For many, the word coyote conjures an image of an animal howling off in the distance of an old Western movie.
But coyotes, like other wildlife, are finding their way into suburban neighborhoods.
A coyote or a raccoon may have killed a family dog in West View last month. And coyotes have been spotted in Ross, McCandless and other North Hills municipalities.
"It is not unusual," said Officer Bryan Mowrer of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. "Historically, they have always been in the area. There have been more sightings, especially this time of year."
Officer Mowrer said the number of road kill deer, higher during the current mating season, gives the coyotes "a free, easy meal."
Coyotes can be seen in the woods that surround neighborhoods as well as populated areas.
The coyotes found in this area are the eastern coyote, which weighs 30 to 50 pounds and is larger than the western coyote, which is usually portrayed in old movies, according to the game commission.
Coyotes can be traced in Pennsylvania from the 1930s, but their foray into populated areas didn't begin until the 1970s. The animal, which is related to the dog, is a carnivore.
To distinguish a coyote from a large dog, the Game Commission suggests looking for black lines running up and down the front of the front legs, yellow eyes and a cylindrical-shaped, low-hanging tail. Adult coyotes are much larger than foxes, and they tend to travel trails, dirt roads and edges of habitats.
"Coyotes tend to live among each other but they don't typically hunt like you would picture wolves hunting in packs," Officer Mowrer said. "They are a timid wild animal. They are going to be a lot more afraid of anybody, any loud noises."
He said coyotes tend to be more active at night, and stick to familiar areas -- those that border woods or farms.
The Game Commission offers the following tips:
• Don't allow dogs or cats to roam unattended.
• Never place garbage bags or table scraps outside without placing them in protective containers. If you feed pets outside, clean up the leftovers.
• Reduce or eliminate vegetative cover that coyotes could use to approach your property undetected. Weedy and brushy areas are great habitat for rodents, which coyotes hunt regularly.neigh_north
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.