Living with Coyotes


The Eastern Coyote is found throughout every town in Massachusetts, except on the islands. Coyotes thrive in suburban, urban, and rural areas.

• Small dogs and cats left unsupervised or off leash are at risk of attack by a coyote looking for a meal at any time of year. These attacks are considered normal predatory behavior and do not constitute a public safety threat. To prevent such attacks, pet owners are advised to stay outside while their pets relieve themselves. The physical presence of a person in the yard is generally a deterrent to wary coyotes.

• Sometimes coyotes will attack larger dogs to protect their young or defend territory. January and February is the breeding season for coyotes; a time they are more often seen or heard by people. Dog handlers are encouraged to keep pets on leashes to prevent them from encountering coyotes.

• Coyote attacks on people are a rare occurrence. There have been only eleven (11) incidents of coyotes attacking people in the past 20 years. The most recent confirmed attack on people was in June of 2018 when a coyote, unprovoked, attacked a teenage boy in Swampscott. In the majority of cases, the coyotes tested positive for rabies, or based on behavior, the animal was suspected to be rabid. Some incidents involved coyotes which had become habituated or overly accustomed to people.

Coyotes will feed on dead animals and eat fruits, berries, nuts, and other vegetation. Human-derived foods such as garbage, bird seed, and vegetables are also food eaten by coyotes. Property and business owners are encouraged to store these foods securely from coyotes.

Habituated Coyotes are a Cause for Concern; Coyotes that have become dependent on human-associated food can become habituated and act bold towards people. A habituated coyote:

• Does not run off when harassed or chased.

• Approaches pets on a leash.

• Approaches and follows people.

If an immediate threat to human safety exists, MassWildlife, Animal Control Officers, police departments, and the Environmental Police have the authority to respond to and dispatch the animal as stipulated in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 2.14 that pertain to handling problem animals. This includes animals exhibiting clear signs of rabies. If possible, MassWildlife should first be contacted to authorize the lethal taking of a coyote that appears to be habituated. There are few options legally available for handling habituated coyotes.

• To protect pets, owners are encouraged to restrain their pets on walks. Stay outside when letting pets outside to relieve themselves as a person's presence is generally a deterrent.

• Keep coyotes wild by scaring or threatening coyotes in your yard with loud noises, bright lights, or water sprayed from a hose.

• There is a hunting and trapping season for coyotes. The hunting season begins in mid-October through early March. The trapping season is in November. Cage type traps are the only legal traps in Massachusetts and are not effective. Soft catch traps, effective traps used in research and by fur trappers, were banned by state ballot referendum in 1996.

Other coyote conflict prevention tips for property owners, pet owners and farmers at the MassWildlife Preventing Conflicts with Coyotes