April 7, 2023
PHOENIX — In the aftermath of two recent coyote attacks on toddlers in north Scottsdale, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is reminding residents to help avoid conflicts with wildlife by not feeding them and by not letting them feel comfortable around your home.
The toddlers were attacked by coyotes in separate incidents two weeks ago and sustained minor injuries. Wildlife officials believe the same coyote was responsible for both attacks. AZGFD personnel searched the area for several days after the incidents and trapped and euthanized four coyotes to submit for rabies testing. All tests came back negative for rabies. Because there were no additional reports of aggressive coyote behavior in that area, AZGFD concluded operations but continues to monitor the situation for reports of aggressive behavior.
Coyote attacks on people do occur and have the potential to be serious. Including the two most recent attacks, there have been 24 coyote attacks on people in the Phoenix metropolitan area in the past 26 years.
The root cause of many human-wildlife conflicts is giving wildlife easy access to food, water and shelter. In this instance, one of the coyotes that was removed had undigested dog food in its stomach. While searching the area, AZGFD staff also discovered active feeding occurring where muffins and scrambled eggs were purposefully left out for wildlife.
“People who love wildlife should understand that feeding wild animals or leaving food accessible to them is not a good practice and can put the animal and people in danger,” said Darren Julian, urban wildlife specialist for AZGFD. “When wildlife such as coyotes, javelina, bobcats, bears or mountain lions learn to associate humans with food, they lose their fear of people, and that can lead to conflict situations that end badly for both humans and wildlife.”
AZGFD offers the following tips for people to discourage coyotes and other wild animals from taking up residence in populated areas:
- Don’t feed wildlife. It is unlawful to feed wildlife (except for birds and tree squirrels) in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties per Arizona Revised Statute 13-2927. Some cities and less populated counties have also adopted ordinances against feeding. Check your local city and county ordinances.
- Remove pet food, water bowls, garbage and other attractants from around your home and put them in a secure location inaccessible to wildlife.
- Feed your pets inside and never leave them unattended, especially at dusk and dawn when coyotes are most active. Coyotes are opportunistic predators and may see unattended small pets as an easy meal.
- Don’t let coyotes get comfortable in your neighborhood — spray them (from a safe distance) with a hose, throw pebbles in their direction, light up the area at night, or bang pots and pans to keep the animals moving.
- Secure garbage containers and eliminate odors by cleaning trash cans with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution. Put out trash containers on the morning of pickup, not the night before.
- Keep an eye on small children.
If you encounter a coyote:
- Make loud noises, keep eye contact, but DO NOT turn and run away as it might elicit the coyote’s predatory chase response.
- Shout and bang pots and pans or rattle empty soda cans with pebbles in it (coyote shaker) and wave your hands or objects like sticks and brooms.
- Make yourself appear larger and yell in low loud tones (no high-pitched screams).
- Use a commercial repellent like pepper spray, if necessary, on bold animals that refuse to leave.
- Move toward other people, a building, or an area with activity.
- If a coyote is approaching a person or has bitten a person, call 911. Anyone bitten by a coyote should immediately seek medical attention from a qualified healthcare provider.
- If you encounter a coyote (or other wildlife) that is acting aggressively toward people, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s 24-hour Communications Center at 623-236-7201.
AZGFD does not provide removal or capture services for nuisance wildlife but does offer self-help advice. If necessary, homeowners can contact a qualified wildlife control business to attempt to capture and remove nuisance wildlife for a fee.
AZGFD will respond if there is an immediate public safety threat to people. Predators such as coyotes that have attacked people or are exhibiting predatory or aggressive behaviors toward people will be lethally removed. Lethal removal is the last resort, as these animals can’t be relocated for public safety reasons. Keep in mind that even if coyotes are removed from an area, others will probably subsequently move in if attractants remain.
Please keep wildlife wild and help reduce the chance of conflicts that can be bad for both wildlife and people.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has a “Living with Wildlife” section on its website (https://www.azgfd.com/wildlife-conservation/living-with-wildlife/) with tips on living with coyotes, bobcats, javelina, mountain lions and bears, among other species.
Another good resource is a video presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI2_pDEokCo) by AZGFD Urban Wildlife Specialist at a talk hosted by the City of Scottsdale on Jan. 30, 2023.