Coyotes have been reaping the spoils of Arlington County's population spike and are leaving humans fearful for the lives of their pet cats and puppies.
The predators have recently been spotted in backyards and along roadways in Leeway Overlee on North Powhatan Street, prompting the neighborhood's civic association to send out an alert to "people with cats, small dogs and any other pets which could be outside," urging them to be aware while walking their pets.
"[A neighbor] has seen one or more good-sized coyotes which seem to be hunting in our area," the letter said. "It ran over to the backyard of the house next door when it saw her and her dog. It was light so she could see it clearly enough to identify it."
For years, coyotes were believed to reside in Arlington County, even though researchers had never documented their existence. Neighboring residents in Fairfax County have frequently reported coyote run-ins, and D.C. parkgoers have even spotted the animals at Rock Creek Park.
But not until April have researchers witnessed the canine in Arlington County, when a camera posted in Potomac Overlook Regional Park recorded what county officials have now confirmed to be a coyote.
"They're very common in Virginia and have now been seen in every county in the state," said Lee Walker, outreach director for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "The No. 1 thing they're looking for is food."
That food can range from old leftovers to family pets, officials said, although coyotes are not known to attack humans.
"They're not aggressive animals," Walker said. "Just don't make any quick moves or try to touch them. If you see one, just turn around and walk away."
Neil Trent, president and CEO of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, said it's not uncommon for his organization to get calls about coyotes from residents. Oftentimes, however, those animals turn out to be dogs or other animals mistaken for the wild canine.
The organization doesn't respond in-person to calls about coyote sightings unless the animal is injured, he said, but it does make note of the animals' whereabouts around the community.
"This is the first coyote sighting in neighborhood history," said Kim Klingler, president of the Leeway Overlee Civic Association. "It's something we'll be talking about as a community at our next civic association meeting."