Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Coyotes are regularly spotted around Washington state. Here are several must-know facts

In this 2011 file photo, a coyote crosses a snowy street in the Irvington section of Portland, Ore. Coyotes are a fairly common sight in rural areas of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, and landowners might instinctively reach for the rifle if they see one in the pasture or sniffing around the barn.  (Beth Nakamura/Oregonian)
By Caitlyn Patel Olympian

OLYMPIA – With an estimated 50,000 coyotes in Washington state and increasing populations, many community members have questions about these animals.

Where do coyotes live?

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, these adaptable animals occupy almost every type of habitat, with the exception of islands in the state. Coyotes can live in both densely forested and well-developed areas like downtown waterfronts. They can also be found in desert-type terrain.

“Coyotes have adapted to live close to humans in many areas because food sources are easy to come by,” said Staci Lehman of the DFW in an interview.

The Washington NatureMapping Program has a map to see predicted areas of their habitats.

What do coyotes sound like?

Coyotes make a variety of sounds. Sometimes described as screaming, laughing, whining, singing and howling.

Want to hear what a coyote sounds like? The DFW’s Youtube channel offers a one-hour video with a mix of coyote sounds that range from howls and yips to growls.

What do coyotes eat?

Coyotes have been known to prey mainly on pets and trash left outside. However, this is not always the case.

According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, coyotes are omnivores, eating meat and plants. Coyotes eat rabbits, rodents, dead animals, deer, livestock, insects, fruit, and poultry. Unfortunately, they will also attack and eat house pets like cats and dogs.

What do coyotes look like?

Coyotes may appear similar to dogs, foxes or wolves. But a few key physical features distinguish a coyote from these other animals.

The DFW describes coyotes as having black, brown, gray, yellow, rust, and tan shades to their fur. They also describe them as having short and bushy tails that are carried low, almost dragging on the ground.

Their snouts are also much longer and narrower than dogs.

Are coyotes dangerous to humans and pets?

Maybe you have heard a story about a coyote attack, or perhaps you had a first-hand experience with a coyote. Either way, the Urban Coyote Research Project, a project that studies coyotes in urban areas, says the risks are typically minimal.

However, the website lists ways to reduce or prevent attacks through modified human behaviors.

Do not feed coyotes

Although they may resemble a dog, the most effective way to avoid attacks is not to feed coyotes. By feeding them, they can lose their fear of humans. Be wary of leaving pet food and garbage outside.

Do not let your pets run loose

Keep your dog on a leash, and try not to leave pets unattended. Even with a fence, pets are still at risk for predation.

Do not run from a coyote

Make loud noises, yell, and shout.

And if you have to, try throwing something at the coyote.

Fencing or repellents

Repellents like motion-detected lights can be helpful.

Fencing your yard also may keep coyotes away if over six feet in height.

Do not create conflict if it does not exist

If the coyote is not bothering humans or pets, do not seek to agitate the animal.

Report aggression and fearless behavior

If the coyote is acting aggressively or is showing a lack of fear of humans, report the behavior immediately to the appropriate officials.

Who should I report aggressive or fearless behavior to?

In Washington state, you can call the DFW’s enforcement office at (360) 902-2936 or email them at

If they do not respond, call 911.