Here’s What to Do to Survive if a Coyote Attacks You

Written by Crystal
Published: February 14, 2023
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You’re out for a morning jog when suddenly, a piercing howl stops you in your tracks. Before you know it, you come face-to-face with a snarling coyote. What should you do? Follow along to learn how to survive if a coyote attacks you.

Steps to Survive if a Coyote Attacks You

snarling coyote

A fierce, snarling coyote with mouth open and hackles up.

©iStock.com/Songbird839

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A coyote is standing in your path, and it looks angry. You can see the razor-sharp teeth and fierce brown eyes staring you down. What do you do? Follow these steps to survive if a coyote attacks you:

Step One: Do Not Run

Do not run from a coyote. Running will trigger the coyote’s hunter instinct. Instead, pick up small children, retract your dog’s leash, and slowly back away. Maintain eye contact, and never turn your back on the coyote.

Step Two: Be Loud

Coyotes aren’t large, and they don’t want to attack animals that are bigger than them. Since adults usually only weigh around 50 pounds, it won’t be hard to make it clear you’re a big scary human.

Wave your arms above your head and make noise. Yell, clap your hands and tell the coyote to go away. Be loud and firm. Don’t make high-pitched sounds that can be mistaken for prey.

Step Three: Throw Things

If the coyote keeps approaching, throw things at them. Sticks, rocks, items from your hiking pack—throw anything within reach.

As you throw things, face forward. Avoid bending down or turning your back on the coyote. Bending down makes you appear small and vulnerable. Stay standing, shouting, and throwing until the coyote flees. If the coyote doesn’t flee, prepare for a fight.

Should You Fight Back or Play Dead?

mother and baby coyote on a rock

Coyotes hunt at night, reducing the chance of humans coming into contact with them.

©iStock.com/roclwyr

When dealing with a predatory coyote, never play dead. Your best chance of survival is scaring the coyote away. If you can’t scare them away, prepare for a fight.

How do you fight a coyote? Yell, kick, punch, and scream while protecting your vital organs. If you have a backpack, you can swing it at them.

Coyotes don’t naturally target humans as prey. If the coyote is aggressive, you’re in danger. You have to remind them that you’re not someone to be messed with. Keep cool, and don’t back down.

Fun fact; the black bear is another animal you shouldn’t play dead with. If a black bear makes contact with you, fight back to scare it away. Alternatively, playing dead can help you survive a grizzly bear attack (in certain situations).

Prevent Coyote Attacks

Preventing coyote attacks goes a long way. For starters, if you do see a coyote in the wild, never approach or feed them. Coyotes that get used to handouts will lose their fear of humans.

Next, don’t leave any food around your house that might attract wildlife. Petfood is notorious for attracting unwanted pests and threats. You should also secure your trashcans with animal-proof locks.

Before you go out for a hike, find out if there have been any coyote sightings. Avoid hiking alone, and be prepared. Finally, carry a noisemaker, whistle, and something to throw.

Are Coyote Attacks Common?

You don’t have to be alarmed instantly if you see a coyote in the wild. These canines rarely attack people. A normal coyote doesn’t want anything to do with you! If they see you in the wild, they’re likely to run away.

But what about coyotes that don’t run away? What about the ones that approach you? Coyotes are naturally shy animals. If you see one in the wild and it doesn’t flee at the side of you, be alarmed!

Coyotes who aren’t afraid of people are dangerous. Strange behavior, like walking towards you, could also be a sign of rabies.

Non-Fatal Coyote Attacks

California Valley Coyote in the San Gabriel Mountains, California

©Justin Johnsen / CC BY 2.0 – License

Coyote attacks are rare, but they do happen. In the United States and Canada, that have been 142 reports of coyote attacks. Out of these attacks, 37% were predatory, and 22% were investigative in nature. There were more children victims than adult victims of predatory attacks.
Modifying human behavior can help prevent attacks in the future. Public education initiatives like the Urban coyote research project help promote a healthy message. We don’t have to be afraid of coyotes. Instead, they can learn how to live safely around coyotes.

Fatal Coyote Attacks

Do Coyotes Hunt in Packs

Coyotes live in family packs.

©iStock.com/GatorDawg

There are two records of fatal coyote attacks. One was in the 1980s, and the other one was in 2009. The latter took place in Canada, and the victim was a singer-songwriter named Taylor Mitchell. This incident is Canada’s only fatal coyote attack, and starvation is likely to blame. The pack of canines had harsh living conditions and limited food sources. To survive, the canines began targeting moose. Once they began taking down larger prey, the hungry coyotes saw humans as targets too.

The first fatal coyote attack of August 26th, 1981, took place in California. The victim was a 3-year-old girl named Kelly Keen. While playing in the driveway, a coyote approached Kelly, grabbed her in its mouth, and ran off. Her father was able to chase the canine away, but Kelly had already broken her neck and lost a lot of blood. She died in the hospital shortly after the coyote attack.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Songbird839


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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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