Coyote sightings are on the rise once again and wildlife officials recommend keeping a cautious eye on pets.
In recent weeks, Simsbury's animal control officer Mark Rudewicz has been getting an increasing number of calls from residents who have seen coyotes roaming their wooded neighborhoods.
"January to March is the coyote mating season," Rudewicz said. "They're quite active right now."
On Tuesday alone, Rudewicz received three calls about coyotes. Rudewicz appreciates the calls because it helps him keep track of the areas where the coyotes are roaming.
"You're going to be seeing them in closer proximity to people's yards, especially in the wooded areas." Rudewicz said. Residents have reported sightings in areas like West Mountain Road, Saddle Ridge, Hilltop Drive, and other less densly developed areas.
According to the Conn. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Eastern Coyote was first documented in the state in the 1950's and has since become a common part of the state's wildlife population.
Coyotes are described as opportunistic animals who mainly feed on "mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, deer, some fruits, carrion, and when available, garbage," according to the DEEP website.
Reports of coyotes killing small pets have increased in recent years and the DEEP reports that "unsupervised pets, particularly outdoor cats and small dogs (less than 25 lbs.) can be vulnerable to coyote attacks."
Rudewicz said that doesn't exclude larger animals.
"A male coyote will go after a larger dog to protect their territory and sometimes for food," Rudewicz said.
Typically coyotes are afraid of humans and won't approach a dog walking with its owner, so Rudewicz recommends always walking a dog on a leash or a longer lead.
"I recommend that people in Simsbury carry a bell or whistle as well," Rudewicz said. Unfamiliar noises will often scare off a curious coyote.
But most importantly, "We haven't had a single attack where an owner was present," Rudewicz said. Outdoor cats should also be kept inside this time of year as a preventative measure.
For more information about coyotes or other wildlife, visit www.ct.gov/dep/wildlife.
To report a coyote sighting or disturbance, contact Simsbury Animal Control at 860-658-3110.