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How Tall a Fence Do You Need for a Coyote?

As coyotes become common sights in cities and suburbs nationwide, homeowners are becoming concerned about how to keep them out of yards. But how tall a fence should be to discourage coyotes may depend more on local zoning law than the jumping ability of Canis latrans. Many municipalities limit fence heights to 6 feet, yet coyotes leap over barriers that high unless they are topped with barbed wire or other devices that thwart entry.

How Coyotes Jump Fences

Coyotes are highly adaptable.

Coyotes "easily" jump over 8-foot fences, according to the Desert U.S.A. website, which notes an instance in which onlookers saw one "climb" a 14-foot cyclone fence. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife website says that coyotes don't usually leap tall fences in a single bound. They grip the tops with their front paws and kick their hind legs over. They are also experts at digging, so it is necessary to add below-ground barriers to the bottom of fences. Southern California's Ventura County government website notes that homeowners give coyotes climbing advantages when they stack wood, yard debris and other materials next to fences.

Fence-Top Deterrents

To make it difficult for coyotes to vault over fences, the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife website suggests stringing PVC pipe on wire across the top of fences. The spinning action makes it difficult for coyotes to grip fence tops. The Ventura County website says other possible fence-top deterrents include low-voltage, shock wire -- also used on rural livestock fencing -- and angled, outward facing extenders through which rows of barbed wire are strung.

Members of Dog Family

Coyotes are related to wolves, domestic dogs and jackals. Members of the dog family can cross breed. Consequently, some coyotes are part dog and are called "coydogs" whereas those that cross with wolves are called "coywolves." Breeding can be further complicated if a coydog and coywolf mate. The New York Times reports that some researchers theorize the larger coyotes of the Northeast are actually wolf hybrids. While western desert coyotes may weigh as little as 20 pounds, their eastern relatives are about 40 pounds.

Coyote Diet

Coyotes are opportunistic eaters that adapt to whatever food sources they find in their habitat, including livestock, garbage, garden produce and small family pets. However, in the wild, they mainly eat mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, other small rodents, insects and fruits and berries of wild plants. In the Southwest, they even eat reptiles.

Territorial Expansion

Coyotes have adapted to environments including Southwestern deserts, Colorado's mountains and metropolitan areas including Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, New York City and Washington, D.C. Researchers have tracked about 2,000 coyotes in Chicago and its suburbs.

About the Author

Alicia Rudnicki's Library Mix website blends book buzz for all ages. A gardener, she writes for California's Flowers by the Sea nursery. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from UC Berkeley, a Master of Arts in education from CU Denver, and has taught K-12.