Skip to Main Content

Sighting Coyotes – What Should you Do?

Coyotes can be found just about anywhere in North America. Indiana residents are more likely to see coyotes during wintertime, but sightings are no cause for alarm, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Today, coyotes are found throughout Indiana, including urban areas,” said Indiana DNR. Coyotes become more active during winter as young coyotes leave their families to find a new home and coyotes begin breeding. Coyotes may look larger than they are due to their thick winter coats, but the average coyote only weighs 20-30 pounds.

Indiana DNR said the coyote resembles a small German Shepherd dog in size and build, but it carries its tail below the level of its back instead of curved upward. Their hair is grizzled gray or buff, with a reddish-brown muzzle. The lower body is white, cream colored or reddish yellow. They average 25 pounds, ranging from 20 to 50 pounds. Although rare, coyotes will crossbreed with domestic and feral dogs, or with wolves. They communicate by barking, yipping and howling.

Coyotes are highly adaptable and occupy a wide range of habitats. They have developed a high tolerance for humans and are common in urban, suburban, and agricultural areas. These nocturnal animals are generally solitary and rarely form packs, but they will sometimes hunt with mates or family units.

Indiana DNR characterizes coyotes as opportunistic foragers that will consume anything of nutritional value. They typically feed on small animals, rabbits, and squirrels, but will not turn down meals offered from human-provided food sources, such as garbage. They may also eat fruit, insects, poultry, livestock (sheep, goats or small calves), deer (especially fawns and road-killed deer), songbirds and game birds.

Coyotes are extremely cautious of humans in areas where they are harassed, hunted or trapped. However, in suburban areas, where they have lost their fear of humans, coyotes may associate people and their pets (cats and dogs) with an easy and dependable source of food.

Coyotes do perform a vital role in the ecosystem in helping to control pests such as field rodents that can cause economic damage to crops and landscapes.

Not all coyotes are stock killers, however some are killers of livestock and poultry. Generally, only one or two in an area find livestock a favorite food source.

Livestock owners employ several techniques to defend against coyotes. These may include improved animal husbandry, fencing (traditional or electric), predator-proof buildings, guard dogs, or mechanical repellant devices.

Suburban residents may limit problems with coyotes by not putting feed and water out for wildlife in general. Bird feeders should be constructed and positioned so that coyotes and their prey cannot reach them. Garbage containers should be firmly secured with tight fitting lids. Pets that are fed outside should not be fed in a way that leaves leftovers, and pet food should be stored inside. Allowing pets to run free increases their risk.

Purdue Extension wildlife specialists Brian MacGowan and Bee Overbey talked about these topics and more in a recent video in Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources’ series, “Ask an Expert.” They said if you encounter a coyote on a walk and it acts abnormally or does not keep its distance, use hazing or scare tactics to intimidate the animal, keep your dogs on a leash, and slowly retreat (don’t run).

Indiana DNR said that landowners, or a person with written permission from a landowner, may take coyotes year-round on private property by trapping or shooting without a permit from the DNR. A landowner does not need a permit to take coyotes on his/her property by one of these methods, but a hunting or trapping license is required to hunt or trap coyotes on land other than your own.

Alternatively, nuisance coyotes can also be managed by a licensed wildlife control operator for a fee.

For more information, access the referenced Indiana DNR website on coyotes at, and a referenced article by Indiana DNR at Additionally, find Purdue Extension’s publication on coyotes at Finally, watch a video by Purdue Extension’s Bee Overbey and Brian MacGowan on co-existing with coyotes at:

To Top