Police in Prince William County are warning residents that they might see some unexpected neighbors this spring.
Coyotes have been spotted in the county often in recent years, and the number of sightings is only expected to increase as the human population grows, authorities said in a release Monday.
Coyotes are mostly nocturnal, but have been seen during the day in urban and suburban areas. Authorities say that it's usually because they've been attracted to a food source or to areas under porches, decks and crawlspaces that would be ideal dens for their spring litters.
Police offer the following tips to keep coyotes away:
- Don't feed wildlife directly or indirectly, which can cause animals to lose their fear of humans.
- Keep trash inside until it's about to be picked up, or keep it in an animal-proof bid.
- Don't leave pet food outside, and keep any outdoor pet feeding areas clean.
- Remove bird feeders when if you've seen problem species around them.
- Close up all openings under and into your home and garage.
- Clear fallen fruit from around trees.
- Keep brushy areas in your yard cut down.
- Keep small pets inside and on a leash when outside. Larger dogs are viewed as a threat, especially from January to June when coyotes are breeding.
- Install coyote-proof fencing to protect unsupervised pets.
- Remember that it's illegal in Virginia to trap and relocate an animal.
If a coyote or another animal is showing signs of rabies (stumbling, foaming at the mouth or aggression), call 703-792-6500 for an animal control officer and the police.