Probably originating in the Great Plains, coyotes are now widely distributed throughout North America and have been in Virginia for at least 60 years. The versatile canid has benefited from the decline of the gray wolf, a competitor and predator of the coyote, and easily adapts to environments modified by humans.

Coyote Facts

Commonly mislabeled as carnivores, coyotes are omnivores and will eat just about anything. Much of their diet consists of rodents and other small mammals along with fruit and carrion, including road-killed deer.

If you spot a coyote in or around Willowsford, do not panic: most coyotes avoid people, and seeing a coyote out during the day is not a cause for alarm, especially in the spring and summer when they’re looking for food for their pups.

Coyotes generally avoid human contact, even when living in urban or suburban areas, and should be left alone.  However, the presence of pet food, compost, dirty BBQ grills or trash can lure coyotes into yards, and a coyote who finds food in one yard may learn to search for food in others. Don’t make your yard a food source to coyotes!

Things to Avoid
  • Avoid feeding pets outside, or remove the food bowl as soon as your pet has finished the meal.
  • Bird seed on the ground attracts mice and rats and can attract coyotes who feed on rodents.
  • Keep trash in containers with tight fitting lids. Place the cans curbside the morning of collection; much wildlife is active at night.
  • Keep unattended cats and dogs indoors or in in a secured, covered kennel.
Best Practices

As you and your pets spend more time outdoors, the possibility of a coyote encounter increases.  In the spring, when coyotes raise litters, they may be territorial and challenge dogs that come close to the pups.  Or they may try to escort you out of an area to protect their pups when you encounter them on a trail.  It is important to recognize such incidents for what they are: defense of space, not an attempt to stalk or attack. 

If you encounter a coyote, do not run away.  Haze the coyote by clapping, shouting, and waving your arms, or throwing sticks and small rocks to persuade the coyote to move on.  Noisemakers, such as whistles, can help scare coyotes away. 

Coexisting with coyotes is easy; most of us are already doing it without realizing it! Coyotes learn from our actions and follow our cue; teach them that the neighborhood is not a free buffet and they will remain benign and wild neighbors.

Willowsford Conservancy

41025 Willowsford Lane, Aldie, VA 20105

Phone: 571-440-2400

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Willowsford Farm Stand

23595 Founders Drive, Ashburn, VA 20148

Phone: 571-297-6900

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