Coyotes venturing into yards in Texas neighborhoods is an increasingly common occurrence that leaves residents wondering if they can legally shoot these uninvited guests. If a coyote steps foot on your property or threatens your pets or livestock, do you have the right to grab a gun and open fire?

The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no, so read on to understand exactly when and how you can legally shoot a coyote in your yard in Texas.

Texas Laws on Shooting Nuisance Wildlife

In Texas, there are important legal differences between game animals and nuisance wildlife. While regulated hunting of certain game species is allowed in season with proper licenses, the rules are different for animals considered nuisance wildlife.

Differences Between Game Animals and Nuisance Animals

Game animals like deer, dove, quail, and turkey are managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and can be legally hunted in season by licensed hunters. However, nuisance wildlife like coyotes, raccoons, opossums, and feral hogs are not protected or regulated by TPWD.

This means there are fewer restrictions on controlling nuisance wildlife on private property in Texas.

According to Texas law, a landowner or their agent can shoot nuisance wildlife at any time without a permit if the animal is causing damage or creating a nuisance on their property. However, certain municipal ordinances may restrict the discharge of firearms within city limits.

It’s important to check local regulations.

When Lethal Force Against Nuisance Wildlife is Allowed

In Texas, a landowner is legally allowed to use lethal force against nuisance wildlife in circumstances like these:

  • When wildlife is threatening people, pets, or livestock.
  • When wildlife is causing property damage, digging under structures, or destroying landscaping.
  • When wildlife is impacting agricultural operations by destroying crops, trees, or damaging equipment.
  • When wildlife has become habituated and lost its fear of people, presenting safety risks.

However, it is illegal in Texas to shoot wildlife from public roads, take game animals out of season, discharge firearms in an unsafe manner, or kill protected species like migratory birds without a permit.

According to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension(1), shooting is an effective control method for coyotes and other nuisance wildlife on private property when done safely and responsibly. Non-lethal hazing, exclusion fencing, livestock protection animals, and trapping are also options to consider.

When dealing with nuisance wildlife issues, it’s best to contact TPWD or the local County Extension Agent first to explore legal options. With the right approach, landowners can protect their properties while staying within the law.

Steps to Legally Shoot Coyotes

Ensure the Coyote Poses an Immediate Threat

Before discharging a firearm at a coyote, you must ensure it poses an immediate threat to you, your family, or your pets or livestock. The Texas law generally allows property owners to shoot nuisance wildlife if it threatens your safety or livestock.

However, you can’t shoot a coyote simply for trespassing or being annoying. Make sure to carefully assess the situation before taking any action.

Use Appropriate Firearms and Ammo

If the coyote appears aggressive and you must shoot it, be sure to use legal firearms and ammunition per Texas regulations. Good choices include a shotgun loaded with buckshot or birdshot, or a medium to high-velocity centerfire rifle loaded with soft point or hollow point bullets.

Using illegal weapons or ammunition can lead to hefty fines and penalties.

Shoot to Kill

When shooting a threatening coyote, you must shoot to kill – injuring the animal and allowing it to escape often leads to more problems. Aim your shots at the coyote’s chest and vital organs for the quickest, most humane takedown.

Be extremely careful with all gunfire to avoid unintended injuries or damage. Also be aware that female coyotes may be caring for pups, so you may need to eliminate an entire group congregating around your property.

Safely Dispose of the Carcass

Once you have legally shot the problematic coyote, you must properly get rid of the remains. Leaving coyote carcasses lying around can attract other scavengers. Burying it deep enough to prevent digging is one good option.

Alternatively, double-bagging the coyote in sealed plastic bags and placing it in your household trash bin is effective. Just be discreet about disposal methods to avoid upsetting neighbors. And make sure to thoroughly clean up any mess from field dressing the coyote.

Non-Lethal Ways to Deter Coyotes

Utilize Predator Urine and Sounds

Coyotes have a strong sense of smell and hearing, so utilizing predator urine and sounds can be an effective deterrent. Strategically placing containers with coyote urine around your property’s perimeter creates a “wall of scent” that warns coyotes to stay away.

Playing recorded sounds of aggressive coyote packs or their predators, like wolves or bears, can also scare away coyotes by making them feel outnumbered or threatened. These methods are humane and don’t require killing the animals.

Just be sure to reapply urine and swap out sound recordings regularly so coyotes don’t get used to them.

Install Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Installing motion-activated sprinklers around your yard is a harmless way to give coyotes an unpleasant surprise when they trespass. These sprinklers detect movement and shoot out short bursts of water to startle coyotes and drive them away.

You can aim sprinklers to cover vulnerable areas like chicken coops, gardens, or children’s play areas. The sudden soaking teaches coyotes your property is unsafe, encouraging them to avoid it in the future.

Just be sure to use sprinklers designed for repelling animals that won’t cause excessive water waste. This clever trick helps protect your home without using lethal force.

Use Flashing Lights and Noisemakers

Coyotes are naturally afraid of strange lights and sounds. Installing motion sensor spotlights and noise-making devices around your property helps deter them from approaching. Bright flashing strobe lights are extremely disorienting and alarming for coyotes.

Noisemakers produce unpleasant squeals, sirens, or other cacophonous sounds when triggered to scare off coyotes. Using these tools together amplifies their frightening effects. You can place them near gardens, livestock pens, or children’s play areas to establish clear boundaries coyotes won’t cross.

The stimuli overload their senses so they associate your yard with something scary to avoid.

Build Better Fences

Installing proper fencing is one of the most effective ways to keep coyotes off your land. Construct tall, mesh-wire fences at least 6 feet high extending all the way to the ground. Bury the bottom 1-2 feet underground to prevent coyotes from digging underneath.

Ensure any gaps in the mesh are smaller than 4 inches so pups can’t squeeze through. For added protection, install an electric wire along the top and bottom of fences. These powerful, non-lethal barriers establish a clear perimeter coyotes won’t challenge.

Well-built fences can protect gardens, livestock, pets and children from coyote encounters. Though expensive up front, they provide long-term peace of mind that coyotes won’t invade your space.

When to Call Wildlife Professionals for Help

If There are Pups or Dens Nearby

Coyote parents are extremely protective of their young, especially between late winter and mid-summer when pups are born and require care. If you spot a den or active breeding site on or near your property, it’s critical to contact wildlife management right away.

Well-meaning attempts to scare off or remove adult coyotes when pups are totally reliant on them could be disastrous.

Both state and federal laws have extra provisions about disturbing the homes and offspring of native wildlife species. So trying amateur coyote eviction or extermination tactics when little ones are involved generally won’t go well and may prompt hefty fines.

Let the professionals assess the situation and decide the wisest, most ethical removal methods if any action is permissible that season.

If Coyotes Exhibit No Fear of Humans

Coyotes who’ve adapted to urban and suburban areas usually retain some wariness around humans, even if they habitually traverse neighborhoods at night. But according to Texas Parks and Wildlife, any coyote displaying “bold” behavior like approaching people, lingering in yards when spotted, or aggressively chasing pets poses a public safety risk.

That signals the animal has lost its inborn fear and could attack a person or large pet if given the chance.

In those cases, promptly contacting a nuisance wildlife control operator gives the best odds of humanely catching and euthanizing the problem coyote(s) before a dangerous incident happens. Leaving aggressive behavior unchecked endangers everyone and often compels communities to ban feeding all wildlife.

If Pets or Livestock are Being Actively Hunted

Coyotes are aptly called “song dogs” for their varied vocalizations, including bone-chilling nocturnal yipping, yelping and howling. But that ear-splitting chorus takes on special urgency when a pack has brought down prey together.

A hotline for reporting coyote activity and suspected pet predation exists through the Texas Wildlife Services Program for exactly that reason.

If you regularly hear groups of coyotes sounding aggressive alarms at night in areas where cats roam outdoors or small dogs potty, something may be amiss. And witnessing coyotes who appear to be actively hunting domestic animals on a property signals an immediate crisis requiring professional intervention to safeguard pets and livestock.


Having coyotes enter your property can be an unsettling experience, but in many cases, these adaptable creatures are just passing through without posing a real threat. Still, Texas law does provide provisions for landowners to legally shoot coyotes when necessary to protect pets, livestock or human safety.

By understanding nuisance animal laws, following proper protocols, and utilizing deterrents when feasible, Texans can steer clear of legal issues if ever forced to confront a problematic coyote encroaching in their yard.

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