The destruction of the animals' habitat.

Human encroachment from increased population.

More pups surviving and going out on their own.

They have become more adaptable with more highly developed surroundings.

History

Coyotes were not originally found in Connecticut. They were from the Western Plains and the Midwest. They have extended into the Northeast and were first reported in Connecticut in the 1950s.

The Eastern coyote is larger than the Western coyote. The Eastern coyote adults are 40 to 60 inches long from nose to tail and weigh between 30 and 50 pounds, with males weighing more than females.

Facts

Eastern coyotes grow bigger than the Western variety, according to recent genetic research because of interbreeding with Canadian grey wolves.

Coyotes can reproduce with domestic dogs, but rarely do. That's because both male and female coyotes are fertile only a short time during the year. Coyote-dogs rarely survive because male dogs that breed with female coyotes don't stay around to help raise the pups.

The coyote's sense of hearing and smell are very well developed.

Coyotes normally run as fast as 25 to 30 mph, but can run as fast as 40 mph if pursued.

Coyote attacks on pets are still happening, and two attacks on humans in Rye, N.Y., have made people more nervous then ever. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, some coyotes may show bold behavior toward people, although it is very rare. It will increase if the coyotes are fed and if they learn to associate food with people.

Safety suggestions

Never place food out for any animals.

Clean up bird seed debris feeders.

Don't leave pet food or bowls outside.

Clean up fallen fruit from the ground.

Make loud noises -- shout, bang pots and pans, use an air horn.

Spray water from a hose.

People who live in or near a coyote habitat, such as woods with heavy brush, rocky ledge or a water source, may have to find some kind of coyote-proof fencing. In some rare cases, removal of the coyotes by professionals may be warranted.

Protecting pets

Keep cats indoors, especially at night.

Small dogs should be kept on a leash and under close supervision at all times.

Be aware of

Extremely bold behavior.

Approaching people for food.

Attacking leashed pets with their owners.

Stalking children.

Chasing dogs and/or bikers.

Showing signs of rabies or other disease, such as staggering, seizures and extreme lethargy.

Coyotes may be dangerous. Be sure to teach children to recognize what a coyote looks like. If they see a coyote on the property, they should quickly go inside the house and make sure they do not run. Close off all crawl spaces under porches and sheds where coyotes or other animals can hide.

Westport residents who have questions about coyote behavior should contact the Westport Animal Control 203-341-5076. Speak to Head Animal Control Officer Peter D'Amico, Assistant Animal Control Officer Joe Saponare or Kathleen Suchy, the secretary. You can also contact the DEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011 or www.ct.gov/dep/wildlife.