Hundreds of years ago, coyotes only lived in the Great Plains, but over the years, they have expanded their territory to Eastern and Western states.
Coyotes have been known to attack livestock and domestic pets, which is something Deanna Hayes experienced first hand.
"I heard a loud, vicious barking, and at first, I thought it was a dog," Hayes recalls.
She had just entered a nature preserve in her Charlotte, N. C. neighborhood when a coyote approached.
"It wouldn't leave us alone; it just kept coming closer and closer and barking louder and louder," she remembers.
She grabbed her small dog, Jack, and ran, while her big dog, Ally, charged at the coyote. When Ally returned, she had been bitten.
"Honestly, if Ally wouldn't have gone after it, I really thought it was going to attack me," Hayes says.
She and her neighbors asked authorities to remove the coyotes, saying the wild animals posed a threat.
"I was completely terrified," she says.
Chris Matthews is a natural resources manager at the preserve where the incident occurred.
He says coyote sightings have increased dramatically over the last five years, but there have been no reports of any attacks on people.
"They've really just become a natural part of our wildlife," Matthews says.
As for the neighborhood's request to get rid of them?
"Studies have shown that trapping them and moving them simply just doesn't work," Matthews points out. "They will actually come back to an area if you trap them and move them, or just another group of coyotes will come in."
He says the key is to learn to live with coyotes.
Many of the incidents involving pets being attacked by these animals, Matthews says, is because they're not on leashes -- which is against the law in most places.
"One of the things coyotes don't like is people, so if you have your dog right next to you on a leash, then chances are the coyote's not going to come up," Matthews says.
Hayes admits her dogs weren't on leashes, but she says it wouldn't have made a difference because they were right next to her anyway.
"He [the coyote] was here," Hayes says. "Ally was standing just two feet away from me. We weren't aggravating it. It literally came at us."
Two ways to make your home less attractive to coyotes is to get rid of any open containers of dog food and make sure your garbage is in a container with a secure lid.
If coyotes are spotted in your neighborhood and you have outdoor cats, experts recommend you keep them in your home as much as possible.
While coyotes preying on pets and livestock may be a nuisance, wildlife experts say coyotes are ecologically valuable for reducing the number of rodents and groundhogs.
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