Are Coyotes Dangerous?


I’m lucky enough to have grown up on a ranch in Northeastern Utah. I’m doubly lucky because I still live here as an adult. Sightings and interactions with wildlife are common enough that we take them for granted at times. I remember when I was a young kid, my dad was out taking care of some irrigation water on a dark night. He happened to look around and noticed, to his surprise and dismay, that he had a coyote creeping up just a few feet behind him. He yelled and swung his shovel at it. This made the animal vanish the way coyotes are supposed to do. Most coyotes are scared of humans. They generally like to keep a lot of real-estate between you and them. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, though, “Are coyotes dangerous to humans?” I’ve done some research and have some answers for you.

Statistically, you are not very likely to be bothered by a coyote. They do occasionally harm people, though. There are two documented cases of coyotes killing people in the United States and Canada since the twentieth century.

For perspective, though, I’ll give some other statistics. For instance:

  • 2.18 Americans are killed each year in accidents involving vending machines.
  • 15,000 people are injured each year in golf cart-related accidents.
  • 82 people die each year from lightning strikes.
  • Deer related accidents are responsible for an estimated 120 deaths a year.
  • Cows kill around 22 people in the United States each year.
  • Pigs kill approximately 40 people in the United States and Canada each year.
  • Dogs killed 48 people in the United States in the year 2019. Pitbull’s were responsible for 33 of these deaths.

As you can see, there are other things to be afraid of besides coyotes, like vending machines. On the other hand, coyotes do attack people. I’ll give some examples below.

Coyote Attacks

These documented Coyote attacks on humans occurred in an eight-year time period between 1993 and 2001. They’re a compilation by Tom Chester [source]


  • 1993. A coyote bit a Fallbrook, California boy, as he slept on the deck of his home. (SDUT 1/3/95, B1)
  • 7/20/95. Fifteen-month-old Erica Galvin of Reno, Nev., suffered seven puncture wounds to her right thigh when a coyote sneaked up on her about 4 p.m. Thursday near the merry-go-round and tennis courts at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The coyote was scared away by her mother. (SDUT 7/24/95, A3)
  • 6/13/96. A 2-year-old male coyote attacked a 3-year-old Palo Alto boy at the Windy Hills Open Space Preserve in Portola Valley, near Los Altos, CA. As the family was packing up the car after a picnic, the coyote used his teeth to grab the boy by the hand and drag him toward nearby bushes. The boy was playing with a Frisbee, which was also bit by the coyote. The boy’s 15-year-old brother scared away the coyote. The coyote was later trapped, and DNA testing (from the Frisbee) was attempted to make the id certain. This was the first attack in the 25-year history of this Preserve. (Los Altos Town Crier 7/24/96)


  • 10/96? (< 4/11/97). A 40-year-old woman jogger in Benkelman, Nebraska, was bitten on the leg when a coyote attacked her as she jogged around an athletic track. (Animal Damage Control Program of the USDA)


  • 2/17/97. Lauren Bridges, a 40 pound, 4-year-old girl, was attacked by a 40-pound female coyote when she left her vacation rental on Saddle Road in South Lake Tahoe, CA. The coyote knocked her to the ground and began biting her face, the only part not covered by ski clothes. Her father heard her screams and pulled the coyote off his daughter as it continued ripping at her face with its teeth. Lauren required 22 stitches for 16 wounds to the girl’s face, neck and scalp, out of a total of over 30 puncture wounds. One of the puncture wounds came within a centimeter of her jugular vein. The father was not bitten, and the coyote was killed moments later by a police officer. (Tahoe World region 2/24/97, 2/19/97, and 3/5/97) In the previous month at South Lake Tahoe, Supervisor John Upton reported that a coyote bit a man, other skiers were chased by coyotes, and coyotes followed children walking to school. Apparently, people had been feeding coyotes in the area, accustoming the coyotes to people. (Placerville Mountain Democrat 2/24/97)


  • 4/97. Coyotes attacked and bit two Scottsdale, Arizona children in separate attacks within a week. Neither child was seriously hurt. (SDUT 12/17/97, A3)
  • 12/10-11/97. On 12/10/97, a coyote attacked a 2-year-old boy in Tucson’s Wildlife Ridge Park but did not break his skin. The next day, in the same park, a 4-year-old boy was bitten and scratched, and a 22-month-old toddler was bitten around her right eye and required seven stitches for the deep puncture wounds. (SDUT 12/17/97, A3)


  • 7/29/98. There has been only one coyote attack on a human reported in Massachusetts in the past 50 years, on 3-year-old Daniel Neal of Sandwich, while playing on his swing set. His mother forced the female coyote off Daniel, but the coyote hung around. Police responding to her call killed the coyote. Daniel suffered puncture wounds and abrasions to the head, shoulders, and back, but is OK. The same coyote had earlier chased a person on a bike and a jogger as well as chewing on a sleeping bag with a child inside. The first active coyote den on Cape Cod was found in 1985. In comparison, there are thousands of dog bites annually in Massachusetts. (Cape Cod Times 7/30/98Environmental News Network, 8/5/98Lexington Minuteman, 3/15/00)


  • 1999. Seven people were bitten by coyotes between March and August in the Lake Tahoe area, including one tourist who was bitten in the thigh while walking in the Caesars Tahoe parking lot over Memorial Day weekend. Airplane flights at the South Lake Tahoe runway have been canceled or delayed due to coyotes on the airport runway, who have even chased planes as they took off! In May 1999, the airport was told by the FAA to find a solution to the problem. Animal control killed 19 of the boldest coyotes in the casino area. (SDUT 8/20/99, A28)
  • 5/13/00. A 9-year-old boy was bitten in the buttocks by a possible coyote in a residential neighborhood in La Mesa, San Diego County, California. It was not 100% certain that the animal was a coyote. (SDUT 5/16/00, B3)
  • 5/19/00. A 3-year-old boy was bitten on his side outside his Amaya Drive apartment complex at 7 pm in La Mesa, San Diego County. A responding police officer hit the coyote with a shotgun blast, but the coyote was not found the next day. The boy was treated at Grossmont Hospital for four puncture wounds on his right side. (SDUT 5/21/00, B3)
  • 10/02/01. Allison Newell, an 8-year-old girl, and Luis Enrique Villalobos, a 7-year-old boy, were bitten by a coyote at 12:15 pm during the lunch hour at Truman Benedict Elementary School in San Clemente, California. The coyote bit the backpack of a third child. The coyote came into the lunch area and attacked Allison from behind. Fourth-grade teacher Mitch Colapinto threw water bottles and rocks at the coyote, which then ran through the playground and lunged at Luis. Both students suffered scratches and minor bite wounds, the girl on the back of her neck and the boy on his back and arm. They were treated at San Clemente Hospital and released. The treatment included beginning a series of rabies shots. The three coyotes were killed on a nearby hillside later in the day by wildlife specialists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Coyote Related Deaths

  • In 1981 A toddler wandered out the front door of her family’s home in Glendale, California A coyote attacked the little girl in the driveway and then drug her down the street. The girl’s father chased the coyote off, but she later died at the hospital from her injuries. After the attack, officials implemented 80 days of leghold trapping and shooting within a 0.5-mile radius of the attack site. They trapped and shot 55 coyotes.
  • On October 27 of 2009, in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada, two coyotes mauled 19-year-old Taylor Mitchell. Although Mitchell was hiking alone when the attack occurred, two other hikers heard the commotion and called 911. Officers responded in time to shoot one of the animals. Although Mitchel was airlifted to hospital in Halifax, she died of her injuries the next day.

In conclusion, your not very likely to be attacked by a coyote, but that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous to humans.

Most of the attacks that I listed took place in suburban areas. These are places where coyotes have adapted to interacting daily with people. Since hunting is not allowed, the animals lose all respect and fear of humans. They then view us as a food source. That can come in the form of scavenging through our garbage and food scraps. It can also come in the form of viewing our pets and the most vulnerable of us as prey.

In the case of the fatal attack in Canada, it took place in a national park. Parks create artificial interactions between humans and otherwise wild animals. Animals lose the natural fear they have for people.

On the other hand, many of our majority urban population do not have a connection to or understand the wild or wild things anymore. It’s a dangerous combination.

Also, See All About Coyotes – Krebs Creek

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