Coyotes in Arlington County?

A civic association in northern Virginia issued a warning about a predator stalking the neighborhood, but this one has four legs.

Residents are pretty sure they've seen a coyote running around very close to Lee Highway. The only verified image of a coyote present in Arlington was taken a year ago in a county park.

"We do not have any further solid evidence of there being coyotes around," Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonzo Abugattas said. “We still get reports and so forth, but we still have no evidence of anything other than that one incident where we got conclusive proof of a coyote in Arlington.”

Reports of the four-legged predator seen recently in residential yards and commercial areas puzzle Abugattas.

"Coyotes are pretty elusive and pretty shy,” he said. “Most of the calls and so forth that we’ve gotten are actually misidentifications of foxes, mangy dogs, mangy foxes, that kind of thing. So [coyotes] remain elusive. They’re mostly nocturnal. It would be a rare sighting.”

A neighbor's sighting of what she described as one or more large coyotes running through her yard prompted the Leeway Overlee Civic Association to issue an alert, association President Kim Klingler said.

“To see coyotes right off the Lee Highway is a bit disconcerting, especially, we have a lot of families with young children as well as small pets, and really what draws coyotes, my understanding, into neighborhoods is potential food sources,” she said.

Wildlife experts caution the same dumpsters that lure raccoons and other creatures are tempting to coyotes.

“Keep your food inside, which is a good idea for any kind of any wildlife coming in and making use of it,” Abugattas said. “[Don’t] let your dogs and cats loose. Those sort of things.”

In recent years coyotes have been spotted in neighborhoods in D.C. and Montgomery County, Md.

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