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A light brown and dark brown coyote faces the camera, standing on short green grass with bare twigs and brush surrounding it

Coyotes are an increasingly common sight in suburban San Mateo County, especially in neighborhoods that border our many parks and open spaces.

A coyote looks similar to a small German shepherd dog or a large fox. The stand around 18″ tall at the shoulder and have fluffy or bushy gray to brown fur. More information on distinguishing coyotes from dogs is available on the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife website. No wolf species are found in San Mateo County.

Coyotes are a natural part of our environment, and simply seeing a coyote does not necessarily signal a problem. Most coyotes avoid humans and are rarely seen. However, some coyotes may lose their fear of humans, and their bold behavior may escalate.

You can reduce this risk by treating coyotes with appropriate respect and caution. You can discourage coyotes from visiting your property by making sure there is nothing there they can eat, including:

  • harvest ripe and fallen fruit
  • keep garbage and compost in closed containers
  • resolve rodent infestations or other conditions that may bring small mammals to your property – these are attractive food for coyotes
  • if you keep rabbits or poultry outdoors, make sure they are in a cage or kennel where coyotes cannot reach them
  • do not let small dogs or cats outdoors at night without supervision
  • do not feed pets outdoors at night or leave pet food out overnight

Excessively bold coyotes can be frightened away by shouting or making other loud noises, waving your arms, or throwing objects in its direction. This may help the coyote regain its natural fear of humans and prevent future confrontations. If the coyote does not immediately retreat, you should slowly back away. Do not run or turn your back on the coyote.

NEVER feed or approach a coyote or other wild animal. Feeding wild animals is unhealthy and unsafe for both people and animals!

More information on preventing conflict with coyotes is available on the UC IPM Program website.


Page last reviewed: September 1, 2023

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