Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version



Published in the Proceedings of the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference (D.L. Nolte, W.M. Arjo, D.H. Stalman, Eds). 2007.


We summarize the behavior of several species of canids (coyotes, dingoes, and gray wolves) in relation to their habituation to humans and to human food sources. Striking parallels exist between coyotes and other wild canids in terms of the inclination of individual animals to act aggressively toward humans and even attack, once they have come to associate humans with food. We describe the stages of coyotes’ behavioral adaptation to suburban ecosystems, listing 7 steps toward increasing habituation, which can be used as action thresholds for invoking active coyote management or removal efforts. We consider the hypothesis that coyotes may regard small children as potential prey, as demonstrated by stalking and attack behaviors. We discuss the difficulty in extinguishing aggressive coyote behavior with hazing or other less than lethal practices, once it has become established. We note that in educational materials developed to reduce the incidence of dog bite and injury to children, the recommendations made are the opposite of those made when encountering an aggressive coyote. We note that there are additional questions that must be answered in order for us to have a better understanding of why some canids become dangerous following habituation.