ROCKFORD - Coyotes struggling to find food are being spotted around the Stateline.
"Anywhere there is a human population, there is likely to be coyotes," said Rockford Park District manager of education and recreation Becky Lambert.
Last summer's drought has hurt the coyotes food supply, forcing them in closer to people to search for food, Lambert says they can be seen as far in town as downtown Rockford.
"As coyotes have to search more for food, they're looking further and further, and people are seeing them where maybe they haven't seen them before," said Lambert.
Lambert recently had her own run in with coyotes early one morning.
"I let my dog out into my fenced in back yard," said Lambert. Then as soon as she went back inside, "she [Lambert's dog] started barking like crazy, so I immediately went back out, and there were two coyotes along the fence line."
But as soon as the coyotes saw Lambert standing on her deck, "which was a good 65 feet away from the fence, the minute they saw me they took off," said Lambert.
Coyote tracks can be found all over Atwood Park's 334 acres in Rockford, but Lambert says there's probably only four coyotes that live there permanently, and you rarely see them because they are scared of humans.
"They're really good at hiding, and they don't want to be seen by humans, they tend to be more nocturnal animals," said Lambert.
But those who have spotted them lately might notice their size.
"They're looking bigger right now because they have their winter coats," said Lambert. In some cases, the extra fur can add 10 to 15 pounds.
While coyotes are scavengers and would prefer an easy mile, like what's in your garbage can, they will attack small pets like your cats and dogs.
"It can definitely happen here," said Lambert.
Lambert says people have nothing to worry about because coyotes are so scared of people.
But if you have small pets, she says keep a close eye on them when they are out or keep them in a fenced in area.
She also says not putting your garbage out the night before can keep them from visiting your property.