When Rebecca Flood looked out her back door recently in Westport, she saw a creature licking its paws. It looked like a dog. Upon closer inspection she realized it was a coyote.
She didn't panic, but she did take a sensible precaution. "I have cats," Flood said. "I wouldn't let my cats outside."
That was two years ago. Since then, the number of coyote sightings has been going up, said Peter D'Amico, Westport's Animal Control Officer for 20 years.
"The snow is preventing them from getting a food source," said D'Amico, who explained it's also hard to catch the elusive animals.
Authorities recommend keeping small pets indoors, or at least on a leash.
Those that roam free risk attracting coyotes, wolf-like animals looking for food. People are typically not at risk, although two Westchester girls were bitten by coyotes in Rye Brook last summer.
Animal control officers say homeowners should keep food, including birdseed, out of their yards.
One recent weekend, Barrera and his brother went to Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens. They noticed the light descending on the headstones.
And then, they saw a fox-like whir of fur race across the cemetery. It was a coyote. "I could tell it wasn't a dog," said Barrera. "It made for nice pictures."