Will Coyotes Attack Humans in A Tent at Night? 6 Reasons Why They Might

Last Updated on 24/08/2022

Will Coyotes Attack Humans in A Tent

In this guide, we answer the question, will coyotes attack humans in a tent? You will learn about why a coyote might attack you or your tent as well as what to do if it happens. We share some tips on how to avoid confrontations with coyotes and whether they are something you should be concerned about when camping.

With coyotes now inhabiting most of North America, it is not uncommon to hear them howling in the night. It can often sound like there are lots of them close by but coyote howls travel long distances and they chatter a lot so two coyotes can sound like a lot. They mostly howl to communicate about territory or after a successful kill but they also yip and howl to call family members to them.

Coyotes typically live social lives with a small family group as opposed to forming a pack, however, they will usually hunt and wonder throughout their family territory alone. They are about the size of a medium dog like a border collie and are fairly lean rather than stocky weighing between 25 – 45 lbs. It is important to understand how small coyotes are in comparison to humans so that you can see how small of a threat they really are.

Will Coyotes Attack Humans in A Tent at Night?

The chance that a coyote would attack your tent at night is so small that they should be the least of your worries. Bears, wolves, and mountain lions are much more of a threat and still, attacks on humans in tents are few and far between. Bear spray is a must in some places although you should never have to use bear mace on a coyote.

We found just one example of coyotes attacking people inside a tent and it seems they were on a remote island with an unusually high concentration of coyotes. They were camping with their dog and nobody was physically attacked, the coyotes were just surrounding the tent and trying to find a way in. They were rescued by the coastguard after an hour and one of the campers sustained minor injuries when climbing aboard the boat.

In that example, it was probably a combination of hungry coyotes with no experience/fear of humans. Apart from this one-off, there have been no reported coyote attacks on humans inside tents that we could find.

Do Coyotes Attack People?

While it is extremely rare for a coyote to attack a person, it does happen from time to time. According to the Humane Society, “More people are killed by errant golf balls and flying champagne corks each year than are bitten by coyotes.”. When you encounter a wild coyote you are in the presence of a wild animal and there is always a risk of unpredictable or even aggressive behavior.

Coyotes are opportunistic hunter scavengers and their diet consists mostly of small mammals but they will eat fish, frogs, insects, snakes, and deer, and will even eat fruit and grass. To take down a deer usually takes more than one coyote which is when they have been observed to hunt in small family packs.

There were an estimated 142 reported coyote attacks between 1960–2006  which is about 3 per year. There are only two recorded human deaths caused by coyotes, the first was in Southern California in the 1980s involving a small child and the other was a teenager just 19 years old in Nova Scotia in 2009.

Will Coyotes Attack Tents

Why Do Coyotes Attack People or Tents?

There are numerous reason why a coyote may attack a human but one of the most common reasons were incidents where people were trying to hand feed a coyote and were bitten in the process. In some of the stories we have read, it seems that defending a kill is when coyotes have acted aggressively without actually attacking.

Of the 142 analyzed reports done by Urban Coyote Research, classifications were given as to the reasons for the attacks. This data revealed that 37% of attacks were described as predatory, 22% were labeled as investigative, and the rest were 24% unknown, 7% rabid, 6% pet related, and 4% defensive. Here are the 6 reasons in list form:

  1. Predatory
  2. Investigative
  3. Unknown
  4. Rabid
  5. Pet Related
  6. Defensive

Some other reasons why coyotes may attack people or tents are if they are starving or hungry, have no fear of humans, or have become confident around humans due to hunting bans. Because they are opportunistic, if you have any kind of delicious-smelling food in your backpack or at your campsite this may become irresistible to a young or desperate coyote and so it may be willing to challenge you for it.

Will Coyotes Attack a Tent When You Aren’t There?

A coyote is much more likely to try and get gain entry when you leave your tent unattended than to try and attack you. Coyotes will generally avoid humans as much as possible and are much more scared of people than we are of them. If we define ‘attacking a tent’ as the same as invading a tent then coyotes may attack a tent to get whatever food is inside by carefully chewing through it – hardly a vicious attack.

What is even more likely to happen is that a coyote will come in to inspect your campsite when you aren’t there, have a good sniff around, maybe steel anything you have left outside your tent and then get out of there before you get back. Coyotes will steel shoes, socks hung out to dry, hats, tripods, and tools, and will absolutely tear into any garbage bags lying around.

coyotes howling near camp

How Do you Identify Coyotes?

To identify a coyote by looking at it there are a few things you can look for to eliminate the chances of it being a wolf, fox, or dog. Coyotes move with their tails down between their legs whereas wolves and dogs will travel with their tails out straight or slightly up. Coyotes are also much smaller than wolfs and most large dog breeds. Also, coyotes are a grayish color with slender frames and a bushy tail with a black tip.

To identify a coyote without seeing it you will no doubt hear it, but how can you tell the difference between a coyote howl and a wolf? A coyote call is shorter and more high-pitched than a wolf and often sounds a bit whiney with some yips. A wolf is much much deeper with its howl which is also much longer and in our opinion eerie. Listen for yourself below


What To Do If a Coyote is Outside Your Tent

If you can hear sniffing noises and footsteps outside your tent then there is a chance it is a coyote outside your tent but you’ll never know until you check or you look at the tracks the next morning. If you think there is a coyote outside your tent then my unprofessional opinion would be to scare it off with your voice and a quick bat of the tent material. I like to roar like a lion when trying to deter wild animals from charging me but you can pick any noise or word you like.

If this doesn’t work and the coyote becomes more persistent then I would take a look outside and if it is a coyote I would try and scare it off by posturing up. It always has a knife to hand when facing down a coyote but bear mace and other self-defense tools will also work. Once you scare it off, make sure there is nothing left outside for it to take or attract it back.

What to do if Coyotes Attack You or Your Tent?

If a coyote actually starts to attack your tent at night while you are inside then you should arm yourself with whatever is to hand – a knife, hiking pole, or an axe will all boost your confidence when dealing with an aggressive coyote. Make a lot of noise, try and growl if you can, then bang against the sides of the tent but avoid the area where the coyote’s teeth are.

Avoid getting out of your tent unless you really have to but if you do then do it slowly and go feet first. Once coyotes know there is something bigger than them inside they will usually scarper off. Never act scared or run as if you were prey, instead stand your ground and access your primitive brain.

coyote checking out tents

How to Avoid Confrontations With Coyotes

The easiest way to avoid being attacked is to reduce your chances of confrontation. To do this the first thing to do is make sure you keep your food away from camp and preferably hung in a tree away from any predators on the ground.

If you are on your own and passing through coyote country then to make your presence known you can whistle, sing, or talk to yourself as you walk. This makes it far less likely that you will surprise a coyote and give it plenty of time to get out of your way.

If you are overly concerned and don’t have a hiking pole with you then find a strong stick on the ground and walk with it. Be confident and don’t act like weak prey, if you act like a wolf about to attack the coyote (seriously) it will most likely bolt than risk being hunted by a larger predator.

Are Coyotes Dangerous When Camping?

For most adults, coyotes are not even considered a risk. But for pets and small children, coyotes can be a serious threat. This is why it is more important to keep a watchful eye over your children and pets than it is to be worried about yourself. If you see an interested coyote getting a bit too close to your camp then do what you must to scare it off without actually causing it any harm.

Coyotes have sharp teeth and a predatory mindset which means they have the capabilities to be dangerous but their nature goes against confrontations with humans. If you are worried carry some form of self-defense and you will be fine.

We hope this article answered the question, will coyotes attack humans in a tent? Please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with questions and feedback.

Gear Assistant
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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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