Can Coyotes Jump Fences?

Updated: Aug. 21, 2023

Coyotes can get over fences, but not every kind. Fences also interfere with wildlife movement, so they aren't always the best coyote deterrents.

A pack of coyotes baying at the full moon is something you’d expect to see and hear in the mountains, woodlands and deserts of the American Southwest, not an urban environment.

In reality, however, coyotes are practically everywhere. They’ve been spotted in the Bronx and Manhattan, in a Los Angeles classroom, and in Chicago, where one wandered into a Quiznos sub shop and jumped onto the beverage cooler.

Over the last 100 years, coyotes have extended their range to include virtually the whole of North America, from Alaska to Panama, and from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic. In California, where I live, they’re as ubiquitous as deer. It’s common to spot one walking along the side of the road.

Coyotes are extremely adaptable creatures that adjust their diet according to what’s available. They can make a meal out of cactus, insects, rodents, small game like rabbits, and larger game like deer and livestock.

“The greatest vulnerability for livestock is lambing/calving areas and chicken coops/free-range chicken pastures,” says independent wildlife biologist Christine Paige, who wrote A Landowner’s Guide to Wildlife Friendly Fences. Unfortunately, says Paige, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to keeping coyotes out of these areas.

Can Coyotes Jump Fences?

Absolutely, as this short video illustrates. A coyote can easily jump a four- to five-foot fence from a standing position. With leverage, like a trash bin, it can probably make it over a 14-foot barrier.

Unlike a deer, which can sail over a fence without making contact, a coyote accomplishes a jump in two stages. First, it extends its body upward and grabs the top of the barrier with its front paws. Then it brings its hind paws onto the top of the barrier and uses them to jump back onto the ground.

Paige says they also can make it through a typical four-to six-strand barbed wire fence. They can only jump it if the top of the fence is stable and flat enough for them to stand on it.

“In my experience,” says Paige, “coyotes would prefer to go under or dig under a fence.”

Coyotes Aren’t Your Enemies

Female coyote jumping in field.Pete Severens/Getty Images

Although most coyote sightings are typically of a lone animal, coyotes travel in packs. Where’s there’s one, you’ll almost certainly find others.

In the Old West, ranchers sometimes shot one and hung its carcass as a warning to the others. Besides being inhumane and grotesque, that’s a waste of a valuable resource.

“I’m an advocate for seeing coyotes as a benefit in the landscape,” says Paige. “They are native wildlife and are the farmer and homeowner’s friend in reducing rodents.

“In my view, it is better to protect a small area for chickens or livestock when and where they are most vulnerable (e.g., calving season) than to fence out predators from an entire property or lethally remove predators. Anti-predator exclusion fencing around large areas blocks other wildlife movements, and lethal removal is usually just an ongoing effort as it disrupts social systems and territories and often creates further problems.”

How To Keep Coyotes Away

For farmers and ranchers, Paige recommends keeping coyotes out with a woven wire fence, also called a field fence.

Ideally, the top of the wire extends an inch or so beyond the top rail so the coyote can’t get firm footing. The bottom is buried an inch or two underground to prevent digging. This type of fence stops general wildlife movement, so it should only be used to protect a limited area.

Paige also recommends fladry, a rope or wire with strips of fabric hanging from it. It helps if the wire is electrified.

“Electricity is your friend!” Paige says. “Electrifying a fence or chicken coop is the best option for deterring predators large and small.” Paige also recommends employing guardian animals like dogs or llamas.

For homeowners without chickens and livestock, the best way to keep coyotes away is to avoid attracting them in the first place. Keep pet food indoors, put garbage in sealed bins and don’t set out bird feeders. If you have an existing fence, consider installing coyote rollers along the top to discourage jumping and climbing.