it ends up getting shot by a farmer or law enforcement agency because of its behavior post-release.  Please do not keep these pups as pets.  It is illegal, and if caught, you will be charged, fined, and the animal will be put down.  If you love him, get him the help he needs from the properly licensed experts.

It is NOT LEGAL to own or raise a wild fox, coyote, or MIXED breed of either in the state of Missouri & Illinois.  If caught, the animal will be killed.  Please don’t take this chance!

… A Word about Poison …

We at the Wildlife Hotline are strong opponents to poisoning wildlife.  First off, it is not a legal way to handle wildlife conflicts.  Secondly, poison never ends up only affecting the animal that you intended to poison.  These animals are part of the circle of life, and if poisoned a predator comes along and eats the dead animal which then kills the predator, which gets picked apart by birds, which then kills the birds, then the birds are found by a domestic cat and kills the cat.  It just isn’t simple issue.  Poison has proven to be a far too dangerous way to handle wildlife conflicts.  Before you decide to use poison to handle your wildlife conflict please read our ‘Poison Risks & Consequences’ page to learn more about this issue.

As always, if you see a coyote or fox injured, bleeding, sickly, or otherwise in danger or need of help, or if you need more information to assist in solving your conflict with coyotes, please feel free to call us at 1-855-WILD-HELP and speak with a wildlife specialist that can help.