Some Bethesda residents say they have spotted coyotes in their back yards, on their bus stops -- and altogether too close to their pets and their kids.
One sighting came this weekend, outside a home close to Bethesda's Ayrlawn Park. A Bethesda resident spotted the wild animal sitting right next to his cat, Lily.
"The cat was very scared," said John Marcus. "I was able to make the coyote go away by stamping my feet and hissing at it."
Once the cat was safe, he looked up the animal online -- and recognized it as a coyote.
Nancy Hoos says she spotted the coyote a couple of weeks ago, and immediately worried about her dog, Buster, and the kids next door. So she went to tell the neighbors.
"And I said, 'I just saw a coyote in the backyard,' and they said, 'We just saw it 10 minutes ago at the bus stop!'"
There have been other coyote sightings in the area, including one captured on video two years ago in Arlington. And there has been an uptick in coyote sightings near cities lately, as the animals have been forced out of their habitats by human behavior. A coyote was captured in Queens last week.
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In Bethesda, there are even reports as close in as Bethesda Row, known for its shops and restaurants.
County Councilmember Roger Berliner said he is getting worried calls from constituents. "It's frightening. You don't want your pets unattended of course, but we cannot point to a case when there has been harm to a human being."
County officials said they couldn't confirm the presence of a coyote. "I can't whether there has been or there hasn't been," said Paul Hibler of Montgomery County Animal Services. "I would say it's pretty unusual. Coyotes tend to stay away from highly populated areas."
Animal control only responds to cases where the animal appears to be aggressive or sick, including cases where the animal might have rabies.
Hibler said it would be unusual -- not impossible, but unusual -- for a coyote to attack a pet. "Coyotes typically feed off things like squirrels, rabbits, small game animals," Hibler said. "So they typically will not after small household pets."
But the safest thing is to always keep your pet on a leash, he said. There are no cases in our area of a coyote attacking a child.
Anyone who sees a wild animal that is aggressive or appears to be sick should call 311 or the police non-emergency number, 301-279-8000.