Officials in suburban River Forest have issued a warning to pet owners after a family's dog was likely killed by a coyote earlier this month.
"Small pets may be considered prey by coyotes, please do not leave your pets outside unsupervised," the village said in an alert.
While coyotes are generally not dangerous to humans, experts say February and March are the animals' mating season, which can lead to an increase in activity in residential areas.
The veterinarian who treated the area's latest dog to become the victim of an attack said coyote sightings are up this year - and that the animals seem more brazen than they've been in the past.
"She was an 18-pound Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a very sweet little 9-year-old named Daisy," said Dr. Kathleen Heneghan, of the Elmwood-Grove Animal Hospital where Daisy was a patient.
"We got the call at 5:30 p.m., they had just found her in the yard," Heneghan said of the March 10 incident. "They didn't see the attack, they let her out to go potty just like they always have."
Some area residents believe the coyotes are likely coming from Thatcher Woods, which sits along the Des Plaines River corridor.
“Sometimes we will see a coyote in the distance and I’ll make sure to keep him clear, but we’ve never been attacked by one and we’ve always got him on a leash," said John Griffin, a dog owner who lives across the street from the forest preserve.
Heneghan took to the hospital's Facebook page to spread the word, asking clients to be alert and tell their neighbors.
"We just think perhaps that the sheer numbers of coyotes have gone through the roof, so that they don’t have enough prey available to them to go after their food sources, so now they are attacking our pets in our own backyard," she said.
In order to protect yourself and your pets, animal control experts say you should never feed coyotes, keep garbage cans close and never leave your pet unattended in your yard, even if it has a fence.