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More Coyote Sightings Possible During Mating Season

CHICAGO (STMW) -- With the St. Valentine's Day holiday just around the corner, love is in the air, but in one instance it comes with a warning. As coyote mating season winds down over the next couple of months, area authorities are alerting residents, especially pet owners, that they may encounter more coyotes than usual now through April.

The village of Wheaton issued an alert this week telling residents that from February through April, approximately, they may see more coyotes in the community, as this is the typical mating period for the animals. The alert said that while pets do not comprise a large portion of a coyote's diet, it is especially important for dog owners to keep their pets on a leash during this time of year, when they may be more likely to encounter a coyote. Coyotes are opportunistic and will go for easy prey, such as an unattended pet, the alert said.

Coyotes are wild animals who hunt other animals for survival, a release from Naperville Police said. They have been known to kill foxes, which compete with coyotes for small prey. Domestic dogs and cats may sometimes be appealing to coyotes, so in addition to keeping pets on a leash, residents are also urged to never leave dogs or cats unattended in the yard and always keep them inside at night, as well as keeping their yards well-lit when outdoors at night with their pets.

Coyotes can become a nuisance when they have easy access to food in residential areas, such as pet food or garbage, the Wheaton alert said. To discourage their presence, residents are urged to eliminate these outdoor sources of food.

The warning from Wheaton comes on the heels of a handful of coyote attacks over the past few months on small dogs in suburbs ranging from Antioch to Wheaton to Tinley Park. In early January, a coyote jumped the fence of a home in Riverside and killed a small dog that was in the yard. Later that month, a group of four coyotes broke down some panes of glass on the door of a home in Riverside as they chased after and tried to attack another dog in that suburb.

Many wildlife experts, according to Wheaton, believe that coyote "hazing" can help deter the animals. This is the term used for actions such as making loud noises or threatening gestures toward coyotes in an attempt to reestablish a healthy fear of humans. Hazing is not intended to physically harm coyotes. Anyone who encounters a coyote is advised to make themselves look as large as possible, and use those hazing techniques.

The release from Naperville police advised residents that if they are followed by a coyote, it's because they are likely walking through it's territory and the coyote is merely escorting or "shadowing" the person to make sure they are not a threat.

Area residents are encouraged to report all coyote sightings to their towns so that other residents can be made aware of the animals' presence.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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