Facts About the Eastern Coyote in Massachusetts


The Eastern Coyote typically weighs between 35 and 40lbs.  The color of the coat varies from a grizzled gray, a grayish tan, a reddish blonde to a charcoal black.  They are often described as looking similar to a poorly fed German shepherd but coyotes usually carry their tails low to the ground whereas a German shepherd carries its tail high.

 Habitat & Feeding

Eastern Coyotes are often found in suburban areas where food is most plentiful.  They are scavengers and will eat anything from small rodents, trash, pet food and even small pets.

Tips from MassWildlife for Keeping Coyotes Away From Your House

  • Secure your garbage in barrels with tight fitting lids.
  • Do not feed or pet them.
  • Keep your pets  secure, particularly small pets that are a potential food source. 
  • Walk dogs and cats on a leash.
  • Keep bird feeder areas clean as the seeds attract small animals on which they prey.
  • Feed your pets indoors.
  • Close off crawl spaces under porches and shed which can serve as resting areas.
  • Don’t let them intimidate you and don’t hesitate to scare them off with loud noises, bright lights, throwing a tennis ball or spraying with a garden hose.
  • Protect livestock and remove fallen produce from the ground.
  • Educate your friends and neighbors on the steps they can take.

Coyotes as a Threat

Coyotes are not considered a threat to humans because they are shy creatures.  The taking of small pets does not qualify as a threat to humans.

Law Regarding Coyotes

If an immediate threat exists to human life and limb, public safety officials (animal control officer, police officers and the environmental police) have the authority to respond and deal with the situation, as stipulated in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 2.14 that pertain to handling problem animals.  This includes animals exhibiting clear signs of rabies. Again, the taking of small pets does not qualify as a threat to humans.  

Benefits of Coyotes

Coyotes help to keep the ecosystem in check.  Because they prey on small animals, they keep the number of nuisance rodents and woodchucks down.

Frequently Asked Questions

 Can a coyote be relocated?

No. It is against state law to capture and move coyotes simply because of their presence.  This law has established for many years and is meant to protect both people and the animals.

Can a coyote be euthanized?

No.  It is against the law to kill a coyote that is not rabid or gravely injured.  

 How does one determine if a coyote is rabid?

The animal’s behavior will include, but is not limited to, convulsions, swaying or weakness, paralyzed limbs, rigid posture, disoriented appearance or a transfixed stare, drooling of saliva or frothing at the mouth, repeated yawning, extreme tense or alert behavior, awkward or uncoordinated movements, or hoarse vocalizations.

 What will happen if one does feed or pet a coyote?

If one tries to feed or pet a coyote (or any wild animal) it will be come habituated.  When a coyote is habituated, it means that it has lost its fear of humans and will exhibit behaviors such as:

1) Does not run off when harassed,

2) Approaches pets on a leash, and/or

3) Approaches and follows people.

Police Response

If a coyote (or any wild animal) is observed displaying aggressive behavior towards people or it appears to be sick or rabid, a call to the police department should be made.  When a citizen calls the Hingham Police Department (781-749-1212) reporting a coyote threat, an animal control officer or police officer will respond and assess the situation. The Massachusetts Environmental Police can also be reached 24 hours a day at: 800-632-8075.

Report a Coyote Sighting

Please DO NOT call 911 or the police station business line to report seeing a coyote unless there is an emergency or immediate threat to humans.  The Hingham Police Department and Animal Control Officer want to have all sightings reported and logged in a central location so we can address any threats appropriately.  To report a coyote sighting please complete the Report a Coyote Sighting Form and include as much detail as possible. All sightings reported via this form will be logged and followed up on by the Animal Control Officer or one of her assistants.