If you’re heading out camping for the first time this summer, it can be daunting. Heading out into nature and enjoying a little break away from everyday life is an amazing thing to do for yourself, your family, or your loved ones.
But it doesn’t come without risk. One of these risks is coyotes. You have to remember that every time we go camping, we’re heading out into the wilderness – and the wilderness is wild animal territory.
But that doesn’t mean that we should avoid going altogether. If you’re sensible, follow the guidelines in this article, and understand how to prevent a coyote from even coming near your tent, then you have nothing to worry about.
Likelihood Of A Coyote Attack
Coyote attacks on humans are very rare. In the 30 years leading up to 2006, there were only approximately 160 coyote attacks that occurred when people were hiking, camping, or cycling through certain areas where coyotes are more common.
Of these 160 reported attacks, there were only 2 fatal incidents. That means that even if coyotes do attack (and again, it’s very rare that they do) the likelihood of them being able to attack you in such a way that it leads to death is even slimmer.
Despite coyote attacks being incredibly rare though, you should still be sensible and take precautions when out camping to make sure that you’re not doing anything to increase the chances of a coyote coming anywhere near your campsite.
How To Keep Them Away
The single best way to prevent a coyote attack from even happening, is to prevent them from coming near your tent and campsite to begin with. Luckily for you, coyotes are generally solitary animals that won’t approach humans unless they have a reason to, preferring instead to avoid humans altogether. A coyote is a smart animal, and it knows that humans are not to be messed with.
Having said that, they can become accustomed to humans being in their territory, and may even learn to approach them if they see campsites as being a reliable source of food. And this brings us on to our first point: NEVER leave pet food outside.
Doing so is like rolling out a welcome mat for coyotes, because they don’t have to hunt for their food anymore if you’re leaving out free dinner. Always feed your pets indoors, or remove pet food once your dog has finished eating. Never leave scraps of human food or garbage around your campsite either, this too will invite coyotes to investigate.
Another great way to keep coyotes and other wild animals away is by having a noise deterrent to hand in case you notice them near your campsite. An air horn, loud whistle, or even simply pots and pans can all scare away an approaching coyote. Shouting aggressively whilst making the noise also reminds coyotes that they naturally fear us and should send them scarpering in the opposite direction.
Do They Bite People?
If a coyote ever gets close enough (which is very rare), then yes, they may bite you. They do this for several reasons, so we still advise that you keep them away from you because it’s unclear exactly why some coyotes attack when most flee from humans. But there are some possible motives:
-They’re naturally more aggressive
-They’re being territorial
-They may feel threatened
-They may be hungry
-They may have pups nearby
Any or all of these may be a reason for biting, so remember to do everything you can to keep them away from your campsite.
Do They Have Rabies?
If you’re unlucky enough to be bitten by a coyote, then rabies might be a concern of yours. But we have some reassuring news. The strain of rabies that was once quite common in the US has since been declared eradicated. That means it is highly unlikely that a coyote will have rabies. Highly unlikely, but not impossible.
If you’re ever bit by a coyote, then you should head to the emergency room right away. This is because there are still some very rare cases of rabies being present in coyotes even today. In fact, rabies may be one reason for a coyote attack to start with. Considering they are naturally shy and fearful creatures, coyotes that attack may do so because of rabies, so if you’re bitten, it is slightly more likely that the coyote that did it has rabies.
A quick test at your local hospital will determine whether the animal had rabies, and you’ll be given proper medical care to address it if they do. Again, it’s highly unlikely, but it’s better to be cautious in these situations and head to a hospital ASAP to make sure everything is OK.
If you’re still worried about coyote attacks even after reading how unlikely they are, then there are some additional safety tips that we can give you to make you feel that little bit more prepared.
First, choose a campsite that isn’t near any overgrown shrubbery or close to the entrance of a forest or woods. Coyotes are intelligent creatures, so won’t risk heading out into the open unless they absolutely have to. Instead, they prefer to stalk, keeping to the shadows to avoid detection. The best place for a campsite in coyote territory is in the middle of an open area.
Next, make sure you have something to attack a coyote with to hand. It can be a stick or an umbrella, but coyotes won’t continue their attack if they see you are fighting back, because they know they won’t win. You’ll hopefully never have to use the weapon you have close to you, but if it makes you feel safer, then by all means keep it with you so you’re always ready.
Finally, have a vinegar-water mix to hand in a water gun. It might sound ridiculous, but coyotes hate being sprayed unexpectedly with water, and even more so if it’s with a scent they are unfamiliar with. Vinegar is great for this because it’s such a strong scent, and one that a coyote won’t have been exposed to. If you see them approaching, start spraying whilst shouting out and they should run away.
Do Wild Animals Attack Tents?
Wild animals don’t attack tents often, but they may do if they can smell food or are curious about what’s inside for other reasons. If you’re asleep, then coyotes might not realize you are inside your tent and so may ‘attack’. We say attack loosely, because they’re probably just trying to find a way inside to see what’s inside the tent that’s suddenly sprung up in their territory.
If you notice a coyote trying to get into your tent in the night (you will notice by the way, because if they’re trying to get inside they won’t be quiet about it) then simply make lots of noise. The sudden burst of activity inside the tent will send even the bravest coyote away, because they’ll realize that they’ve disturbed somebody they shouldn’t have.
What To Do If You Hear An Animal
If you hear the howl of a coyote, then the best thing to do for now is nothing. Remember, you’re in their territory now, so hearing wild animals is to be expected. There is absolutely no reason to fear a coyote who is simply howling somewhere close by.
In fact, there’s not even a reason to fear a coyote that you can see, unless they are approaching. If they’re busy doing something else and aren’t interested in you or your campsite at all, then ignore them. Hearing or seeing them shouldn’t scare you, but you should be ready for an encounter just in case, so grab whatever deterrents you have and wait. Only engage with a coyote if it is approaching you. Otherwise, leave it to do whatever it is doing in its own territory.
Coyotes VS Wolves
Coyotes and wolves might look similar in pictures if you’ve never seen one in person before, but in reality they’re very different. It’s important to notice these differences though, because scaring off a coyote is relatively easy because they’re so naturally fearful, but attempting to scare off a wolf is much harder.
To start with, coyotes are much smaller than wolves. They have a darker coat and pointed muzzle, and you’re much more likely to see a coyote than a wolf. Wolves are far too intelligent to frequent areas that humans are in, whereas coyotes’ curiosity often gets the better of them, so they want to see what’s going on – even if they don’t approach.
A wolf also has rounded ears compared to a coyote’s pointed ones, and they also have much longer legs and much larger feet than a coyote too. You’ll notice the difference straight away should you ever see them though, but try to remember these key differences just in case you’re ever unsure.
If there’s one message you should take away from this article, it’s that coyote attacks are extremely rare. They aren’t impossible, but so long as you follow the advice in this article, then you have no reason to fear a coyote attack.
Remember to make lots of noise, appear aggressive, and threaten an approaching coyote, and they’ll likely return to their instinct to run away from humans because they see us as large predators.
Camping is an enjoyable, relaxing experience, so be prepared for coyotes, but don’t let it spoil your trip into nature.