(WBIR-Knox County) Coyote sightings are common in rural areas of East Tennessee, but according to TWRA, the population of the animal is growing in urban areas, including Knoxville.
Matthew Cameron, Public Information Officer with TWRA, or Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, said coyotes have replaced wolves as the top predator.
"Historically wolves used to roam East Tennessee. But, they have been extirpated, which means they have been killed out or are locally extinct. They coyote has come in and taken their place," said Cameron. "They are the top predator. There is nothing that feeds on coyotes, nothing to keep them on check except for humans. So they're out there, they're thriving, and producing at a very fast rate."
Neighbors who live on Clover Hill Lane, off Westland Drive in West Knox County, said they have spotted dozens of coyotes in their area.
"I think we have a real significant problem," said Diane Montgomery, whose dogs were attacked by a coyote a couple of weeks ago.
"It appears that the coyote grabbed him by the head and was trying to drag him away," said Montgomery. "He was just really bloody all over his face and parts of his body."
Montgomery said her dog Simon, a Jack Russell Terrier, has recovered but is still dealing with an infection from the attack. She said Simon and her other dog, Sophia, have changed since a coyote jumped their fence and attacked them.
"Both dogs now are quite skittish and wary. We don't leave them out at night anymore; they don't want to leave our side."
TWRA officials said coyotes pose a small threat to humans, but can be dangerous for small animals.
Cameron said the urban population of coyotes goes beyond East Tennessee. Recent research by Ohio University showed there was not an area of Chicago that have coyotes.
"That came as a surprise to me when I read that," said Cameron. "We're finding out that an urban coyote living in Chicago has a 60 percent chance of surviving for one year while a rural coyote has about a 30% chance. So the urban population is living longer, and reproducing."
Montgomery said she wants officials to take action, but Cameron said TWRA can't control the population.
"There are just too many of them and they're too widespread," said Cameron. "So what we suggest is calling an animal control specialist who can come out and set up traps to help you with that."
Montgomery said her neighbor tried that, but coyotes returned.
"A guy came in an trapped seven. And my neighbor breathed a big sigh of relief until only a week or so later, when she saw three of them out by her garbage can," said Montgomery.
As for hunting coyotes, property owners have a right to shoot at the animal.
"They're very adaptable. They live in and amongst us although we don't' see them that often but at the same time if you step out and you're trying to hunt one or shoot one they're very quick, they're very sly, and you're probably not going to have a whole lot of success at doing that," said Cameron.
He urged property owners to not keep their pets food outside overnight, and to keep their animals in a fenced-in yard.
Montgomery's fence was at least four-feet high.
"They're small and they're nimble and it wouldn't surprise me if one could jump five or six feet at all," said Cameron.
Montgomery said she was concerned coyotes would jump the fence outside the playground at A.L. Lotts Elementary School, which is just down the road from her neighborhood. School administrators told 10News they were aware of the dogs being attacked, and they have a security officer who keeps an eye out for the animal, along with other daily duties.
"The community needs something done. Because this is just dangerous," said Montgomery.