Recently, a rash of coyote sightings in New Jersey and even the heart of Manhattan reminded us that the coyote population is booming in some suburban and urban environments. Would you know what to do if you encountered one of these clever, wolf-like creatures — or if a hungry one went after your pet?

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Coyotes currently live in all states except Hawaii. Be on the lookout right around now: Spring and summer are the times of year when sightings of these usually reclusive animals typically increase. During April and May, coyotes have their litters and begin searching for food for their young. You might see one walking down the street or even skulking around your backyard.

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Adult coyotes can weigh between 20 and 50 pounds, according to the National Park Service, and often prey on small rodents. They have even been known to eat cats and small dogs.

Coyote attacks on humans are rare, as the animals are easily spooked by people. Most victims of attacks were feeding the coyote, had cornered the animal or were trying to rescue a free-roaming pet. But it pays to be prepared.

Follow these guidelines to help reduce the likelihood of conflicts with coyotes in your neighborhood.

Grab a noisemaker when you walk your dog walk. Before you go out on your daily walk, grab a whistle or any kind of noise maker to take with you. Coyotes are easily startled by loud noises, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Other effective tools include squirt guns, pepper spray and small air horns.

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Make yourself look big. While making noise, stand tall and wave your arms until the coyote runs away. Never run away from the coyote. If it turns around and comes back, continue trying to scare it until the it leaves the area. Watch this video from the Aurora City Government in Denver, Colorado to learn more about how to haze a coyote.

Keep your yard clean. Secure garbage cans (coyotes aren’t picky eaters and will even eat trash, according to the State of Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife) and clean the yard of any food remains or fallen fruit. Don’t leave food for stray cats and other animals — including birds — as the food may attract hungry coyotes. 

The Colorado Division of Wildlife suggests completely fencing off your garden and compost pile. It also suggests motion-sensor lights or blinking holiday lights to scare the animals out of your yard.

Don’t leave pets unattended outside. Keep them inside at night, and don’t leave them out in the yard by themselves during the day. If a coyote comes near your pet, stand tall and start hazing the coyote with a water hose or noisemakers (or bang some pots and pans together) until he leaves the yard. Never let a coyote get between you and your pet. When in doubt, grab any branch or rock close to you and throw it toward the coyote.

Keeping coyotes away from your neighborhood is often a community effort. Let your neighbors know about any coyote sightings in the area, stay alert and work together to effectively haze them away from your homes.

Muriel Vega is a writer with a passion for budget travel and staying safe while abroad. A Georgia State University graduate, she has over 6 years of editorial experience and has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Billfold, among other outlets. In her free time, you can find her baking pies, playing with her two dogs and cat, or planning her next vacation. She spends way too much time on Twitter, one of her favorite social media channels. Her favorite safety tip: Make sure you have all the necessary shots before you go abroad.